I used to have a little girl that loved me very much.
"Mommy," she would say, "You are so beautiful. You tell the funniest jokes. You do the best voices when you read stories." And she would snuggle up with me and kiss me lovingly on my cheek.
That little girl made me very proud. When we would go to the store, she was always the best behaved child -- shaking her head sadly as one of her brothers threw tantrums over denied boxes of Legos and another brother bit my calf over my refusal to buy fruit snacks. But this child, her blondish pigtails nodding, would just meet my eyes and make a disgusted clucking sound, as if to say, "Those heathen boys, irrational, selfish creatures. Your cross is a mighty one to bear, Mother."
And it WAS mighty, so I smiled at her and patted her pretty little head.
Yes, this was a glorious time in our relationship.
And then, abruptly, without much warning, she began to hate me and started wishing I would get run over by an ice cream truck.
This was not a process that occurred gradually; rather, it was abrupt and coldly sudden.
As in -- one day we were together admiring hair barrettes at Wal-Mart together and she was smiling and sweet and the next day we were arguing over hair dye and leggings and she was foaming at the mouth and I was asking her if it was at all possible that she had acquired rabies from a mad, neighborhood squirrel.
Needless to say, it was a rude awakening.
As in, I awoke one morning and my logical, agreeable daughter had been replaced by one who was rude. And angry. For no apparent reason.
Other than the fact that she was 12.
This was, apparently, a time of great crisis in her development. And yet, beyond homework, her brothers and my apparently unreasonable refusal to buy her a new iPhone, I didn't really see her existence as one beyond the scope of normal difficulty. Granted, there were hormonal components at work, I concede to this immediately. And she was an all-A student, a bright, capable girl. But the level of venom that she now possessed exceeded even my own presumptions regarding pre-teen hormones.
And all of, ALL OF IT, my friends, was locked, loaded and aimed squarely at me.
My life became a series of circular, frantic discussions that made me dread her thump-thump-thump down the stairs each morning. I loved her, of course she was my beautiful child still. Somewhere in there, anyway. As I became convinced that my previous child had been eaten by an angry beast with a precocious vocabulary and sharp, orange-polished talons, I began to name our daily interactions.
As such, I give you:
I Hate You, Don't Leave Me (Conversation with my 12-year-old daughter)
Me: Hey, girl! Good Morning!
Her: What's so good about it?
Me: There's no school today. That makes it good, right?
Her: I wish I had school so I could get away from my brothers (and then, under her breath)... and you. They are so annoying.
Me, forcing a smile: I know, I know. Why don't you get some breakfast and then get dressed and we will go to Target and start back to school shopping?
Her: STOP PRESSURING ME! I can't even think about school now! YOU... PEOPLE!
Me: But... you just said...
Her: No one respects anything I say.
Me: Yes, we do. Let's just get breakfast and --
Her, mockingingly: Let's just get breakfast!
Me, with false bravery: Oh, now you're a 2-year-ld. (But I take a step back)
Her, entering the bathroom and wheeling around to face me: It is entirely possible that you have never loved me.
(She slams the door. I crawl into my bed to await her high school graduation)
Five Minutes Later
(Bathroom door opens, 12-year-old skips out)
Her, entering my room and perching on my bed: So... whatchya doin?
Me, voice muffled, head under covers: Ummmm, hiding?
Her, laughing the laugh of the hormonally insane: Why, silly? I thought we were going to Target!
Me, peeking one eye out: You want to go out?
Her, lovingly: After I get some snuggle time! (She slides under the covers with me)
Me, sensing danger but too stupid to acknowledge it: Awww, baby girl. (I give her a hug as she snuggles in).
Three Minutes Later
Me, still snuggling: Maybe while we are out we can get your haircut too!
Her, sitting up abruptly and snatching the covers off the bed: What's wrong with my hair?????
Me, at my limit and it's only 10:30 a.m.: It's just-the whole bias cut-long on one side... it's not. I don't think. (Things are falling apart, panic setting in.) I'm sorry, it looks like you have a beaver pelt there on your head, honey. We need to fix it. You're so beautiful, we will just--
Her: I. AM. NEVER. SPEAKING. TO YOU. AGAIN!!! (stomping up the stairs)
I can't help but smile. With this threat, I am the happiest I have been in 24 hours. Which should indicate the debased nature of my life station.
Five Minutes Later
I am happily curled up with my iPhone and Candy Crush. Cheerful. Free at last. Until I hear, thump-thump-thump on the stairs.
And then... the lights flicker and my iPhone unexpectedly goes dead.
I turn to see a beaver pelt on a woman-child's head flounce down next to me. A long pale arm gives me a great big hug. And from under the mass of hair I hear a voice.
Her: So... Whatchya doin?
And I start calculating, silently, just how many days it will be until she goes to college or I find an ice cream truck willing to put me out of my misery.