November 15-17

Darling Karolus –

I know not if this letter will get to you, or when it will get to you. Even more doubtful than the Hawk is tonight’s chosen delivery method – a message in a bottle, along a river that runs we know not where. But there is no other way we can see to get news out, and so, it is what we are trying.

You know I hate the major arcana showing up in small readings. I hate it even more when they are literal. The night of the Hawk, we all settled down for hopefully a good night’s rest (while still keeping watches), expecting to spend the next day moving rocks. Emilja woke us during her watch, when the moon reached its zenith.

The rocks were gone. Not moved, gone. The cave mouth was open. The Hawks, were circling the stone needle, as if caught in a whirlwind. There was no sound other than the wind caused by their flight. Dymek and I looked at each other. He cast no runes. I did not reach for my cards. The portents were obvious. We had to take the hawk statue into the cave.

We all gathered around the mouth. Wojciech lit a couple torches and handed one to Emilja. The two of them went in a few steps to try and get a feel for the layout of the cave. But it was not a cave, or at least, not the kind of cave we pictured. It was not a space in the base of the spire. It was an entrance to a passage way.

We quickly gathered our things together, afraid to lose the moonlight. But Aleksy and Aleksa refused to enter, no matter how much Nadzia tried to tempt or cajole them in. Emilja’s ankle was mostly healed, though, and we did not have that many provisions left that we could not all carry them ourselves, especially if the mule’s hay was left with them.

On some level, the feeling that our time was short was an advantage. Nadzia did not have time to truly fret about the decision. We had seen no predators for days – nothing besides the Hawks. There was hay. There was fresh water and some forage. It was a better situation to leave them in than I had feared at the beginning of the journey. Nadzia said her goodbyes.

I hung the pouch containing the hawk statue around my neck. We loaded up bedrolls, food, water, and torches, and entered.

While some moonlight spilled in near the opening of the cave, it took very little time for our torches to be the only light. There were no sounds other than our footfalls and breathing. I do not remember feeling afraid to speak, just not having anything to say. But even Wojciech and Nadzia were quiet. In fact, I noticed her staying a little closer to him than the rest of us, though that might be because he had one of the torches.

I do not know how long we walked. In absence of light, sound, or landmarks with which to mark our passage, it all just blurred. And we were tired. This had come in the middle of a night, after days of travel. I stumbled over nothing. Dymek caught my arm to steady me.

It seemed as if we were about to stop and rest, though still no words had been spoken, when we heard something. It was hard to tell what it was at first, but as if with one thought, we all picked up our pace and began moving toward the sound.

Soon we recognized it – running water. We kept moving towards it, and soon the passageway became a cavern, filled with stalagmites which we had to avoid, and fallen stalactites, which we also avoided and hoped no more would be coming down. And on many of the rock surfaces was a moss.

We found the water, a small stream running clean and clear. We stopped to rest. We decided to watch in pairs. I was not on the first watch and closed my eyes, not expecting to sleep, but I was wrong. It seemed barely minutes before Dymek was waking me for my turn.

The first thing I noticed was that the cavern seemed brighter. I wondered if it got sunlight from somewhere, but soon realized the moss was glowing. It glowed softly all along the path we had taken from the opening of the cavern to our campsite, where the light was much stronger. I can only guess that it absorbed light from our torches and then reflected it back on us.

The moss allowed us to cut down our use to one torch at a time, which has made us feel slightly more comfortable about traveling down here. It seemed, for quite some time, that the cavern had no end.

We have been following the creek toward its source. Again, I have no idea for how long we have been walking, or how far. But we have rested three times since that first.

It took us a little while to realized that the light from the moss was growing stronger. But it was. And now, we have spotted what appears to be a village, some ways away from us. We are taking this moment to write before we move forward and see if anyone actually lives here under the moss light.

 

Know always that I love you, and you are in my heart.

Sibilia

 

November 10-14

Dearest Karolus –

Even as I write this, I have no idea if it will get to you, but there is a Hawk sitting near us, something strapped to his leg, that looks as if it will hold letters. We are all writing letters tonight. I expect Nadzia will try and instruct him on where to go, but given that he arrived here seemingly on his own, I think that maybe he will know already.

