Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Epistle: To Z., On the Occasion of Her Ninth Birthday

Dear Z,

Nine. Nine years old. I find it incredible to think that your father and I made this person who is NINE. YEARS. OLD.

There are days, Z., when I feel such love for you that it causes my breath to catch in my lungs, and my heart tears a tiny bit. Mostly at night, when you are sleeping.

During the days, these days, lately, you are… harder to love. Well, no, that’s wrong. I always love you. But lately, it’s hard to like you so much. This is that age. That age of parents who know nothing, of children who are wronged and slighted at every turn. The age of eye rolls and muttered backtalk and outright defiance. Even now, as I write this, in spite of the fact that you have been told no fewer than forty-seven times to GO TO BED ALREADY, there you are at the top of the stairs insisting that Baby J. wants apple juice.

Your father and I so often fight the urge to strangle you.

This makes us feel somewhat inferior as parents. Here we are, blessed with this beautiful, healthy child, with all her DNA intact, with the ability to talk to back to us, and we have the audacity to resent it? Well, yes. Because we are so very human, Z. We are so very human, so very prone to mistakes, so very capable of messing things up.

On a daily basis, I fear that I am failing you. That my inept attempts to teach you some sort of responsibility, some sense that we must brush our hair and our teeth every single day, some understanding that it is not appropriate to grunt like an animal when asked to help set the table – that these lessons I try to impart are all wrong. That I should instead focus on teaching you to find happiness, to seek wonder and excitement.

Not so long ago, your love for me was boundless. But more than that, you sought me out. You chose to spend time with me. Today, you are happy to slam the door to your room, to ignore me while you watch television or read a book or play with your Webkinz or whatever else it is that girls your age do.

I suspect that you still love me, but you might not like me so much these days.

I know that I am not supposed to be your friend. I am your parent. I am your mother. I have a responsibility – to you and to society in general – to mold you into the sort of person other people can not only tolerate but actually enjoy. But it is so hard to hear you tell me every day how terrible I am. How much you hate me. How you can’t wait to leave. I want to give in to your ridiculous demands just so that you will like me. Seventeen hours of television? Reasonable! Your own personal chef on demand? Of course! A private room, filled with everything you desire, including your own phone line and Internet connection? Why not! Tickets to Israel, New Jersey, clothes from the right stores, new shoes, more dresses – anything!

But even I am not foolish enough to believe that any of it would suffice. Hard as it may be for you to believe, I was once nine years old. And I was just like you, so full of anger and rage and forced to suffer such indignities! And I wish so desperately that I could smooth the wrinkles from your brow the way I did when you were a baby. I wish that we could sit down and have a heart-to-heart, and everything would be better. And I know that only time will heal us all, and that it will heal us all, in time.

I love you. Happy Birthday.



lisa said...

Sniffle. Daughters...I was just like this to my mom, and if all goes the way it should, Julia will be just like this with me. I have to remember to count my blessings the next umpteenth time she insists on me being right next to her as she colors, plays, won't last long.

Happy birthday Z!

ella said...

"So just look at them and sigh...and know they love you." Hang in there, WG.

And happy birthday, Z!

Lisa b said...

Happy Birthday Z.

you've got me worried WG. I thought I had until 12 at least. oh I was so terrible to my mother.

dee said...

Happy birthday to Z (who is beautiful, btw).

Sigh. I remember how horrible I was to my mom in those tween and teen years and I am dreading what I may be in store for. What goes around, comes around....

Like Lisa B., I thought I had longer until I had to deal with this...looks like it's closer than I thought!

Hang in there--no doubt you're a great mom, and we ALL have the urge to strangle one (or all) of our kids from time-to-time. The thing is, we're smart enough to know that you don't actually act on those irrational urges :-)