Wednesdays are my busiest day, because I suck at planning and I always have eleventy million things I must do and go to and monitor ON THAT DAY, and no, they can’t be moved to a different day. Um. Yay, me? No. The point is that I tend to be harried and cranky and lots of other less-than-flattering adjectives on Wednesdays, and also, I would really like it if Otto would cook on Wednesdays, but often it just doesn’t work out that way.
So last night, we’d all just gotten home from various destinations, and I was TRYING to finish up cooking dinner, but really all I was thinking about was the mountain of work I had yet to complete AFTER dinner, and I was trying to get Monkey to sit down and finish his homework, and I was pouring potatoes and hot water into a colander and trying not to splash/burn myself, and Chickadee started telling me about something that happened at school.
And I blew it, because I’m a mom and that’s what I do. Those of you with a tween girl know this particular Game of Losing, but I am still adjusting to it and it still stings.
See, I thought I was being very calm and thoughtful when I interrupted her to say, “Honey, I really want to pay attention to what you’re saying, and I can’t just this second, so can you give me a few minutes to finish getting this done and THEN could you tell me, when I can really listen?”
But apparently what she heard was, “Who cares? You’re stupid and I hate you. Also you are grounded and your hair is ugly.”
At least, that’s what I’m forced to conclude, based upon the screaming, stomping, huffy response I received.
And I’ll be perfectly honest—I am prone to LESS thoughtful and MUCH LESS calm pronouncements than the one which had provoked her ire. Yeah, I’ve snapped, “Can’t you see I’m busy here?” or “I cannot listen to you right now!” I’d been really proud of myself for communicating exactly what I’d meant: That I really did want to hear her, and so if she could just hold that thought for a minute, I would be delighted to give her my full attention.
But it made her mad. (In case you are keeping score, I make her mad approximately 97 times a day.)
The good news about adolescence is that it seems to be something of an exercise in Short Attention Span Theater; by the time I’d passed the salt after we’d said grace and started eating, all was forgiven.
I can’t remember how it came up, but we were talking about school and I asked Chickadee if kids in the 6th grade date. She said they do, and so I swallowed the nausea building in my throat and asked her what that actually MEANS. To my great relief, “dating” in middle school today appears not to have changed much since my youth; two people declare themselves to be boyfriend and girlfriend and… that’s it. Maybe—if it’s really serious—they hold hands, sometimes. No one actually GOES anywhere or DOES anything. Thank God.
So I reminded her that she was not going to be allowed to date anyone at her age, and she recoiled from the mere suggestion and assured me that she intended to do no such thing. (Phew.) Then, of course, I said that I thought little crushes were fine, you know, healthy and normal. She nodded.
Monkey volunteered which girl has a crush on him, and we talked about that for a while. (Poor Monkey! Such an accidental ladies’ man!) Then I turned back to Chickadee and said, “So, who do you have a crush on these days?”
She looked up from her mashed potatoes to find all three of us staring at her. Pleasantly, I think. But still.
“No one,” she huffed, pushing food around on her plate.
“Oh, there’s someone,” I said, because if she’s going to be mad at me 97 times a day, I think it’s my duty to actually give her a reason to be mad, occasionally. “I wonder who it is! Why don’t you just tell me?”
“There’s no one,” she said, eyes narrowing, the food-pushing becoming more of a stabbing motion.
Otto and I smiled at each other across the table.
“I think it’s… Joe!” I said, with a huge grin. Joe is a great kid. He’s in a lot of her classes. And he’s also not someone she’ll ever have a crush on. (Don’t ask me to explain how I know that, other than the standard sage mama, “I just know.”)
Chickadee sighed loudly. “I DO NOT HAVE A CRUSH ON JOE. Don’t be stupid.”
“Okay, then,” I said. “Not Joe. I wonder who it is.”
“It’s NO ONE,” she barked. “I don’t have a crush on anyone.”
“You can tell me!” I said. “I won’t tell anyone!”
Chickadee rolled her eyes and pushed back from the table. “THERE. IS. NO. ONE. And even if there was, HELLO!” She gestured to Otto and Monkey, both sitting transfixed by this entertainment.
“Oh,” I said, feigning sadness. “There’s no one?” She shook her head. “Otto? Does she look a little red to you? Like… maybe she’s blushing?”
Otto cocked his head and studied her. “Yeah,” he said. “She does look a little flushed.”
“NO I’M NOT,” she protested.
“I’m pretty sure that’s some blushing, right there,” I said to Otto. “Her cheeks ARE red. What else would cause that?”
Chickadee looked at me, then at Otto. In one fell swoop she grabbed up her fork, licked the tines clean, and flipped it around so that she was holding it backwards. And then…
… she started poking her cheeks with with the business end of it. While shouting, “Oh! My cheeks are red! I WONDER WHY!”
We couldn’t stop laughing. And the harder we laughed, the more she poked. And finally I had to sputter out that she had to stop, she was really going to hurt herself, and after a while we settled down and everyone had some more to eat and the moment passed, though I did manage to extract a promise from her that she’d “tell me later.”
After dinner, Chickadee did some training stuff with the dog and asked me to show her the hand signal for “all done,” which is a little baby-jazz-hands thing to display the empty palms (translation: you ate it all, dude), so I showed her, and in very short order she’d converted it into not only GIANT JAZZ HANDS but a facial expression that led us to conclude she’d successfully converted the “You ate it all, dude” message into “Zombies are coming to eat your brains,” and there was more laughing (not to mention a very confused dog) and by the time it ended, my face hurt.
Of course, then I had the audacity to suggest that she go practice her flute. And then, further, I had the gall to send her brother to practice piano at the same time, which was somehow untenable even though there are, you know, multiple rooms in our house. So she was mad at me all over again.
And so when it was time for bed she came into my office and flounced her way into a sulk on my couch. I ignored her. After a couple of minutes she said, “Well don’t you want to know who it is??”
(She sure showed me!)
In the end, I did learn the Sooper Seekrit Name, and was also given confirmation that—as with any good crush—she never actually SPEAKS with this boy, so it’s all good.
Chickadee sat on my lap and I noted that she still had tiny little fork marks on her cheeks, and we laughed together, and I sent her up to bed as quick as I could, so that I couldn’t make her mad again before she got there.
Happy Love Thursday, everyone. The emotional whiplash of this parenting gig is painful, I’m not going to deny it. But sometimes it hurts so good, y’know?