So Q got mad at me the other night, because...ahem...I, uh...was like, totally completely hooked on this blogging stuff and could NOT tear myself away from the computer. It was bedtime and she was wanting me to follow her into her room and listen to something SHE had written in her journal, the shiny metallic blue one with the "I heart My Friends" tattooed on the upholstered cover below a little heart-shaped mirror.
I kept saying, "I'll be there in a minute. Just give me, like, five more minutes."
I could hear her in her room, singing the same little bit of monotonic melody she'd been singing for the past fifteen minutes. She's been writing songs since before Christmas. She wanted me to come in and listen to her latest lyrical updates. But I was working on my own updates, and I was kinda more impressed with my efforts than with hers. Because I'm a mean, selfish, evil woman. I didn't know I was those things, but I'm discovering that comment-crack does this to a person.
Okay, so she finally got so mad at my blowing her off that she got quiet.
There's nothing as effective as silence if you want your parent's attention.
Quiet. It was quiet. Too quiet. I looked up just in time to see her stalking silently to her room, arms crossed in frustrated resignation across her chest, her gaze levelled directly at me, nothing but rage in her eyes. She never took her eyes off me as she turned the corner. It was like her head rotated around like that girl in the Exorcist. Then she disappeared into her room.
I soon hopped up - it took me a minute or two to fully disengage - and went in there and apologized profusely for not keeping my word that it would only be five more minutes. I think it had stretched into twenty minutes by that point. Maybe thirty-five. She was still so angry she wasn't speaking to me at first. Then she said I had lied to her. Which, basically, yeah, I had. I had no defense. There was no excuse. I was ashamed of myself, ashamed of what my addiction to comment-crack had driven me to, how it was tearing my family apart. This had to stop.
I apologized multiple times, she slowly relaxed her body language, softening up to me. Before two more minutes had passed, we had made up, although I could tell some resentment still lingered. She said it was okay. Hugs and kisses were exchanged. I begged for one more chance to listen to her song. She looked me square in the eye and asked with utmost earnestness, "Do you WANT to hear it?"
A quick, deep jolt of mommy guilt shot through me. My child doubting my interest in her. Boy, that moment really sucked. Without getting emotional, without burdening her further by unloading, selfishly, how rotten I felt at that moment, I assured her that I did. I really did want to hear it. I mean, if she still wanted me to.
So she sang her latest version of her latest work. Meh. The problem is, she really thinks she can sing. I don't discourage her, but at the same time, I'm not DVRing episodes of American Idol for her so she can check out the competition, either.
"That's great, honey. I really liked it. Sounds like it's really coming along. Thanks for sharing it with me." That last part I really meant.
I sat down in the rocking chair next to her bed because she always begs me to and because she goes to sleep faster (usually) if I do, as long as we don't talk. If we do talk, this is when I find out that she still has a crush on Joey, and if Beth blew her off at lunch that day or actually waited for her this time. It is at this point in the day when she loves me the most, this ten minutes of letting go, with her head on the pillow, her eyes half-closed. I get a lot of "I love you Mommy" and "You're the best Mommy in the world. I'm lucky to have you as a Mother."
At eight years old, it's a mix between, "Aaawwwwww!" and a bit of, "...uh, yeah, pull the other one."
But she really means it, during those ten minutes of each day. It's kind of like knowing what she'll be like when she's drunk. A little side-window view of my daughter in an altered state.
So, flash forward to the next night. I'm much more diligent about the bedtime routine this time. I don't even lift the laptop's lid; I don't go anywhere near it. I stay on her and with her, making sure she picks up her towel and puts her dirty clothes in the hamper and brushes her teeth. We go into her room together and she hops up onto her bed. She asks for the journal. I hand it to her, although I really should insist on lights out. She looks at me with an expression I've not seen before on her little freckled face.
"I was really mad at you last night," she says.
I knew this, but was still surprised that she was mentioning it a day later. I say I know she was, and she was right to be, and I should have stopped what I was doing when I said I would.
She hesitates, then says, "I wrote about it in here."
I pause. She pauses. I'm not sure what I should do with this information. Then I say, "Well, good. That's what journals are for. You can talk about how you feel about stuff and write about it in there." I'm satisfied with my response, purposely respecting her privacy, helping to erect appropriate boundaries for her, for us. I make a move to start tucking her in but she doesn't accommodate my efforts by snuggling down. Instead, she stays seated on top of the covers and asks, "Do you want to see it?"
There is no guile in her question. She is a little excited, and a little bit scared, to show me what she wrote in the depths of her anger the other night. But the honest desire to share it outweighs all other needs, and this is obvious to me, because I can see the raised eyebrows and the almost-happy expression as she looks up at me, waiting for an answer. And she waits now. She doesn't just plod ahead, thrusting it in my face like she used to. She waits. It'll take time for her to once again assume as a matter of course that I'm interested. Another brief jab of mommy guilt, there.
And here, I struggle for a second. What's the right answer? Yes, of course, I am interested, I love you, I care about you and everything that is important to you, yes, I am here, I am your mother, yes, yes of course I want to see it. Like, duh. Are you kidding me? And also, I AM your mother, I am not your pal, your buddy, your playmate. I am trying to erect healthy and appropriate boundaries, now that you do things like write in journals. You should have a sense of privacy, you should have the strength to listen only to yourself sometimes, to realize there's a line that separates each of us from each other. Except, this line has been blurred quite a bit by me, and probably will be again, and it's a weakness of character that will not serve her well, so the experts say, and I see how she respects her dad more than me because of this blurred line between us, but she doesn't share her journal with him and HE has never even heard of Joey. So I just don't know, and I struggle for a second, and then I cave. I cave in to the fun of sharing, because that is what she most wants in this moment, and because I'm aware of the stain that is still on my record from the previous evening, where I just wasn't interested enough. I need to prove that I really am interested, that I really do care. That is what my mommy guilt is telling me, anyway. Boundaries, shmoundaries. I need this one.
I give the smallest of shrugs, raise my eyebrows and say, "Sure, okay. You can show me if you want." Another brief pause, then I quickly add, " Are you sure you want to?"
She has already opened the book as she answers, "Yeah," then she says, "Look. See? I was really mad."
In letters bigger than half the page are the words, "I HATE HER!" which I do not need any help seeing. But the rest of the page is full of smaller print, and she graciously points out the word "Lyer" [sic] and the phrase, "She lied to me. I've been waiting and she said it would be one more minit and she is not comeing." There was more...including a picture of her hitting me with a baseball bat, while smiling. OK, that part was a bit much.
I gotta say, though, that it really did hurt. I really did wish at that moment that, for MY sake, I had insisted on forging and respecting those new boundaries. I still do not believe she showed me this out of vengeance. But nevertheless, it had the same effect on me. I tried to hide the momentary flash of pain I was feeling, and I think I was successful. I've paid for my callous, self-centered disregard of her needs, and she's had the chance to vent and share, to feel me out as to whether I really do care or not, and to hopefully feel fully avenged. And I hope, for both of us, that it's over and done with now. But I know that I am the "HER" and that those words are written in a journal and they will be there for a very, very long time. Because I still have my journals. And it's one thing when they are YOUR journals. But it's a very different thing when it's someone else's journal and you are the "HER" that is hated on a page that you cannot erase.
The Place Where All the Fun Happens
4 hours ago