Relationships between a mother and daughter are complicated. My daughter Camille, aka “The Kraken” and I have been on the outs lately. Actually we’ve been on the outs since her birth. As a newborn she was colicky and clingy. She’s what the discipline books would call a “high-need” child. She’s what I would call “bat-shit crazy.” I like to think I run a tight ship around here and everyone is usually on board the SS Bossy Mom, except Camille. There is always some pushback from The Kraken. It’s a daily battle of wills and I refuse to back down to a 5 year old. She is whiny, spoiled and prone to tantrums. Punishments don’t help. She usually has the Current Legal Spouse wrapped around her finger. We don’t know WHERE she gets it. (Shut up, Mom!) But she’s not a discipline problem at school (like I was.) In fact her kindergarten teacher has described her as “smart, quiet, and helpful…” Are we still talking about my daughter? The blonde one? Camille? “Oh, yes! She’s a model student..” the teacher continues. “Excellent self control, listens attentively, no problems.” … Huh… alrighty then. Super. It’s pretty obvious she saves up all her crazy just for me. Don’t get me wrong- I love my daughter and wouldn’t trade her for anything. (And you can’t anyway, because apparently that’s illegal.) What I’ve come to realize is it’s a constant power struggle when you have more than one vagina in the house. Some days it feels like this:
I don’t want to end up choking her on the living room floor (and then her writing a book about me.) I really need to make more of an effort to connect with her instead of just yelling all the time. That weekend the boys were going to do some boring boy stuff like an outing to Bass Pro Shops or Home Depot or something you only enjoy if you have a penis. No, thank you. I decided Camille and I needed a “Mommy and Me” day, and I knew just the place. A girly tea room for ladies who lunch. I ran upstairs and found The Kraken dismantling the playroom. “Hey, how about you and I go to a tea party, just the two of us?” Her grimy little face lit up. “Yea!” She squeals. “But first I have to change!” She runs past me into her bedroom and closes the door. I know what this means- she is going to dress herself. Oh sweet baby Jesus, help me. She is really into dressing herself lately, and I know what you’re thinking- “Let her express herself!” “Pick your battles!” “Don’t be such a controlling bitch!” And I agree with all of that. I need to let it go.
My little fashionista has two favorite looks; “Nonna From The Old Country” and “Prosti-Tot.” Camille has a closet full of beautiful clothes, but left to her own devices this child can put together the most heinous combinations that only Lady Gaga herself could conjure. It’s really quite extraordinary. The “Nonna” look usually involves way too many layers. There’s usually a turtleneck, a skirt over pants, rain boots and a babushka or some type of head covering. All in the same color family. “Because it matches!” she tells me.
The “Prosti-Tot/Gaga” is just what it sounds like. Some fucked-up hooker-from-outer space combo that never involves pants. Because it’s totally acceptable to play outside in just a bathing suit top and thick cotton argyle tights.
|“See, this matches ’cause it all has polka dots. Duh.”|
She’s been in there a while. I brace myself for the reveal as she comes out of her bedroom. Good God. I crack out a smile and manage to say, “Wow.. look at you! That is… quite an ensemble…” She looks like a homeless midget. But- today is all about fun, so I let it go.
Let. It. Go.
We head out and she is beyond excited, jabbering in the backseat. Usually she is just giving me the evil eye from the rear-view mirror. Awesome- we are bonding already!
We arrive at the tea house and wait to be seated. The place is just what you would expect- a floral nightmare. This must be where all Laura Ashley circa 1983 goes to die. Camille takes it all in and swoons, “Oh! how boooteeful!” The waitress smiles and motions to a pile of tattered hats in a basket. “Pick out a hat if you’d like and I’ll seat you,” she chirps.
Camille tears into the pile, inspecting each choice. I reluctantly choose a beribboned relic and silently ponder the lifespan of nits on a hatband. “Put it on, Mama!” Camille insists, and reaches up to force the dusty hat on my head. My scalp immediately starts to crawl. I make a mental note to Purell my forehead in the bathroom later.
At a corner table sat a group of older ladies, all hatted up. These were obviously the serious tea-baggers because they had their own gorgeous, lice-free hats from home. As we pass, they admire my daughter and I wistfully. I give them a smile which I hope conveys, “I didn’t dress her like that.” I think they get it.
|Our hats are awesome. Your hat sucks. Bless your heart.|
We look over the selections and decide we need to order the traditional English afternoon tea. The full-on tea lady lunch experience. Tea, of course, in a real teapot with china teacups with saucers! Fancy schmancy finger sandwiches! Scones with lemon curd and clotted cream! I remind Camille to place her napkin on her lap, like a lady. We put our pinkies up and sip the tea, like ladies. Camille looks at her cup and says, “This tastes like dirt water.” I tell her to put more sugar in. She spoons several giant scoops into her teacup. It’s mostly sugar now. Let it go, I tell myself again. A beautiful medley of goodies arrive on a tiered server. Camille grabs a sandwich and takes a bite. A slimy ribbon of cucumber slides out. “Yuck” she mutters and throws the sandwich down. She does that 3 more times. I end up eating four slightly mangled, twelve dollar saliva sandwiches. She liked the desserts and scones a little better, but when she licked the clotted cream she recoiled. “This isn’t Cool Whip!” and flung the cream from her finger. It shot across the room and landed in a glob on the floor, dangerously close to an old ladies sensible pump. We hide behind our hideous hats and laugh.
I guess the thing about my relationship with Camille is not so much her behavior, but how it makes me feel about myself. If she is so crazy/unhappy, I must be inadequate as a mother. Some need is not being met. It is a deficiency of mine. But then I read an interesting article about children that throw tantrums, mostly at home. It explained that the child feels secure with you and expresses their emotions with the people they trust most. Wow. She definitely feels secure enough with me to act like a real asshole sometimes. And sometimes I act like an asshole. She is five. What’s my excuse?
But we are both on our best behavior today. I pay for the overpriced lunch and we begin to walk out. She squeezes my hand. “Mama this was my best day ever…”
“Mine too, Camille.” I’ll never let it go.