Two very unfortunate events have intersected this past week at Casa Mir.
First, I seem unable to completely shake the symptoms that derailed my Walk adventure. I’ll feel better—maybe a little tired, sure—for a day or two, and then the hammering headache and fever will come back again. It’s been over a week, and I HAVE THINGS TO DO. As a result, I’ve given up lolling around in bed for silly endeavors like “taking care of my children” and “working” and “cooking dinner.”
Second, my children need to go back to school before I kill them.
Now before y’all go yelling at me; yes, yes, I AM going to call my doctor, because it’s been like 10 days now and I am all done with this stupid headache. But you can’t blame me for being a bit gunshy; the last time I was sure I was just being a hypochondriac, it turned out I had Lyme disease. Sometimes the disease undiagnosed is better than the disease you actually know you have. Or something. I dunno.
[Slight digression: Do you know what is not a good idea? It is not a good idea to joke to your boyfriend---a la Kindergarten Cop---that maybe you have a brain tumor, if said boyfriend actually has a family member with a brain tumor. Now look at the title of this post and know that I am not kidding when I tell you that I suffer from chronic foot-in-mouth disease.]
Okay, so. My shaky health or lack thereof aside, this has been the Week of Arguments.
My daughter. Oh, lord. My daughter; I love her so. I love her truly, madly, deeply. And she is driving me truly, madly, deeply INSANE with her insistence on arguing about EVERYTHING absolutely ALL THE TIME. Yes, this happens much of the time, but this week has been the pinnacle of her career.
And this means that I am constantly breaking up arguments between her and Monkey. Given that he is fairly easygoing, sometimes it’s necessary for her to TORMENT him into an argument. If he doesn’t grant the desired bickering from the first few proddings, she will take something from him or perhaps “accidentally” push him to the ground.
And this also means that if I say it’s black, she says it’s white. If I ask her to do something, she has a million reasons to explain why that is the stupidest request in the history of stupid requests, and she needs to share every single one of them just so that I can more fully grasp how idiotic I am. Part of me wants to believe she has some sort of brain abnormality (perhaps a tumor) to explain away this unpleasant tenaciousnous. I wrack my brain for memories of having dropped her on her head as a baby.
While this sort of behavior is a pure joy at ANY time, of course, it is particularly delightful when all I really want to do is curl up in a very dark room and be unconscious. But kids, you know, they’re like hyenas. They smell weakness. So I’m sure my current condition is part of why this past week was so… extreme.
Today was therapy day and the children waited patiently (if by “waited patiently” you mean “fought over toys and disturbed other patrons” in the waiting room while I ranted at their therapist. “MAKE. IT. STOP.” was, I think, the basic upshot of my summary. “I cannot TAKE this anymore. She argues with everything anyone says; there is no such thing as a simple request or even a STATEMENT around her, anymore. She has to have the last word. She has to exert her will. It’s exhausting.”
It really is exhausting. I’m not sure I would’ve actually, you know, CRIED about it if I hadn’t had a fever, but I might’ve. I had OPENED the session by offering to LEAVE Chickadee with the therapist, pointing out that she has many talents and charms, but when she declined my magnaminous offer I had no choice but to come clean about the past week and beg her to help me.
So we chatted a bit and then brought the kids in. The therapist decided that we needed to reenact a recent incident for her; the twist was that Chickadee was to be me, and I was to be her. Monkey’s job was to oversee and let us know if we were getting it right.
[When Chickadee gets into one of these phases, it'd be easy to think that Monkey is just staying out of it and not really noticing, but that'd be naive. Mid-argument, one day, I heard him rustling in the next room. "Monkey," I called out. "What're you doing?"
"I'm just playing in here," he responded. After a beat, he added, "And totally not listening to your conversation."]
Chickadee immediately claimed amnesia. She couldn’t remember a single incident from the past week. I offered to choose one from the dozen or so that were right on the tip of my tongue.
Me: I know! Let’s do when you came into my bathroom yesterday and hung on me. Okay? Remember that?
Chickadee: Yeah… I guess.
Therapist: Now remember, Chickie—you’re Mom, and Mom is you.
Me: Ready? Okay. Turn around.
*Chickadee turns her back to me, and I latch my hands onto her shoulders, pulling downwards with enough force to make her uncomfortable*
Me: HI MAMA! HI MAMA! WHATCHA DOING MAMA?
Me: Remember, you’re me. Say, “Please stop hanging on me.”
Chickadee: Please stop hanging on me.
Me: But I’m NOT! I’m NOT HANGING ON YOU! See? See? My feet are on the floor!
Me: Say, “You’re hurting me, please let go.”
Chickadee: You’re hurting me, please let go.
Me: I’M NOT HURTING YOU! I’M NOT! Because my feet are on the floor and I’m not hanging! See? See?
Monkey: Wow, that is really annoying, Mama.
*at this point, Chickadee slipped out from under my grasp and crossed the office*
Chickadee: I, um, have to fix my hair now.
Me: But WHY? WHY do you? Can I stand here with you? How about right here? *I stand practically on top of her* Why are you mad? Are you mad? Why are you? I didn’t hurt you.
Chickadee: Well… uhhh… I need to put on my make-up now….
It was clear this wasn’t going right; she was trying to get away from me because I was doing a fair imitation of that kid tethered to the jungle gym from Saturday Night Live fame, but she wasn’t saying the things I’d said. I had, of course, tried to talk to her about why denying she was hanging on me (I don’t care whether her feet are on the floor or the moon; now is not the time for semantics) or saying she hadn’t hurt me (not really her call to make, and the respectful thing is to accept my assessment, stop, and apologize) wasn’t acceptable. Chickadee didn’t want to play me because she either completely blocks out these little lessons or abhors them so deeply she cannot be cajoled to repeat them.
The therapist (ever resourceful!) tried another tack.
Therapist: Okay, Chickadee… let’s try this. Let’s say you’re Mom for a day. You have a whole day where you have to do all the things she does. What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?
Chickadee: “Let’s all have some ice cream!”
*both kids erupt into giggles*
Me: I don’t think I’ve ever started a day that way. Sorry.
Therapist: Seriously. Think about what you need to do. What’s going to be the best part of your day, as Mom?
Chickadee: Eating peanut butter kisses?
Me: Well, that’s closer, anyway.
Chickadee: I have to get everyone breakfast.
Therapist: Good, that’s a good start. What else.
Monkey: I want a pop-tart!
Chickadee: I have to do some work on the computer.
Therapist: Good, good. And then?
Chickadee: I have to yell at my kids. They made a big mess in the playroom! They should clean it up! But I will tell my friends on the computer about it.
Me: Okay, well, I’m really looking forward to the peanut butter kisses part….
In the final analysis, I’m not sure Chickadee gained any great insight into my life as an aggravated mother. And the most we were able to get out of her about her orneriness is that “Well when I’m RIGHT people should KNOW that,” which, I have to admit, makes a certain sense if you’re willing to forget about any other factors (like whether those people still like you afterwards or if they are fantasizing about strangling you in your sleep).
Maybe my doctor will just diagnose me with mouthykiditis and tell me to take two weeks of back-to-school and call her in the morning. That’d be okay. (In the meantime, I do NOT have a fever, and I do NOT have a headache, and I am definitely NOT going to bed early.)