That’s it. I admit it: I don’t get kids. Three and half years of one-on-one experience with them, daily interactions, full-on intensives that revolve around hurt feelings and spilled yogurt and broken crayons, and I’m still clueless. When I used to tell people that I taught high school students, their reactions were often along the lines of “Oh, wow. I couldn’t do that. Good for you.” I never quite understood. Teenagers were easy. They were just almost-grown-ups you interacted with like adults, but knew they were really just kids. Real kids, though? Like, children children? I have no idea what I’m doing, which is proven to me on a daily business by Daughter the Elder.
You know from my last (oh, I don’t know, 37?) posts that Saoirse is still struggling with sharing, with everything from attention to toys to the amount of bubbles in the bath. This, of course, means that I’m struggling, because let’s face it: I have no idea what I’m doing. Wait, I already said that, didn’t it? Well, it bears repeating. Just don’t ever tell the kids. When they find out, I’m sunk.
See, our dear Saoirse is, like I’m sure your child–what, not yours? Oh. I’m sorry–a sweet, loving child at heart, who gives hugs and kisses and “I love you”s away like beads to drunk girls at Mardi Gras (and Saoirse, if you’re reading this as a young adult while at the same time planning to go to Mardi Gras, NO). It’s just the rest of her that is screaming “Mine! Mine! MINE!” most of the time. In fact, just the other day, the girls and I were at the table, most likely at one of the myriad mealtimes we have over the course of a day. Saoirse, who was sitting across from Quinn, got this sad little look on her face–mouth pulled down, eyes sort of misty-wet–and said to me, “Mom? I’m going to miss Quinn as a baby. I don’t want her to grow up.”
I was a little surprised. I’d just been thinking the same–that Quinn is more little girl than baby to me now, and it makes me sad, because I do love me my children as babies–but hadn’t said anything out loud to her. She’s repeated the thought a lot since then, often giving Quinn a sidelong look and telling me she wants her to stay a baby. I keep discovering all these bruises and scratches that will randomly appear on Quinn’s face. Saoirse, I’ll ask her. Do you know what happened to Quinn? “Oh,” she’ll reply. “Quinn hurt herself.” Oh, really. “Yeah. I tried to kiss her.” Or, “I gave her a hug, and she hit a wall.” (Needless to say, we’ve had a little talk about the use of violence as demonstrations of affection, though you try to tell that to the lady who approached me in Target.)
But I really don’t get it. The same child who can rip a toy out of Quinn’s hand faster than you can say, “Sharing is caring!” is the same one who will roll around on the floor with her, playfully wrestling with hugs and kisses. She’s the child who will happily split a packet of M&Ms with Quinn, but won’t let her touch her toy grocery cart. SK’ll play “Ring-Around-the-Rosie” with her (which is comical when one party only wants to crawl), but blocks Quinn from moving into her “half” of the tub at bathtime. I’m exhausted with wondering which personality is going to emerge at playtime.
That same afternoon, Saoirse woke from her nap (I know, I know, she slept!) before Quinn and came downstairs to play while I worked at the desk we have in the “office” part of the family room. She was chattering away, talking to me about houses and garages and preschool, dragging Blanket behind her as she made her way into the playroom (which used to be the office. The sacrifices we make to house our children’s toys is ridiculous. Either that or the amount of toys they possess is ridiculous. I’ll let you guess David’s stance. And no, it’s not the “Buffalo“). She paused on her way into the playroom, looking back at me like she’d just remembered to tell me something.
“Mom?” she said.
Yes, I replied.
“I want another baby. I want a baby for Quinn. We need another baby.”
Um, I said, taking a moment to catch my breath. Well, Saoirse, I continued, if we had another baby, that means Quinn would move into your bedroom and you both would live in the same room. Would you be okay sharing your room?
“Yes,” she said. “Quinn and I will share.”
“Can you go get me another baby?”
Back when I was teaching (do you like how I make it sound like it was oh-so long ago? It does feel that way sometimes, and not just because I haven’t worn this one pair of heels I love in three years), when one of my almost-grown-up students would act up, one measure of discipline, when the in-class ones weren’t working so well, would be to get in touch with the child’s parents. But I’m the parent now. David and I are the first–and last–resort. Holy cow, that’s a lot of pressure on somebody who still remembers what it’s like to be a teenager herself.
Have you seen that show Up All Night? I had to laugh last evening when Christina Applegate’s character, a new mom, regressed to her 14-year-old state and wound up crying in her bedroom listening to Depeche Mode’s Blasphemous Rumours. None of us have any clue what we’re doing, do we? We are totally and completely bluffing. We’re a bunch of 30-(20? 40? How old are you anyway, because you look fabulous) somethings who don’t quite believe we’re actually grown-ups, attempting to raise children who will be good and happy adults, themselves. Weird. And yet, as my 3-year-old reminded me, it all changes so quickly.
I got all sentimental when I saw Quinn in her ladybug costume this past Halloween because I could remember Saoirse wearing that same costume when she was about the same age (of course, she was walking in hers, but we’ve been over that already. Did I tell you Quinn’s been taking steps, though? I didn’t?! It’s awesome. She’s almost there!). I’ve got that strange parental condition where I still think of my big girls as babies, but when I see pictures of them as babies, I’m shocked that they could have ever been that teeny tiny. By the time we have this child-raising stuff figured out, the girls will be grown. Or at the very least, sitting as almost-grown-ups in their high school classrooms. That’s, like, tomorrow. I don’t know. I figure, as long as we get a handle on it before they ever decide to go to Mardis Gras, we’ll be okay.