I rode a roller coaster today. Actually, I ride one everyday. I hate these kinds of roller coasters. They’re anxiety-inducing, nausea-causing misery. I ride them with my 5-year-old, my first baby, these “behavior coasters” as I like to call them. Today it was about shoes in Target, yesterday it was about choosing the wrong underwear. Everyday, it’s about nursing her brother.
My first baby, this smart, witty, and sweet girl, is what you might refer to as a “difficult child.” Trying to guess what her reaction will be to a question, command, or suggestion is simply futile, and it sure is a tough way to live. The ladies in the grocery store say, “Doesn’t she have quite the personality…” Others remind me, like I need to be reminded, that I have my hands full. “Strong-willed,” most people tell me.
This strong-willed girl, though, as I mentioned, is also sweet as sugar, a care-taker, a healer, and a master hugger. That is the paradox of the difficult child. Of my difficult child. In one five-minute span, we can have yelling and screaming over shoes that don’t want to be worn, a tearful apology, and a much-needed hug and kiss from what seems like the happiest girl on earth.
No one knows when you will get which child. No one knows what will set her off. It’s hard to remember what my sweet little angel is like while I’m in the thick of a ridiculous, baseless meltdown. It’s also hard to remember those meltdowns when she is being polite, helpful, and basically perfectly behaved.
I worry about what this is all about. Is it a result of growing up with a sick parent? I got very sick when she was 8 months old and have been sick of differing severity ever since. Or is it ADHD, which runs thickly through her bloodline? Is it something more serious? Will she grow out of it? Sometimes I just want to shake her and yell, “What is wrong with you?”
And then we snuggle together in her little twin bed, and she says, “Momma, sing to me,” and she kisses the site where they just stuck me to give me IV meds. She tells me how lucky she is to have the best family in the whole world, and thanks me for her brother.
I sometimes feel like I’m walking on eggshells with my own child in order to keep her happy and maintain a sense of shalom bayit (peace in the home). When she is amazing, she is amazing, eliciting pride in me, my husband, and her grandparents that almost makes us forget those awful tantrums. It is during these times that I think I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and that maybe the meltdowns aren’t so bad.
After all, look at her now, up on stage beaming with pride and waving to us. After all, look at her now, happily following directions and listening so well. After all, look at her now, playing so well with friends, complimenting them and acting so mature.
Sometimes that euphoria lasts a while—a day, overnight, throughout a play date. It’s wonderful to know my little girl has it in her to be this well-behaved and happy. Other times, I’m snapped back into the throes of the yelling and stomping and slamming doors I thought I had another decade to wait for. Most of the time, I don’t even know what happened or what I did to elicit the anger.
I wonder if she would be perpetually perfect with a normal mom and a completely predictable life. Probably not, but I am a Jewish mother—the guilt is completely ingrained.
I cherish every second I spend with her when her emotions are in check, when she is in control, and all seems right with the world. I dread the moments that we just can’t seem to get over, not because I am angry with her or don’t want to be around her, but because I want to help her, take it away from her, and magically bring back that wide-eyed girl with the beautiful smile and huge heart.