My husband and I were blessed with an incredibly "easy" first child. She came into this world happy and content and for the most part, quiet. She slept through the night from the beginning. She drank her bottles. She rocked contently in her swing and allowed me to wash dishes, vaccuum and even nap occasionally.
I remember when she was a few weeks old and the husband and I ate corn dogs and tater tots for dinner one night. Because that's what broke 24 year olds with a new baby eat.
We were both smote with writing gas pains. We were immobile. We could do nothing but lie in the bed, motionless, and sweat while the contractions came.
I feared that parenting was about to get real. Real hard. I feared that I wouldn't be able to tend to that precious little peach bundle in her bassinet next to the bed.
But my perfect 21 day old offspring went to sleep. And she slept soundly until morning. I was able to rest and recuperate and regurgitate until I was well again. I woke up the next morning, as she still slept peacefully, and I told my husband, "This parenting thing is easy breezy."
She walked and talked early. She learned things quickly. She was so incredibly smart. She was beautiful. She was so easy.
When the terrific twos rolled around, she obeyed. She listened. She never threw herself on a Target floor and demanded a My Little Pony. She said please and thank you. She never complained. Or whined. Or argued.
And then the boy was born.
But this post isn't about how challenging the boy has been. Yes, he came into this world mad and demanding and has been known to throw a bottle across the room a time or two. I've scraped him from the Target floor. I've put him in his time out chair until I broke a sweat and held back my own tears. I've tossed and turned at night praying for patience and wondering how to handle my boy and his strong will.
But he's getting older and more independent. He's better at obeying and listening and keeping his tantrums to a minimum. He's getting easier.
He's still not "perfect" like my daughter was, but he's perfect, nontheless.
As my husband and I sat on the back porch several months ago and watched our beautiful blessings on the swingset, I said, "The boy is doing so much better. This parenting thing is getting easy again."
And then my daughter decided to get a mind of her own.
She is nearly 7, and she's the light of my life. She's still well behaved, kind-hearted, and she excels in school, but the little girl that used to beg for my stories and all of my free time is growing up. And she's exhibiting behavior that I didn't expect until she was at least 13.
She once looked at me with admiration. She loved my ideas. She thought I was smart. I had all of the answers to all of her questions. She agreed with every word I said.
Now she questions all of my ideas. She can't just take my word for things anymore. She demands to know why and how and what. And I'm embarassed to admit that half of the time I'm too dumb to answer her questions.
"What is this silly-ca gel packet on the counter?"
"It's silica gel. It came out of my new purse. Please throw it away."
"What is it?"
"It keeps the purse fresh and dry....or something."
"But, what is it?"
"It's silica gel."
"I know that, MAMA. But, what does it do?"
"It came out of my new purse. It keeps it fresh."
"How? How does it keep a purse fresh, MAMA?"
"It just does."
"But, how. I mean, WHAT IS IT EXACTLY?"
"I DON'T KNOW! BUT DON'T EAT IT!"
She's also influenced by children at school. She comes home wanting to know why I won't allow her to wear or watch certain things when "so and so" can. She gets mad at me and stomps up the stairs to her room. I've caught her rolling her eyes at my rules and requests. She suddenly thinks that I'm not fair, this isn't fair, it's not fair.
She no longer agrees with every word I say.
She still loves me, yes. She still wants to participate in our girl days and her face lights up during our quality time together, but our time together is usually, sadly, interrupted with an argument of some sort.
I never imagined that I would be arguing with that precious little peach bundle that slept so soundly while I held my stomach full of tater tots and yelped in pain. I never imagined that we'd butt heads or that I would feel such incredible pangs of guilt for yelling at her.
I don't want to yell at my daughter. I don't want to send her to her room when she blatantly disobeys me. I don't want to sigh in frustration when she asks me the same question 23 times. I don't want to do these things, but I find myself doing them anyway.
And then the guilt sets in and I feel like a horrible mother.
Parenting is hard.
What has this little girl become? Why won't she take no for an answer? Why am I, a 31 year old woman, having an argument with a 7 year old child? Why doesn't she just listen and obey and do what I tell her to do without voicing her opinion? Why doesn't she act like she did from the ages of 0-5?
Because now she has an opinion. She's becoming a "real" person with her own likes and dislikes. She can no longer just go along with whatever I say. She has to question things. She has to know how and why and what. My word isn't good enough anymore. She has to know the facts.
I have to admit that I enjoy being in control. Saying that makes me feel horrible, but it is true.
You can control a "perfect" 2 year old. You can tell them to sit down, be quiet, eat their graham crackers. And a "perfect" 2 year old will do it. Because mama said so.
That 7 year old doesn't want to sit down. She's been sitting at school most of the day and she just doesn't "feel" like doing it.
She doesn't want to be quiet. She's been quiet at school most of the day and there are 428 questions she needs answering. Now.
She deosn't like graham crackers anymore. That's a baby snack.
Is yelling at her like Mommy Dearest the correct way to handle this? No. And I'm so incredibly guilty of that.
"Don't sweat the small stuff," they say. And I sweat it often.
I have to stop.
I have to accept that my little girl is becoming her own person. I have to accept that her likes aren't always going to be the same as mine. I have to accept that she no longer takes my word for things just because it is my word.
She's not deliberately defying me by asking me the same question 42 times an hour or not taking "no" for an answer. She's simply learning, discovering, and becoming her own person.
Of course there are times when she will have to follow my rules, and if being mad at me for 30 minutes comes along with that, well that's just tough. I am still her mother, and my number one priority is to keep her safe.
But she's not a baby anymore. She's not my little robot that's programmed to eat the meatloaf and like it just because I like it. She's not my little robot that's programmed to take my answer and trust in it just because it's mine. She's not my little programmed robot anymore.
She doesn't have to agree with me.
And I'm struggling with that. She doesn't have to agree with me.
If I type it again, maybe I will accept it.
She doesn't HAVE to agree with me.
Parenting is hard.
And she's not even a teenager yet.