I hate it sometimes. I hate being the one who has to teach Liv manners, bring her up to snuff, make sure that she behaves and does the right thing.
Not that she is a brat or anything. Actually, she is so well behaved that I rarely have to scold her.
Well, not yesterday. She had it coming yesterday.
And this heat adds to it. It is miserable outside, so hot and muggy. "The air you can wear," is how one smarty pants weather guy puts it. Temps in the high 90's, 78% humidity. Even in the air conditioned house, the air settles in on your skin. My wooden cupboards in the kitchen feel sticky no matter how many times I polish them. We keep the thermostat on 80 degrees, which on most days, works. When it is this hot, it just feels like some semi cool air is churning around. My garden loves this weather, is bursting out of it's seams like a slutty dance hall girl. I bring in baskets and baskets of vegetables and fruits. Every usable counter space in my kitchen is taken as well as the dining room floor. I will start canning and freezing next week and this will go on until I have enough to get us through the Winter and to provide gifts for everyone I love. Then, the rest will go to the homeless shelter.
But, I am crabby and hot, my legs slick with sweat, a constant moistness to my face and neck. I drink glass after glass of iced tea, holding the dripping glass up to my face, resting it on my thigh, anything to get cooler.
Liv and Bing aren't as bad as I am with the heat, but even they are hot enough to not want to eat anything too steamy for dinner. We eat from the garden a lot, big salads, cucumbers and tomatoes swimming around in vinegar and milk.
It is two weeks until school starts and Liv is panicking. She loves school, but loves Summer more. She feels that chain starting to gather around her neck and she doesn't appreciate it one bit.
Yes, she is bored with summertime. She is tired of drawing pictures, tired of painting them and having me ooh and aahh over them. Tired of playing Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, Battleship and Checkers. Playing in the sprinkler is old hat. She invites her bff, Constance, over nearly every day and they lay splayed in the living room watching re-runs of Hannah Montana or going up to the attic to halfheartedly play dress up. They beg me to supervise them baking cookies and then get bored with the whole process halfway through, only finishing because I won't let them stop mid-way. They play outside in Liv's treehouse. I see them talking with their legs hanging over the side, flat on their backs, probably sharing how much they dread going back to school or who has the meanest Mom.
Yesterday, I was tired by 10 a.m. I had finished up my paperwork and was deciding if I could tackle that kitchen drawer that is so messy that it is a disgrace. Liv wandered in, asked for pancakes for breakfast (which I DETEST making when it is hot outside, they just add to the general stickiness of August life.) I made her the pancakes. She took THREE bites and bailed on them. Said that she was full. I informed her that they were going in the fridge to be eaten for lunch or else as treats during the day instead of her snarfing down cookies. She nodded wearily. We were both just...Augusted out.
She called Constance and they talked for awhile. Then she got off the phone saying that Constance said that the phone receiver felt hot on her ear and she would call back later.
Liv slumped. She followed me from room to room, asking for things she knew she couldn't have: a trip to Fun Plex, goodwill shopping for more dress-up clothes, a hunt at department stores for webkins trading cards. I finally told her to find something to do besides bug me or I would find a closet for her to clean. (And, yes, that was my mother's voice that you just heard coming out of me, something I swore would never, ever happen.)
She went to call Constance again. It had only been 10 minutes.
"You may not call Constance again," I told her. "She said that she would call back later and she has an infant brother. Her mama told me that she has trouble getting him to sleep sometimes and I do not want you hassling them by calling."
Liv frowned. "But, I'm bored and she said that she would call back when the phone receiver cooled off..."
Too bad, I told her. If she hasn't called back by lunchtime, you can call her again.
You would have thought I told her January.
Yes, lunchtime, I reiterated and went to go make my bed.
As I was finishing, Liv came in, the phone to her ear.
"Can I have Constance over?" she asked.
I sighed. Nodded. Why the hell can she NEVER go over to Constance's house? Why must it always be at our house? I already knew the answer. Constance's mother is a stay at home mom, her father is a firefighter. They have a new baby who has colic. Sada, (Constance's mother) looks like she is about ready to lose it any second these days. I think she loves it when Constance plays at our house and I know that if the situation were reversed, she would help me out and have the girls at their house.
I gave Liv the okay to have Constance over. It became settled up.
When Liv got off the phone, I said, "Constance DID call you and not vice versa, right?"
Silence. And then a brief nod. A very untruthful nod.
I went over and picked up the phone, checked the caller id. No Constance. I gave Liv a long look, raised an eyebrow.
She caved like a marshmallow for s'mores.
