A PARENTING STORY
If only I had known in 1980 that Pamela was a genius I wouldn’t have spent so much time worrying that she would grow up to be an axe murderer or a disgruntled postal employee. My son Doug was five when Pamela was born and no little sister ever had a more loving or patient or kind big brother. She called him Bubby. We all had worried that he would be jealous but he adored her and was so proud of her from the second she was born.
Doug would get down on his hands and knees right in her face and say something like E-O-E-O-E-O and she would make that noise right back at him even when she was tiny. WE didn’t know he was teaching her to talk. We just thought it was funny. She talked early and well. The only words she couldn’t quite enunciate were living room (she said, quite distinctly, living “loom”) and the word yellow (she would say “lellow”) but there wasn’t anything else she couldn’t say.
Pamela did not sleep through the night until she was 13 months old. There was never a week that I did not call the doctor, poison control, or another new mother, trying to figure out how to deal with her and her escapades. Obviously I was profoundly depressed, even though I didn’t know it at the time, from never getting more than four hours of sleep, ever, and from her constant and continual scaring me to death. The first time she slept through the night, I woke up at daylight, sprinted panic-stricken into her bedroom, grabbed her and screamed, “PAMELA!” certain that she was dead. She wasn’t.
Our first indication that she was maybe a little different came when she was 18 months old and I took her into the pediatrician’s office with a high fever. His name was Dr. David Jubelier. She was almost too sick to hold her head up but as we walked into his examining room, the same room she came to for routine vaccinations, she lifted her little head, blinked her giant brown eyes and said, “I don’t like you Dr. Jubelier!” He looked at her, looked at her chart to verify her age and said, “Most 18 month old babies don’t use the word ‘I’, let alone ‘Dr. Jubelier’!”
When she was two she had to have her tonsils out. They told me she would sleep for hours and hours afterward, and not to be alarmed. As they were bringing her back from surgery, from two hallways away, I could hear her croaking “MAAMAA” at the top of her lungs. She might have been drugged and delirious but she was not going to sleep it off. Not long after that she stacked two kitchen chairs on top of each other to get into our medicine cabinet and chewed up a box of Ex-Lax. I frantically called Poison Control and asked what to do. The man on the other end couldn’t have been more nonchalant. “Lady,” he asked, “just exactly how many diapers do you have?” And a few months later she found Dramamine in my purse and ate four before I discovered her. Again, I frantically phoned the pediatrician, certain this time that her stomach would have to be pumped. Trying to dispel my hysteria and knowing me way too well he said, “Well, Janie, she is finally going to take that nap!”
She was always so funny and cute we could hardly stand to discipline her. Sometimes Doug would egg her on in some way and I would always say, “Doug, don’t encourage her!” One day he was in his usual after school position, flat on his back in the middle of the living room floor, watching cartoons, when I watched her drag in a little wooden chair. She was about two at the time. I was still watching as she dragged it into the middle of the floor, raised it over her head and, to my horror, whacked Doug across the head with it. “Pamela,” I yelled, “what is the matter with you?” She pointed at Doug, writhing in agony on the floor and said, “He encouraged me!” I just never knew whether to laugh or cry where that kid was concerned.
Pamela hated thunderstorms and, living in Oklahoma, we had them pretty regularly. Getting her to bed on a clear night was a trick and impossible on a stormy one. Every night she would get into bed, look up at me and say very seriously, “It not ‘snorm’ tonight. My daddy told me.” Then I would have to spray “Scary Munster Spray” (actually a can of Right Guard with the label taped over) in every corner of her bedroom, to keep scary munsters from coming in during the night. With that child you just did whatever it took to finally get her down.
Pamela is now twenty years old. Our little bohemian is a junior at Stanford University, majoring in physics and minoring in international relations. She is spending her fall quarter in Moscow, utilizing her Presidential Scholarship to study something about the Trans-Siberian Railway that I probably wouldn’t understand anyway. If I’d only known, I could have spent part of that frantic time back then sending her to a Russian tutor.
And this is the essay that might make you cry. Stay with me.