I meant to do another (final) installment of Otto Week, over the weekend, but I turned out to be too busy with my favorite boy-type people to get around to it. See, on Saturday Monkey came back, and on Sunday, Otto returned. Of course, Chickadee left on Saturday, so I still don’t have the entire family here, but that’s okay for right now.
Digression, except not really, because this is probably going to be kind of long: Are all 12-year-old girls sociopaths, or just mine? I’m asking for real. Because she’s positively charming and I cannot get enough of her and everything is super awesome right up until her head starts spinning around. So we had this really fun week right up until the couple of days before she left, whereupon she promptly morphed into Princess Gimme of Ungratefulville (population: JUST ONE, BITCHES), and I began counting down the minutes until her departure.
And the last time I wrote about this (though I can’t find it now, because I am lazy) I got a few SUPER HELPFUL comments about how my daughter only behaves disrespectfully because I let her, so needless to say, as I am still lacking in both powers of omnipotence and telekinesis, I guess I’m still “allowing” said poor behavior and should be mocked accordingly. Ahem.
ANYWAY. The end result was that the Little Tyrant and I found ourselves driving in to the Atlanta airport in complete silence; me, silent because if I opened my mouth I was going to say something VERY UNKIND, and her, silent because it takes an awful lot of energy to be the only person in the world who matters. I mean, I assume.
So we were about an hour into the drive when she muttered, “I’m sorry for being mean.”
And because I’m a bitch and also because a muttered apology doesn’t really impress me with its sincerity, I said, “What? I didn’t hear you.”
So she said it again, a little louder, but with even more OH MY GOD YOU ARE RUINING MY LIFE inflection, and all the things I wanted to say about how ungrateful and obnoxious she can be hung on the tip of my tongue while I considered how to respond. Eventually I said, “Okay. I don’t even know what else to say to you, anymore.”
We drove in silence for another fifteen minutes.
Finally I launched into a description of the philosophy of love languages, and explained to her that everyone expresses caring in different ways, and I happen to be an Acts of Service person. When I love you, I do things for you. And, admittedly, when I do things for you and you don’t express any appreciation, I tend to perhaps feel that more deeply as a snub than someone who loves in a different way might feel it. But nevertheless, perhaps we could count through the various acts of service I had bestowed upon her thankless behind over the last week, and maybe she could explain to me why I was now feeling so angry?
“Because you did all this nice stuff for me and I never said thank you,” she said, her voice low. “And I was obnoxious, I guess.” It was the “I guess” that really made me feel like she was finally getting it. Oh, wait. NO IT DIDN’T.
“Have a good week with your dad,” I said, trying very hard to keep my voice neutral. “Don’t bother calling. I think we could both use the break from each other.”
I kept driving, and noticed she was teary, but that was when Otto’s absence became a problem.
See, I was using the GPS to get to the airport, because I (almost) never drive to the airport, and also, I’m directionally challenged. And we were approaching the exit for the airport, finally, but my GPS was telling me to… drive past it. I frantically punched the screen to see the next few directions, trying to figure out what it wanted me to do. I concluded that I was probably better off following the GPS, which appeared to be taking me around the back, somehow. Less traffic, maybe? Fine, I would keep following its directions.
Bad move. Bad, bad move. And this is why Otto should never leave me to drive to the airport on my own. Ever. Because the GPS had apparently decided that when I said “take me to the Atlanta airport” what I REALLY meant was “I’d like to get horribly lost in the maze of construction back by the administration offices here that all have signs reading AUTHORIZED ENTRY ONLY.”
I finally managed to work my way around to the part of the airport where mere mortals are allowed to be, and we parked, and walked into the terminal, and promptly went the wrong way, and then we went the right way but some tiny, angry man refused to let us go to baggage claim, because clearly we wanted to go to Security, except no, I explained, we needed to meet someone at baggage claim, but NO, he would not let us go that way, so we retreated, finally, and found another way around, and finally met up with Monkey and my ex.
There was much hugging and rejoicing, and finally, my ex asked how Chickadee was doing, and I said, “She is positively rotten. GOOD LUCK!” So he looked at Chickadee and said, “Is that true?” and she shrugged.
“Pretty much,” she said.
So I left Chickadee and took Monkey and we drove home without incident, unless you count stopping at our favorite diner for lunch and him remarking that our waitress was creepy because her eyebrows were painted on. (He was right. She was a little creepy.)
We enjoyed a lazy rest-of-Saturday and then on Sunday I baked bread, bread I can no longer even eat, because my boys love bread and I love them, and it makes me happy to make them happy. The nice thing about these guys is that both of them are always so appreciative of anything I do, and I hardly ever find myself wanting to pinch their heads off. Ahhhhh.
I whipped up some other dishes, and made plans for some things I’ll make later this week. (Gluten-free sort-of pie, for example. Why not?) Otto returned and there was much rejoicing and a lot of eating and Mario Kart tournaments and it was all Very Good.
Late last night, my ex called to talk to Monkey. And then Monkey finished up and asked me to come to the phone, whereupon Chickadee said, “Hi!”
“Hello,” I said. And waited. And waited.
“I just… wanted to say hi.”
“Okay,” I said. “Having fun?”
“Yeah,” she said.
“Okay, well, thanks for calling.” We said our goodbyes. I hung up.
A minute later, the phone rang again. Her, again. I wondered if a day away had really been enough time to penetrate her crunchy, stubborn shell of self-involvement. Maybe we were about to have a breakthrough?
“Hello again,” I said.
“Hi,” she said. A pause. Then: “Can you read me off the number on my library card?”
“Can I… what?”
“I’m trying to log in from here to extend a hold on a book but I don’t have the number. Can you get it for me, please?”
I looked up at the ceiling. I counted to ten in my head. “Hang on,” I said. I walked into my office, found her card, and read her the number.
“Thank you, Mama,” she said. Slowly. With purpose.
“You’re welcome,” I said. For a few moments I held the phone as the silence stretched between us, feeling a strong urge to say something else, to indulge my knee-jerk reaction to MAKE WITH THE WORDS, but I held my tongue.
“Well… bye,” she said.
“Love you. Bye.”
I am, as you well know, prone to fits of WhatDoesItMeanItis, but in this particular case I told myself not to overthink it. Still, I couldn’t help wondering if there is a sixth, somewhat underexplored love language in the form of Push It To The Limit, the one where the person pushes you away as hard as possible right until you’re fantasizing about stabbing them with a fork, and then they toss you a crumb of appreciation and you decide to let them live.
I suppose that love language would actually be called Adolescence. Lord help me.