Famous opposites

By Mir
January 8, 2006

Yin and yang. Dark and light. Despair and hope. Republican and democrat. Chocolate and vanilla.

Chickadee and Monkey.

Deep, dark pit of angst and… hours of self-entertainment with plastic hair. (Spelling and syntax are, unfortunately, correct.)

Yeah, I didn’t really know they were opposites, either. But then, there’s a lot I didn’t know before I met my kids.

[By the way–seriously, you people are so pretty. But naive. Lord. While I appreciate all of the kind and praising comments I received on this last post, you don’t all really believe that I always handle my flailing children with such finesse, do you?

For every time I write about when I’m frustrated but more or less keep my cool, there’s a dozen times when I probably screamed my head off in response, instead. On Friday I managed to keep it together. But it’s the exception, not the rule, for sure.

I’m flattered you believe me to be that patient. Or maybe I’d just like some of whatever it is that you’re smoking.]

Yesterday we all maintained an uneasy truce. The meltdown of the previous day was not discussed. Behavior was… passable.

Today there were skirmishes. There was a Puppy Incident, for example.

Monkey: Chickie, give it BACK!
Chickadee: I don’t have it.
Chickadee: I DON’T, Monkey!
Me: What’s going on?
Chickadee: No I didn’t!
Me: Did you take his puppy?
Chickadee: No!
Me: No?
Chickadee: NO!
Me: Help him look for it, please.
Monkey: She TOOK it!
Me: She’s going to find it for you. AREN’T YOU, Chickie?
Chickadee: I don’t know where it is.
Me: Figure it out.
Chickadee: It’s a stupid puppy.
Me: Chickadee. *getting right up into her face* Did you take his puppy?
Chickadee: No, Mama! I swear!
Me: *getting even closer* Give. it. back. NOW.
*Chickadee retrieves puppy, throws it at her brother*

Yeah, it was a grand day, today. So, um, after that little exchange (which earned her a one-way pass to her room to “think about it” for a while), I thought maybe a major discussion about her recent attitude in general would be a good idea.

So I waited a few minutes for her to calm down, and then I went upstairs to talk to my daughter. She was laying face-down on her bed, and appeared to be ignoring me as I sat on the edge of the bed and talked about how we’re all entitled to how we feel, but it’s up to each one of us to make good choices about how we act.

When I got to the part about how I am never angry at her for her feelings–that I understand if she feels sad, or angry, or jealous sometimes, but I do wish that sometimes she would work to control her behavior better, so that those icky feelings don’t keep leading to such bad choices of how to conduct herself–her shoulders started to shake. A small wail escaped, muffled in her pillow, and led in very short order to full-out sobbing.

I gathered her up into my arms and asked her to tell me why she was crying. For long minutes she could only cling to me, drenching me in her tears. Finally she took a deep breath and said, “I’m the worst person in the world.”

And my chest seized with pain and I blurted out the knee-jerk maternal response, “Oh HONEY, no you aren’t! You’re wonderful!”

This made her cry harder.

It was a long talk, and I don’t know if any of what I said got through to her. She’s not even eight, yet. She nurses a self-loathing borne of perfectionism gone wrong. I know it well, because I’ve fought the same thing for most of my life. Why behave when you figure you’re just, well, BAD? You make one wrong choice and then you may as well just KEEP GOING because WHAT’S THE POINT? Trouble is inevitable. May as well go down in flames.

And I talk her out of this by… ummmm… well, wouldn’t it be nice if I had? I think that would’ve been nice. An after-school special sort of moment. “Tonight, on a very special episode of ‘Mir and Chickadee!'” In a perfect world, I would find the words to explain to her why she’s magnificent, why she must believe in herself, keep trying even when it’s hard. In that perfect world, I say the right things, and she GETS IT, and the problem is solved.

In this world, I do what I can, and it never feels like enough. When she said, “I NEVER learn how to control myself!” I pointed out that I am still struggling with this, myself; in fact, most people are. That it gets easier with practice, but it’s always hard. That this is part of being human, and having a conscience. That I wish she could see herself through my eyes, or her teacher’s eyes, or her brother’s eyes.

