Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Emo Coaster

Daisy is preparing to enter the middle school years of gnarlyhood in the fall, but the current struggle is with Violet, my shrimpy second grader. 

For Daisy, starting Boys and Girls Club with my job change has been a blessing. She joined the club swim team and proudly tells me she is one of the fastest swimmers. She was recognized as artist of the month at a recent club assembly for her "great work and positive spirit," receiving a gift certificate and the wrath of her little sister Violet, who proclaimed it to be the “worst day of my life.” Violet was so mad that day, she couldn't eat her dinner. 

Normal: Feeling jealous of your sister. 

Not normal: Being so mad that your sister received an art award that you can’t eat your dinner four hours later.

Let me tell you, Violet is no fan of Boys and Girls Club. At least that is what she says on the way to the club during my late lunch hour devoted to picking them up from school. However, the car session is generally not as animated as the morning complaint session, when all is heinously wrong, especially articles of clothing set out the night before, every word coming out of her sister’s mouth, and anything her mother needs her to do to get everyone where they need to be on time, including the dogs who run for cover at the sound of Violet’s grunting and stomping. And just in case I didn't fully absorb the morning and lunch complaint sessions, there is often a nightly recap of everything that went wrong that day, concluding with a look forward to what will surely go wrong tomorrow.

Last weekend was spent celebrating Violet’s birthday, Friday through Sunday. And though Violet had a great time with her family and friends, when she was alone with her sister and me, she was velcroed to my side, acting out episodes of Everything Sucks, a series about what is unfair for Violet. I believe in the power of expressing emotions so they don’t own you, but I find it an extraordinary test of patience when Violet's in that mode. Especially when she's leaning into me as I'm pinning up mustache decorations after hours of housework between birthday events.

Most of what she complains about isn’t even something she has an actual complaint about. Like when the birthday clothes from Grandma that Violet loves temporarily become nails-across-chalkboard annoying garments she can’t tolerate on her body because they’re "too big!" and "unconfoble!" Or when that dark, dark place called Boys and Girls Club actually seems like a fun place, judging from the activities I find Violet happily engaged in during pickup. 

When I’m not totally frustrated right back at Violet, I sometimes make the mistake of smiling when I look into her pissed off eyes. It’s just so much hoopla coming from a small person. I have directed her to boxes she can destroy. I have encouraged her to draw and write. I have talked to her about self checking her anger. She has a counselor. It feels like nothing's working right now but I know when it feels like that, all you can do is keep trying and accept that this crazy kid stage will end, making room for one even more challenging. 

Yesterday, I sent the kids to bed a little early after another one of their shoving and screaming matches. I was frustrated with both of them but Violet seemed to be the primary instigator. She didn't seem to be able to hear me until it was my turn to scream with my finger pointed at her bed. I was totally done and I stretched out on the couch to take a few deep breaths and close my eyes.

I didn't realize until I could sense something hovering over my face that Violet had gotten out of bed. She told me she was sorry and hugged my head. Suddenly Daisy was there too, and she wrapped her arms around both of us. My girls started shoving and screaming again. With their arms still wrapped around my head. I yelled as I pushed them off, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Violet burst into tears and Daisy tried to argue why it wasn't her fault before stomping off to bed. Violet stayed behind and cried, perched next to me, whatever demon she's fighting exorcised for the time being.

Violet proceeded to tell me through her tears that she's sad about the divorce again. It's confusing to try to keep her homework and other school paperwork organized between the two households, and she's missed some deadlines with repercussions. Violet looks at the kids with parents still together and assumes that everything is easier for them. Probably dealing with the surprisingly large flow of paperwork that comes with elementary school, yes, but I reminded her that every family has problems and for some kids it's worse when your parents stay together. She nodded, satisfied with a conversation we've had many times before. After I walked Violet back to bed, I tried to kiss Daisy good night but she turned her back to me. 

The most reliable way to get off the emo coaster with my daughters is to be around other people. Really I consider teaching my daughters how to deal with their emotions a sacred part of being a mother, but even mama needs breaks. Recently, the kids and I were at our neighborhood restaurant, where I sometimes order a margarita while I read the Sunday paper and the kids play on the patio. When my friendly neighborhood bartender suggested that learning how to make a good margarita at home was a way to save money, I hesitated. Was I thinking . . . maybe it’s time I try dating again . . . or, does this guy really think his margaritas are that good? No, I was thinking . . . if he were in my kitchen making drinks, I bet Violet would be nicer at home. True story. And yeah, no.


  1. i'm pretty sure not.

    it's that time of the school year when any shortcut cannot be discounted entirely but then sanity has to win out in the end :)