Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My Pride and Joy

Not exactly what I had in mind.
My oldest daughter Thumbelina - my pride and joy - is turning me into a bonafide cookoo bird.  This is a bad week.  That means we can barely exchange three sentences without one of us using The Dreaded Tone.  For a few minutes, we might be fine.  Then I’ll ask her to put on her shoes or suggest she turn down the TV, and I’ll be greeted with eye rolling and foot stomping and sighs so loud they make my ears bleed and my blood boil. 

There’s also crying.  For the love of all that’s holy, please stop crying.  I know that I must be the meanest mommy in the history of ever but I cannot take one more tearful, whiny flip-out over something like your water bottle being left at school or not letting you wear your Christmas dress to church in May.

Here’s how it works:  she does something slightly obnoxious that sets me off (taking 40 minutes to get dressed in the morning, for example.)  And instead of taking a deep breath and being all June Cleaver-y or Paltrow-y or some other reasonable standard of maternal perfection, I react badly.  About half the time I totally lose my schmidt. And if I don’t yell at her, I end up using that horrible I’m-not-actually-yelling-at-you-but-I'm-evil-and-scary voice that fools no one and probably leaves deep emotional scars. 

And then of course the conflict escalates and everything blows up into a million flying shards of crap.

I don’t understand.  She’s about to turn 8.  How can someone this young have such an advanced case of PMS?  I have no idea how.  But each morning she arrives sullenly in the kitchen in a vintage 1951 snit and begins acting like a turd blossom.  But that’s not the worst part.  The worst part is that her tone, her snide words, her Hair Trigger Bitch Syndrome – they’re all my fault

All the parts of this girl that drive me crazy are the ones she inherited directly from me; the aspects of my own personality that I can’t stand.  I used to think the worst thing in the world would be that I would to turn into my mother. I was an idiot.  I should be so lucky.  Now I know the worst thing in the world is for my daughter to turn into me.

I think it’s because she’s my first.  Being the oldest kid is both a blessing and a curse.  On the one hand, she gets to do more and have more. (By contrast, the only new thing the youngest one has gotten was her own placenta, and that was soooo in utero.)  On the other hand, my expectations for Thumbelina's behavior are probably not fair.  I unreasonably expect her to be good all the time.  And of course, no one can do that.

As my husband has reminded me on more than one occasion, I’m much harder on her than I am on the younger kids.  We could discuss that little tidbit more, but it’s a whole other post. I mean he’s right, but I still want to throat punch him WWE-style when he points it out.

Many of my mom friends claim they have similar issues with their oldests.  Which always surprises me. Because I think of these kids (the ones they claim are driving them to drink before Oprah is even over) as being amazing.  When I tell them that, they just shake their heads.

I should get it.  I mean, I hear from people all the time how great my daughter is.  Her teachers tell me she is smart, good-hearted, polite and kind.  And honestly, hearing that on a week like this… I don’t know whether to laugh or cry or just blurt out the truth:

“Thanks you so much!  I work really hard at maintaining the illusion that we’re a nice family.”

Things get better. Then they get worse. I try to be a good mom, but I fall short every day.  And it sucks.  And the next day I wake up, shake it off and try again. I guess the key is to never stop trying.  I'm so aware recently of how quickly she is growing up.  Of how hard things will be when she is a teenager . . . or possibly worse, a tweener.  And how little time I have left before she stops wanting her mommy to be by her side. I need to try harder not to yell.  To be a little more patient.  To remember that even though she’s the biggest, she’s still little.

That's how we roll, bitches.
I wonder how many more years she will want to snuggle on my lap and watch TV? Or read stories with me? Or demand hugs and kisses before bedtime? I’m terrified of losing her. Every time she opens her fresh mouth or rolls her eyes at me, I feel her slipping farther away.  I know the moment will come when she'll cease to be mine and start to be her own. And I know that’s as it should be.  

But the process of helping her get there is terrifying.  I want my sweet little girl back.  I want to go back to when it was all less complicated.  But I love her no matter what and too much to ever stop trying.  Even if she turns out like me, with a hereditary case of Hair Trigger Bitch Syndrome and vintage 1951 snit.

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2011

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