A child who shall remain nameless but is a child I helped make woke late on a Saturday morning as though there had been some sort of unpleasant overnight shift in her reality. As though she perhaps had gone to sleep the entitled daughter of royalty or at least extreme pandering wealth but woken the put-upon long-suffering servant-daughter to wretched imbeciles. Her lip curled in judgmental disdain as she tried to distance herself from the mundanity and filth of our existence and expectations.
No, she would not rinse off her breakfast dishes. No, she would not bring down her laundry. No, she would not take the dog out to pee. With wide eyes and incredulity, as though there had been some sort of misunderstanding, she held out her hands so that I might gaze upon the soft uncalloused perfection of her flesh and know she was not a child meant to do labor-ish things.
When I remained stubbornly unconvinced of her delicate superiority, she stood regally tall and within my personal space and offered that she did not have time for my neediness.
By “offered,” I mean she screamed in my face, and by “neediness,” she meant “bullshit.”
I guess I know unspoken subtext when it is bellow-flung at me like invisible bits of hormonal death-wish.
Mark is of the opinion that I take these moments too personally, to which I say … If someone stands tall and close and screams into my face about how she will not be taking any crap from me because she calls bullshit on this day and bullshit on this life and bullshit on the entirety of my authority over her and she screams so loudly my head starts to pound and my eyes start to water and she is literally scream-inserting a headache into my skull about how she will not be doing the things I have asked her to do and that is final and then she turns to her father and starts talking in a more reasonable voice about me but now refers to me in the third person as though I have perhaps left the room to read a book except I am still standing right there and she wonders aloud to her father what might be done about the horror and nightmare and insanity that is SHE and HER and THAT WOMAN as her father makes noncommittal clucking sounds of placation and then she turns back to me and informs me that whatever I thought might be happening on this day I am so very sadly wrong because this day is all about what she wants for a change it is Saturday and it is a day of rest and she will not be taking any crap from me on her day of rest and that is not up for discussion … well … if all that happens …
If all that happens, the very best one can hope for (as the child in this scenario) is that I take it personally.
The worst being the complete and utter unmaking of this child I helped make.
So … personally it is.
On this particular Saturday morning, perhaps sensing the bolts of dismemberment-threat flickering in my eyes, the tragic changeling princess child stomped away from me, screaming and shrieking and bellicosing up the stairs to her bedroom, slamming the door behind her retreat.
Fine … by … me.
She was gone long enough that eventually, after popping a few Ibuprofen for the headache, I walked the dogs and did the dishes and started the laundry and took the other child to her friend’s house, and when I returned, the previously raging daughter was dancing in the living room to a song I didn’t mind until I watched the video and it was all about strippers and forced sex and drugs and murder and so now I like the song less but it is quite dancey this song and so the child was dancing happily and I stared at her for a moment before walking to where Mark was sitting at his desk, and I asked him, gesturing toward our daughter, wanting to establish where the daughter and I stood, because there were still consequences to be handed down, “Did she apologize?”
“What, to me?” He was confused.
“In general … to the household … to you … to me with you as proxy … did she seem in any way apologetic when she emerged from her room?”
And he said, “No, once you left, she cheered right up.”
I stared at him. I stared at him because he said the words “she cheered right up” as though something meaningful had been accomplished … as though her current cheerfulness negated the need to address any of the unpleasantness that came before. I asked, “What does that have to do with anything?”
He said it again, a hint of pleading in his voice, “She cheered right up.”
“So basically, your plan is to eventually be the proud father of a sociopath.”
I was silent for a few seconds, annoyed, and then I asked casually, “If I punch you in the face and then smile and sing you a song about murder and pole-sex, you’re saying we’re all good?”
He shook his head. “I don’t even know what you’re talking about.”
“Exactly. So then she doesn’t get to treat me like crap and just move sunshiney into the rest of her day.”
He sighed heavily. “There’s something to be said for occasionally letting things go.”
And on that point, much like my daughter before me …
I called bullshit.