Miss Clavel Ran Fast and Faster

In the middle of the night,
Miss Clavel turned on the light
and said, “Something is not right.”
And afraid of a disaster,
Miss Clavel ran fast and faster.

I read children’s classic, Madeline, at Cael’s insistence more than a dozen times last week.  Until Cael was overcome with fear.

“Mommy, I do not wike it anymore.” Cael said.  “Pwease do not weed Mad-ah-wine again.”

“But you love it.” I protested.  Besides,  I identify with Mad-ah-wine’s firm sense of self, and I think Miss Clavel rocks.

“I can’t take it.” Cael reported.  “There is a disast-oh.”

And it’s true.  Cael can hardly take the suspense.  He holds his breath every time Miss Clavel runs fast and faster.   The fact that he knows how the story ends, with Mad-ah-wine’s safe recovery from appendix surgery, makes no nevermind in his head.

Cael feels the terror of Miss Clavel’s run, over and over.

Of course, he was also afraid last night of fish brain parasites (if anyone knows what fish brain parasites are, puh-lease tell me!), so I’m not always sure how to help him.  It’s a scary thing, being 4 years old.

Well, more accurately, if you’re Cael, it’s a scary thing being 4 years old.

If you’re his twin brother, Cai, then being 4 years old should come with a No Fear t-shirt, a stunt plane, and a free, lifetime supply of bone splints.

The part of Mad-ah-wine’s story with which Cai most strongly identifies is:

And she said, “Please children do —
tell me what is troubling you?”
And all the little girls cried, “Boohoo!
We want to have our appendix out, too!”


Because Cai really, really misses being at the hospital.  The fruitcake.

But I get Cael’s fears.  I really do.  I can’t tell you how many times, in the day or night, I’ve been afraid of a disaster, and I’ve run fast and faster.  To my kids’ rooms to check their breathing.  To the backyard when I hear painful cries.  To the toilet bowl when a child is stuck inside it.

Only, this weekend, when we had a minor disaster, I was too far away to run to my son fast, much less faster.

Abby had a dance competition about an hour away from home in the big city.

So I was an hour away when I got the call from Greg.

Greg said,  “Hey.  Everything’s OK, everyone’s fine…”

Which is our family code.  I knew the instant the word “OK” left Greg’s mouth that someone was at the hospital.

That’s the rule.  If the situation isn’t life threatening, you have GOT to start the conversation by saying so.  Because nothing’s worse than a convo that starts with, “I’m at the hospital.  There was an accident…” and continues as a rambling mess… before the person calling finally says, “But it’s OK, everyone’s fine.”  I go from stricken and breathless to an **exploding exhale!** to a tiny little increase in vocal volume followed by the words, “WHY DIDN’T YOU SAY SO IN THE FIRST PLACE?”

So now we do.

“Hey.  Everything’s OK, everyone’s fine…”

And Greg continued, “But Cai needs stitches.”

And, even though I knew Cai would be OK, my stomach fell.  My baby was hurt, and I was away.

I asked Greg if he was sure about the stitches.  Greg replied admiringly, “Oh-ho YEAH.  Does he NEED stitches!”

(Um.  Note to husbands:  I realize — I do — that there’s no winning way to call your wife and tell her that your son needs stitches.  But might I oh-so-gently suggest that, if your wife asks if you’re sure, you reply with something calm and mild, like, maybe, “Well, I think he does.  And I figure, better safe than sorry, so I’m taking him in.”  Reassuring and less dire.  Less dire is good.  Just saying.  To no husband in particular.)

When the call ended, I sat for a while.

Pieces of my heart were all over.  One piece was dancing on a stage with glittery eyelashes and a sequined dress.  Three pieces were at home with my cousin.  (Thanks, Nathan!)  And one little 34-pound piece was in the emergency room getting a zipper added to his forehead.

I considered jumping dance competition ship and racing to the hospital, but I also knew it was important for Cai to let his daddy be the hero.  This Mommy too often wrests the care-giving reins from Daddy’s hands.

And I shouldn’t.  I really shouldn’t.

But I questioned.  I agonized.  I wondered if I was doing the right thing.  I texted Greg:

  • Tell Cai I love him.
  • Take pictures.
  • Send me updates to remind me it’s OK I’m not there.
  • How’s it going?
  • Is Cai OK?
  • Now that we’ve paid our deductible, how much is this going to cost? (Yeah, not every text was full of the same level of worry. Sue me.)
  • How’s my baby?
  • Aw.
  • Tell him I love him.

Excessive?  Nah.

So when I got home and saw my baby, I told him I was sorry I wasn’t there.

And Cai said, “Why?

I hugged him, and answered, “Because I love you, and I’m sorry you were hurt.”

“You were afwaid I was hurt?” said Cai.

“I was sad you were already hurt, Cai Cai.” I clarified.

“I was NOT hurt,” Cai protested.  “I was very, very bwave!  I did GWEAT!”

See how indispensable I am?  Poor baby, without his mama.

“I’m still sorry I wasn’t there, Cai.  No more trips to the hospital for a while, OK?”

Cai looked at me like I’d lost my mind, and he furrowed his brow at me.  Then he sighed in resignation, rolled his eyes, and said, “OK, Mom.  I guess.”

So that was anxiety well spent.

But here’s the thing about being a mom.