I held her while she cried and poured out her fears and insisted that I was wrong, had to be wrong, because she was BAD and could never be good. I said everything that I thought might help. She had a response for everything. (Child of God? “I think maybe I came from that other place, the one down under the ground.” Does sweet and kind things for others? “Yeah well I do a lot more bad things than I do good things.” The fact that she’s sad means she wants to be more like her true self? “No it doesn’t, it means I’m sad that I’m so rotten.”) I tried not to let her see how she was breaking my heart. But whether anything I said really made an impression? I guess it remains to be seen.

Once she was spent, I popped her into a bubble bath. Midday! Craziness! It helped her shed the mood, at least. And her brother joined in, and there was much merriment and wet tile.

Oh, speaking of the brother. Speaking of opposites. Ha!

While I was trying to find a way to convince my daughter not to give in to the downward spiral of blackness, where was my son? Fretting? Agonizing? Finding a cure for cancer?

He was keeping busy. Such an inventive scamp, that one. And thank goodness, because what with Christmas and his birthday it’s not like he has any new toys to play with, or anything. There’s hardly ANYTHING to entertain oneself with around here, so you have to be resourceful. Unless you want to spend the day playing with a stick and a rock. Poor kids. I’m just grateful that he knows how to make do.

The kids have a bunch of these. And really, what’s not to like about a bunch of bendable human figures? Especially when their hair is removable? The possibilities are ENDLESS!

Well, they’re multiple, at least.

Like what if you lost the lid to the powder container? Or needed a little embellishment for the cannon on your castle? Suppose you have an old boat in need of some mast restoration? Or say Percy the Green Engine needs to enter the Witness Protection Program?

And then what do you do once your masterpieces are discovered?

So there you have it. Chickadee’s complicated day, and Monkey’s… less complicated day. Can you believe they share DNA? I have my doubts.

Also I apparently have a lot of little plastic wigs around the house.


  1. Eulallia

    The best parents are the ones who understand their children enough to guide them along the path to becoming who they want to be. I think you are doing a FANTASTIC job.

  2. cristin

    My heart just exploded for you. You are doing great, but the best part is the UNBELIEVABLE ability you seem to have to let your love for your kids show. So well! I believe firmly that the words DO sink in, somewhere down deep, I have seen some of it lurking beneath the surface hormone-driven craziness that is now my near 12 year old.
    Keep trying. Gah! something in my eye now….

  3. Angela

    I for one would be happy to join hoards of people to stand outside on your front lawn so you could point to us and say to Chickadee, “See honey, all of those people out there…they don’t even know you, but they love you and think you are wonderful. Now, go hide under the bed with your brother while Mommy calls 911.”

  4. DebR

    Ok, Angela’s comment literally made me laugh out loud. So I’ll add a “me too” to her comment.

    Seriously, I know how frustrating it is when a friend I love is down on herself and nothing – absolutely NOTHING – I say or do will make her see or feel or believe all the good things I see in her while she’s in that place in her head. I can only imagine how much MORE frustrating and heartbreaking it must be when that person is your daughter. Big hugs to you, Mir and Chickadee.

    Now I’m gettin’ out of here before the cops show up.

  5. Ms Sisyphus

    Oh, Mir! My heart is breaking for you and Chickie. I think I’m raising her Canadian twin in Diva girl–everything you sya just sounds so…familiar. I wish I could do half as good a job letting my own difficult daughter know how much I love and and keep my dislike of her more unpleasant personality traits out of the equation as you do.

    And Monkey rocks (but why the fascination with blondes?)

  6. Chewie

    OK…that plastic hair everywhere made me laugh WAY harder than it should have…what is WRONG with me? I’m SO LIKE THE MONKEY! It reminded me of the garden knome that gets stolen and pics are sent with him in front of the leaning tower of pisa and the stateline sign for Texas and other odd locations…ya know? Well…if you don’t, tell Monkey..he’ll get my vibe, I just KNOW it.

  7. Sandra Tayler

    I have had that exact same conversation with my daughter “Kiki” more than once. Those conversations started around the age of 8, she is now almost 11. Does Chickadee have times where she is pleased with herself, exuberant and self-confident? Remember that those times are just as real as the times she feels worthless.

