This nine-year-old business is rather funny. Has anyone else noticed their nine-year-olds being suddenly plagued with contradicting emotions?
Sunburst, who is a Very Lovely Child-- and I say this from the deepest place in my heart without any facetiousness whatsoever-- is driving me completely bonkers. I keep reminding myself that this "Thing" she's going through is probably just as maddening to her as it is to me. Her new influx of hormones have her up and down like a yo-yo, pulled every which way with a good amount of tension on the line. Were I in her position, I'd probably handle it much, much worse than she is currently doing.
It's the contradiction of her wants and needs that gets me. It's at once both confounding and amusing. See? Another contradiction. It's contagious! And oddly, it's not that much different than that dance of independence exhibited by a two-year-old: I want to run away from you, but I need to make sure you're still there.
She wants her own room, her own space, and privacy.
And then she asks to sleep in bed with her siblings.
She speaks like she knows everything and anything.
The next minute she deflates and announces her own stupidity.
She's proud of herself and her accomplishments.
And then you blink and she's calling herself a failure.
She pulls away because she wants independence.
An hour later she wants to cuddle in my arms and have me sing her lullabies.
I'm pretty sure this particular "dance" doesn't end any time soon.... if ever, really. I know it will become less pronounced in time, maybe the tension will change or the speed of the reversals, but this push and pull routine is probably here to stay. It's something I still recognize in my relationship with my own mother. Hold me close, but not too close, but then hold me close again. Let me go off and live my life, but still be there. Don't hold me back, but don't turn away. Let me fall, but be there to pick me up and nurture my wounds. Don't tell me what to do, but still encourage me. No wonder the parents of teenagers go slowly mad.
Could it really be as simple as all that? If I just continually remember to "still be here," is that enough? Will she continue to pull farther and farther away because I'm here and constant? And is that a good thing? Do I want her to go farther? Do I really have a choice? She'll go anyway. But will she go with confidence and self-assurance? Will she make good choices? And will she come back? It's such a gamble, this parenthood thing.
And what of the kids who don't bounce back? You know the ones I'm talking about--- the ones that go really far away, like to the streets. To drink. To drugs. To destructive relationships. To the places we never envisioned for our kids. I want to know, were the parents still there, solid and constant, waiting with welcoming arms? Or, as I suspect, was there no one to bounce back to?
Obviously these are all rhetorical questions. I know I'm projecting a little bit, after all, Sunburst is only nine. I just don't want to screw it up. It's too important. So sometimes I feel like I have to look inside and ask myself these kinds of questions. Where are we? Where are we going? What does this child need for the rough road ahead, and how can I best give it to her? What can I do right now?
It's time to get off the computer, hold her close, and sing another lullaby while she's still interested.