Sunday, May 22, 2011

Independence Day

This piece first appeared in Practical Parenting Magazine, March 2011. It's funny how fast life with children shifts gear. Ivy is absolutely a four-year old now. She is writing letters, dancing the hula and insisting on being addressed as Pinky Winky. Tonight she said that when she grows up she will have three professions: a writer, a ballerina and someone who 'goes in healthy eating competitions.' Then she refused to eat her cauliflower.

When my friend Sandy and I were heavily pregnant at the same time, we amused ourselves with a sort of mock argument in which I shouted ‘I hope your baby has a great big head!’ and she retorted ‘Well, I hope you have a daughter and she turns out just like you!’ At that point we looked at each other in horror and knew that we had gone too far.

Three years on Sandy has recovered from the difficult labour that ended in emergency caesarean, but the hex she dropped on me remains as strong as ever. Every day, I wake up to an independent, dramatic and strong-willed three year old daughter, and it means everyday life can be a something of a challenge. Last week I had a serious conversation with Peanut. ‘You have to realise that you are only three years old,’ I said helplessly. ‘You really don’t know everything! Mummy can still teach you some things!’ She narrowed her eyes at me sceptically.

Since this child could first speak, her catchphrase has been ‘I do it.’ Zippers, puzzles, chopsticks, sing-along’s: ‘I do it.’ Since birth, she railed against the rules imposed upon her. Sleep at night-time? Not that interested, thanks. A balanced diet? Just frozen blueberries and sausages for me today. Wardrobe that suits the weather? Fun game that Mum has devised? Nice conversation on the phone with Nanna? No, no, and - gosh, thanks for asking – but no. She’s like a tiny island fighting from independence from the mother continent, and every day she stages one or two attempts at a coup d’├ętat. If time or circumstance forces me to overrule her, she reacts with a theatrical, passionate display of dissent.

As a toddler, for example, Peanut went through a lengthy head-banging phase that was just terrible to watch. On a memorably bad day I was forced to tie on a fluffy hat, just to preserve what was left of her frontal lobes. Occasionally I think that Peanut may be exceptionally bright. This was not one of those times.

She’s not afraid to chuck a huge tanty, and her conflict-management style can be disconcerting. Peanut’s passions are fierce but her understanding of social ritual is limited, so when a wave of frustration sweeps over her, she does a strange, squeaky ‘dinosaur’ roar and shouts ‘Oi!’ If pushed further, she’ll whisper the worst phrase she knows: ‘You’re not my best friend!’ When driven to her absolute limit, she’ll resort to the big guns, known in our house as Naughty Spitting, where a lengthy raspberry is delivered furiously at the floor before she looks up, guilty and nervous.

At three, my stubborn, determined daughter makes me laugh every day (except, perhaps, for those moments when I am weeping.) A child this age may have the ability to drive you to frustrated tears, but they also mean that you live in an amazing sort of half-reality, half-fantasy wonderland. ‘Daddy is magic,’ Peanut told me yesterday. ‘When he takes me to the toilet in the night and I don’t need to wee, he says ‘psssss’ and then I do a big wee. That’s magic!’ Yes, perhaps I am cursed with an independent daughter. But I wouldn’t change hilarious, eccentric hair on her head. (But ask me again when she turns thirteen.)

4 comments:

  1. As exhausting as it may be , sounds like she is going to be one top chick when she grows up.

    jill x

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  2. I have one of those....... My Mum thinks its hilarious that karma has come back to bite me on the arse. She just turned 7 and although our struggles are different she still dances to her own tune and always will.

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  3. Mmmm...angry raspberries. We have those at our house, too. Excellent with a vintage whine and a big bowl of screech.

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  4. I know it's wrong but I'm tempted to try Naughty Spitting myself. Just to see the look on their faces.

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Thanks for talking to me. I don't got cooties. Oh, except for when I got cooties.