You may wonder what happened to the homing pigeons, or, with any luck, you may be wondering why all the homing pigeons came back together, carrying nothing after the last letter. As we entered the Hawks’ nesting grounds, the pigeons seemed to go crazy, desperately trying to get out of their cages. We were afraid they would injure themselves, and skilled though Nadzia may be at caring for animals, we did not know if they would calm.

It should not have been too big a surprise to us. Hawks have been known to hunt smaller birds, and no prey animal likes to be carried, helpless, into the nesting grounds of their predators. We felt the only option was to let them go before we got deep into the nesting grounds. It was a very difficult decision, as they were, we thought, our only way to contact our friends and family back home, but they were upsetting all of us, Aleksy and Aleksa included. Even if we had not made the decision as a group, I expect Nadzia would have released them on her watch that evening.

The nesting grounds were desolate. It was like walking through a dead forest, trees of stone towering over us, and hard rock beneath our feet. Even Wojciech understood, without being told, that we could not hunt the Hawks. We rationed our dried food and water carefully, but even so, our stores seem to dwindle faster than I think they should.

I guess I should be grateful that we got to a point where all of our stores could be packed on one mule, with us carrying a few things each. Emilja slipped on a loose rock only a day after we released the pigeons and hurt her ankle. We splinted it as best we could, with her advice, and she used some of the herbs she brought to relieve the pain, but we would have had to stay in place for at least two days if we had not been able to mount her on Aleksa. Even so, we traveled more slowly and cautiously than we had before.

I cannot say our journey has been dangerous at this point, and yet, I almost wish it had been. Danger might have been preferable to the slow monotony. It was not just the landscape, but the desolation seemed to take over our hearts. At least once a day, someone suggested turning around. We came very close once. We reached a place where the rocks seemed to form a natural alter around midday, a few days ago (or maybe it was yesterday, time seems to move differently here, and I cannot tell you for certain how long we have been traveling – it feels both like a month and less than a week).

The Hawks were circling overhead, crying out, diving around us, though never at us. The largest needle rock seemed, at that moment, further away than it had since before we released the pigeons. And here was an alter. And the grave good we are returning is a stone shaping of one of these Hawks in flight. We could leave it. Both Dymek and I knew, from our readings, that our journey was not meant to end here, and yet, we were both willing to let it. We could just leave the statue and go.

We pulled the statue out. We were ready to set it on the alter. And yet, none of us could. Everyone of us, Emilja included, tried to leave it on the alter. Wojciech got the closest. He set the carving on the alter, but could not take his hand from it. None of the rest of us even got to that point. I was the last to try, but the moment I held the stone Hawk in my hand, I knew this was not its home. I knew I could not leave it there.

And so we pressed on, our purpose renewed in our hearts. After that, we seemed to make steady progress toward our destination.

We reached the largest stone needle late this afternoon. There is a creek here, our first fresh water since we left the path. There are even a few scraggly bushes fighting their way through the rock, giving Aleksy and Aleksa an ability to forage, and supplement their hay.

We think there might be a cave entrance at the base of this formation. There is a section where rocks are piled in what appears to be a planned fashion. It looks similar to many other rock falls we have seen, but not quite right. Dymek has cast the runes, and they always point us toward those rocks. Every time I try a reading with the cards, The Moon is on the top of the deck.

We made our camp and began putting together a plan for removing the rocks tomorrow. (And now I truly am grateful for the presence of the two mules.) The moment the sun dipped below the horizon, the Hawk, landed. Despite traveling through these lands for however many days now, this is the first time we have ever seen on of the Hawks not in flight. It took us a moment to recognize the message tube on his leg. But when we did, we all stopped what we were doing and sat down to write our letters.

The last light of dusk is almost gone from the sky, so I must end this letter. I know not what we will face on the morrow, or what we will find in the cave. I would like to hope that it will be a simple removing of the rocks, placing the stone Hawk in the cave, and then recovering it. But The Moon tells me it will be different, that this may be the end of one journey, but the it is also start of another.

Know always that you are in my heart, that no matter where I travel, I carry your love with me. I think of no future but of one in which I return to you.

