“Sally, when will you start sleeping in your own bed?” I asked my five-year-old as I jumped in under the covers with her. “When I’m in first grade.” She answered. It was April in Sherman, Connecticut which meant it was still cold at night so we were under the down comforters. My husband, Bob was abroad on business which was not out of the ordinary. So we two girls were alone which I always liked anyway.
“Would you like to hear the story about the day you were born?” I asked. “It was a cold but sunny day in March ... ” I started.
“Mommy, I could act like a teenager.” Sally interrupted.
“Whhaat?” I was confused.
“Mommy, I could act like a teenager. McKenzie had a birthday party and it was a teenage birthday party. I could have dressed up like a teenager and acted like one too … ”
“ … I thought McKenzie was my friend. She hurt me more than anyone I’ve ever known. I invited her to my birthday party. I invited all the girls in my class. I did the right thing. I don’t understand Mommmmy.” And then big, gigantic tears came out of her big, gigantic, big, brown eyes.
As I lay there, with my head on the pillow next to hers, tears came out of my own eyes but all I could say was, “I don’t know, Sally. I’ll call Renee tomorrow and ask her about it. But you’re right. McKenzie didn’t do the right thing and her mother didn’t show her the right way.”
Then I added, “But before you fall asleep, try to think about the puppy I was telling you about. Do you remember? There was a doggie that caught my eye when I took Durgy to training school. Let’s go take a look tomorrow, and maybe we’ll get her.”
The next morning I made the promised call. Renee and I were friends so I didn’t feel funny calling her:
“Hi, Renee. It’s Liz. Sally mentioned that McKenzie had a birthday party.”
“Well, do you mind if I ask (pause) if Sally did something to McKenzie?”
“Umm, Sally noticed that she wasn’t invited and wondered about it.”
“She invited a couple of the boys instead.”
“Renee, there are only five girls in the class. Why would you leave anyone out?”
“McKenzie just didn’t want her.”
“Gee, I have to tell you, that Sally and I had a talk about this last night. And, umm, I had to tell her my feelings on this which is that McKenzie did not do the right thing and that you did not show her the right way.” I rambled on.
The one thing I can’t remember is if she said she was sorry or not. But strangely enough Renee and I remained good acquaintances after that for years to come.
Is the world upside down? The five-year-old is deciding her own guest list and a poor one at that! I’m shocked to see an intelligent and really nice mother who offers no input into the etiquette of her own daughter’s party or to the feelings of others.
I’m starting to see that some mothers can’t see the forest through the trees. I am starting to realize that to some mothers the only thing that counts is making their little one happy at that particular moment even at the expense of other people’s feelings.
I’m starting to think for the first time that being a mother is really painful. All of a sudden I don’t like being a mother!!! At all.
Sally did not want the little redhead who picked her nose to come to her birthday party, but I put my size seven down and said that unless all the girls in her kindergarten class were invited, then there would not be a party.
After eating breakfast, Sally and I were off to the German shepherd breeder and both of us agreed that we loved the puppy. Sally picked the name Daisy which sounded perfect.
We transported her home in a crate that was the size of a breadbox, and introduced Daisy to our Collie. They liked each other too! Everything was going well. Then Bob called. I told him the good news. He was calling from Sweden on business and I thought I heard him say, “Take it back.” Was I hearing correctly? “Take the dog back.” He said again. What is his problem? “Absolutely not!” I cried out and hung up the phone.
Daisy started her German shepherd training at six weeks old and was just adorable. She was just a pup in a class with K9’s. When Bob came home from abroad, I let Daisy out to greet him. She immediately squatted and urinated at his feet. The trainer told us Daisy was an “excitable urinator.” Interestingly enough, it was only when she saw “The Bob,” as I dubbed him during our divorce.
Was it right or wrong to buy Daisy? Fortunately I did not communicate my own hurt feelings out loud. Yet inside, I know how I justified buying a $1,500 dog. This was my nest and one of my little birdies was injured.
Plus it was my own cookie jar money!
With a now empty cookie jar, but a full heart I could see that Sally had forgotten about being left out. The McKenzie episode was our first encounter as mother and daughter that not all mommies are sensitive, empathetic or just plain mannerly.
My fondest memory of Sally that year was when she said, “Mommy, if anyone calls for a play date, I’ll play. It doesn’t matter who it is.”
Now that’s my girl!
What I found out that year was that I loved to mother, but I did not enjoy the motherhood circuit.
What am I saying! I avoided the mommy circuit like the plague! I wanted to hear their idle chatter like I needed a hole in my head!
I now know that it takes a mother’s love to go where you don’t want to, and to do what you feel you can’t.
And twelve years later, Sally gave me the best Christmas present of all when she said, “You know Mom, even if you don’t ever climb Mount Everest, at least you have goals. That’s what I really like about you.”
Over many struggles and difficult years, my daughter has come to appreciate me after all.
Since then, Bob and I have divorced. Sally has gone off to school and yesterday Daisy was laid to rest. I had no idea that when I sang, “And the cheese stands alone … ” as a little girl, that this is what it meant.