Posted by: Kate | October 31, 2008

Turn the Number 8 on its Side…

…and you get the symbol for infinity: ∞. This seems so apt tonight, because Emily, at 8, is on a seemingly infinite loop of emotions, from highs to lows and back again.

She visited her first Halloweenish haunted house this evening, though it was actually a walk through the woods behind Jacob’s school. For being at a preschool and put on by the YMCA, they did a reasonably good job; those Young Christian Men really know how to wield a chainsaw, apparently. It was of the typical jump-out-and-shout, make-loud-thumps-and-bangs, chase-children-with-lawn-equipment type, and being at night out at the edge of a forest did add to its creepiness.

Emily was so very, well, Emily. It was almost as though she was trying to be a caricature of herself. She would giggle hysterically, wail dramatically, scream ear-piercingly, and stride bravely, often all within seconds or even simultaneously. About a third of the way through, she decided she wanted to go home, and once she determined that wasn’t going to be an instant possibility, she tucked herself in close enough to me that I wondered if she was trying to return to the womb via my belly button.

By the end, she was revved up and bouncing, riding the endorphin rush that follows the adrenaline jolt. And as if she hadn’t already been so completely true to form – impulsive, immersed in the emotion of the moment, dramatic – the next several minutes were so spot-on Emily that I wondered if she was auditioning for a play. One in which she would star as herself, of course.

First, there was the pronouncement of the whole experience’s complete awesomeness. This came at the very end, where there were a few picnic tables and a concession stand under a small pavilion. A few dozen kids, ranging from barely-past-toddlers – I recognized one of Jacob’s classmates, and seriously, who takes a kindergartener to something like that? – to teenagers, were milling about and chattering in that unique tone of Friday-night-spastic that I associate with things like dances and football games. As soon as she had an audience, even if they weren’t actually paying much attention to her, Emily proclaimed, “I want to go again!”

I grilled her, and she held firm. Yes, she remembered how scared she was. Yes, she knew what to expect now. No, she didn’t want to just go home. Yes, she really wanted to go again. No, she wouldn’t change her mind.

OK, then. I paid for another circuit (half price for the second time; I didn’t think to ask if the third trip would be 1/4 price and so on) and we waited a few minutes, continuing with the cycle of, “Are you sure?” “Yes.” “Really?” “Yes.” “How about now?” “Yes.”

We followed the path to the corner of the building, took a right to walk past the first of several storage sheds filled with men willing to bang on the walls and shout at passers-by, and she froze. Like a statue, only much, much louder. She moaned and howled in tones a werewolf would envy, though hers had the unmistakable flair of pre-teen angst. Her meltdown was so impressive that one of the wall-banging men came out of his hiding spot to show her, “Look, I’m just a regular guy, not really that scary. No one here will hurt you.” He felt awful, and I tried to explain that she’d been through it once and was just overdosing on adrenaline, but I’m not sure he believed me.

We turned right around and went to the car, where she sat, wide-eyed and pale, for many minutes. She made a miraculous recovery when we pulled into Wendy’s for a medicinal Frosty.

I tried not to laugh at the whole spectacle, the sheer variability of it all, but an errant chuckle or two managed to escape. Overall, though, it was a fun little mother-daughter moment. Not as genteel as matching manicures and pedicures, perhaps, but there’s a time for gentility and a time for vulgarity. And if the scale tips toward the latter a bit more often than toward the former, well, so be it. She can learn the finer arts of femininity from… someone else.


  1. SHe sounds like my Lily – who moves from delighted to heartbroken to terrified to delighted again all in the matter of seconds.

  2. You’re going to be for some fun times when the teen years hit.

  3. Sounds like 7 out of 11 of my students (third and fourth graders). The remaining four are the totally confused boys. Daily tears are the norm and I’ve become pretty immune to it all. Not to mention that I have my own Drama Queen at home. Good times.

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