Little Miss (Too) Independent
Hot and cold, hot and cold – that’s the name of the game these days with my daughter and me. It all started on Sunday morning, when I picked her up after her first sleepover at a friend’s house. I had this sweet fantasy of her running into my arms, squealing with joy, eager to share every exciting moment. In actuality, she had a meltdown before the door of her friend’s home even closed and told me in no uncertain terms that she doesn’t feel like divulging any details. In an instant, my little girl does not seem so little anymore. And I have to catch up.
I’ve felt this way with her at other moments in her life. One day, it seems like I’m talking to a person I know better than anyone, including myself. Then she’ll utter a new phrase or shoot a glance my way, and all of a sudden another layer of childhood has peeled away and I feel a bit shy, as if I’m meeting someone for the first time. I cooked this kid in my own body, yet every so often I have to get reacquainted with her as she takes the next leap in life.
This time, though, seems different. Or maybe it just feels that way whenever I’m forced to admit that I can’t figure out what my own kid needs from me. When I hear her favorite comment, the lovely and oft-repeated, “I don’t feel like telling you anything,” I know she’s testing out a new level of independence and not necessarily trying to be mean. She’s seeking to create her own space and I’m basically the big couch she can’t figure out what to do with. So she puts me in one spot, drags me across the room, and then changes her mind and nudges me right back again.
I get that she’s experimenting and for the most part I don’t mind. What I have a hard time with is how she needs and wants me to be two different things at once. One moment she’s pushing me away and then the next she’s calling me “moo moo” (yes, my nickname is identical to the sound a cow makes) while pretending to be glued to the side of my body. I can’t go from nurturer to spectator with the flip of a switch, and I certainly can’t be both at once. What’s a mama to do?
In a perfect world, I’d respond to my daughter’s needs in a cool, calm, and collected way. What actually happens is that I become an impatient grump. I can hardly contain my disgruntlement. I have this really strong urge to let loose and yell at her. I don’t even know what I want to say – I just know I want to say it in a really loud voice. And I’m not a screamer. In fact, I’ve only raised my voice to her three times in her entire life (Ask her and she’ll list all three.). It’s not because she’s such a stellar kid or I’m such a stellar mom. It’s more because each member of our family is so over-sensitive that shouting is not needed to get our point across and make the other person feel sufficiently bad.
Am I the only mama out there experiencing this? Will it pass anytime soon or is this it until I hit the nursing home? If you have any advice or want to wallow with me in the misery, please do so. I know what all of you wise folks are saying, that this confusion and frustration will eventually pass, and that I may even look back on this moment in our relationship someday and sigh at how simple things used to be. “Little people, little problems,” says my mother-in-law. We shall see! At this moment, this phase of our life definitely feels like more of a mountain than a molehill.
~By Wendy Widom, Families in the Loop