Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Smartphones and Build-A-Bears



My girls spend their weekends at their dads during which time I receive updates regarding activities and the emotions evoked during happenings   via phone calls, text messages, emails, or direct messages on Facebook.  I never know exactly how the information is going to be delivered.  I have learned to employ my intelligent phone to be certain I do not miss an update.  Missing updates result in phone conversations that resemble this:

Daughter: “Mom, I am calling because you have not responded to my email.  Did you see my Facebook status?  I sent you the link in a text message.  And why haven’t you checked your voice mail? I explained the email which tells you about my Facebook update in it.”

Me: “What?”

The aforementioned comes from my older daughter, Sophia, who is 13.  My 11 year old, Antonia, sometimes sends me text messages but typically calls at night right before she goes to bed to say goodnight.  Details about her day are brief, but I listen carefully for subtle changes in her voice that indicate how she is feeling.  I often wish she would text, call, or email more, but she is a different type of communicator than her sister.  It is interesting to compare Sophia’s multimedia narratives to the minimal reflections provided by Antonia.  When put together, I can get a pretty good idea of what has been going on during their time with their dad, step-mom and step-sister.

Antonia and her step-sister spend a significant amount of time playing school with their Build-A-Bears.  They transform their dad’s living room into a very detailed classroom.  They hang posters, set up work spaces, and line up their bears with name tags.  One of these school sessions can last an entire day.  It’s serious business and serious fun.

The Build-A-Bears are also serious business.  Antonia and her step-sister each have one special bear that is treated like a child of their own.  They go shopping for their child-bears’ wardrobes and change their clothes according to the day’s plans.  During the week, when Antonia and her step-sister are apart, they update each other on their bears’ activities.

Two weekends ago, while the girls were at their dad's house, communication from Sophia was normal.  On Saturday, I knew they went out to dinner and had a treat at home—cookie cake.  I knew that, as usual, Antonia and her step-sister spent time playing school with their bears.  Antonia sounded great during our brief nightly talk on the phone so I didn’t press for details surrounding her day.  But Sophia sounded annoyed.  I chalked up her irritation to stress and tiredness (the girl will not stop, even during the weekends).

On Sunday morning, Sophia called and illuminated the cause of her annoyance.  I asked her how dinner was, and she replied, “Mom.  We went out to dinner to celebrate the BEARS’ BIRTHDAYS and the cookie cake was for their party at home.  Dad even bought them each a $10 gift card to get a new outfit, AND they picked out a G-rated movie for them to watch.  MOM.  Can you believe it?”

Upon my girls' arrival to my house later that afternoon, I welcomed them enthusiastically and said, “Hey.  How was the birthday celebration?  It sounds like it was a good time!”

Their dad confirmed that it was indeed a fabulous celebration whereupon Antonia looked down at the floor from embarrassment and Sophia plopped her entire body down to the couch accompanied with a giant sigh of disdain.

I ignored the drama on the couch, took Antonia’s chin in my hand, lifted her face to mine and said, “You know, I had a doll I played with until I left home for college.  I kept her and her little suitcase of clothes under my bed so that my older sister wouldn’t make fun of me.  I changed her clothes and combed her hair every day.”

She smiled.  

I asked Sophia if she thought her behavior was appropriate.  She rose from the couch and apologized to her sister.  Their dad went home, we unpacked bags, and the week went on without the bears' birthdays being mentioned.

On Saturday of last weekend my phone was buzzing, alerting me to incoming text messages.  I assumed it was Sophia with updates.  To my surprise, the messages were from Antonia.  But there were no words.  Only photos:




I was thrilled to hear from her.  Although her messages contained no words, I understood.  To me, the photos of her "school" said, “Thank you for accepting me for who I am.”  

Then the phone rang.  It was Sophia. . .






















photo credit: William Hook via photopin cc

21 comments:

  1. oh my god this is precious. that first bit of dialogue cracked me up. it's just so real.

    i'm impressed (not for the first time) by how well you know your girls and let them be themselves. it would never occur to me to ask my child if they thought their behavior was appropriate. i am absolutely stealing that from you.

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    1. Your comment stunned me a little, in a good way. I needed the bump in self-esteem today. Thanks so much--I am truly grateful.

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  2. I'm glad to hear they still play like that. Because my almost 10 year old does too and I get the feeling her friends aren't still playing like that. I don't want her to grow up prematurely, so I let her play as much as she wants.

    And on the apology to the sister thing, what DO you do with sibling conflict? Mine are good together, but when they're having a bad day, it's B-A-D, Bad.

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    1. One of the blessings of my divorce is that it has brought a step-sister into Antonia's life who enjoys playing! It seemed Sophia stopped playing prematurely. She wants to be grown up so badly. I have a feeling that when she becomes an adult, she'll have a secret collection of toys hidden away in her closet to meet unfulfilled childhood needs. ;)

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  3. I ache for the girls with one foot in littlegirlland and the other in biggirlterritory. It's such tough time that you capture perfectly. Well-done. I remember my sister telling me the hardest years for her were the o es where I was too grown-up to play and she was too young to really hang. ---Erin

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    1. You described this well, especially in your use of the word ache.

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  4. This so sweet. It's so easy for siblings to crush each other, especially younger ones. You're a good mom.

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    1. I sincerely appreciate your comment. Thanks!

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  5. Love. This. I was a little girl for a long time...well into my teens I'd say. I loved to play. I loved to be a child. I guess I was just slow to grow up...but you know, time flies by so fast...the longer we can be kids, the better.

    Great post!!!

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  6. Your acceptance of your youngest daughter's bear/child attachment is beautiful. Young kids today don't always get the chance to fully be kids, it seems they are thrust into older/tween/teen land too quickly.

    I still have the very first doll my mom bought for me. She was and still is my favorite.

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  7. Awww that is sweet! Good for you for encouraging your daughter to play with her build a bears. I had an older sister, and I stopped playing with Barbies way too early cuz my sister decided SHE didn't want to play with them anymore and I thought I had to be like her. I want some barbies.

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  8. What a great post! I love the idea of a birthday party for the bears. In our house it would have to be for the multiple Grovers that we have but I lvoe the idea.

    What a great mom moment you had as well!
    Jenn

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  9. I admit this to anyone and everyone reading ... I still have my pink stuffed elephant near my bed. Actually, I just looked - Ellie the Elephant is in bed. She stays there, and I am nearing 43 yrs old.
    I love the photos she sent you and then the phone call. Nice ending.

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    1. Wonderful of you to let us know, not only about the stuffed animal, but also your age. In a world where we try to live up to expectations/standards/the norm, you are a brave warrior. Give Ellie the Elephant a hug for me.

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  10. How awesome is it that she sent those pictures! What a wonderful way to handle a sisterly spat! You make a good Momma=)

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  11. I love this post, it touches my heart. Your acceptance of her for who she is gave your A a sense of confidence to not be ashamed and teaches your S that we can all have our things that make us who we are and that we accept this we love. LOVE LOVE LOVE, yay mama. This will stay with A forever.

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    1. Thanks, Shannon. I hope it does stay with her. Love them both so much, you know?

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  12. I just love the way you handled this situation. Wow. And the pictures that your little girl sent you? Adorable. You are a great Mumma.

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  13. Oh this warms my heart.
    I'm so glad that you both embrace her love for her bears and you took that time to tell her about your doll.
    Wonderful.

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  14. I love how in depth their imaginative play gets, especially at cusp of tweendom. As a mom, I can only imagine it is comforting to know she's not trying to grow up too fast, even with that blink of embarassment.

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