I almost broke up with my daughter today. At about 12:45 p.m. on Prospect Park West just north of the playground. I knelt down in front of her stroller, took her sweaty, sandy hands in mine, and tried to tell her that it just wasn’t working out between us anymore. We’re simply not compatible. I have had it with her wild mood swings, her whining, her inability to fulfill even the most basic request.
In case you think I’m being too hasty, there’s more. There is the fact that she never wants to leave when it’s time to go, but is always dying to leave when we arrive. The fact that we cannot agree on what music to listen to.
“PLAY ABC MAMA, ABC.”
“How about Rock and Roll?”
“NO, WOK AND WOLE, ABC SONG, ABC, A-B-SEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.”
You see how demanding she can be. How can this relationship ever work out? Beyond that, her fashion sense is appalling. She often leaves the house with three hats on her head, six necklaces around her neck, and various stickers stuck to her face. Sometimes she has crayon, paint, or pen all over her hands, food stuck to her collar, and she never bothers to use a mirror except to make really goofy faces or lick it. Her personal grooming consists of me chasing after her fuzzball-bedhead with a hairbrush and her screaming, “NO BRUSH, NO BRUSH,” at the top of her small but powerful lungs. She doesn’t want to wear diapers anymore but refuses to relieve herself in the toilet. She prefers to pee in the bathtub or, like a drunk with bad aim, on the floor next to the toilet.
We’ve been together for two years now, which is the longest relationship I’ve been in, if you don’t count the one I have with her dad. And although that relationship has its ups and downs, it’s a sturdy lifeboat compared to my life with the Titanic Toddler. Lately, much to his delight, Dada is starting to receive lots of attention from both of us. Many nights he can’t even get his coat off before a small drenched woman or a small drenched and naked child runs down the hallway and throws herself into his arms. And the one in his arms is usually looking back at the other with a, “Hah, beat you to the nice guy,” look on her face.
She has no table manners, she never treats for a meal or says thank you for that meal unless reminded ten times. When she’s bored or doesn’t like her food she chucks it on the floor. This is very rude and hard to clean up. Mashed rice between the toes, or stuck to the bottom of socks, is very unpleasant. When we’re out to dinner she sometimes plunges her entire hand into my glass in search of “ICEY.” Her new favorite is “BEER FOME” which luckily has a preceding warning screech that allows me to quickly down the brew before her invading hand comes near it.
She and her little friends are so loud and raucous — always having these ridiculous high-pitched screaming contests, using their outdoor voices inside, and spinning their heads around like they’re possessed. It’s not her friends’ fault, she eggs them on like she’s at a rock concert — holding her sippy cup over her head while singing loud nonsense lyrics to some annoying Raffi song.
At restaurants, the childfree couples and kindly grandparents look on in dismay. “We’re breaking up soon,” I want to tell them. “I do realize she is not right for me. I should be with someone nicer, calmer, less aggressive. Meanwhile, please stop staring.”
Her dancing is pretty cute, but, like everything else she does, it can suddenly careen completely out of control. Like one minute she’s just wiggling her hips and bopping to the beat and we’re having a great time. Then she’s rolling around on the floor, flinging her legs in the air, and making herself laugh by farting. She’s really unpredictable. And gross too. It’s okay when we’re at home together, but when we’re at music class and she starts her wild chicken dancing, I just want to creep out the door or grab the hand of another child. A child who is neatly stepping in rhythm, holding his mother’s hand, and actually listening to the teacher’s directives, while my anarchist friend is busy making love to the maracas.
Yet another reason to break up. Other children are just looking better to me. They seem neater, quieter, like better listeners and I’m thinking that maybe my initial attraction to her wildness and lack of inhibition was misguided. Maybe we could just have a trial separation? Perhaps she could go out with her dad for a day or two and I could just be alone with my thoughts? Because she’s like a drug and I have no perspective anymore. Am I addicted or could I kick the habit? Do I love her so much I can’t bear to be without her or do I want to leave her on the swings and just walk all the way away. Is she good for me? Am I good for her? Is she my friend or my tormentor?
Sometimes I think she’ll crawl inside me and take over my body — animate me — like one of her puppets. Like Being John Malkovich only it’s Being Kate’s Mama. Maybe that’s why we’re still together after all this time, given our differences. Maybe she really is the one in control here.
“MAMA SINGS THE SONG. PUT ON THE NECKLACE MAMA. DANCE MAMA. SING THAT ONE MAMA. SIT MAMA — HERE — SIT HERE.”
And I sit. I sit right there.