The Tug of War That Comes with Raising Two Very Different Daughters – One Adorable Angel, One Cute Little Devil by Jean Marie Keenan-Johnston
Today started innocently enough. I overslept. Having spent yesterday afternoon at a children’s museum packed with pretend play props in ever inch of the building and the evening at a diner with four tired young children, to say I was tired when I got home with my children would have been a drastic understatement! So it wasn’t a surprise that I had trouble waking this morning. I had told my girls the day before what my surprise for today was – I found out quite accidentally through an event posting on Facebook that the author of the Pinkalicious series was going to be at a book store not far from our home. We were all excited, but I knew we had very little time to get ready and out the door due to my knowledge of parking conditions in the area and my inability to walk too far from our car to the store, especially after a busy day yesterday. There were a few glitches, but for the most part both of my children cooperated as I “barked” orders for what I needed each child to help with so we could be out of the house in less than a half hour. We didn’t make it…we really needed to leave by 12:10 and we weren’t in our cars until almost 12:30. But I was confident we had plenty of time and would enjoy our afternoon with the children’s author. If I knew how difficult the afternoon would be, I’m not sure I would have agreed to go, promise or no promise.
At first it felt like everything was going to go perfectly smoothly! The event began with all of the children sitting on the floor as the author read her latest book aloud to the crowd. I stood as close to my children as all the little bodies at my feet would allow, worried the entire time that somehow my little one would find a way to bolt, as if she could just fly over all the other children and out the door while I tried to step in between legs and feet on the floor without falling on my face, desperate to reach her before she left the building. I know it sounds a bit paranoid, but anyone who has a child who has a history of bolting, a master of escape who can find hiding places quicker than my old lady legs can run to reach and grab one of those little arms. But my worries proved premature. The read-aloud went wonderfully; both of my girls sat and followed along in their own copies of the book. There were a lot of little ones who had trouble staying in their seats, but my two weren’t part of that group! I was feeling proud and relieved. Then everything fell apart when the time came to keep them occupied while we waited for our turn to meet the author…that VERY LONG wait for #71. I thought it would take forever. I didn’t realize then that the English language needs a word that stands for periods of time LONGER THAN FOREVER!
Little legs bolting across a very crowded book store, the direction unknown, and an instant overwhelming fear taking over as my own feet don’t know which direction to run. A constant worry of impending escape after seeing that impish grin that said it all…”I came to hide in this spot, hoping you wouldn’t find me as if we were playing a game of Hide and Seek! And I know I can do it again!” The total embarrassment that comes with watching my daughter hide under table after table after table barely tripping anyone near her little feet…thinking that was the worst I could feel, only to sink even lower when I see her bolt under the TABLE WHERE THE AUTHOR IS SITTING and having to drag her out in front of the author herself and everyone waiting in line for her autograph. Losing her twice in a room full of children and other mothers who wish they were someplace else away from so many whining little beings who act one minute like they want to be there to meet this wonderful writer and then the next like they’d rather be home playing or outside on this beautiful day. I can’t count the number of times I asked her to stay with me. I can’t count the number of times I praised her for the good choices she made. I can’t remember how often I reminded her of the nasty people in the world who would like to steal my beautiful babies to have them live with them instead of me. I know there were times I was close to tears, feeling completely fried that I have no idea how I was able to hold them back so well. I can’t count the threats…of consequences at home, calls home to Daddy, returning the book I just bought. And that most severe reprimand so many of us try to keep from yelling and we speak firmly through gritting teeth…”That’s it. We’re leaving.”
So why didn’t I, the woman who prides herself on NOT being a pushover whose children walk all over her, take her out of there? I can say it all in two words…my oldest. My other daughter, who was so excited to be there, who was able to name every book on our drive there, who listened to every request and tried to help corral this demon-child she called sister to help her mommy…she was the reason I stuck it out rather than miraculously lifting both children at once and sprinting for the door to head home. Throughout the whole ordeal, I felt my fibro pain amp to higher and higher levels. I know from experience that stress can make pain worse as muscles tighten, and having this happen in front of all these other parents added double the stress than just chasing my daughter around would. Every time I had to reprimand this cute little girl, I felt my face redden and the heat rise from within me…and flashes of past experiences watching other parents with this same problem went through my head. I was THAT PARENT with THAT CHILD. The child who couldn’t be contained, the child who ran like a crazy person this way and that. And the entire time I was trying to figure out how to fix the problem, I knew it would have been SO much easier had it been just the two of us. My older daughter isn’t a saint by any means. But she is a bit older now at five and seems to understand more that good things come to the children who cooperate with Mommy. The one punishment I could have pulled out of my arsenal I couldn’t even follow through with because in my heart I couldn’t punish my older daughter when she had worked so hard to be good despite such a long wait to meet the author.
Somehow I need to find more ways to get through this same situation out in public because all the times I said in anger “That’s it, I’m never taking you anywhere again!” I knew that was an impossible act to follow through on. I would never be able to live with myself if I left this young child home all the time. The inner teacher within me just wouldn’t allow it. But there HAS to be a better way to make this work when that cute devilish imp comes out to play. I’m not sure how quickly I’ll be able to realize what the answer is to that mystery. But for now, I’m just going to keep relaxing here on this couch after I finish this post, and I’ll hope coping mechanisms come to mind quickly when I have to deal with this situation again.