    What worked for 8-year-old Kiki was that anytime she had a triumph and was feeling good about herself I’d point it up and say “Now someone who was worthless couldn’t have done THAT!” I’d also store up triumphs as ammunition so that the next time she felt down I could remind her of the good times.

    Then Kiki got a couple years older and started playing the “I’m worthless” card to derail homework time. That little manipulation was hard not to fall into because of all the parental guilt that you’ve described so well.

    Hang in there, you’re doing it right. Or at least I hope you are because I’m doing the same stuff.

  8. Nothing But Bonfires

    I was sniffling and tearing up about little Chickadee and her little shoulders shaking, then suddenly laughing about the multi-purpose plastic wigs. Next time can you please put a disclaimer on your post, like “will need Kleenex, and also some way to muffle snorts” ?

    Or, you know, maybe “Not safe for work. Unless you want interns to think you are insane.”


  9. Amy-GO

    Hugs and lots of prayers your way. And still chuckling over Monkey’s masterpieces. Hang in there!

  10. Cele

    I dont’ know if this works for you Mir, but it certainly works for the rest of us. The cyber-hug.

    You always evoke so much emotion from your devoted readers with whom you share insights into your life. A life so much like ours, and yet, of course so individual. You remind us of where we’ve been, and for many – where they have yet to go.

    Hang in there, we’re here hanging in with you, lending you support and love, and an outlet. One day Chickadee will morph into a beautiful, well balanced young lady, for whom you are hero. She will tell you this too, and your world will be changed.

  11. Randi

    Oh lord, now I know what I have to look forward to in my two children, who, at 5 and 21 months, are as different as night and day. They ALREADY fight! In other worlds: I am currently (and have been for a week) trying to find telecommuting jobs and now know the frustration you must’ve had when you first started searching! It’s insane!

    Little blond wigs everywhere…ha!

  12. dad

    Just because kids don’t respond in the logical fashion don’t believe they didn’t hear what you were saying. They hear. They might not remember until ten years from now.

    Nothing said to a child with love ever goes to waste.

    Keep up the good work.

    ps: If any one is in need of a hair stylist for a cannon, Monkey is your man.

  13. blueprincesa

    It sounds to me like you said just the right thing to your little girl. I was just like that when I was her age. I love your blog, btw.

  14. Zuska

    You are not alone. With CurlyGirl, it comes out in angry words without the tears, usually. But it still can break my heart and leave me feeling helpless.

    But oh, that Monkey!!! It’s that kind of out-of-the-box thinking that’ll take him far in life!!

  15. marcy

    It is delurking week, evidently. You write one of my favorite blogs. So I’ll say well done! Applause! Oh and greetings from Melbourne, Australia!

  16. Kris

    Was that last one Monkey? It’s so hard to tell in his disguise. *snort*

    I just love you guys. You muddle through anything – and you do it together. That’s what really counts in life.

    You are wonderful and don’t you forget it.

  17. Kirsten

    Hi, I’ve been reading your blog for a long time, though I don’t think I’ve commented before. I have a 6 yo who is just like Chickadee (and a 3 yo who has a bit of Monkey in her), so I can relate to what you’re going through. One of the things that really helps my daughter is when she talks about how she is bad, I tell her that even if she is at her worst, I still love her. She always looks at me in surprise, “really, mama?” and I tell her no matter what she does, I will always love her, even if I hate her behavior. I think that somehow she needs to know that no matter how bad her behavior, I’m still there for her. I guess it makes sense that she needs to know this, given how often I have to correct her behavior.

    I think you’re doing a great job with your kids. They will grow up knowing that even if mom doesn’t always have the answers or patience they would like, they’re very much loved. What more can you do? It can be painful hearing these things from our kids, but we didn’t cause their personalities, all we can do is love them and guide them. Best wishes to you.

  18. Ei

    Oh wow…I just stumbled upon your blog, but I seriously had to wonder for a moment if I have a split personality and penned this somehow. Except I don’t have a Chickadee…his Dad calls him Angel after a famous Vampire though, due to his broodiness. And all of those toys can be found in my house…all of them. Eeerie.

    Anyway…consider yourself bookmarked. Very good blog.

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