I have a hard time writing about my daughter V. It’s partly a protective instinct and partly fear. I worry that if I describe this child to you, it will be obvious that she is going to be the most famous female serial killer of all time. Or worse, she is going to be a totally ordinary, derivative serial killer.
V is in so many ways a complete and utter mystery to me. I read blogs about other mother-daughter duos and their mani-pedi trips together, their tea parties, and their dance classes. Viva and I do none of that. She would never consent to have her fingernails painted. The second her fingers went in the bowl, she would scream “TOO HOT!” and that would be the end of it. If she’d even walk in the door.
While she does have a tea set, a very generous gift from a friend to whom I still owe a Thank You card, she has never pretended to have a tea party. She has brought the assortment of cups, spoons, and saucers into the tub to make and serve me Butt Soup.
Viva is tall for her four years. On her 4th birthday she measured 42.5 inches, which is the 94th percentile for height. Her height makes her seem like a much older child as she towers over all the other four year-olds and even half of the five year-olds. She started talking in complete sentences before her second birthday, mostly to criticize me.
I take her personality quirks as my karmic debt. I was an impossible child: negative, sullen, argumentative. I consciously chose to say, do, and feel the opposite of whatever I knew people wanted from me, creating the maximum amount of frustration and conflict, also known as attention.
During my childhood our family therapist (yes, I had THAT childhood) used to tell my mother I would go for attention any way I could get it, even yelling and screaming at me was preferable to her ignoring me.
I remember snarking in my head, “Well, that’s bullshit.” I hated it when my mother went into her shrieking rages. I have nightmares about it still, and I’m 41.
Hence, I do not yell at my children, much as I’d like to sometimes. Well, save for the occasional, “NO! GET OUT OF THE LITTERBOX!”
I read an abundance of books, and was duly warned about “three,” while promised that four would be glorious. We began “four” on a Wednesday with her yearly check up visit. Isn’t it amazing how apprehensive we get, sitting there while the doctor examines our child in every sense of the word: listening, looking, asking questions. It’s the closest I get to a parenting exam.
When she handed my Viva pen and paper and directed, “Write your name and draw me a picture?” my chest clenched and I braced for the “I don’t WANT to!” Fortunately for me, V wanted to show off for the doctor. She immediately gripped the pen in her fist like a dagger and scribbled something resembling her name, accompanied by a portrait of my MIL’s dog or a spider in a top hat.
V did her spastic silly dance for the doctor as she tried to look into ears, nose, mouth, and eyes. She opened her paper gown, bent over and commanded, “Look at my butt!”
When V was an infant, I regularly posted on Facebook of my trepidation before I took her to get her chubby thighs stabbed with needles. She always quickly forgot all about it. I rationalized on the way home then poured a big glass of wine while reading reassuring posts from my FB friends who had been through the same ordeal.
But there’s always that one. You know who I mean. If you can’t think of anyone, it’s you. That person who always has to say something like, “It gets much worse. Wait until she can beg you, ‘No, Mommy! Please! No!’” Then she tells you a story of her friend/cousin/coworker/dog groomer whose son begged her not to get a vaccine and she didn’t listen so her son went immediate wolfboy on the spot, sprouted wings and flew out the window.
Two weeks later, V is still obsessed with no one touching her Band-Aids. The grubby Dora-themed adhesives are barely clinging by a few sticky strings, and she is not going to let it go. “Be careful!” she admonishes me. “Don’t touch my Band-Aid! If it falls off,” she warns, brown eyes wide and fearful, “my shots will hurt!” What is it with kids and their “ouchies”? She’s obsessed.
Viva would rather lick my shoulder and hear me shriek than give me a hug and a kiss. She doesn’t so much hug as consent to being hugged. Then out of nowhere she’ll grab me, look deep in my eyes and declare, “I love you, Mommy.”
Her hair is wild and curly, unruly and gorgeous. She makes the same “picture face” in every photograph, and I treasure the few candids where someone caught a genuine smile. I rarely remember to take pictures, but luckily Viva’s grandma, grandpa, and auntie aren’t as negligent.
For her fourth birthday, I had a party at the indoor playground. Twelve families RSVPd the night before, so there wasn’t enough food, but the kids had the run of the place and they were fine. As 25 children and 35 adults sang “Happy Birthday” to my four year-old daughter, I caught myself getting emotional. Being a mother is, to paraphrase Jerry McGuire, an up at dawn, pride swallowing siege that leaves me physically and mentally empty at the end of most days.
In the spirit of refueling, Odie and I went to the Saints’ house for a pool party/barbecue Sunday. We showed up without the girls for once and actually enjoyed the adults. Two weeks ago I gleefully announced on Facebook to my best girlfriends that we’d get a baby sitter for the event.
At first, Odie was like, “Let’s bring them for the first hour then drop them at your folks’ since it’s so close–” and I was all “Bitch, I will cut you.”
I’ve become convinced that the only way to really enjoy this motherhood thing is to get a break from it, and “going to work” doesn’t fucking count. This post is supposed to be one of those “love letters to my daughter” posts that Dooce has made a fortune off of and Kelle Hampton “totally rocks out,” but it isn’t my style. Snarkers and White Knighters all speculate about how this generation of kids growing up under the spotlight of their mommies’ mommyblogs will turn out. How they will feel when they read our depictions of them. I have a feeling I know how it will affect Viva.
When we returned to my parents’ house to fetch the girls, Pringles was running around in a diaper because her version of potty training readiness is feeling the urge to poop and taking all of her clothes off. I found Viva chasing after the cat as he tried desperately to hide. “Hi, sweetheart! I missed you. Did you miss me?”
Viva fixed me with her bright-eyed, full-lipped Odie smile, “Nope!”
That’s my girl.