 

All of my love,

Sibilia

November 7-9

Dearest Karolus –

It seems as if it has been forever since I last had a chance to sit and write to you, but in truth, it has only been a little more than a week. However, the last few days have felt longer than normal.

We reached the foothills of the mountains only two days after I sent the last letter off with the traveler. I was certain we would need to pass along the foothills and down into the swamps, based on the what I had been witnessing from the crows. Dymek believed, based on the nature of our quest, that we would need to turn into foothills and follow them into the mountains proper. We were both wrong.

The first morning we woke in the foothills, I read the cards. I chose a simple three card layout, just asking for direction – Eight of Cups, Five of Coins, The Moon. You know how I hate major arcana showing up in the small readings, but all three cards spoke of a much longer journey than I had been anticipating. We must walk the distance of the Eight of Cups, endure the hardships of the Five of Coins, and only then will we begin the path of The Moon to our actual destination. But none of this gave me a direction, just a feeling of distance.

Dymek cast the runes. Like me, he got a reading that indicated this would be a longer, more difficult journey than had been anticipated back home in the village, but no direction.

I stared at the cards. The Eight of Cups seemed to indicate that we should walk along the foothills, but not enter the mountains. But the Five of Coins in no way indicates swamps, more like a forest, but none of the maps I had showed a wood.  The pattern the runes fell in did not point into the mountains, even though I swear Dymek tried to cast them in such a way. But they also did not indicate my predicted direction.

Dymek and I each stared at our patterns, looked at each other’s, and tried to make sense of it all. But it just felt like we were two mountain goats butting our heads and getting no where. It was Wojciech who managed to provide us with direction, without even realizing it.

I had mentioned that my belief in the direction of our path came from watching the crows. Wojciech had been watching all the wildlife, hunting to supplement the limited food we were able to bring with us. He was the one to notice the hawks. Crows will harass a single hawk, but there was not a single hawk here. There were at least a dozen riding the winds above us.

Nadzia, with her good eyes, spotted the nests. It was a nesting ground for the hawks, and the crows were smart enough not to try and enter. Given that the crow has always been the symbol of our village, perhaps it should have served as a warning to us not to enter, either. But Emilja, ever the practical one, pulled out the statue, the grave good we must now return to its owner, based on the pact made by our ancestors. Wordlessly, she handed it to Dymek, who studied it for a moment then handed it to me. The statue is old and worn, and we have had many conversations about what it once represented. Standing there, holding it in my hands, seeing the hawks soar overhead, I knew the answer.

The Hawks’ nesting grounds stretched into the foothills, curving around with the mountains, but not going into the mountains proper. There is no road, not even a path. Our maps show it as mountains. I had never heard of a hawk nesting ground here. But the evidence was in front of our eyes. Our direction was set.

Our first few days of travel have us within the perimeter of the protected area of the nesting grounds, but not in the nesting area itself. There has been little food for Emilja to gather or Wojciech to hunt. Nadzia is rationing the hay for Aleksy and Aleksa, as well. We have forged paths until they became unpassable and had to backtrack. We spent one afternoon walking in a circle. It has been a slow, and occasionally fractious few days.

But this last morning, Nadzia spotted a nest on top of what seems like the largest needle rock formation in the area. It seems the center of the pattern the hawks (now in the scores) fly. We set that as our “true north”, always keeping it in sight, trying to just keep moving toward it, and seem to have made some progress yesterday.

My watch is near to ending. The sun is near to rising. I must stoke the fire, and get water started for breakfast. Everyone else wrote letters home during dinner or over their watches, and we will be sending these via one of our homing pigeons. I just hope the hawks let it through.

As always, you have all my love.

Sibilia

 

November 4-6

Darling Karolus –

Tonight we are sharing a campfire with a traveler heading back the way we came. It is possible this letter will reach the village even before you do, so you will have it, as well as my first one, waiting upon your return. Perhaps a few days in is a little early to send a letter, but I have no idea when the next chance will come, so feel I most take advantage.

