Over the weekend I had the chance to see my friend Anna. Well, more importantly I had a chance to see her kids, one of whom I was desperate to get my arms around – her 18-month old daughter, Ellie. Much to my disappointment, Ellie wanted NOTHING to do with me. Screams when I tried to hold her. Side-eye and cold-shoulder when I tried my very best to hear her giggle. It was easy to stop taking it so personally when I quickly discovered that it wasn’t me. Phew. She simply didn’t want anything to do with anyone that wasn’t her mom. Not even Dad was good enough for this cute little clinger.
I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Olivia from a year ago. Slightly older at two years, but she was just as clingy, acting as my shadow for most of her two years on this earth. And as my shadow she knew how to throw some serious shade at people who tried to make small talk with her. Heaven help you if you ventured to touch her because it would send her screeching into my arms. Stranger danger was very real for my stage five clinger. School was a disaster in the beginning with hysterical drop-offs as I dared to “abandon” her for two hours in the morning two times per week.
I’m not sure when something shifted in her, but shift it did this last year and she became more independent. The drop-offs were tear-free and she warmed to people that weren’t me. Now she bursts confidently into play dates or parties with her own agenda and hardly a look back in my direction these days. In February I wrote about how she had morphed into a Daddy’s Girl a fact that is even more true today. If he makes it home in time, he is now been gifted the opportunity to tuck her royal highness in each night. Daddy is smothered with big wet kisses. Kisses where she wraps her arms around his head and pulls him close to her for optimal smooching. It’s so sweet my uterus gets all fluttery. However, if I attempt to give her a kiss goodnight, she acts offended and says “Me no kiss Mommy!” This is how much of a 180 she has done.
Not only has she become more independent from me, she’s also shed some of her good-natured personality for this feisty feral cat-like quality that can make her almost impossible to deal with at times. Damn you, terrible twos. I’ve noticed an explosion of gray hairs in the last six months that one would attribute to my advancing age, but I know who the real culprit is.
It’s true, no one can frustrate her more than me. That said, no one else can make me laugh the way she does. I am admittedly biased in this, but Olivia has personality. All kids do, but she just oozes it and it’s begun to explode in so many ways over the course of this past year. It manifests itself in the way she dresses, the things she says, and the hijinks she gets herself into. She is so quirky and intentionally and unintentionally hilarious. I delight in her antics when she’s “on”. There is never a dull moment in Olivia’s life. There is also never a day where she doesn’t remove a piece of clothing as she still strongly prefers nudity. Happiness for her is making a mess – whether it be sand, dirt, water, or paint. She tells everyone she meets that she’s going to Disney World. So far her life’s biggest hardship has been the time she heard the ice cream truck but couldn’t find it. A tragedy which caused her to drag me on walks down our street for a week straight listening for the sound of a distance ice cream truck that never was. Her current dream is to go to the nail salon with me on her 3rd birthday and have her nails painted like a rainbow. Her imagination has exploded and I love to sit back and watch her pretend play with her baby dolls. I don’t love when she wants to play pretend doctor, grabbing the plastic scalpel saying “I cut your throat out now.” I’m not a doctor, but I’m sure there are very few scenarios when it’s medically necessary to cut out someone’s throat.
She is hilarious, clever, opinionated, creative, confident, and intelligent. (I mentioned I was biased, right?) I hear nothing but rave reviews from teachers and grandparents about how well-behaved she is. Joe has never been subjected to the verbal assaults or tiny fists of fury whacking away at his legs when her frustration becomes too much to handle. No, she saves that for me. I am either witnessing her absolute best or her absolute worst. There is no in-between with her. Admittedly, this has me terrified for her teenage years and the inevitable mother-daughter showdowns.
There are days when her ire is harder to take than offers. It doesn’t seem fair for Dad to get all of her adoration or at least for me to get absolutely crapped on by her. That’s when it dawned on me. I realized that I may be the person that needs to absorb all of her anger, frustrations, and the worst parts of her. Parts that she knows won’t be tolerated or accepted by her teachers, friends, or peers. I’m making a leap, especially since she’s not even three yet, in thinking that maybe on some level she knows that I will love her unconditionally. No, I won’t put up with her BS and will make her toe a very strict line. But I will always love her – the good, the bad, and the downright awful. All of these parts make up the sum of my little girl and it’s my job as her mother, as I’m sure many mothers before me have had to do before, to weather the emotional tornado thrown at me by my daughter. To be there while she hates me one day and needs to hug me the next. To love her fiercely and be her mother, not her friend, even if that means falling out of her favor.
Olivia and I have many a battle ahead of us. Some days it’s as simple as getting her to wear pants. Other days it’s an epic duel on the verge of going nuclear at any moment. Usually because I had the audacity to open up her granola bar for her when she wanted to do it. I may not like her always – just as she will probably not like me – but she’s my girl , which means I will unfailingly love her.