No, Constance had not called. Liv had called her. Even though she knew I had told her no, she couldn't stand it and did it anyway.
I dialed Constance's phone number, asked to speak with her mother. I told Sada the circumstances and apologized for canceling the girl's play date. She was okay with it.
Liv's face was furious, she was pink cheeked and mad as a wet hen.
I hung up. Told her that she WOULD learn to obey me, and more importantly, not to lie to me. There would be no play dates today and she could just march downstairs and clean up the TV room in the basement. And no TV. She could do it in silence.
Liv knows that the word HATE is not allowed in our home. So, she sputtered out with, "I don't like you one bit right now! I think you are mean!"
I didn't answer her, just handed her a bottle of water and pointed to the basement. She looked so enraged that for a moment, I wondered what I would do if she told me point blank that she wouldn't do it...
She marched down, stomping on each step.
It took her most of the morning to finish the basement. She came upstairs for lunch and found her pancakes left over from this morning, warmed up in the microwave. She scowled, but didn't say anything.
However, if looks could kill, I would have been dead on the kitchen floor.
She spent the afternoon in her bedroom reading, playing on the computer with her webkins and not speaking to me.
It was a long afternoon. I dislike it when the house is this tense, but I can't have her disobeying me or lying. I dug my heels in and ignored her.
Bing came home from work and I told her what was going on. Now, Bing is always saying that I am too easy on Liv, so I was surprised when she asked if maybe I was being too hard on her....I also noticed that, at dinnertime, she made sure that Liv had the juiciest, fattest strawberries on her plate and she leaned down to give her a quick, sympathetic hug.
So much for us being a good parenting team.....
I gave Liv her bath. We didn't say a word to each other. I tucked her into bed and took her reluctant hand in mine.
"Would you like to talk about this?"I asked her.
She shook her head no.
"Well, tough beans, I need to talk about this, but I will be brief and then I will read a chapter of Harry Potter."
She waited, looking nonchalantly up at the ceiling as if there was an interesting painting on it.
"Do you understand why you could not have a play date today?" I asked.
A brief nod. Yes.
"Okay, tell me why," I said.
She said in a deliberate sing song voice, "Because I disobeyed you by calling Constance and then lied to you about it."
"Yes. That is it exactly. I just wanted to make sure you understood. Shall I start reading Harry now?"
I started reading. It was a tough chapter. A main character dies, a well loved tough bird named Mad Eye Moody. And Voldemort makes an appearance.
Liv listened as I read, her eyes somber and then anxious. After I finished, I closed the book. I leaned in to kiss her cheek, expecting the cold shoulder.
Instead, she asked to sit in the rocker together.
I rocked her for awhile, not talking. Her legs are so long now that they nearly reach the floor. And then, at last, she cried.
"I'm sorry that I was naughty!" she wailed. "I hate it when you look so disappointed in me!"
I rocked and soothed, told her that I was not angry anymore, but that she had pushed me into a corner with her unacceptable behavior.
"You can't just expect me to let you get away with stuff like that," I told her. "It's my job to teach you good manners and right from wrong."
She said that she knew and she was sorry, that she would try very hard not to lie or disobey me again. It occurred to me that this is going to be much harder when she is a teenager, but for now, my disappointment is a huge motivational factor for her. That won't always be the case.
So, we rocked some more and talked about Mad Eye and Voldemort and what we thought would happen next. We agreed to put this rotten day behind us.
I kissed her goodnight and went in the living room to tell Bing that I was going to bed. I was so tired.
This parenting thing is really, really hard. And exhausting. Carol Brady never seemed to want to drink herself into a stupor on these hard nights.
The hardest part of following through is just that. You have to DO IT. Empty threats don't count. You have to walk the walk, be the mean mother, risk making them hate you even for a little bit.
And the worst part? Not only do I hate laying down the law with Liv, I also have to feel her pain. I swear, I could feel her pain coming up through the floorboards of the kitchen when she was cleaning the TV room in the basement. She had envisioned an afternoon of playing and fun and instead, she had to clean. She is still only eight, she was intimidated by me. Besides being mad as hell at me, she was also sick that she had disappointed me. It gives me no pleasure to be the one taking away her fun.
It was a long day. Not only did I want to have about four martinis, I also wanted to pig out on malted milk balls and then maybe go out on the balcony and smoke a carton of Virginia Slims. Menthol ones. Maybe smoke a joint or two....or three. A good bong with some decent stash. Instead, I had a bath. Because I have to be this fucking role model now.
Parenting is not for the weak....
This gig is HARD.