Our first few days have been rather uneventful. Dymek and I have agreed on the direction the portents are taking us, for now, though I think we both have some preconceived notions of where we will be going, and soon enough, those paths will diverge. It will be interesting to see what the portents say then, and if either of us will be able to separate ourselves enough from our own thoughts to read the signs clearly.

Aleksy and Aleksa (the mules – Nadzia insists we call them by their names) have been a great help so far, though I have been less willing than the others to let them carry everything. While Dymek is right, neither the road nor the portents show us any sign that we will lose the twins for now, I cannot help but think about what would happen to us if anything should happen to them. So I carry my own bedroll, a tarp, water and rations, and of course, my cards. I have decided that the burden of those objects is far less than the burden of uncertainty would be.

Tomorrow we head into the foothills, and I know soon I will be very grateful for Aleksy, Aleksa, and Nadzia with her careful tending of them. I just fear that in not too long, we will be heading down paths that the mules cannot travel with us, and just hope we are able to find a safe place to leave them.

While I believe we will just be passing through the foothills, on our way to the swamps, where the mules will be too heavy to travel safely, Dymek thinks we will be heading deep into the mountains proper, where the mules’ sure footedness will make the climb easier for all of us. In that way, it would be nice if he were right, and I were wrong. The geese do fly right over the mountains, but every time I track the crows, they change their path once they reach the foothills.

I know not if anyone else is writing, so I feel I must share some information about everyone for the sake of their friends and family. Emilja has so far been our willing cook. She is rather miraculous at it, spotting herbs, mushrooms, and other usable plants as we travel. With the addition of the hares and other small game Wojciech has managed to snare, we have had fresh stew every night and in the morning, and only eat our dried goods so as not to stop at lunch.

Wojciech remains young and full of high spirits. This is his first time leaving the village, and everything is exciting to him, well, everything except our slow pace. He and Nadzia bicker, but much like siblings. It is good natured, and provides some level of amusement to the rest of us.

The light of the fire is dying, and I must get some sleep. I expect that by the time I write you next, our path – the mountains or the swamps – will have been chosen, and so you will know from which direction to watch for any signs.

 

All my love,

Sibilia

November 1-3

My Dearest Karolus –

I hated leaving while you were away, but portents are portents, and reading the flight paths of the crows, I knew we had to begin our journey now, or the time might never come again. The truth is, we got very little warning. It had been all geese flying overhead for weeks, just a normal fall. And then one morning, in between the flocks, I saw the crows.

At first, there were only a couple of them, and I hoped it was an anomaly. But by the afternoon, it was obvious, I knew that was not the case. The crows were leaving, and that meant it was time for us to leave, too.

Emilja tried to argue with me when I knocked on her door to tell her it was time. She claimed she still had too much to do to get her house and the fields ready for an extended absence. But as we were speaking, two crows arose from her corn and joined a murder passing overhead. She agreed to be at the meeting place come the morning’s sunrise.

Wojciech, young as he is, heard the news with great excitement, and barely let me finish speaking before he started dashing to and fro, with more energy than purpose. Luckily, his mother was there to provide some direction, even among her worry. She knows he is a man now, but still so young. She had always hoped that when he left her house, it would be to one of his own, perhaps with a young wife. No mother wants to send her only child out on a dangerous journey, no matter what the cards say. I wanted to promise her I would keep him safe, get him home to her, but I have spent too many years reading the possible futures to believe that any future is guaranteed.

I found Nadzia among mules, as you would expect. It has always seemed strange to me that such a sweet and accommodating girl would feel such an affinity for those stubborn creatures. But they steady and reliable, not something she has always had in her life, so perhaps that is it. She informed me that two of them would be joining us on our journey, twin mules, called Aleksy and Aleksa. I will be glad to have them to carry the heavier burdens, but worry that our path may take us in places they cannot go, and then what will happen to the creatures? And how will Nadzia cope?

Dymek had noticed the crows himself, and had already gathered everything he would need for the journey by the time I made it to his house. He was sitting outside, sipping his tea, a cast of runes in front of him. We both agreed that we must leave with the next morning’s light.

I wish you were traveling with me, but it is not in the cards, the runes, or the portents this time. I will be glad to have Dymek, and his strength and wisdom, on this journey with me. We follow the crows.

