Thursday, February 2, 2012

From String Cheese to Surfer Girl: Baggage
My daughter and I had it out today over a moist stick of string cheese.  She had dropped it on our dirty foyer, floor so I rinsed it off.  Then she whined and complained about it being wet so I went to get a paper towel.  When I returned she was drying it with the hand towel from the powder room (yuck!).  Then she complained that it was now crumbly and she wanted another one and I had messed it up and on and on.  After a moment I said, "Fine.  You don't want it?  Give it to me." and I grabbed her hand as she pulled it away, anticipating my move, and I tried to take it from her.  She clenched down, rubbery cream-colored masses welling up between her fingers.
I clawed my fingers between hers and her palm, spilling pieces of cheese onto the floor and squishing my fingernails into what was left under her fingers.  She was crying and screaming that no, she wanted it!  I was loudly saying, "Give it to me.  Now!"  I finally got it away from her and threw it in the trash.  "You don't want it?  Fine.  Don't have it.  You don't think it's good enough for you?  I've got news for you, even wet and crumbly it WAS good enough for you.  If you would have just taken a bite, like I suggested, it would have tasted exactly the same.  But FINE, if you don't want it, then  let's go."  (We were about to go to the park.)

She sobbed and whined that she wanted another one.  I said no.  She freaked out, crouching and dramatically sobbing into on berber-covered steps of our townhouse.  So then we had to go over it and over it because she was determined to get me to understand how I'd hurt her feelings and how she really did want the cheese stick (even though she was actively rejecting it at the time).  I pointed out to her that she didn't want it until I said to give it to me.  I told her that she needed to listen to me and do things right when I tell her because at some unknown time she might get hurt by not doing so.  She maintained her feelings were important too and that I had hurt her feelings and that feelings were as important or more important than getting physically hurt.  She could make a fine attorney some day.  Finally I insisted that if she had let go of the cheese when I told her to, it would not have gotten mushed, but no, she had to fight me just as she fights me about almost everything, it seems.  And I couldn't help adding in that she has more toys than most kids in the world and still complains about being bored and that I make her good, healthy food for meals and she complains about that too.  I know she doesn't actually complain about everything all the time, but I told her it sure did feel like it to me and it sure did seem like nothing I do is ever good enough for her (she is very particular about nearly everything and always wants to have the last word or action).  Both of us had our voices raised and she was crying and I'd been more aggressive than I like to be and it was ugly.  Finally I told her the point was that she needed to stop fighting with me, that if she was going to fight me she was going to LOSE EVERY TIME.  She had no response to that other than renewed crying.  She desperately wanted to win, to be in charge. 

Then we walked out to the park.  She was sullen.  I was surprisingly OK.  There was a time when I'd have been so emotionally invested in the exchange that I'd still be seething and angry minutes later, but I wasn't.  My mood wasn't really affected.  So I asked her (I do this a lot), "So, do I still love you?"  "Yes," she replied.  "How much?"  Shrug.  "As much as the universe?"  "More."  "That's RIGHT.  And don't you ever forget it.  I even love you when you're mad at me.  And you can get mad at me.  That's OK.  But I'm not trying to make you do things just so I can show how I'm big and you're small and you have to do what I say just to be mean to you.  You need to listen and do what I say right away because one day there might be a situation where if you don't, you or someone else might get really hurt."  "Like when?" I imagine us walking across a minefield or her coming across an unexploded grenade, like these were actual possibilities.  "Like if there was something on the ground and you didn't know what it was but it was dangerous, like a firecracker, and you wanted to pick it up and I said no but you did anyway and it blows your arm of," I explained.  "Oh."  I'm not sure she bought it.  But we were OK after that.

