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A Mommy Caves, and What Cora Sees

Day two of the strep throat in our
household yesterday, and the girls had a lovely cold on top of it
to make things really interesting. Cora vacillated between moments
of euphoria and dancing around, and crumpling into a sobbing mess
on the floor. That’s how I knew when the Motrin or Tylenol
was starting to wear off.

Now here’s the bad thing – Tuesday is ballet day in our
household. Right after lunch, we race to the ballet studio and
Maddie takes her class. This is just as big of a deal for Cora, if
you’ll remember; she brings her own ballet shoes and sets
herself up in “her” studio, alternating between dancing
by herself and watching Maddie’s class for inspiration.
Ballet class and open gym are the highlights of Cora’s week,
and when I told her yesterday morning that she wouldn’t be
going she absolutely freaked out. I’m talking a
Chernobyl-sized meltdown, lasting for many many minutes.

I thought one meltdown would do it, but
apparently Cora’s grief at losing her ballet day was too deep
for just one expression to suffice. So every half hour or so,
she’d remember, cry “Cora go ballet!” and burst
into tears again, leaving herself limp and wrung out ten minutes
later. She spent the majority of the morning clinging to me, and by
the time Maddie was ready to head for class I couldn’t handle
it any more.

I caved. I confess.

As Maddie and my mom were getting ready to leave, desperate for a
diversion, I said to Cora, “Cora, how would you like to watch
a Sesame Street video?”

What’s the big deal, you ask? Let me remind you I’m one
of those annoying people who have decided to follow the AAP’s
guidelines and withhold television until the child is two years
old. This has not been easy, since Maddie’s allowed one
program a day, and I’ve spent a lot of time dragging a
struggling, crying toddler out of the room as Maddie settled down
with Sid the Science Kid or Handy Manny. So I’m proud of the
fact that Cora’s 21 months old, and had never watched t.v.

But that day, I had a sick kid who was working her way into her
tenth meltdown about ballet, and, oh yes, I have strep and a cold
myself. I needed my kid to calm down and be still, and bribery was
my best shot.

I got Cora all set up in the “sick bed” – our
toddler air-mattress that we inflate when Maddie’s sick, so
she can lie on the floor and watch movies. Yes, when Maddie’s
really sick our one-program-a-day restriction is lifted and
she’s allowed to watch a few shows, maybe even a full-length
movie. So we get out the toddler bed, put a little tray next to it
with water and crackers, and snuggle her up in a down blanket.
Cora’ seen the set-up but never been on the receiving end
before, and I could tell she was hugely excited.

I got my little girl all settled, looking impossibly tiny on that
giant mattress. I put in Sesame Street’s Twenty-Fifth
Anniversary Celebration DVD; we’ve got the CD and it’s
Cora’s all-time favorite album to listen to. As the DVD
unfolded and she saw all the characters she’d only heard up
until then, her eyes got big and wide, like meeting a pen-pal for
the first time. “Ernie!” she’d scream; or
“It’s Elmo! Hey, Elmo, how are ya!” But the
biggest squeals were for Cookie Monster, her hands-down favorite,
and every time he was in the shot – even in the corner of the
frame- she’d wave frantically and yelp happily.

I’m not beating myself up about this – I know there are
worse things than a little t.v. But I am conscious that the
boundaries we set for Maddie are constantly eroding for Cora,
mostly just because you don’t have the luxury of such
black-and-white rules when you’ve got multiple children. And
I can picture Cora screaming at me when she’s seventeen,
“It’s all your fault I’m wait-listed at Harvard!
You let me watch t.v. before I was two!!”

Ok, I’m kidding on that. Seriously, I’m not hugely
upset about this – I know it’s no big deal. I actually
enjoyed watching it with her, and seeing her delight at meeting
these great characters. We hung out in the toddler bed afterwards,
chatting about her favorite moments and reminiscing about the La La

But I do know my daughter: she’s got a long memory and a
tenaciously stubborn will, and I’m afraid of that moment when
I have to explain there’s no more television until the next
time she’s sick.

You may well hear it where you live.


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