All my love,

Sibilia

NaNoWriMo, the Short Story Version

I have not been writing the way I should be. But I am trying to get back in the habit, and NaNoWriMo is great inspiration for that. But I am not going to write 1667 words per day. I am not, and trying to do so would just be setting myself up for failure. So I am going to do what I did two years ago. Instead of writing a novel in a month, my goal is to write a short story in a month. In general, I will be looking to write 100 words/day. Some days I’ll write a little more, but my minimum will be 100 words per day.
The snippets will get posted here in 3-4 day chunks, or however seems to make the most sense at a time.

Tell Me Where To Stand

I do not wear a safety pin. I never put a green dot on my hand. The best way I know to show you I am a “safe person” is to be a safe person. To say “good morning” on the bus. To smile as we pass on the sidewalk. To compliment that really awesome sweater you are wearing, even though we have never seen each other before and will not again. To say something if I see something.

To my family and friends who do not have the same privileges as me. To the people I have never met but may need that friendship. Tell me where to stand.

If you want me behind you, offering all the support I can, propping you up, helping push you forward, if that is what is needed. Tell me. I will stand there.

If you want me beside you, marching arm in arm, overlapping our shields to form an impenetrable barrier, blazing this trail together. Tell me. I will stand there.

And if, heaven forbid, you are ever in need of a shield, if you need someone to stand between you and the slings and arrows of this world, to block the worst of the hate that comes your direction, to stand in front and help clear the way. Tell me. I will stand there.

You do not have to tell me in words. Your eyes can speak volumes. The way you stand can tell me what I need to know. I promise to listen with my eyes as well as my ears. To support, share, or protect as desired, with my presence as well as my words.

Tell me where you want me to stand. I will stand there.

Can We Take a Stand Against Murder?

I don’t have a whole lot of emotional energy to spare right now, so if this seems blunt, well, that’s because it is.

 

A civilian killing a cop is not an inherently worse crime than a cop killing a civilian.

A white man killing a black man is not inherently worse than a black man killing a white man.

And those are not worse than a black person killing another black person, or a white person killing another white person, or a straight person killing an LGBTQ person, or an LGBTQ person killing a straight person, or a man killing a woman, or a woman killing a man, or a teenager killing an adult, or an adult killing a teenager, or a Muslim killing a Christian, or a Christian killing a Muslim, or a religious person killing an atheist, or an atheist killing a religious person….

And when I say one is not inherently worse than the other, I also mean that one is not inherently more forgivable than the other.

Every single one of these is murder. Every single one.

It is one person taking the life of another person.

And it’s fucking awful.

 

And that’s what we need to see. We need to stop trying to make value judgements about whose lives are supposedly worth more. About how in some cases maybe it’s not so awful. Because that’s not the case. In every single case it is awful. Fucking awful.

 

The problem isn’t that there are no good: cops, young black men, straight people, men, teenagers, whatever. It is that the good ones are not stepping up to stop the bad ones. In all communities.

In all communities, our initial reaction is to rally around one of “our own”, because we see ourselves in them and them in ourselves, so we do not want to believe they are capable of doing something so fundamentally awful.

We need to redefine our “us”.

I am not saying that being a cop doesn’t matter. I am not saying that being black doesn’t matter. Those are hugely important communities; they absolutely help shape identities.

But sometimes, we need to just be people first. We need to be people who are against harassment, profiling, irrational fear, and killing.

How difficult is it to say, that before I am anything else, I am a person who does not support murder?

How difficult is it to build a community where we can all say – killing is fucking awful. Let’s not do it. Let’s not support those who do it.

I want my primary “us” to not be – white, female, parent, etc. I want my primary “us” to be people who don’t believe in killing other people. And that’s the group I want to rally around. That’s the group I want to support and protect. I don’t care if they are black or white, cop or civilian, LGBTQ or straight, or any other thing. I care only that they believe killing another person is fucking awful.

Do you believe killing another person is fucking awful? Yes? Then you are one of mine. Let us build our community. Let us stick together. And let us speak out against the people who are not part of this community.

