Parenting Chronicles: The First Whatever

Public Domain Image

Maybe you know or have figured out that the man we live with is not my daughter’s biological father.  He looks the part, having fairer hair than I do, and a cherubic head shape like hers.  But trust me when I tell you that’s not why I picked him.

He is part of our family.  And Child, when she forgets herself, calls him dad or parent.  She refers to us as a unit as her parents.  She thinks of him as her dad, tells him she loves him (and means it), kisses him before bed.  The two of them have a man-to-child relationship that sometimes distresses me in its high levels of kinetic energy and loud laughing or squealing, but seems really normal and healthy.

For a while, she was calling him her “male role model” at his suggestion, but she seems to be at a blissfully content stage right now about her understanding of the nature of her family.

She asks every few months about her “fahder.”  I suspect she’ll pronounce it correctly before she’s ready for the uncensored version of the story.

And maybe, when she gets pissed at me about it when she’s a mouthy teenager and writes some sobbing, heartfelt SpaceFace note about not knowing who she is and how I’ve lied to her all these years, I’ll shoot her computer and record it on video for all the world to see, because I’ll be embarrassed at my kid’s indiscretion and that she’s outed me  for having had her under circumstances it’s not safe to discuss with all age groups.

Whenever she asks, I emphasize that it’s important to understand that there’s no “right” way to have a family.  That families have any number of configurations of parents, men, women, grandparents, uncles, aunts, etc.

So I’m kind of delighted to report that Fella had his proper initiation the other day.

Here’s the conversation:

“Mommy, can I watch TV?”

“Is your room clean?” Fella asked.  I love how native he is about this kind of stuff.  

“Is your room clean?” I asked.

“No.”

“Then go do it.” Fella again, and after.  I tend to shut up and bow out, feeling grateful that someone else cares to have these combative conversations.

“I don’t want to right now.  Right now I want to watch TV.  May I please watch TV please?”

“No.  I think mommy and I were talking about going to Target.  Do you want to go to Target?”

“That’s okay.  I’ll stay here and watch TV.”

“Child, you know that’s not how this works.”

“Ok.  Can I buy a toy at Target?”

“No, but you can go get dressed.  And then maybe when we get back, you can spend the whole day cleaning your room.”

Sigh.  Whatever.” And she stomped up the stairs.

I’d wandered out of the room, or to another place in my mind, so I didn’t hear the last bit.  Instead, Fella walked up to me an poked my arm and said, “Hey Girlfriend, did you hear that?  I got the first ‘whatever.'”  And his chest puffed up like he would explode with triumph.

“Ha.  That’s great.”

“Yeah.  You might’ve gotten the first ‘I Hate You,’ but I got the first ‘Whatever.'”

Alive Baby’s Dead Friendship

I robbed this image from anther wordpress blog.

Child is a really sweet kid.  Her birthday’s late summer, so she’s one of the youngest in her class.

Her BFF is one just a few months shy of being a whole year older than she is.

The girls met at Little Lambs, the preschool to which they both went, about 2 years ago.  It’s a great place, even though it’s parochial.  Aside from that I got an incredibly good vibe from the place, it was affordable, and all the other places I visited were scary for one reason or another, my thinking was that knowing stories from the Bible can be a real help when one is writing college papers in literature courses.

When we moved this fall, we moved so we live around the corner from BFF, and Child opted to switch elementary schools from where she went last year so she could go to the same school as BFF.

Our school district lets us pick to an extent.

Child and BFF played together a lot this past summer.  BFF came over to our house a lot of days, and the girls had sleepovers and Child went to the lake with BFF and her family.  They go to each other’s birthday parties and have had a really good friendship.

In a happy twist of fate, Child wound up in the same class as BFF.

And all was beautiful and harmonious until yesterday.

Child said, “I want to play with BFF today.”

Since it’s child appreciation day, and Child will have no homework, I say, “Okay, I’ll text her mom.”

“Yay!”

So I text Mrs. BFF, and she says of course BFF can come play.

I go to pick up Child and I’m herding Mrs. BFF’s kids, too, because she’s going to be a few minutes late.  And I say, “Hey BFF, wanna come over and play at our house for a while?”

BFF says, “No.”

Child immediately starts weeping, but she’s hiding her face in my hip.  BFF does not see her weeping.  My heart breaks a little bit, even though I get it.  I remember.

BFF’s tastes have matured to the point where Child–who is just not mature in any respect–does not interest her anymore.  Sure, if she’s thrust into a situation where she has to play with Child, she will, or if it’s between Child and her brothers.  But she’d rather play with the girls who are those 6-10 months older.

Plus there’s the brutal social stuff: BFF definitely has what it takes to be a cool/popular kid.  Child is sensitive and strange (no surprises there), and I am not the kind of mom who refuses to let her go to school wearing insane things, or who tells her not to be weird.

Maybe that’s a failing as a parent, but the best people I know liked the learning parts of school but could’ve done without the social aspects.

And Child will be better off socially than I was.  They have become insanely aware of bullying and its dangers, and Child is gregarious and funny and coordinated.  I expect that she’ll play some sort of sport, and that’s a social network built in.

She’ll meet new friends and adapt.

But part of me wanted to say, “Hey Mrs. BFF!  Tell BFF she has to play with Child!”  Even though I recognize the myriad problems with such behavior.

On the rest of the way home without BFF, Child alternated between weeping and telling me how BFF won’t play with her at recess anymore.  How BFF plays with M__ and K__, but not with her.

I asked if she knew why, and she said, “she just won’t.”  I’m certain there’s more to the story than I’ll hear.  But still.  Sad, sad stuff.

And it didn’t occur to me until right now that Child’s exceedingly poor behavior last evening may have been a result of this tragedy.  In fact, Child said another thing that saddened and angered me in equal measure.

We were on our way home from Zumba and I told her that she was not allowed to stay up because she was being highly snotty, she said, “Maybe I should just kill myself.”  Which she then tried to deny saying, which is good, I think?  But still.  Caught me totally off gurad.  Rendered me speechless.  Made me angry in ways I was not expecting.

I sent her to bed and did not tuck her in or read her a story. I do not know if that was the right tack, but she was asleep instantly.  And now I will be vigilant.

What kind of six-year-old even suggests suicide?  Is this foreshadowing of dreadful teenaged years to come?  Will I be one of those tragic, 40-something alcoholic moms with a dead kid?

I hope not.  But this is one of those times where having her sperm donor’s input might be helpful.  I think that he felt sad about being alive from a very early age.

He said, when he found out I was pregnant, that he didn’t want to be a father because he always felt like he shouldn’t have been born, and he didn’t want to put another person through that.  Strong words, but felt ones nevertheless.

I was too busy pitying myself at the time to notice how sad that was, but I’ve thought of it often.