When Rain Hurts by Mary Evelyn Greene

April 18, 2010


Sophie on Jake (Southlands, April 18, 2010)

April 18, 2010.  The weekend is full of excitement, drama, trauma and a household of proud LoBruttos.  As of Saturday, Peter had been dry for 13 days, which shatters all records in recent memory.  That same day, Sophie could have shattered more than just a record by falling from a tree.  Pat and I thought she was still at our neighbor’s playing, and with Peter safely occupied in the basement with his Pokeman cards, we risked a rare and beautiful catnap on the couch.  Ten minutes into our bliss, we awoke to the sound of Sophie whimpering at the door.  She couldn’t tell us what was wrong at first but eventually we learned she fell out of a tree at the edge of our property, yelled and cried for help, and then crawled and hopped her way to the house.  Our tough nut of a child trembled as she spoke, obviously shaken and hurt.  She tells us she landed on her head and hip but within fifteen minutes of getting her settled on the couch with a bag of ice, a blanket and lots of kisses on the forehead, her eyes glazed over and she fell deeply asleep.  We panicked a little when she fell asleep so quickly, because we didn’t see what happened, had no sense of how far she fell, but knew the ground around that tree is rocky.  One call to a neighbor, who’s a nurse, and a second to my sister in Atlanta convinced us that we needed to rouse her and get to the Emergency Room.  Luckily, she was fine. The young ER doctor, whom Sophie complimented when he walked in “you are one handsome doctor man!” explained that someone with a concussion falls asleep later, not right away.  People in shock, even mild shock, can fall asleep immediately after the adrenalin rush starts to wear off, which is what happened with Sophie.  So after lots of attention from the cute doctor and nurses, and a reassuring exam of her hip, pelvis, back and head, we’re sent home with instructions to rest and ice the deeply bruised area.  But her first horseshow is the next day, which puts a serious crimp in the rest and ice advice.  The bold and beautiful doctor said she could ride if she felt up to it but given the extent of her bruising, he wasn’t optimistic.  Of course, he doesn’t know our Sophie.  By 6:30 am this morning, she’s dressed in her equestrian regalia (thank you, consignment shop), walking more like a 70 year old than a 7 year old, but otherwise ready for action.  When I ask whether she’s sure she wants to do this, she says, “I have to, Mom.  I just have to.”  Two hours later she’s gingerly atop Jake, who at 27 years old is a seasoned, beloved and at times arthritic mount, ready for her first Walk/Trot event.  I notice that someone snuck an extra sheepskin pad on top of her saddle, which Sophie doesn’t normally use.  While I watch her enter the ring, at first all smiles, I silently thank her instructor Amy because she’s undoubtedly the one who thought of the extra pad to cushion Sophie’s sore little bum.  As soon as the announcer asks the kids to trot, Sophie’s expression changes and I can tell she’s fighting the pain.  Posting with a badly bruised and twisted hip cannot feel pleasant.  Her technique is off and she seems much less skilled than she actually is.  At one point Jake stops trotting and because Sophie’s too sore to kick normally, Amy leans over the rail and hands her a crop.  For whatever reason, the very sight of the crop spooks Jake, who takes off cantering and careening in all directions.  I am so scared at one point I have to turn away.  Sophie’s one boot is out of the stirrup and her leg is flying wildly in the air.  I can’t bear to watch my child, already injured, flung from her horse like a rag doll.  But astonishingly, and with a liberal dose of grace, luck and courage, she manages to hang on long enough for Amy to pull the crop away and wrangle Jake into submission.  As her little lip trembles and her eyes fill with tears, the modest crowd cheers.  In no time she’s in my arms and sobbing full out.  “I was so scared, Mommy.”  I wipe her tears, Daddy brings her a drink, and for a minute she rests.  Despite the scare and the aggravation to her injury, she wants to get back up and ride in the next event.  So ten minutes later she’s at it again.  Though she comes in last place, I have never been so proud.  What a brave, tenacious little thing she is.  Sophie didn’t bring home any blue or red ribbons, but there’s no doubt she’s the champion of the day, and certainly a champion in our hearts.  Afterwards we go out for breakfast, including Grandma, and then to a local store to let the kids pick out a small surprise: Sophie for her gumption and Peter for being dry almost two whole weeks.  Pat’s brother and sister-in-law drive over from New Jersey to spend the afternoon with us.  We have a happy time, barbequing chicken on the grill, playing tetherball, and watching Pat’s brother try to teach him how to use a chainsaw that’s been in the box on a garage shelf since we moved more than two years ago.  A lovely, relaxing afternoon.  But here’s the catch: Peter picks out a set of six Matchbox cars from the store as his impromptu reward for staying dry so long.  Just a few short hours later, I stop him in the mudroom as he’s about to run outside.  “Why’s your shirt wet?” I ask.  And then I notice his jeans are wet too.  He definitely peed his pants, for the first time in two weeks and immediately after being rewarded for his progress.  Although there was certainly a lot of action beyond the norm this weekend, no doubt contributing to his step backwards, Pat and I have confronted this phenomenon before.  Maybe we shouldn’t assign any fanfare to his accomplishments, maybe he just can’t handle the attention or perceived pressure, because more often than not, he resumes an unwanted behavior immediately after we reward him.  It’s very strange and disconcerting, and all too real.  Today is no exception.  After I catch him wet, a condition he’d been in for an uncertain amount of time, his day continues to spiral downward.  Tantrums, uncontrolled silliness, bad language, and general noncompliance.  He apologizes at bedtime and I reassure him that tomorrow’s another day.  When its Sophie’s turn to say goodnight, she tells me she can’t wait for school tomorrow because she wants to share her adventures with her classmates and teacher.  She’s packed her ribbons, her event number, some photos and the snipped-off hospital bracelet in her backpack.  As I turn off the light, I ask whether she’s feeling okay.  “Not too bad,” she answers.  “But Mom,” she pauses, a small smile betraying her solemn voice.  “Can you write a note for me so I can skip gym tomorrow?”