Because if you believe that killing another person is not inherently, fucking awful, then I don’t want to be around you. (And yes, I get that sometimes, RARELY, it might be necessary. It really might. That doesn’t change the fact that it is fucking awful. Just changes whether or not it is a crime. I don’t know if I could ever kill in defense of self and family or not, but I do know that if I did, it would be fucking awful, and I would be destroyed by having to have made that kind of decision.)

So can we form the “Let’s not kill” community? Will you stand with me against killing other people? Can we please just make this a basic tenet of our human community?

The Imaginary Family

How do you get a child to talk about what is upsetting them when they probably do not even realize what is upsetting them – that the issue is so deep into their subconscious that they cannot see it, even if you point it out?

Pop Tart has a best friend. That best friend lives just a few houses down the street. She is a good kid. We like her. But the friendship we do not like that much. Toxic is not the right word. Intense. Intense is the right word. If we let them, the girls will hang out with each other to the exclusion of all others. The one time they tried to include a third in their group, the relationship really did become toxic, leading Pop Tart’s friend to harm herself and blame Pop Tart. (For the record, it was not a serious injury, but it did cause serious concern.)

The school ended up instituting a “friendship agreement” which was really an agreement on how not to be friends while at school. And for a while, Pop Tart did not hang out with either other girl, and they did hang out together. But something happened between Pop Tart’s best friend and the other girl, and then Pop Tart and her best friend were back together again.

We have tried having the rule that Pop Tart cannot hang out with BFF two days in a row. She has to play with some other kid in between play dates with BFF. And for a while that worked. But then we became lazy, and tired of fighting about it, and let them hang out all the time. And the intensity leads to Pop Tart in tears once or twice a week.

And the problem is not actually something BFF is doing. The problem is BFF’s family life. And I do not think Pop Tart consciously realizes it.

Pop Tart was born when her mother was 16. She has two younger brothers, fairly close to her in age, and then a much younger sister. Pop Tart was responsible for taking care of her younger siblings.

BFF’s grandmother is only a few years older than me. I do not know how old her mother was when she was born, but she was quite young. BFF has two younger brothers, not super far in her from age, and then a much younger sister. BFF often has to spend the day watching her younger siblings.

See the parallels?

Pop Tart sees BFF’s family, and this is what she imagines her life would have been like if she had not been removed from her mother. Now, this forgets the fact that neither of her brothers was living with their mother and, in fact, neither have ever entered state care. It forgets the fact that Pop Tart’s mother struggled with addiction. It ignores the fact that Pop Tart was 6 years old, left alone with a 6 month old, a 3 year old, and 5 year old, while BFF is 12, and is in charge of her three younger siblings, but with an adult (generally grandfather or uncle) also home. But of course Pop Tart forgets those things. Her birth mother is a mythical creature. She can, if pressed, realize that her mother had problems, but only if pressed, and it quickly goes away.

So Pop Tart hangs out with BFF, helping watch the younger kids. And Pop Tart sees the family she thinks she was supposed to have. And she imagines herself part of this family. And then something happens, something that reminds her she is not part of that family. This is not anyone being mean. It is generally a family event they plan that Pop Tart is not invited to. And that is normal. That is right. Pop Tart is NOT part of their family. And their family needs time without Pop Tart around, just as our family needs time without BFF around.

But Pop Tart does feel it that way. Here is this family that is the family she was supposed to have, and here they are telling her she is not a part of their family. Can you say trigger?

But Pop Tart is 12 on a good day. She is not capable of realizing this is the issue, at least not consciously. Which means she is not capable of working on this consciously with her therapist or with us. She rationalizes her feelings and just says she wishes she could have done activity X, or she wants to hang out with BFF.

And part of me wants to let it lie, or at least let it lie while putting the rule back in place that she needs to hang out with someone other than BFF, at least once in a while. But it is starting to cause problems hanging out with her actual sister.

Now, play dates with her sister are bound to get a little more boring for her right now, anyway, as Pop Tart is 12 and her little sister is 7. They do not have a lot in common, do not want to play the same games, etc. Finding activities for us all to do together is a challenge and one we parents gladly accept.

But hanging out with her sister is also a reminder of how her life actually is. It does not let her pretend that she is part of a different family. She does not get to be the boss of her sister – parents are always around, and different parents for each of them. They live in different houses, have different lives.

