Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Parenting, Today

“I’m about to get ornery,” my daughter announced gleefully, popping the first of five prescribed pills into her mouth.

I sighed. It had been one of those parenting days which require more stamina and fortitude than most. Although it was true that the doctor mentioned orneriness as a possible side effect of the medicine he prescribed for my daughter’s stubborn congestion and ear infection, he also indicated that the opposite was an equally viable option-- but that prospect apparently fell on clogged ears. My daughter was embracing ornery.

Following the office visit and the requisite trip to the drug store, I drove the Ornery One to a distant neighborhood in search of a favorite security item that had evidently slipped from her clutches during an outing the previous evening. I maneuvered the van through the neighborhood at single-digit speeds, scanning the pavement for the tell tale flash of sleek blue that would identify the wayward widget. When car surveillance proved fruitless, I launched a ground-level search that quickly paid off when my daughter’s hand dove across a patch of lawn, her eyes sparking as she reinstated the recovered relic back into her firm grasp.

Things looking up, I decided to take my daughter to local eatery for lunch. The restaurant was still dotted with holiday-themed advertisements, suggesting their goods as viable gift options for service providers and civil servants.

I braced myself as I noticed my daughter staring a bit too long at one of the placards. Something was coming.

“Mailmen!” my daughter scoffed. “Who would buy a gift card for their mailman?”

I cringed, my eyes darting toward the pair of uniformed postal workers enjoying lunch mere feet from our table.

“Shh..” I hissed, shooting a stern gaze toward the oblivious child.

“Who really gives presents to the mailman,” my daughter continued, no doubt recalling any number of unfortunate encounters with our unusually stern postman. It was clear that she was gearing up for a full-scale reproof against goodwill toward mailmen when she caught my eye. We headed home without further incident, my daughter casting nervous glances at the mail truck that trailed us out of the parking lot.

At home, we narrowly averted skinned knees when my daughter tripped and fell on the sidewalk. By the time her brother came home from school, ornery took a sharp turn toward feisty, and by the time dinner was over, we were at full-blown hyper—another option on the medicinal side-effect smorgasbord. The commotion that ensued when my daughter threatened to stuff her brother into a large burlap bag was so great as to rouse my husband from his laptop--where among other things, he was viewing an online tutorial on time travel—long enough to ask: “Has it been like this all day?”

You and I both know the answer to that question, but you might be surprised to find out that I’m not as distressed by the fact as you might think.

I’ll be the first to admit that parenting can be a bumpy ride, but I’m also aware that it’s a shockingly brief one. I often find myself mourning the passing of various phases of my kids’ development. Likewise, I derive a certain amount of joy when, occasionally, an aspect of childhood I thought forever gone makes an unexpected encore—like the time my son presented me with what he confidently stated was his last fallen baby tooth, only to turn around a month later with the news that two more of his teeth had gone wiggly. Even though I’d bagged, labeled, and wept over the final fallen incisor and eulogized my role as the Tooth Fairy in my journal--going so far as to write the kid a sappy letter and to leave him a parting payoff five times his normal cut for my farewell performance-- I was nothing short of elated by the opportunity to get into character and do it all again.

And as for my daughter? I’m not altogether sure that my husband didn’t conduct his online time travel experiment because even though her lost security item was a cell phone and her ear infection just might turn out to be mono doesn’t change the fact that parenting her today felt an awful lot like it did when she was 4…thirteen years ago.

Note to readers: I am grateful to have not only my daughter’s permission, but also her encouragement in posting this piece—to put it in her words “It was great humor, why waste it?” Thanks, Allison, for being a good sport—I hope you are better soon, but if not, we’ll go back to the doctor and see what fun medicine we get next!


Anoush said...

Cynthia, this is heartbreakingly familiar as Noah leaves 7 for 8 on his birthday tomorrow. Having a 13-yr-old who still permits one-armed hugs, hair tousles, and "quick-nobody's-watching" kisses, it is difficult each time this younger one pushes one more gesture off limits. Our school drop-off ritual was today reduced to the fist-bump ("Mmooommm, no more hugs! Do this, it's cooler.").
Good luck with antibiotics - maybe you can have some girl-time out if it...Since snow days are fickle.

Tranquil Thunder said...

"...says time travel is actually pretty easy if you have a flux capacitor...doesn't know where to get the one he has from his Uncle Emmet..."

running_with_letters said...

Oh, Anoush, I's hard! It is a little funny, though, picturing the little guy giving you the fist-bump treatment. I've explored the whole joy/pain of parenting theme a time or two on the blog, most notably here:

It's good to know I'm not alone!

And, Tranquil, I'd check with the Libyans on that flux capacitor thing.


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