Me: How was your day, Kiddo #1?
Kiddo #1: GAAAAH! I want to be ALONE!
Exit Kiddo #1 running down the hallway, tears streaming down her face. She plops onto her beanbag chair and wails like a mistreated Disney Princess. The dogs begin to howl in harmony. No. Not in harmony. In solidarity. I’d forgotten to top up their bowls today and it was like a chain gang between Kiddo #1 and our two woeful dogs, howling of the unfairness.
On any other day, her request to be alone would not be unusual. She’s a little more like Husband and needs time to recharge after a long school day. I take a deep breath, exhale slowly and help get Kiddo #2 a snack. When Kiddo #1 shouts “I can’t believe you don’t CARE enough to come see WHAT’S WRONG!” I look around for hidden cameras, take another breath, and softly pad my way to her bedroom.
Kids. Why didn’t we have six or seven more of these amazing creatures?
Kiddo #1: Why don’t you even LOVE me?
Me: Ok. Um. I do love you?
Kiddo #1: If you LOVED me you would’ve come to my room and asked why I was upset.
Me: I loved you enough to let you settle down.
Kiddo #1: Today was the worst day EVER.
Kiddo #1: I have to do THIS!
She poorly tosses a paper at me, which kinda flops around and lands at her feet, which angers her again. She poorly tosses it again, only this time it kinda stuck to her tear-soaked hands, which makes her madder and she exhales and makes a dragon sound and I briefly wonder what I did in a past life that would make me have to endure this agony. I calmly go over and take the paper.
Me: Oh. It’s a Show and Tell form?
Kiddo #1: GAAAAAAAAAH.
Me: I don’t understand.
Kiddo #1: MOM! You KNOW I don’t like to perform in FRONT of people!
Me: But you were in dance. And you are in piano. And you’re on the swim team. And you wanna make Youtube videos about Shopkins? (I stop short of reminding her of her performance right now, although it might be the strongest of the set.)
Kiddo #1: MOM! Why are you not understanding me?
Me: Probably because you’re speaking Valley Girl.
Kiddo #1: I don’t even KNOW what that means.
Me: Ugh. (pause for a breath) I mean, I love you. And I want you to feel comfortable. What does the paper say you have to do?
Kiddo #1: GAAAAAAAAAAH. I have to TALK in front of EVERYONE about ME. GAAAAAAAH!
Me: Ok. Look. I get that you’re upset. But nothing on this sheet of paper is catastrophic. In fact, I’d even wager that the teacher was NOT, in fact, trying to destroy your soul. She probably wants to teach you how to be comfortable talking in front of people.
Kiddo #1: Why would I want to do that? (She seems curious, not angry, so I continue…)
Me: Well, I’d say probably 96% of future things you’ll do require you to communicate with at least one other person, if not more than one. This is a great way to feel more comfortable. Let’s check it out.
Over the next hour, we talk about what she wants her Show and Tell to be. I’ll save you the drama, but the conversation was similar to the one above, only insert “Nothing represents me! UGH” where she says the part about how I know she doesn’t like to perform.
Seriously, and on a quick side note, is seven not a little young to be getting the tween angst? If this is what puberty looks like, I’m moving to Egypt. Like, tomorrow. Stay tuned for “Does Coffee Come in Camel Size?” cuz I’m peacing-the-heck outta here.
Anyway, no sooner had we figured out that she wanted to talk about her puppy, Bungee, did she have a meltdown about “I can’t bring him in because two kids are allergic! And plus it has to fit in my bookbag!”
Once we calmed down again, we realized she could make a wee booklet of pictures of both Bungee and Kiddo #1, and it would be awesome. And, actually, it really was. Kiddo #1 and I spent an awesome couple of hours one afternoon making the booklet. And I think it was awesome because I loosened up and let her do it. I told her what to do, and I sat back and waited for her to ask for help. And she did, but mostly, she just… kinda… made it.
I thought the control-freak in me was going to jump in a few times to make Kiddo #1’s work “perfect” but the mom in me, the one who was loving the positive, happy interaction between my daughter and me, just told the control freak to butt out.
Kiddo #1 did a great job. A really great job. And she was proud of it. And so was I.
Now, it just so happened that on the day of her presentation I got news that I would be doing a TEDx talk this spring. I’m not going to lie, when I got the “You’re in!” phone call, I hung up and screamed while doing a happy dance. I mean, I’d been totally stoked and excited and freaking OUT that I’d even applied. It was all I could talk about with anyone I met.
Luckily, I got the phone call about 20 minutes before the kids got off the bus. I had my private, elated freak-out, and then I did the impossible: I pretended I had no news whatsoever. I wanted to hear what my non-spotlight-seeking daughter had to say about her first speech. I wanted to hear how she felt, how it went, and if needed, to console her if she froze. I shelved my amazing news (but I managed to CAPS TEXT Husband before putting the lid on it) and calmly listened to Kiddo #1. As she opened the door I smiled and asked,
Me: How was your day, Kiddo #1?
She was all smiles and said, “It was great mom. But I want to be quiet for a bit before we talk, ok?”
I smiled again. Kids are amazing creatures.