I love my children. I love my children I love my children I love my children Ilovemychildren.
Even if they are TRYING TO KILL ME.
Look; after the last-minute science project We Had Words. (Most of them were even not curses!) Chickadee agreed that she would no longer do her work at the last minute. She would budget her time better. She would get things done using all of the time allotted to her. Things Would Be Different.
I bet you have NO IDEA where this is going, right?
Oh, things were better. They were. For a while. Her workload this year has been a lot heavier than ever before (gotta prep those kids for middle school, dontchaknow), and she’s more or less stayed on top of things with only a little whining. Why, this year when it came time for the oratorical competition, she wrote her speech and PRACTICED IT without any nagging from me whatsoever. And I’m pleased to report that—although she didn’t win—she both recognized how much she improved over last year and was relieved she hadn’t advanced (because she still hates public speaking and didn’t want to have to give the speech again).
I was feeling all warm and fuzzy. The unlikely science fair win; triumph at a math competition; a respectable showing in the speech contest. She’s really maturing, my daughter. Awesome.
Until last night. Last night, as Monkey carefully tucked his project for the Invention Convention into his backpack, Chickadee realized that she’d never done anything with her project idea. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. And she wanted me to help her with it, even though it was due the next morning and it was already ten minutes past bedtime.
I declined, citing the late hour and perhaps mentioning that she’d need to skip it this year as she’d neglected to plan ahead.
She FLIPPED. OUT.
There was yelling, and crying, and stomping and wailing. Monkey had the good sense to clear out immediately (“Um, well, I guess I’m gonna go up to bed now, goodnight!”), but Otto and I sat here in the office watching Chickadee flail, and our eyes met.
And because we are horrible, terrible, rotten and mean parents, we got the giggles.
Chickadee did not find this amusing. So I tried VERY HARD to squelch my laughter and called her to come sit with me. She put her head on my shoulder and I just sat with her for a minute, stroking her hair. And then I made the mistake of trying to reason with her.
Me: What’s really the matter, baby?
Her: Yoooouuuuu haaaaaaate meeeeeeeeeeee!
Me: Is that true?
Me: Is that TRUE?
[She thought about it for a moment.]
Her: Yooouuuuuu dooooon’t liiiiiiiiike meeeeeeeeeee!
Me: Is that true?
[I sighed, again. I may have mentally counted to 10, too.]
Me: Chickie. Seriously, now. Is that true?
Her: Yes! It’s true! YOU DON’T LIKE ME!
Me: I like you JUST FINE. I LOVE you. But I am a LITTLE frustrated with you right now. Why do you suppose that is?
Her: I don’t knoooooowwwwwwwwww!
Me: Really? Think. Why might that be? The frustration?
[She wiped her eyes while considering this.]
Her: Because I can’t put in my own contacts?
[Across the room, Otto muffled a guffaw.]
Me: Uhhhh. Okay, that’s a little frustrating, too, but why would I be frustrated with you RIGHT NOW?
Her: Because I’m upset?
[I hugged her, and she actually stopped crying.]
Me: Right! And why are you upset?
Her: Because I didn’t do my work when I should’ve?
Me: Uh huh. And what is your reaction when you haven’t done your work when you should’ve?
[We laughed together.]
Me: Mmmmhmmmm, and what else?
Her: I dunno.
Me: Do you get mad?
Me: Try ALL the time. You get REALLY mad. And WHO do you find yourself mad AT?
Her: Wait… wait… I know this one. [She was positively jovial, now.] OH, I KNOW! YOU! I get mad at YOU!
Me: Right! Because it is totally MY fault that you didn’t do your work! Right?
Me: I’m… glad we had this little talk.
In the end, I had to consider it a (small) victory that she’s at least at a point where she recognizes when she’s being completely irrational. That’s progress, right? Dammit, that’s progress. Hush up.
She went to bed, setting her alarm for 5:00 so that she could get up and work on her project this morning. I kissed her goodnight and went to tuck in Monkey.
Monkey had just finished reading this week’s review book, which meant that it was my turn to read it, so he’d left it out for me. I picked it up and noticed that the spine was falling apart. Closer examination revealed that one corner of the spine was completely soaked.
I’m sure it comes as no surprise that probably second on my list of heinous offenses (first being murder, I guess) is the desecration of a book. I asked Monkey if he’d been CHEWING on the corner of a BRAND NEW BOOK, and he insisted that he hadn’t. I narrowed my eyes at him and he reiterated he’d done no such thing, and then added that it had seemed “a little wet” when he’d taken it out of his backpack that afternoon.
A horrible, sinking feeling overcame me.
I kissed him goodnight and walked straight downstairs to where the kids leave their backpacks, over by the back door. I unzipped his and confirmed my suspicion: Monkey’s water bottle was open. And EMPTY! But DON’T WORRY—I found the water! It was inside his lunch box… and all over the bottom of his bag… and soaked through his agenda… and his hat… and his library books… and all of the little pieces of paper floating around in his pack.
Otto walked into the room as I held sodden papers in one hand and tried to rescue books with the other. He raised an eyebrow and I sputtered, “It’s like… it’s like… it’s like living with two cats who have NO HEADS!” I resumed emptying the bag and trying to arrange wet items in such a way that they could dry, and to my consternation Otto began to laugh.
I glared at him and started spouting off about how THIS ONE can’t seem to remember to do her work on time and THAT ONE never actually DRINKS his water but at least everything got a BATH and—
Otto drew me into his arms and stopped laughing long enough to plant a big kiss on my mouth to make me shut up. I giggled as he pulled back and gazed deeply into my eyes. Then he remarked: “I don’t even know what that MEANS. Cats with no HEADS? I’m out of my depth, here. Clearly. But you needed a kiss.”
I tried to explain: You know, the indifference and mass destruction cats normally wreak, but without any actual brain power or understanding to go with it. Otto waved away my attempts at clarification. He said it didn’t matter.
I guess it didn’t.
(And for the record? Chickadee got up this morning and wrote up her concept AND made a pretty good prototype with just stuff she found in the kitchen junk drawer. Maybe she’s like a cat WITH a head. A crazy, crazyMAKING, genius head. Damn.)