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>It Wasn’t the Full Moon

May 25, 2011

>Last week, awful as it was, turned on a bright little bulb in my understanding FASD.

Tuesday night, I escaped to a board meeting. I had only Monday and Tuesday under my belt and I was already glad for the excuse to cut out for an evening of adult conversation.

I rode with a friend. On the drive home, she said, “Wow. That is an  amazing moon.”

I followed her gaze and saw rising above the trees, a perfect pumpkin of a moon: huge, full, peachy-orange. In autumn in our latitude, we call it a harvest moon.

“Well, that explains it,” I joked out loud before remembering I was with one of my normal friends.

I have a few friends like that: people who don’t live in this netherland of disability parenting. People who don’t know the tribal lingo like, “Today was another Monday,” or “There must have been a full moon.”

“What explains what?” she asked.

“The full moon,” I said.”When your boys were little [they are now adults] did they get crazier the nights there was a full moon?”

“You mean crazier than everyday boy crazy?”


“No. Not that I never noticed.” My friend paused a moment. “Does something happen to your kids when there’s a full moon?”

“Um, hm,” I affirmed. “It is only half a joke. On nights when there is a full moon nobody sleeps. And the days before and after are crazier. It’s been one of those weeks already. So it makes sense that there is a full moon. It is folk wisdom: Maybe it is true. Maybe it isn’t. It’s just something my mom friends and I say to each other when our kids are having a really hard time.”

To her credit, she didn’t laugh. You see, sometimes it actually helps to be stuck in the 19th century, like she and I are. Those were the day before empirical anything. Old-country immigrants swore by remedies like wrapping a slice of moldy bread around an open wound for healing centuries before scientists discovered a substance in the mold they called penicillin.

Wednesday. Thursday. Friday.
Hope’s behavior slid downhill all week. I didn’t really need a full moon for explanation. My husband was out of town on business and because he and Hope have a very special bond, days and nights when Daddy is gone are always harder.
In fact, my husband’s trips inspired Faith to create a bit of family code. Faith and Hope share some personality traits and on days when Hope is functioning better, they have fun. But on days when Hope is having a harder time, she is easily provoked by Faith.
Tired of mediation above and beyond the norm, one night after Hope and Mercy were asleep, I told Faith, “I need you to come up with a bit of code you can easily remember. Something I can quietly say out loud as a warning that Hope is having a hard day and to help me keep my sanity, I need you to go out of your way not to provoke her.”
Faith thought for a moment. “How about ‘chestnuts in the refrigerator’?’  Like ‘Today we have chestnuts in the refrigerator.’ Or, ‘Today we have lots of chestnuts in the refrigerator.'”
“Chestnuts in the refrigerator?” I repeated. “I don’t think anyone would guess that. Not even me. Does it mean something to you?”
“Yep. I first ate them in Korea. To me, chestnuts are Korean nuts.”
Daddy was home. Hope had slept unusually well. It was the first morning in a whole week we didn’t have chestnuts in the refrigerator.
Hope presented herself to me at my desk to show me her loose front tooth, her first, which she has been maddly wiggling for weeks. “My tooth is stuck, Mom,” she complained. “It was wigglier when daddy was gone. Look.”
Hope opened her mouth wide. I gave it the obligatory look and wiggle, gestures as thoughtless as kissing owies makes them better.
“Wow!” I said, suddenly very sincere. “You have got to see this. This is too cool.” Hope’s face lit up. As the third child in the family she has felt a little slighted on loose-tooth wonder.
I took Hope by the hand and trotted her upstairs to the bathroom mirror. “Look,” I said. “Today you have two rows of front teeth!”
‘Oh, WOW! Are those my grown-up teeth?” She pointed to the two big teeth protruding behind the first two baby teeth she ever cut, the two she has been wiggling incessantly. “I look like a shark!” she said, clearly elated.
So there you have it. It wasn’t the full moon. And it wasn’t even mostly because Daddy was gone. It was because Hope was teething.
Her first two big teeth did not come up into spaces vacated by baby teeth. They carved their way through gum tissue just like they did when she was a baby. And between her sensory issues and her emotional immaturity, cutting new teeth affected Hope the same way teething affected all my babies: inexplicably crabby, irritable, sleepless, melting down at every disappointment, gnawing on everything in reach (including, last week, her sisters). Except that because she is six, teething never occurred to me.
Today, I am a wiser mommy.

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