And so, she would rather hang out with BFF. And she gets upset when BFF’s family does something without her, when real life intrudes on her imaginary family.

But she is in no way ready to deal with this yet. And she may never be. Just like she may never be able to come to grips with her mother’s addictions, with the reasons she and her sister were removed from their mother’s care.

All kids imagine sometimes that they are adopted, that they have another family out there that would let them do what they want, when they wanted, a family they could run away to and all their problems would be solved. All kids imagine this. Pop Tart actually has another family, and while she is old enough to remember some of the problems, she still loves her mom the way all kids love their moms before they are old enough to see their mom’s faults. And now, she has a family, just down the street, that has the life her imaginary biological family has.

And here we are, at home. The “real” family. The family with rules, with bed times, with chores and homework. The family that does not let her be the boss of other kids. We are the reality break.

And she loves us. And she realizes on some level that she does not actually want a family with three younger siblings because she likes all the attention she gets from us. On good days, she knows she is where she needs to be.

But the imaginary family still lives just down the street.

I Hate Sleep Overs

There is nothing Pop Tart loves more than a sleep over.  I would say candy comes close, but if I were to give her the choice between having a sleep over and having candy, she would choose the sleep over every time. And while a sleep over at our house is good, the best thing ever is to sleep over at someone else’s house. To sleep over somewhere where they do not enforce a bed time, where they can watch scary movies and eat junk food all night. It is the 12 year old version of heaven.

I get that. I was the same way at 12. Staying up late gossiping with friends, talking about boys, doing hair, experimenting with make-up. I get it. I was there. I was once 12.

The problem is, I am no longer 12. I am 40. And Pop Tart, she’s only 2/3 12. The other 1/3 of her is 6-8 years old. And on the day after a sleep over, she is 100% crabby 3 year old, the whole day.

So while Pop Tart loves sleep overs. I hate them. I hate them so much.

Sleep overs at our house are not that bad, because we still enforce a bedtime. We monitor what they watch, and there’s no late night junk food. We are the least fun house ever. But, the next day, I have a mostly functional child. She may give attitude and be a bit grumpy, but she is able to converse. She is able to do what she needs to be doing. She can function.

If she spends the night at a friend’s house, the next day, I have a yelling, screaming lump. She is not even really a person. You try to talk to her and you get “stop talking”. Suggest she take a nap (because the child does not function on less than 9 hours sleep, and 10-12 is actually her happy zone), and you get her yelling at you that she is not tired, that she does not need a nap. Even when you explain it is not a punishment. In fact, explaining it is not a punishment is likely to lead to a meltdown where she just cries and screams for the rest of the day – or until she falls asleep.

I understand the importance of sleepovers, of pushing the limits, even of watching scary movies with friends. And with a normal 12 year old, I might even be supportive. But I do not have a normal 12 year old. I have a 12 year old with emotional delays, and not enough sleep turns her into a grouchy toddler.

And even so, I might be able to get behind an occasional sleep over. The problem is, Pop Tart wants one EVERY weekend. (We do not allow them every weekend, but trust me, she asks.) And this year, with her homework level, we do not have weeknights to do stuff as a family. Week nights are fights about homework and trumpet practice. We eat dinner as a family, but that is about the only family time we get on week nights.

That means that weekends are when we have the chance to do family stuff. Some of it is the boring stuff, like shopping (including shopping for her clothes), but some of it is fun stuff. Or could be fun stuff. If I had a functional child.

And I think that is what bothers me the most about sleep overs. I get so little time with my child for us to be a family, and sleep overs steal over half the weekend from me. They take late afternoon/evening of the night of the sleep over, and then they steal the entire day after. And she is 12. It is only going to get worse as we go into middle school and high school. There will be activities – band, choir, swim team, who knows what – which will take her time. She will become more independent. She will want to spend even less time with her boring parents.

This is her last year of elementary school. And I have only gotten 3.25 years of elementary school as it is. I want time with my daughter that is not filled with her being mad for no real reason. I want to talk to her without being yelled at or yelling back. I want our weekends.