Saturday, September 3, 2011

Take THAT!

For those of you who know and love Little Meems, or who just follow her stories, you know that her year of being a 3-year-old was nearly her last year of life.  As in, I didn't think she would survive it.  As in, I didn't think I would survive it.  As in, daily thoughts of "I canNOT do this" and tearful calls to my sister to vent and ask advice.  Because I teetered on the brink of sanity most of that year with her.

Who was this creature?  Her older brother had always been so even tempered.  I, myself, am relatively even tempered.  She was not even tempered.  Not even a little.  Stubborn and mouthy and feisty and challenging and needy and emotional, all rolled into one little ball.  She was also sweet and loving and affectionate and snuggly and caring, but mostly that was with other people.  I felt like I'd birthed an alien life form and I was lost as to how to parent this child who, literally, was unlike me in almost every way.  What kills me is the memories other people have of her at that age and what a doll and a firecracker and how funny she was.  For me, those memories are emerging, but for a while got tucked behind the memories of all the challenges.  I want to remember the funny cuteness of her little three-year-old self, and the further I get from that time period, the more I do, but I sometimes feel like I lost a year of her.  And it slays me.

I was overwhelmed.  With a new baby, a new status as a stay-at-home mom (and the financial burdens of that), a husband with a travel-all-the-time job.  It was mostly me, most of the time.  No relief.  To be truthful, (and as time passes I now realize), she felt that chaos the most.  She still feels the absence of her dad more than the other two.

But.  BUT.

It's also the time that she made me laugh the most.  Some of my funniest stories are from that difficult, precious little three-year-old girl.  Like I said, the good memories are slowly making their way out of hiding, now that we've all had a chance to distance ourselves from that time in our lives.

Like the time she got so mad at me when she sassed me and got sent to time out.  Stomping through the dining room, she wailed back and punched the wall.  "I bet that hurt."  Yes, to the wall.  I don't remember who was sitting with me at the kitchen table, but we had a good laugh.

Another time, my mother and I were at the kitchen table and she was throwing a tantrum over something we told her she couldn't do.  She looked at us and screamed "FINE.  I'm LEAVing!" and stomped off through the door into the garage, where we overheard her wandering around, occasionally kicking the pole in frustration that the garage door was closed and she was trapped.  Even then, she knew that she couldn't come back in and still save face, so she hung out in the garage, screaming under her breath (a very rare talent) until I went to retrieve her.  She immediately burst into tears and squeezed me so tightly.  She had gotten stuck in the "what's next" and was held captive by her pride and it was too much for her little body to bear.

There was the time she lost all her toys and room accessories for continued misbehavior.  As I was clearing the room out, she was laying on the bed, arms behind her head, legs crossed, one leg wagging up and down.  Finally, as I struggled with the books, she said "oh, you dropped one" and went back to wagging her foot.

If it was quiet, disaster was on the horizon, whether it be blue paint spilled on the hallway carpet, nail polish poured down the toilet, lipstick pictures on the walls, wallpaper ripped off her walls, paint hammered off her antique iron bed, oh, yes, and the time she cut her hair off.  She had less than a half inch of hair remaining on the crown of her head.

Oh, so many stories.

There are the good memories, but I'll save those for another time, when they're not overshadowed by my failings as a mother.  Because those are too special to taint with these admissions of my own ineptitude.

I wonder...what are her memories of that time?  I feel certain she can't remember many instances of that year when it didn't look like my head might explode.  She probably never even noticed that the vein on my neck doesn't always pop out.  I imagine all she can remember is my mouth open wide and words coming out and the exhausted look that took up permanent residence on my face.

I hope not.  I don't always know that I was the mother she needed for me to be that year, but it was a further education in how to be her mother.  She needs a different kind of mother than my boys.  I never understood what it meant to be the parent your child needs until I had two completely different children who needed completely different things from me.  W doesn't want hugs after he's gotten in trouble; Meems wants them immediately and will cling to you like her life depends on it.  A raised voice is enough to get through to and upset W, while Meems is completely unfazed.  W is like a cat, and wants affection on his own terms; Meems wants it constantly.  And then there's T, who's an entirely different kid altogether.

Yet, in some crazy way, all the trials and tribulations made me more connected to her than I knew I could be. I feel her pain.  I can anticipate her moods (most of the time) and know how to diffuse them.  I know when, in the middle of her frustration, she's gone past the point of no return and just needs me to scoop her up and hold her tightly.

I like to think that was God's plan all along.  He doesn't give us more than we can handle, right?  I had to prove myself.  She knew what she needed all along; I had to find out.  She's one of His special creatures, of that I am convinced.

And I can't thank Him enough for the blessing that is Little Meems.

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