This morning, my daughter marched proudly out of the house wearing a Wonder Woman shirt, Minnie Mouse Leggings, and….a cape. A Wonder Woman cape, to be exact. Off to second grade she went, proud as punch of her outfit choice. As a kid who wears a school uniform each day, the chance to wear a cape for “Fun Friday” dress down was just PERFECT. I cringed a bit, wondering if the school might give her a hard time, but I reminded myself to live and let live. When it comes to my daughter, I do a lot of that.
My son was and still is, as easy of a child as one could ask for. He was an easy pregnancy, an easy baby, easy toddler, and at 12, he’s still a laid back, easy child to raise. Things come easy to him, for the most part. He’s smart as a whip, mature far beyond his years, calm natured, and extremely even keel. A gentle soul, with a soft heart, I do worry a bit about him getting hurt by girls as he gets older, but otherwise, I rarely if ever need to fret about him. I know he has things handled. He was such an easy child that having our daughter appeared like it would be easy peasy. After all, he was such an easy child to raise, she would be too, right?
Not so much.
From the get-go, things weren’t easy. I spotted throughout much of the pregnancy, and we didn’t settle comfortably that she’d make it until I was quite far along. She came into this world at 6lbs, 7 oz. She was a bit of a cranky baby, cried far more than my son did. She also had an eye issue called alternating amblyopia, and strabismus, meaning she suffered from lazy eye, however it would switch from eye to eye. That appeared before she was 9 months old, and a week before her birthday, she had surgery to try to correct this issue. Watching a baby go through this broke my heart, but it didn’t seem to phase her. She was a tough cookie. As a toddler, she was a force to be reckoned with. People worry their sons will get rough with the little ones, I had to worry she would roughhouse her brother too much. To my horror she once punched him when she was two, and when I asked why she responded “he too close”.
While I was trying to reign her in, we still battled over certain things. I can’t explain to you how defeating it is to find yourself in a full blown battle over a piece of clothing, but trust, it’s no fun. One day we were meeting with family out of town. I had picked out clothing for my daughter, and it included a big pink tutu skirt. Now, she loved this skirt. But not that day. That day, she hated that skirt. (Welcome to toddlerdom!) and she refused to wear it. The problem wasn’t the fact she didn’t WANT to wear it, it was the tantrum that occurred because of it. It was a full blow, kicking, screaming, meltdown of a tantrum that was so over the top I stood in awe. Like I said, I didn’t care about the tutu, except now, I had to stand ground about it. If I let her bail on the tutu, I would be giving an approval on the tantrum. I was now forced to stand ground on something I didn’t care about at all, in order to teach a valuable lesson that I did care about….Bad behavior will NOT get you out of doing something. Neither one of us backed down for about an hour. She wore the tattoo in the end, however family members still joked we walked in like a true war had taken place, with me looking like I had some PTSD. I still remember that day as a day I won a battle, but it was a hell of a fight.
The day she turned 5 was a turning point. My fiery little beastie suddenly calmed. It was as if she had nothing more to have to prove. She had pushed all the buttons, and knew which buttons did what. She grew into herself. I now had a super helpful, motherly, sweet girl. She had always been a cuddler, and I was thrilled that despite the sudden grown up attitude, she kept that love of curling up in my lap to cuddle and get hugs. Nothing makes her happier than helping me cook, having a similar outfit to me, or looking after her little cousins. We now entered the stage of a girl who knows who she is, with a side of chaos.
5-7 has been an interesting stage. My son and I often comment that she’s a tough cookie. The child who needed tonsils out? Her. The child who is accident prone? Her. The child who gets nosebleeds? Her. The child who struggles a bit more in school? Her. Most things just don’t come easy to her in life. She has to work at things, be more careful. I tell her she’s my warrior girl, and that I know she’ll be ok because she knows how to handle tough times.
With this resilience comes chaos as well. My daughter? She’s a SLOB. She leaves things everywhere, and I spend my days reminding her to clean up after herself, and walking behind her picking up things. It’s exhausting. She’s just always on the the next big thing. I remind myself that one day she will grow up and move out, and I will be left with a quiet, clean house, and the thought makes me sad. Her chaos drives me nuts, but at the same time, it is her, who I love, so I am trying to find a balance. I have to send her into the world as a functioning adult who is in a bit less chaos. Even her clothing choices are choas. Her aunt and I named her Vegas Judy. She loves all things leopard, colorful, glittery, rhinestoned, and “extra”. If she chooses her outfits without input, she looks like a walking carnival. My husband lets her wear whatever she wants. I try to tame it a bit, but sometimes, like today, I let her just go with her own clothing flow. When I had a beautiful fancy dress for her to wear on Easter but she came to me with Puss in Boots eyes asking if she would wear a leopard dress? “Do you love it? Will you be comfortable? Will you be happy in it and wear it all day?” The answer was yes. I caved. She thanked me for allowing it, and I spent the day being looked at as a hero by her. What made me happy was seeing her happy and confident in her choice. I try very hard to remember that it doesn’t matter what people think, what matters is that she is figuring out who SHE is.
There are times I see her outfit choices and get a bit cringey. There are times, like when she was adamant she wanted to cut her long hair short, that I waffled and wanted to tell her no. I then reminded myself that hair grows back, clothing can be changed in a heartbeat. I have a daughter who knows who she is, and firmly knows what she likes. I want to celebrate that, because in life she will be surrounded by a world that will try to make her question her choices. She doesn’t need to me to always do it too. Her short hair that she was confident she would love? I loved it too. Her outfits? ok, well, I don’t always love them, but I love her confidence in them.
My chaotic, not always easy child is just as perfect for me as my laid back, easy child. Two sides of the same coin. Similar in so many ways, yet so totally different. Each teach me different lessons. My relationship with each is so different, yet so amazing. Watching them work together, and balancing each other fills me with wonder. I spend a lot of time thinking about how, in the same house, with the same parents, and same experiences, two people could have such vastly different nuances to their personalities. My daily challenge is to figure out how to successfully balance parenting two completely different people.
When I started this blog, I referred to my kids as the Tiny Diva and the Laid Back Kid. The definition of Diva: a self-important person who is temperamental and difficult to please (typically used of a woman). I no longer consider her my Tiny Diva. She’s my Wonder Girl.
I wonder where she gets her strong sense of self from, yet I am SO happy she has it. I wonder how to help her succeed when she falters, yet how to let her find her way on her own as much as possible. I wonder how she believes some of her outfit choices might even begin to match. I wonder why she doesn’t put her stuff away without me having to follow up and ask her. I wonder how she does the amazing bendy stuff in gymnastics. I wonder why her feet smell like dirty fritos and vinegar sometimes when she wears certain shoes. I wonder how she isn’t aware her feet smell like that. I wonder how I can make sure she keeps her sense of self throughout her life. Mostly, I wonder how I can be the best mom to her and her brother, getting them through their strengths and weaknesses when they are so very different.