Proceed With Caution
When I consider humanity’s tendency to make a big deal out of nothing, I can think of a myriad of shining examples – in adults. Some of them are my own proportional mishaps, some of them I have witnessed in others. However, I feel as if the most varied ability to make much ado about nothing belongs to my daughter.
She is ten. She is my oldest. I had her when I was 25. My husband and I were married a spare ten months when she was born, but we were very fortunate, for she was the loveliest of babies. Large blue eyes and a spray of blonde fuzz. The sweetest disposition, the best sleeper. Truly, the child was a wonder. It was a gift from God for our first baby to behave so perfectly.
Her excellent track record continued throughout her single-digit years. The terrible twos were the merest of departures from her faultless behavior. The threes, barely noticeable. She was talking like a preschooler at one, reading at three, and making fast friends everywhere she went.
But now, she is ten, and her foray into early puberty is the first black mark on her otherwise spotless past. Puberty was sneaky, like a nocturnal animal that creeps in while you sleep and steals your sweet child, replacing her with an overemotional puddle of salty tween tears. Her emotional stability is completely unreliable, while her ability to erupt into sobs for no apparent reason impressive. Our conversations often sound like this:
“I want to play with L (my middle daughter, aged 8 and shrewd as an Arab trader), but she only wants to play with E (the youngest, aged 5; the word ‘diva’ springs to mind).”
“Did you tell her you’d like to play?”
“Yes, she said to come into E’s bedroom and join them.”
I pause, because I have learned that to plow too far ahead in these delicate conversations never ends well. After the requisite moments of silence, I continue.
“Well, that sounds great! Why don’t you join them, then?”
“They’re coloring. I hate coloring. I don’t have the patience for it.”
“Well, you need to make a choice, then. They would like to color…”
She breaks in. “Because they like each other more than me.”
Overlooking this quantum leap of logic, I continue calmly.
“… If you want to be with them, and they want to color, you should choose what is more important - being with your sisters or not having to color?”
The tears appear, coursing down sweet, smooth cheeks, huge blue eyes wet. Her long eyelashes are smudged against her glasses.
Again, I pause, for I have learned that to rush in with, “why are you crying?” is unbelievably counterproductive.
She wails. “I just wish everybody wasn’t so angry at me!”
I glance around me in confusion. Who’s angry? Nobody! I mention as much to her.
She points furiously at the closed bedroom door. “They’re angry at me! They want to color!”
My eyes widen and my mouth opens to utter something maternal and wise, but alas, nothing comes out.
She gets to her feet and stomps down the hall. “I’m going to my room!” The sharply closing door – not quite hard enough to be called a slam – makes a gentle thwack as the giggles of her two sisters, hardened criminals that they are, slip from underneath the closed door.
This particular incident is a true story, and similar incidents are oft-repeated in our home. There are times I think I will never survive puberty, especially with two younger daughters following in their older sister’s broadening footsteps. Possibly by my youngest daughter’s turn, I will have perfected the art of holding some semblance of a conversation with an emotional tween whose sense of logic and perspective rapidly depletes before my very eyes.
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