Don’t Worry. She’s Not Like This When You’re Not Around

I experienced a parental rite of passage today as I accompanied my kindergarten-aged daughter and her class on a field trip to the apple orchard. I was excited to see my daughter interact with her friends and her teacher. I was excited to see and experience something new with her today. And then IT happened.

We had only *just* arrived at her classroom to prepare to depart the school and head out on our adventure when my beloved eldest child decided that she wasn’t going into her classroom. “There are too many grown-ups in there”, she said. I tried everything I could think of to get her inside the classroom. Even the teacher asked her to come in, but she refused. I had to threaten to leave the school and not go on the trip at all in order to convince my Precious One to enter the same classroom that she is so eager to go to every morning.

On the bus to the orchard
On the bus to the orchard

Unfortunatley, the morning didn’t improve very much from that point forward. I was hopeful as we enjoyed amiable conversation on the bus ride to the orchard that things would be better. There were moments of sunshine, but there was also A LOT of grumpiness, fussing, pouting, and irritability. I have to admit that it wore me out.

On the Hayride
On the Hayride

At one point, late in the morning, I mentioned to the teacher that I hoped Audrey wasn’t like this at school. Mrs. Z assured me that she is chatty and outgoing, helpful and kind. Then she said the words I have grown to despise. “Don’t worry. She’s not like this when you’re not around.”

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Can I tell you how many times I have heard this about my children, particularly this one, over the past five and a half years? It’s a lot. Now, before you say anything, I’ve also been told over and over again that this is entirely common, typical behavior for children. To me, though, that is no consolation.

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I love this child with all of my heart. She was the one who made me a mother. Together with her Dad, we have learned how to be a family. She bears the evidence of our newbie parenting faults and foibles in her young being. She has helped us grow up. She is creative and SO smart. She is imaginative and thoughtful. She is a leader. She is a goofball. And, at times, she is utterly exasperating. I am often at a complete loss for what to do with this child who, although I am her mother, more often than not leaves me scratching my head and wondering what I’m doing wrong as her parent. I wonder who this creature is who resides in my home, lives in my heart, and fills my thoughts All. The. Time. I don’t understand her; she knows how to push my buttons.

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For once, I want to see the child that others have assured me exists. I want to know the child that Mrs. Z knows. I yearn to understand Audrey. “Dont worry. She’s not like this when you’re not around.” Well, thank God for that! But why is she like this when I *am* around?!

I may never have the answers to these questions. I may never understand my daughter. She may always act out when I’m around. If that’s the case, I hope it’s because somewhere inside of her she understands that I will love her, unconditionally, forever. I hope it’s because she somehow understands that I will never stop trying to understand her; I will never give up on her.

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In the meantime, I hold on to the good, joyful, peaceful moments. They are my life raft, my manna in the wilderness, my hope.

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