On some level, it doesn’t matter which of my kids are full of fear and which overflow with bravado.  And it doesn’t matter that I’m not there for everything.  And it doesn’t matter that it hurts to acknowledge that.

Because, no matter the kid, no matter my location, no matter whether I get it right or screw it up six ways to Sunday… in the end, I am Miss Clavel.

And when I sense a disaster, I will always ache to run.

Fast and faster.

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25 responses to “Miss Clavel Ran Fast and Faster”

  1. The “George Fox” hat–just curious regarding it’s origin. I used to live near/kinda work for George Fox University in Oregon, so it caught my eye… And I guess it would make sense, since the friend who posted a link to your blog is also from there….

    So, I guess the question is, am I right? Are we talking about the same George Fox?

    And for your FYI, I have been enjoying reading your life especially since I’m about to have 5 kids, though few of mine have needed stitches, surgery, etc. so far and the ages of mine are much more spread out. And PS. I love the address of your blog.

  2. Preparation is unnecessary. I keep myself in a constant state of readiness. Do your worst.

    (OK, maybe not your worst. How about your medium? Your moderate? Your luke warm? There’s no good way to say that is there?)

  3. “To the toilet bowl when a child is stuck inside it.”

    You must now be called out. It is as regrettable as it is necessary. For it was not you but I who ran fast and faster to the toilet bowl. A fact which, by itself, would not be “call-out worthy” if not for the fact that you then berated me for extracting said child from said toilet bowl. Not because the child didn’t need to be extracted. Not due to the manner of extraction. No, it was because the child was extracted before a photographic evidence was obtained.

    Now, in my defense, this event took place prior to having children of my own. I can only claim inexperience to justify the blatant and obvious lapse in judgment that occurred when I prioritized the removal of a child from a toilet over taking pictures. I certainly would not make that mistake today. =)

  4. Post-reading thoughts:

    * It’s a good thing you’ve got that whole running program thing going there! 😉 (or was that just inevitable, kinda like ‘you had to in order to keep up with everything&everyone’?)
    * Still don’t know what happened exactly, did Cai fall off something? Did he try to build himself an Eiffel Tower and then something went wrong?
    * Love the little hospital shirt they put on him. Or isn’t it? Not sure, they just let Dutch kids bleed all over their shirts when they come in for stitches… 🙂
    * You’re such an awesomely sweet mommy, you rock! (I, on the other hand, have tried to give away our kids, well at least for a few days, several times over the last week… pretty sure they’re planning a coup d’etat, but I’m just too tired to counter-plan, hahaha!)


    • Ha!

      I guess I never mentioned that Cai tried to remove a wall with his head. Or ran into a wall while playing. I never did find out the exact details. I should probably check my walls for blood.

      Yes, ’tis a hospital shirt in the photo.

      Re: the coup d’etat, I think you’re wise to give up. Honestly, those little ones have more energy and will than we ever (ever) will. Let’s just send up a white flag of surrender and go get a drink.

  5. 1) The other day when I read aloud that one of your kids required four stitches, I think Melissa and I both said ‘Cai’ in unison.
    2) I seriously admire the g-forces Miss Clavel achieves as she runs faster and faster. That’s exactly what it feels like when your child lets out that cry of pain or alarm.
    4) I agree with Cael that fish brain parasites are scary. (The Impending Zombie Apocalypse will start somewhere like that, won’t it? Of course, one wouldn’t mention the Impending Zombie Apocalypse to Cael because he’d never know another moment’s peace. Cai would probably think the idea of fighting off zombies was cool).
    3) We’ll never have to take Leigh to the hospital, right? ‘Cause she’s a girl and an only child–much less, develop a verbal code to let each other know that we’re at the hospital. Right?

    • Hi Web, couldn’t help noticing your wish for never having to take your little girl to the hospital because she’s a girl… I feel like I have to let you know that though we have 2 boys and 1 girl, she’s actually the only one we’ve had to visit the emergency room/doctor with after yet another unfortunate collision with some piece of furniture or playground attribute! Hope I didn’t crush your dreams, but I thought you might want to get a head start on developing that verbal hospital code. Over here we always say ‘it never rains when you brought an umbrella’, so… 😉
      ps: fortunately the stitches were all on her head, so they don’t even show underneath her long blond hair! 🙂
      pps: scalp cuts can bleed like crazy, be ready for that one, I sure wasn’t… (though I was still ‘bwaver’ than my husband, hahaha)

        • Is a ‘string’ an online conversation-like thing between people who don’t know each other? Or does it refer to the ramblings of someone who likes to pretend she knows what she’s talking about and insists on sharing that with strangers? I wonder… 😉

  6. haven’t read the story yet, but just noticed the name of the writer, one of my best friend’s has the same last name ‘Bemelmans’! Funny! I’ve been told it’s actually quite a common last name in the south of The Netherlands. Okay, off to read the rest now 🙂

  7. I can absolutely picture you as Miss Clavel. Your sweet boy looks so pathetic in those pictures! I want to reach through the screen and hug him. So proud of his bravery – that’s awesome!

  8. Yes, he WAS very bwave. He didn’t even cry or whimper on the way to the hospital, which he tried to say several times, recognizing that he has trouble with that word, even if he has been there enough to know the place well.
    I’m glad you and Greg have worked out the code for emergencies. When he was 15 and called to say he and Dad and brother were at the hospital, I had to ask all the questions. WHO’S HURT, DAD OR JEFF? And so on.

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