It was only a matter of time. This mother daughter relationship was always going to turn into a battle; It was always about survival of the fittest. How could it be about anything else, when two intense personalities cut from the same genetic cloth enter the arena?
The battle has evolved over the 5 short years of my daughter's life. I just didn't expect it to come this far, this fast.
She has learned that whining will not get her what she wants.
She knows I detest baby talk and coyness.
For awhile she took to yelling to get her way...she thought she could wear me down, her shouts burrowing into my brain, melting my resolve.
But I had the advantage of a house with many rooms. She had the disadvantage of an abandonment complex. I walked away.
I was still winning. I felt good. I felt strong.
Because recently her attack became personal.
I remember it like it was yesterday (okay, it was only three days ago). I had just told her it was time to go home; we had to leave Grandma's house. I expected the screaming. I expected the refusals. I expected the sobs. But I did not expect this:
It's hard not to gasp for air.
I am John Proctor, ready to hang, rather than give up his name for so petty a reason: (This is how I feel!)
But then, it was also hard not to laugh. But I did not. The moment required more of me than laughter.
She was looking at me. She sat curled in her grandmother's arms, tears streaming from angry eyes, and awaiting my reaction. This was a monumental moment.
I kept my face still, tightened my lips, closed my eyes and counted in my head.
I told her she had hurt my feelings and I told her to put on her shoes.
I was actually quite surprised at the brutality of the message. With one swipe of the chalk, she had negated my existence, taken my power, and made her feelings abundantly clear. Mommy is bad, Mommy is done.
I must have gotten through to her, because as I helped her to put on her coat, she apologized and said that she didn't know how mean it was. She asked me to erase it so no one else would know (clearly keeping things confidential is not my strong suit).
We sang and laughed on the way home; she got over it the way she does every mood swing. But it ate at me. Though I erased the image from the chalkboard easel, I could not unsee it. How quickly our children can sting us. They know us so well, so completely, that in a moment of anger, they can diminish us. And whether it is done with a flick of the wrist or a word on the tongue, we are lost.
Until the next battle.