By: Shannon Ralph
I have an amazing daughter. She is smart and capable. Talented and sassy. I adore her with every cell in my body. I am certain she has a bright future ahead of her, and may just be the leader of the free world one day.
All that said, however, let’s be brutally honest. The age of nine is pretty much the Mordor of childhood. All fire and brimstone and belching lava and evil eyes glaring with hostility. Rather than the Eye of Sauron, however, I live with the Eye of Sophie. She sees everything—everything—and waits to pounce on any sign of maternal weakness or indecision, real or imagined.
Gone are the days when my daughter thought I was Wonder Woman incarnate. Gone are those wondrous days when she hung on every word I said and followed me everywhere I went. When she welcomed my maternal wisdom with a bright smile and adoring eyes. When she begged to go to Target with me. To go to the bank with me. To be with me every moment of every day. Gone are the days when she climbed into my lap, wrapped her chubby little arms around my neck, and whispered, “I love you, mommy.”
Those bygone days of head-swelling admiration have been replaced with slamming doors and rolling eyes and caustic comments aimed at making it one hundred percent clear that she believes me to be a complete and total moron unworthy of taking up space on the same planet as her.
I studied psychology in college, so I have somewhat of a passing understanding of what is going on with Sophie. I know that she is, for the first time, beginning to see herself as an individual separate from me. She is asserting her independence and testing boundaries in an attempt to discover who she is. Who she wants to be. But she’s only nine years old, so she also still needs her mommy in a very real, fundamental way. And these conflicting desires are a great source of confusion, frustration, and even a little fear. She doesn’t know how to act, so she often lashes out at the one person she knows will love her no matter what. She feels free to show her anger and frustration at home. With me. Where she feels safe to do so. I know what she is going through because we’ve all been there. We’ve all experienced the angst of tweendom firsthand.
So yes, I understand all of this on an intellectual level. Emotionally? Let’s just say it’s sometimes hard to maintain perspective when my daughter’s eyes roll so far back in her head that she resembles something from an 80s-era horror movie.
On a daily basis—actually, multiple times per day—my daughter finds a reason to get angry with me. She always goes to bed angry with me, but her exasperation with me appears at other random times throughout the day, as well. Often times, it comes completely out of the blue and I am left wondering what I could have possibly done to provoke such a dramatic display of ire. This week, I decided to keep track. Below are 20 reasons, in no particular order, why my daughter refused to talk to me this week.
- I selfishly—and with complete disregard for my daughter’s feelings—hummed a Christmas carol as I walked through the living room.
- She dramatically exclaimed that she was dying of hunger (as I stood at the stove cooking dinner). I responded that I was cooking dinner.
- She asked me to tuck her in. So I did.
- She dropped her popsicle on the floor. Egregiously, I happened to be in the same room.
- I told her (sincerely) that she was making good progress in her violin lessons. She was not amused.
- I asked her to put on socks before leaving the house. In December. In Minnesota.
- I failed to pronounce her made-up “French” word correctly.
- I asked her if she wanted to build a snowman. (Perhaps I sang it rather than saying it, but the sentiment was the same.)
- I told her she was smart.
- I callously, and with no regard for God’s defenseless creatures, made the dog move so I could have a place to sit in the living room.
- I didn’t want an Oreo cookie when she offered me one.
- I asked if she wanted me to brush her hair. She can brush her own damn hair, thank you very much.
- I smiled at her while she was competing in her first karate tournament. My head should have been down and my eyes averted. I know that now.
- I thanked her brother for handing me my jacket. I didn’t thank her. For standing there. Doing nothing.
- She demanded a new toothbrush. I said I would buy her one, but was unable—at 6:30 in the morning—to produce one on the spot. I do not sleep with spare toothbrushes in my pajama pockets. Obviously, I am a horrid human being.
- I sat down next to her on a couch that easily holds four people. She felt crowded.
- I asked her if she had a good day at school. School is apparently a taboo topic.
- I asked her about the book she was reading. Also taboo.
- Her teacher, without my permission and unbeknownst to me, assigned her the exact same homework every other 4th grader in the school received. Clearly, I was to blame.
- I stopped to get coffee on our way to her karate lesson on Saturday morning. We were 15 minutes early and had to drive around until she felt it was okay to park and go in. Though we were clearly not late, my caffeine addiction could POSSIBLY have made us late. Therefore, I am evil and I must be destroyed.
So what is a parent to do? How do we safely navigate our way through the fires of Mordor with lava erupting at every turn? How do we hide from the all-seeing eye? The eye capable of rolling at a moment’s notice with a quickness that surely rivals the speed of light? How are we, as parents, to traverse this dangerous landscape?
We tread lightly. Gently. With the understanding that we’ve all been there and we will all get through it together. My daughter loves me. And with a twisted sort of logic that can only be construed in the mind of a nine-year-old girl, her overwhelming love for me is the reason she treats me with such contempt. I am her calm in the midst of the storm. I am her safe place to land.
She may not look at me with the same adoration she used to, but my daughter still needs me. Perhaps more so now than she has ever needed me. So bring it on, little girl!
I will, always and forever, be yours.