Tuesday, June 23, 2009

You're breaking my heart, you're shaking my confidence daily

Someone has been testing me lately.

There's this version:

She gives me a hug. "Mmm," I say. She ventures close. She gives me a kiss on the cheek. Does that make you smile, Mama? Does that make you happy inside? Does that make you so happy you cry? And my favorite: I think you are so happy now. Cry, Mama!

And then there's the dark side of the moon:

Yesterday when she could not, would not get herself de-hyper-ed enough to complete her bedtime routine I gave her every opportunity to meet my expectations. I offered to help her though the parts I normally expect her to do herself. I offered to stay right by her side just so she'd complete them (and we're not talking complicated stuff: potty, unders off/pull-up on, flush, wash, With Soap, brush teeth). Instead, when she danced her naked unwiped tushie out into the hall for the gazbillionth time I threatened the loss of bedtime books. Good, she said. So I promised the loss of the night's bedtime books. And when we moved upstairs and she did everything in her power to be loud when she knows the expectation is that she's quiet because her sister's just fallen asleep, I threatened the loss of the week's bedtime books.

I've never taken away a week of bedtime books before. I was so sure she'd just go get her pajamas out of her drawer like I was pleading; I was so sure she'd start getting dressed after my line.

She looked me in the eyes. Good, she replied for the second time in ten minutes. And then, for extra effect, Yippee! So I declared the loss of books for the week, and I added the loss of TV for the week, too. At that point she regretted her words. Her lip quivered and she found pajamas. I don't want to lose all that books and all that TV! I want all the days of books and TV! And calmly and quietly, I replied how I always reply in these stomach-sinking moments: "I know, love. And I want a daughter who is respectful. We both didn't get what we want just now." And then I added something I never added before: "I'm sad, too." More than anything else I said to her yesterday, that made her think. Mama? Are you so sad you can cry?

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The girl does love her bedtime books and she has a history of trying to make me smile by sharing them with me. So I can't be sure: and yet, I think it was with unintended irony that when I got to daycare today she asked me to pack up her sister first because she needed a little extra time to finish her project. She had a sheaf of paper in front of her and she was making page after page of drawings and stacking them neatly in a pile. I'm making you a storybook, Mama! I need you to tape it and this is your storybook. I'm not done because I have to do more pictures but I'm making this storybook for you and you put it next to your bed tonight and you read it at your bedtime. It's going to make you smile. It's going to make you smile all the way to the ceiling! Nobody ever made you a bedtime storybook before, Mama, and when you read it you're going to be very, very happy inside -so happy you might cry! Do you think you might cry when you read it, Mama?

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So I put her to bed tonight, bookless, and I came back downstairs and paged through my own storybook. Neither of us cried tonight but both of us might have come close. Pin It