One day as Bubba and I were walking and discussing a particularly thorny parenting issue with regard to Eve, I expressed my fervent hope that Lola would be easier on us as a tween. Or that we at least would have learned enough from working with Eve on difficult issues that it would feel easier. Bubba, with his uncanny ability to assess personalities, replied that Lola is who she is.
"I don't think she'll get any harder as she grows up. I think what we see in Lola now is simply a smaller version of who she will eventually be. I think she has laid it all out there for us from the beginning."
He is right. For all of her quirks and overflowing cup of personality, Lola is comfortable in her own skin. She is much like her father in that way - she knows who she is and isn't apologetic about it. In all honesty, neither of them could be any other way if they wanted to.
A few days later when we returned home after a week at the in-laws' to discover Lola's pet hamster wasn't looking so good, she laid it all out again. The four of us were distressed as we gathered the little one up for a trip to the emergency vet and as we waited for the veterinarian to assess the situation, Lola alternately sat on her own and watched the doctor intently and crawled into my lap to bury her face in my shoulder. At one point, she knew she couldn't process any more and excused herself from the room to peruse the quiet, dark waiting area with its photos of previous patients and skeletons of exotic pets like snakes and chinchillas. She solemnly ran her finger over the bones and breathed deeply and took her time coming back.
When it became clear that the hamster would have to stay overnight she nodded her head and walked to the car quietly. At home she required some assurance that her baby would be well-cared-for overnight and expressed her sadness that we had been away when she fell ill.
Over the next two days as the hamster got progressively worse, I knew it was time to have a "quality of life" discussion. I wasn't even sure whether it was appropriate or not for a nine-year-old, but I knew I had to try. Turns out Lola had been thinking about it on her own.
"Mom, if she is hurting, I don't want her to. If they can help her without hurting her and she can get better for a long time, let's do that. But if they're going to do surgery and she will hurt from it as she heals for weeks and then dies a couple weeks later, that's not a good life."
After we made the painful decision to let her go, Lola once again clambered up in to my lap (not a simple task given that she stands as high as my shoulders all of a sudden) and cried a little.
"I am so confused. I don't know how to feel. I'm happy she doesn't hurt but I'm sad she's gone. And I'm happy I got to be her Mommy for a year and I know I was a good Mommy and I gave her a good life, but I don't want her to be gone."
I was amazed at her ability to articulate her feelings. I was more amazed at her lack of anger or sense of unfairness. Hell, I'm 40 and it felt unfair to me!
I told her I was so sorry she was in pain and that, as her Mommy, I often wished I could give her a life without sadness or emotional upset. That it hurt me to see her unhappy.
She sat up and looked me in the eye, "That's silly, Mom. I know that seems nice at first, but I wouldn't want a life that didn't have upset or sad or angry feelings. That would be like having the sun shine all day long every day - no night, no rain, no snow. How boring!"
Bubba's right. This little girl has it going on. She has a deep knowledge of her own life and emotions. She feels things deeply - period. No going beyond into ramifications and consequences. She allows herself to feel what she feels and is able to express her emotions without censoring them. She is a one-of-a-kind, our Lola.
It has been two weeks since her baby died and, other than acknowledging that she needed someone else to clean out the cage because it was too painful, Lola has not expressed a desire to move on quickly. She has not asked for a replacement pet. She cries every once in a while and asks to be held while she mourns her hamster. She passes by Eve's hamster's cage reverently and offers this little one treats, relishing her role as auntie without jealousy. She is simply feeling what she feels and honoring it. I am in awe of her ability to be exactly who she is without self-criticism or judgment. Thank goodness I have her as one of my teachers.