Echo has this weird illness that is floating around town. The main symptom seems to be that you feel sick, then you feel better, then you feel sick again. Like a roller coaster ride. The good news is that she's not that sick, just a little fever and lethargy. The other good news is that we happen to have a stack of audio stories she is in love with.
She is clocking some serious audio story time, breaking her own personal records. We're talking eight to nine hours straight. She even listened to an audio story during the walk to and from the library where we got more audio stories.
Here is our current audio story lineup:
- Charlotte's Web
- Trumpet of the Swan
- Lemony Snicket - Book One
- Lemony Snicket - Book Two
- Lemony Snicket - Book Three
- 68 Rooms
- Riding Freedom
- Olivia Kidney
- Magic Treehouse
- The Meanest Doll from the Runaway Dolls series
- THe Sign of the Beaver
At night falling asleep Echo asks her vocabulary questions. "Mom, what are stakes? As in "high-stakes"?" And I love it that she can recite the exact source sentence so that I don't send her down the wrong explanatory road and confuse her completely. And sometimes I have to go to the dictionary myself.
But not everyone loves eight straight hours of audio stories. In this home full of work-from-home folks sometimes it simply doesn't work. That's when we pull out the headphones. But sometimes even this doesn't work. Just yesterday morning Xi came to full fed-up-with-audio-stories mode. She didn't want to hear them out loud and she didn't want Echo disappearing behind head phones either. She wanted to play! She missed her sister.
It got pretty snarky, I have to admit. There was lots of "Fine! Don't play with me!" and scowls and feigned indifference poorly hidden through desperate tears. I know some of you simply do not believe me when I say that we use empathy for 80 percent of our parenting, but seriously? We do.
I didn't even leave my yoga mat, I just paraphrased what I heard in clear feelings-based language. Sure, in my mind I was thinking: "We're screwed! This is going from bad to worse! I don't want to be interrupted! Just get over it girls! Maybe I should just declare that they aren't even allowed to play!" But on the outside I said things like:
- Sure, you're sick and tired of audio stories huh?
- You miss your sister!
- You're sad that she doesn't want to play.
- You feel lonely and left out huh?
- You love it when you and Echo get a good game going.
- You love playing together.
- You were hoping for a different kind of morning.
And Xi got revved up by my comments, kind of indignant and more sad and angry. But she also stopped arguing her position and arguing the shitty-ness of audio stories. She stopped exaggerating Echo's use of audio stories and her own dislike for them. But also, and maybe more importantly, Echo listened to my empathetic rendition of Xi's position and I could tell from her face that for the first time she actually heard it. Without having to defend herself she could hear Xi's feelings.
To Echo I said:
- You love audio stories.
- It feels good, when you aren't feeling well, to cozy up and be still.
- You'd actually like to play with Xi huh? If you felt better?
- You love it when you and Xi have a fun game going, like "Girl Scouts" or "Wild Cats".
Echo broke down in tears and said: "I would do anything to play with Xi. I am so tired and bored of feeling sick!" She slumped further in her chair but not in defiance or as part of an argument, she had her eyes on Xi - kind, loving eyes.
Xi came up with the idea that maybe Echo could listen to audio stories during the time Xi is at her mom's house and then not listen to them at all when Xi returns. I smiled (knowing for sure that wasn't going to happen). And then Echo had an idea as well. She thought maybe she could just rally enough energy to simply stop listening to stories and play.
And that's what they did.
At least long enough to reaffirm their love and joy in one another.