Sunday night, just before bath time, my last nerve ran out into the street and threw itself under a car. About 45 seconds after that, I made a simple request of my daughter. About a minute after that, I said the meanest thing I’ve said to her….so far.
Vivi was supposed to be getting ready for her bath. I looked over and saw a stack of orange peels and other snack detritus on the coffee table in the den. From the couch, I hollered down the hall, “Come get your dishes and put them in the sink!”
She thundered down the hall, running wide open through the den and straight into the kitchen, right past me. Then she wandered back into the den.
“What are you DOING?” I asked.
“Seeing if I could outrun the cat.”
She meandered over to the coffee table, picked up a book that had been left open there earlier in the afternoon, and started to read. I gave it a few seconds then said, “DISHES.”
“Oh, right!” She came very very very close to the dishes, but then the cat walked by again and she pounced on him.
“Leave the cat alone and just take the dishes to the sink!” By now, she had the cat draped across her left arm like a dish towel and ignored me when I repeated, “Put the cat down!” With the cat wiggling to get free, she stacked her water cup on top of her plate. Teeter totter sway and wobble…y’all can see where this is going, right? I’m not sure if the cat knocked the cup over or the cup fell over and the water landed on the cat, but all of that happened at once and now we had a bigger mess and water all over everywhere.
And that’s when I blurted: “Why can’t you just……BE NORMAL….for one minute?”
I meant to say, “Why can’t you focus on this? Why will you not listen to me? Why can you not leave the goddam cat alone? Why can you not remember to clean up after yourself? When will you learn to respect the laws of physics? Especially where cats and water are concerned???”
Instead, I said “Why can’t you be normal?” And I’m still beating myself up for that.
She paused for a moment but didn’t answer me. I hope she was too busy dealing with the mess to register what I had said,
After the mess was sopped up and thrown away and Rufus had escaped to the backyard to recover his dignity, I should have apologized to Vivi for that word. She was already giggling in the tub. “Normal” is the last thing I want her to be. I want her to be clever and kind and free and confident and courageous and content. I want her to be herself, authentically and unapologetically. I also want her to put her own damn orange peels in the kitchen trash can. Not the wastebasket under the desk that only gets emptied every few weeks–the KITCHEN trashcan. And I want her to do that the first time she is asked, while bearing in mind that cats and water and gravity are all fickle fellows. I want her to be a centered individual who knows how to live in the world with other people.
Normal. Ugh. My daughter isn’t normal. But I didn’t need to remind her of that.
I’m beating myself up about this slip of the tongue. Worrying that this one thing will become the inner voice that she hears. Wondering if this was the straw that broke the daughter’s back.
The mom guilt is strong on this one. Was this my big mistake that wipes out every positive thing I’ve ever done for my girl? That’s what I worry about with EVERY mothering decision. I guess that’s….oh what’s the word?