5 Comments »

  1. First, I want to thank you for this wonderful blog. Your honest, candid and beautifully written stories do so much to shine a light on the real issues facing parents of adopted as well as developmentally challenged children.

    I wanted to write today to let you know that I have also observed the phenomenon of rewards being counterproductive. Early on, I began to suspect that my daughter was made uncomfortable whenever I made a fuss or became overenthusiastic about any of accomplishments. The reality of this took years to fully sink in. What mother wants to accept that praise can hurt her child? I finally accepted the truth and now I struggle to find just the right balance. For us, a small and softly spoken “good job” does wonders and anything much beyond that is likely to backfire. I have also found that my daughter likes to work for small “meaningless” rewards. For example, she might get a pretty stone each time she picks up her toys. However, there is no special reward for filling her stone box.

    Comment by Jane — April 20, 2010 @ 1:56 pm | Reply

  2. Seeing your daughter atop that beautiful horse brings back a lot of memories for me. I rode all through grade school and into my first year of high school. Was an awesome part of my life. Tell Sophie to keep up the good work and before she knows it she will have boxes of ribbons of many colors!

    Comment by Miss Victoria — April 20, 2010 @ 7:32 pm | Reply

  3. little steps back maybe but lots of big steps forward! Eliza got the riding bug early, too, and we had some scares but mostly lots of fun. If you get to the point when she’s older for a riding camp let me know, we found a great one up near Rome.

    Comment by mel — April 20, 2010 @ 10:05 pm | Reply

  4. So happy for Peter. If pattern similar to my daughter, each stretch of dryness will get longer and longer, and then hopefully some day, it will be more the norm to be dry. My daughter also tends to seem to almost do an about face when the reward is large or expensive for her having exhibited a behavior that is good, such as no longer hiding her homework from her teacher etc…lol Sometimes, I think it’s simply that the draught of orphanage reward compared to life now, has an almost opposite effect, maybe even so far as to say the child starts acting out again because they might perceive the expectation is met, and it’s open season again…lol I’m not sure. But, I’ve learned to go with the flow of the up and down or forward and backward, and step back and see if there has been overall progress over the years. And it is a definite yes! :) I know your little ones have thrived also.

    Good for Sophie. She’ll need all that tenacity. And such a beautiful picture. Horses are so wonderful for these kiddos. My daughter also loves horses.

    Thank you for a sunny blog!

    Comment by Lori — April 21, 2010 @ 11:27 am | Reply

  5. “Maybe we shouldn’t assign any fanfare to his accomplishments, maybe he just can’t handle the attention or perceived pressure, because more often than not, he resumes an unwanted behavior immediately after we reward him. ”

    That is just what we used to experience with my son. Thankfully, he’s over that, but it was that way for a looong time. I think he just couldn’t handle the good feelings he was experiencing so sabotoged it.

    Comment by Elizabeth — April 28, 2010 @ 9:32 pm | Reply


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