I surprised myself with how confident I felt the moment Margot sipped air. My nerves evaporated. I felt this primal understanding of her needs. I read lots of parenting books, asked friends and consulted with our medical professionals but, for the most part? I winged it, trusted my gut. I knew I would breastfeed even though my nipples felt like they would splinter into a million pieces, I knew the dip on her growth chart was nothing, I knew she'd toilet train early, I knew co-sleeping was best, I knew time outs wouldn't work for her, I knew how to interact with her when she screamed and flopped on the ground in frustration. I was confident in the easy times, I was confident in the challenging times.
In the last few weeks, I feel like I am trying to navigate the ocean in an oarless canoe, my confidence an unretrievable anchor.
When Margot split her forehead open last month the kind doctor prepared the needle out of sight and talked, like we were at a potluck, about her favorite music and ice cream. Margot nervously curled into my abdomen and said, "mom, what is happening?" I held her, told the doc to give it to her straight. She hesitated but, thankfully, trusted me and explained the whole process to Margot, showed her the long needle and thread, gave her a mirror and said it was time to start. Margot asked me to cuddle her on the crinkly paper bed and then she sat still as a rock and made casual conversation with the stranger who sewed her gaping forehead shut.
I know my kid. Margot is smart, passionate, opinionated, social and independent. These core pieces of her personality inform our parenting. She wants to be included. She likes facts, not sugar-coated soft sells. She wants to explain herself, make her own choices. For example, telling Margot she has to eat carrots or she can't have cake doesn't work. Explaining the nutritional benefit of carrots and how strong and great she will feel eating carrots? That works.
Of course there have been many times when she doesn't listen to me when I wish she would, when she pushes and yells at friends, when she throws carrots across the room. I am so not saying I have a zen kid, I am saying we have good, mutually-respectful communication and we learn and grow together. Even in the hard times I have felt productive and strong. Until two weeks ago.
I think it started with her cutting her sister's hair and lying to me about it. No, wait, 30 minutes before the hair cut, she asked for yogurt and then proceeded to "wash" Ruby in our living room.
We talked about the yogurt. She helped me clean up the creamy mess and asked to paint. That's when she lulled Ruby into the art room and cut her blond curls right off. Then she fetched a box of 1000 straight pins from my studio and hid them until her nap time and stuck them in every soft surface in her room, including straight through the eyeballs of every one of her dolls. That afternoon she kicked dirt at the chickens, hit me and pushed her sister off a stool.
I was mad, annoyed and hurt. She was too. My articulate kid flailed and wailed. Me too. I realized in a big way that the whole paragraph up there about independence and passion and need for honest approach? That describes me as well. I was frustrated with myself for yelling and for ridiculously thinking my three year-old should reason like me, 30 years older than her. I wondered what I had done wrong, what she wasn't getting that she needed. A friend stopped by in the middle of this day and smiled that I-have-SO-been-there grin that good friends give freely and lovingly. She shared her stories, supported, empathized.
The girls went down for a nap and I dabbled in 17 different work items, completed nothing. Margot woke up and her silent, sweet brown eyes screamed I LOVE YOU. We played just the two of us, went for a walk and talked about worms and feelings. We hugged, two humans trying to figure out life.