My husband and I had been after her this morning because she wouldn't get ready for school and we really feel that, at six, she should dress herself and get ready herself without our doing it for her like we do for her three-year-old brother.  My husband had to leave early for work to take his car in for service (there went another $600---OUCH!), and he could have taken her to school if she'd gotten ready in any kind of reasonable time.  She had at least 40 minutes that she whiled away.  As it was, I'd slept on the couch after being online until 2:30AM because I was over-caffeinated (again) and only woke up 10 minutes before we had to go.  My husband had been up with her trying to get her to get ready as he got ready, himself.  So then I got to wake the three-year-old, get him in a coat and drive her to school in my housecoat with my own "bed head" hair and un-brushed teeth.  I told her I was NOT happy with her and rejected a hug, pushing her toward the bathroom because in my mind we didn't have time for that right now.  She could show her love by shutting up and getting freakin' ready.  My husband disapproved, but held his tongue and left.  Minutes later in the car we went over this same thing about loving her even though I wanted to choke her.  Why do I do this?  My dad had impressed on me, though not quite so heavy-handedly, that he might not like some things I do, but that he'd always love me.  It had stuck.

This was an important lesson, yet I still not uncommonly feel that inside I am just bad...soft and a giant pustule full of yellow-green nastiness that no one could see but that would exit my pores occasionally and that that was the reason I had acne (which I've had, moderately to severely since 5th grade and about which I have a lot of baggage).  I do not want my daughter to go there.  I remember my mom saying I had a blackhead one day when I was little and did not know what that meant and then she was pinching me so hard near the nose that I cried.  I felt that there had been something bad in or on me that had to be removed with pain.  Then there were the dermatologist visits showing me there was something unusual and wrong with me and long courses of antibiotics, nagging about whether I'd taken them and when I last washed my face.  As a mother, now I know my mom just wanted to save me from it, but at the time it was just nagging, nagging, nagging... and stupid resistance and rebellion on my side that hurt only myself.  Advice from relatives suggested washing with Noxema cream was the obvious cure to everything; that's what they did and they didn't have any acne at all.  What was my problem?  Topical creams like Retin-A made my sensitive skin peel so much that after a 5th grade pool field trip for gym my face was peeling so badly that it really was disgusting and all I could do was cry as I grossed out myself as well as the rest of the class.

I always blamed my acne for the fact that no one (except maybe once) ever asked me to dance until junior year of high school since there didn't seem to be much else wrong enough with me to justify it.  I remember one hot July morning I found it had spread to my chest when I put on a bathing suit.  I screamed and cried, "No! No! NO!" but it didn't matter.  Consequently, from the time I was 15 until I was 33, I would not be seen in anything but crew-neck or turtle-neck tops.  Thankfully, they don't make crew-neck tops for pregnant women, so I had to start wearing some scoop necks that were lower cut.  After a while of wearing these, magically, the acne seemed to mostly clear up there on my chest.  Now I won't wear crew necks at all, mainly on principle, but also because they emphasize the 60lbs I need to lose.

I still do spend an inordinate amount of time examining and clearing pores each morning and night.  It's an obsession and stress response.  Incidentally, I have become an excellent lancer of boils, if I do say so myself.  Seriously.  It's satisfying somehow, like mowing the lawn or filing papers.  You can see and feel the difference.  At this point I'm so inured to the sting of a needle, that I've often considered adding piercings to myself on my own.  Somehow the pain is penance for the pestilence inside.  Releasing it, maybe I can then be more acceptable.  Lovable?  Not the girl at the party with one more girl than boys, the only girl left on the couch trying to hide her tears while having the lyrics of Surfer Girl seared into her psyche like some kind of invisible scarlet letter that only the opposite sex can see.  The sign that says there is something wrong with this one---the pox---the disgusting truth of her seeping to the surface for release.  God, I hope my daughter can get through school without that kind of baggage.  Because once you have it, once you hear your best friends whispering how "Not only is her face breaking out, her friends are breaking up," when you are the pariah of the grade as a result of a history class simulation gone bad, it's not just about you making a behavioral mistake.  It sinks in that it's your very self that is unacceptable and not just the mistakes of tween behavior as a result of falling into a trap set for you by your teacher in order to teach how the rich got richer and the poor got poorer during the stock market crash of the '20s.

Wow.  OK, didn't know I was going to go there.  Baggage.  When do I get to throw it off the train?  I don't think medication is going to release the cables holding that stuff down.  This is going to take more work than that.  Shoot.  I need more chai.  I need to go do something else now.

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