It was one of those Murphy's Law mornings and I was wavering between calling an adoption agency and just walking out the front door and letting them fend for themselves.
I was trying to brush Annabella's hair and she was squirming and whining. They say that when adolescent girls turn against their mothers it's completely natural. It's all part of a healthy separation. But I'm convinced that it's because mothers are the ones that have to force their daughters to sit still so they can brush the knots out of their hair every morning for the first half decade of their lives.
Let's step back a moment. Before I sat Annabella down for hair torture, I had patiently asked Huck seventeen thousand times if had to go to the bathroom and each time he insisted that he did not. I'm in the middle of working out the last knot when Huck walked up to us and smiled and said, "I just peed in my pants."
That's when I slammed Annabella's hairbrush down on the carpet and it broke in two pieces.
It's hard to tell who was the most surprised by this. There was a general shock and awe all around. I apologized to everyone for losing my temper and calmly took Huck to the bathroom, reassuring him that "accidents happen" and that my frustration had nothing to do with him forgetting to tell me that he had to go to the bathroom. Then we went about our day hoping that we could all put this momentarily lapse behind us.
That night after Marco and I put the kids to bed and we were cleaning up the living room, I found the sad pieces of the broken hairbrush.
Me: Did you see what I did to the hairbrush?
Marco: Yes, and I got a full report from each of the kids on how it happened. Annabella said it happened because you lost your temper. Milo said it happened because you were "frusterrrated" (he pronounces the word with four syllables, as Milo would.) And Huck said it happened because he peed.
We are at Parent's Night at Annabella's preschool. The director of the school is talking about hitting, so my ears perk up for obvious reasons.
"We don't do time outs here," she says. "So if a child hits we usually redirect them to another activity. If they hit again we say, 'Maybe your body isn't ready to play with the other kids right now. Maybe you should sit on the bench for a while until your body is ready to play with the other kids.' That usually solves things."
The next day Huck hits Annabella and I say, "Huck, do you want to go to Annabella's school in January like we talked about?"
"Yes, I do" he says.
"Well, you can't hit in preschool. Annabella, what happens at your school when somebody hits?"
Annabella looks at me and says, "They get spanked on the bottom."
Annabella and I are reading Peter Pan when through the window we hear our neighbor arguing with one of his adolescent daughters.
Yesterday the same neighbor came over to deliver a bag full of pears from his tree when I was having a particularly low-patience day with my kids. I was also feeling really bad about myself because I get help with them every weekday while I work. I feel like this means I shouldn't get frustrated with them on the weekends.
"Does it get easier?" I asked my neighbor, referring to my children who were tearing up and down the driveway, nearly running over each other (and us) with their big wheels.
"No," he said honestly. I didn't believe him until right now.
"You cannot talk to me like that!" He yells. His daughter says something I can't hear. "That's strike one!" he yells. She says something else I can't hear and then gets two more strikes and then gets grounded.
"You're... not... listening... to... me!" She screams back and then starts to cry.
Annabella says, "I don't think they're having a party." She's referring to the decidedly happier sounds we often hear wafting up from their yard.
"No," I say. "I think they're having a fight."
Annabella looks up at me and says, "I hope they don't have swords."
We just got back from a visit to Chicago for a wedding and to see childhood friends. One of Marco's best friends lives there and has a daughter (Lindsey) who is 4 and a half. She is one of Annabella's best friends and it doesn't seem to matter to either of them that they only see each other twice a year.
On our first day in Chicago our friends had to work, but Lindsey stayed home so the girls could play together.
Me: I think we should try to find a bookstore. Lindsey: I know a bookstore that we'll all really like. Me: Do you know what's it's called? Lindsey: No, but I know exactly where it is. Me: Great! Where? Lindsey: Right next to Starbucks.
Annabella and I are backstage at her first ballet recital. It's time for me to leave her with her class and head out to the audience. Later, my own mother will remark that I seemed much more nervous than Annabella did.
Me: I have my camera ready.
Annabella: I don't want you to take pictures of me. I want you to watch me.