I used to look at her and wonder what kind of hell she was going to put me through when she hit 13... now I'm gulping hard at 4-1/2 and praying she goes easy on me later. It started out innocently enough; she'd play hide-and-seek with daddy's toothbrush as he would be getting ready for work (later found in silverware drawer), she'd sporadically fly through the house (wearing nothing but a devious smile) as I'd struggle to get her dressed in the morning, and she'd leap behind the drivers' seat the second I unbuckled her car-seat (refusing to budge an inch and locking the door so I couldn't pull her out). These were just a few of the warning signs, but I should have known it wouldn't always be so simple.
Last week, we got into a little tiff over something insignificant... "You're mean! You're a mean mommy!" she screamed. "You don't even know what mean IS!" I argued. "Yes I do!" she reiterated. "Honey, I promise you do not, but I'll be happy to show you what mean is!" My words were met by a two-minute stare-down, followed by silence. I thought we were done; but then, out of nowhere, she looks at me and says, "Mommy, you look really ugly right now." "What?!" I cried. "You look really ugly right now!" My heart sank. I was eleven years old again hiding in a dark closet. "Wow! That was really mean, Isla. Why would you say that to me?" She looked at me with her dirtiest smirk and snickered; "See... I TOLD you I knew what mean was!" "Wait..." I thought to myself, "Does that mean I'm really ugly or are you just messing with me?" For the next thirty minutes or so I battled with the reality of what she said and wished life had a pause, rewind and delete button.
There is a point in time when you have to look inward, for me... that point came in the form of a dull knife with a sharp tip. I've always been somewhat of a smart-ass; well, perhaps always is a bit of an embellishment, but it has taken up a pretty significant chunk of my life. I'll admit, I thoroughly enjoy some good, old-fashioned witty banter (peppered with sarcastic undertones), but there is a fine line between sarcasm and meanness... or IS there? Here's the thing: I don't want my daughter to grow up to be a mean girl. I don't want her to ever say what she said to me to anyone else--even if it was just her way of making a dramatic point. When I was a kid, I had bucked teeth and every day of my young life, my brother would remind me of it, "Bucky-beaver, Bucky-beaver... ahhh huk, huk, huk!" he'd laugh, while sticking his teeth out as far as he could. I would spend a lot of time in my room, looking in the mirror, crying and wishing my teeth were straight. It was the start of what would soon be the end to any self confidence I ever had, and I'm fairly certain it was also the ground-breaking of a very well-constructed wall I built to protect myself from the lashing words that forced their way into my heart.
If I do one thing right as a parent, I hope it is to raise a thoughtful and compassionate child. Though I love her sense of humor, I don't want it to ever be malicious and hurtful--and her comment the other day was a big slap in the face... a wake up call for things to come. Since then, we've had several conversations about it. She claims she really doesn't know why she said it, but I think we all know that manipulation starts early and, if not treated properly, can turn into a boulder heading down a very narrow and mountainous road. I guess in a way, I'm glad she said it. It made me realize that I need to do some serious work on my tongue so that she doesn't have to bite hers so hard. I just hope I don't screw it up... at least not any more than I already have, but I guess you'll just have to keep reading to find out.