FOR ALL of the poise and skill they show on the pitch, in the concert hall, and on the boards, R. and Q. lately have taken to reminding us that they are 11 and 6. It’s as if they don’t want Mrs. D. and me to get too smug in our parenting achievements. And it’s working.
R. is questioning every last request, comment, and direction, whether it involves her chores, her clothes, or her bedtime. “Why?” “Why not?” “No, I don’t.” “Yes, I do.” “But, Dad/Mom …” These are flung at us constantly, in response to the very smallest and most insignificant statement on our part. It’s a grinding ground war, and each instance of resistance represents another few inches of depth in the trench she continues to dig with dogged determination.
To cite just one instance, anything short of hydraulics is insufficient to get R. out of bed on school mornings. When she finally does emerge from her cave, she stumbles downstairs to breakfast squinting and clawing at her eyes as if she’s been in solitary for the last month and is experiencing her first exposure to light. Yet every night — Every. Night. — she resists the call to put down her book, turn off her light, pull up the covers, and go to sleep. It starts with a request to read — usually 10 or 15 more minutes. “No,” we tell her, “you’re always so tired in the morning; going to sleep earlier will help you.”
The rebuttal: “No, it woooon’t.” No logic, no persuasion, just a flat denial of a painfully obvious truth.
For Q., the issue is a stubbornness that vaccilates between blazing rage and exasperated whining and is exacerbated by a maddening, lawyer-like parsing of each word we use to try to get her to do (or not do) what we want her to do (or not do). Her war is one of furious shelling and rocket attacks, ending only when the enemy position has been reduced to smoldering rubble.
Case in point: Last night, R. complained that Q. was riding her scooter in the house. After the requisite lecture to R. about tattling, I turned to Q., whom I observed — yea, verily — gliding a few feet across the floor on her Razor.
“Stop riding your scooter inside,” I said. “It’s dangerous. You could hurt yourself and break something.”
“I’m not riding my scooter,” she said.
“Q.,” I said, “I just watched you.”
She stood with the scooter, one shoe on its deck, the other on the floor, and answered, “I’m not riding it. I’m putting my foot on it.”
My brain tells me it’s good for them to be pushing us a bit, to test their independence. It’ll serve them well as they transition into their teen years and on into adulthood. It certainly would have done me a hell of a lot of good had I engaged in it more often at their age.
But my heart? My heart hates every goddamned second of stupid pushback, ceaseless bitching, and smirking attitude. My heart wants to get up in their grill and tell them — pointedly and very, very profanely — that they’re walking an awfully thin line and that unless they shut their pie holes, the consequences will be dire.
Good thing they really are good kids, that these are normal and minor things to deal with.
Better thing that my brain is in charge. | DL