I hate weekends.
OK. That might be a bit of a sweeping generalization.
I dislike weekends.
Nope. Not exactly that. More like: I hate a part of the weekend.
Specifically? I hate helping a certain young girl cut her toenails.
Because it feels like it takes up the entire weekend.
You think I jest? One recent day the task took us 45 minutes. Forty. Five. Minutes. That’s 4 ½ minutes per toe, people. Per. Toe.
She has absolutely no problem with fingernails. Not a lick. It’s all about the toes. There was no single traumatic event that jump-started the whole thing. And I can’t remember a time when it was ever easy. But over the years it has only gotten worse. Snowballing into major dread, anxiety and fear.
And we’ve tried to help. Doing it more often. Less often. One toe a day. Distractions. Minor bribery — these are Desperate Times.
Through it all, while she is busy not learning that this is actually an easy thing to do, I have learned something. I have learned that her response is not mine to manage. I cannot make her feel differently about it.
But I have also learned that if I’m not careful, I sure can make it worse. The sterner my voice, the more amped up the fear. You can’t bludgeon someone into calmness. And I’ve learned that logic speaks in a foreign tongue. I can explain, explain, explain in paragraphs of a great dissertation that she will not get hurt. The net effect? Nada. I have learned through trial and error and error again that I must be grounded. Calm. Empathetic. The minute I leave this state the process begins all over again.
So now, each time, I try to gently offer ways she can help herself. Encouraging her to snuggle her Bear-Bear. Teaching her how to take full, even breaths. Watching her develop her own positive self-talk. A little girl’s self-constructed mantra spoken through the slight lisp of newly missing teeth is, I admit, pretty darn cute.
And each time it is a different combination of snuggle-breathe-speak that gets her through. But only if I am still and relaxed. Then slowly, slowly, the nails get cut.
Do I wish this task were effortless? Every single time.
Do I wish we were spending the time doing just about anything else? You bet.
But I see that we are both learning. We are learning the same lessons each time. Maybe we’re poky. Maybe it’s nuanced. But it’s rare to master a new skill the very first time we try it, isn’t it?
But 45 minutes?
It isn’t what I imagine when I think of how to spend “quality time” together.
But maybe it is.
Maybe it is more important than any of the reading, laughing, playing. More important than any of the easy stuff, the fun stuff. Maybe learning to walk through the hard stuff with perseverance, love and grace is quality.
And still. And still I wish we could move beyond it. But then once we do there will be a new lesson to learn, won’t there?
Maybe that lesson can be learned on Mondays.
And for you? What are your lessons right now? What “quality time” is taking energy, patience and a few deep breaths of your own? I’d love to know which day of the week you are on. Keep me posted.