Saoirse was all tucked into bed, the room dark and quiet. She’d asked me to come back in for another hug. “Mom, I try not to misbehave.” “I know, sweetie. I can see that you’re trying. It’s hard.” “I try to stop, but I can’t. How do I stop, Mom?” She was holding my hands with both of hers. “Well, honey, I think maybe sometimes you should try to just take a deep breath and be still for a moment. That might help you calm down.” “It’s hard. I don’t want to misbehave…I know. When I do, I should have a glass of milk, or water. That will help me.” “Okay, that sounds good. Should we do that, then? Next time, stop to get a glass of milk?” “No. I won’t misbehave anymore.” She kissed me, the dropped my hands to roll over, pulling her covers up to her chin, cuddling Blanket. “Mom? I love you.”…
I’m so angry right now. Angry with parents, angry with myself. Just angry, angry. And hurt. And frustrated. And ashamed.
I took Saoirse to her preschool open house today. She was so excited about it she couldn’t sleep last night, woke up talking about decorating her bucket (which the kids use instead of backpacks to lug their stuff to and fro), and was so anxious to go see her new classroom (“What’s a classroom?” she asked) she burst out of her carseat when we got there, yelled “Yay! Preschool!” and ran for the door. We were one of the first people to arrive (when does that happen?), so she had a full view of the room before she immediately headed for a table filled with cars and trucks and started playing alongside another boy. I met her teachers, stood around uncomfortably, and helped Quinn practice her walking while we waited for the room to fill up.
A half an hour later, I was wishing it hadn’t. I met a lot of the other parents, mostly moms, and we filled the time with a lot of that stilted small talk you make with somebody when you know that the person on the other end of the conversation will be someone you most likely will end up seeing a lot, maybe even become friends with. It’s like speed dating, just with less cleavage on display. As I watched SK bounce back and forth between the car table and a Sit n’ Spin, I thought, wow, there are some nice moms in this class. I started to feel a bit more comfortable.
Then the moms saw Saoirse, in her little ponytail with the pink flower, pushing some cars around a table, and the questions started.
“So she likes cars and trucks? I guess [since you have girl toys] there’s not much at your house for her to play with, then?”
“Oh, then she’s a tomboy? Well, with two girls your husband must be so happy there’s at least a little bit of boy in her.”
“Can you believe how into dress-up these girls are at this age? All of the frills and princesses, can you believe it?…Oh, no? Um, huh…” (The mom them moved her little girl to the other side of the room. I’m not making this up. I am not strange looking, nor oddly hairy in places I shouldn’t be, nor combative or loud. I just said she’s not into dress-up).
I am furious. Not so much with the other moms, because for the most part they were very sweet, and their daughters like what they like, just like mine likes what she does. It’s the assumptions that infuriate me, and the generalizations. And me. I’m angry at me, because I didn’t stick up for SK more, or act more proud of her. I am proud of her. I love that she’s so fascinated with how cars work, and asked me to explain chassis and axles and wheels the other day. I get a kick out of how she insists on picking out her own clothes every day, and invariably chooses a dress or a skirt–the frillier the better–only to get them all wrinkled by lying down to zoom Lightning McQueen around the playroom floor. But I couldn’t say that out loud when talking with the other moms. That tomboy comment? SK heard that. And she didn’t hear me say anything to contradict that mom. Because it was small talk. And I was feeling small.
It’s a good thing I have a sense of humor, because if I didn’t I’d be in therapy right now. No, not really, but still. We’ve been laughing a lot around here these past few days. We have to. Saoirse’s entered what I’ll call the honesty phase of childhood (how long does this last? Till she turns 13 and starts sneaking out of the house?), otherwise known as the call-it-like-I-see-it phase, or the world-in-black-and-white phase. Some might say it’s the phase that strikes fear and embarrassment in the heart of any parent. Want some proof? Exhibit A: at the table, at lunch this weekend. We were getting ready to leave the house. Saoirse had watched me stick a bunch of hot rollers in my hair (yes, I’m one of the two people in this country between the ages of 15-40 who still actually use them) because I was too lazy to actually blow it out properly (I grow my hair out solely to be able to put it in ponytails, by the way. All…