Liner Notes 9/24

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This morning before school drop-off, Fable and I shopped for the invitations and party favors for her fourth birthday. She knew exactly what she wanted, as she so often does, and spent the drive home with her hands overflowing with everything. The invitations and the stickers for the invitations and the cups and the candles and the special candle and the plates and the plastic diamond rings for the goodie bags. She held everything in her hands as we seat-danced to Pink's Try (my new favorite song EVER. This shit is an ANTHEM!) and it was a moment, you know? One of those, "who is this person with her hands full of candles and her mouth full of lyrics that are all wrong and her one shoe that fell off and 'turn up the music, Mom, dance with me!'" moments.
Fable never had a terrible twos. Since birth she has been a complete joy, but about a month back, something changed. Her love for putting together outfits became an obsession of five costume changes before school. Her love of all foods turned into I WILL ONLY EAT THE PEACH WITHOUT THE MARKINGS ON IT! Her sweetness and light turned into sweetness and light and (daily) tantrums which I understand is part of the package. Time makes you bolder. Children get older. I'm getting older too blah blah. Still. Not an easy phase to navigate when you're a first-timer.

Which I am.

Archer to this day has never talked back. He regularly reminds me not to give him, for example, dessert because "you took away my dessert privileges, tonight, remember?"

Archer is a by the book, rule person. It's clockwork to him. He messes up. We call him on it. He immediately recognizes what he's done and sends himself to his room. He's always been that kid. He's always adhered to the rules, wanting desperately to do right by them.

Fable, on the other hand, is more like me, and Hal, and most human beings. She hates being wrong. She wants it her way.

Welcome to life, my girl. Bienvenidos.
The other day after a TWO hour battle of wills over her HAVING TO WEAR HER BALLET OUTFIT TO SCHOOL OR ELSE SHE WOULD DIE! and me refusing to let her because IT'S NOT FAIR FOR YOUR TEACHERS TO HELP YOU GET IN AND OUT OF YOUR LEOTARD EVERY TIME YOU GO TO THE BATHROOM, she finally gave in and put on a dress. With leggings and a skirt over them and forty necklaces.

And then we sat down together to discuss without yelling (me) and kicking the wall (her).

"Sometimes my heart feels messy," she said.

So we discussed the best course of action to clean that heart of hers up, or at the very least, try...

More sleep?

Deciding on outfits the day before?

Having some special mommy Fable alone time?

Check, check and check.

Because even though Fable isn't technically a middle child and although she's never acted jealous or resentful of her sisters, it must be tough for her sometimes. Just like it's tough for me and for Hal, it's tough for her. Especially now that her baby sisters are walking and pulling and getting into her stuff. Perhaps her sudden defense has to do with an innate NEED to demand power in a house where quiet voices do not carry. Or maybe this is just what happens now.
Maybe this is her (and our) growing pain. Strong will? She has it. But the stronger will is mine. The stronger will will always be mine. One of the plus sides of being eternally thirteen. I will win the battle. Sorry, kids. 

Anyway. We had a kind of breakthrough the other day and even though we aren't out of the woods yet a la "challenging almost fours," I feel kind of relieved to be dealing with the first of what I assume will be MANY conflicts with her now. Like we've gone through the first few years with her on a cloud and BAM, reality. And I felt sideswiped by it, lets be clear. But I feel almost closer to her now than I ever have. Because with every conflict and tantrum and battle of wills... something happens. A new closeness.

And I think of my own mother and our formerly tumultuous relationship. I think of all the times I told her I hated her and how in the end we'd both cry and better understand each other's "messy" hearts. I think of all the people who have said in passing, "You think it's hard now? Just wait until you have three teenage daughters." I think of all of the things I should be afraid of in Fable and realize I'm not.

I'm not afraid of the teen years and I'm not afraid of now. Some days are hard and that's never going to change. Some days Fable will hate me, say she's sorry, slam her door. Some days I will, too. Some days she'll mean all of those terrible things she's going to say. I said them, too. And I meant every word. In the moment, I meant every word.

...Until I realized I didn't. And then I was sorry.

The other night for the first time Fable called me "stupid" and then she stopped and immediately took it back. She had never said anything like that before and it shocked her. She immediately stopped crying and sat down.
And then I sat down. I was angry and hurt and told her in a very yelly way that she'd be losing her privileges for the next two days and instead of fighting me, she nodded her head.

"Okay," she said.

And then, finally: "I'm sorry, Mama."

She knew she was wrong. She knew she was busted. She was sorry.

And all at once, I remembered. I remembered being Fable and my mom being me and how it felt to hate her.

I remembered calling my mother stupid when I was little and a bitch when I was big and how every time the words left my mouth, they stung. They bled. They made me feel like I was going to be sick.

And then my mom would cry and I would cry and in the end we'd both win the fight because every conflict led to some kind of resolve. Or at the very least, a better understanding of why there was a mess and how best to clean it up. An opening to squeeze through or at the very least pick at.

I told Fable it was okay and that I forgave her and then she did this thing she does when she's sorry and she pulls on her lower lip with her hand and looks away, except this time she looked at me and I looked back at her and something changed.

I don't know what, but something.

The next day she cried when I reminded her why she couldn't watch TV. She cried and she screamed and she cried but eventually she gave in, stopped crying.

And then she was fine. She spent the rest of the afternoon drawing and being fine.

In the words of Fable's misquoted Pink lyrics (that we seat-danced to this morning in the car) just because it turns doesn't mean you're in the sky. 

Maybe it's because she's my kid, but I knew exactly what she meant. 



sam | 11:28 PM

Wow. I want to both call my mom to tell her I love her and wake my sleeping daughter up to kiss her after reading this. I was there, on the inside of the slamming door trying to keep my mom out and she told me then just as her mother told her before that one day when I was older and a mom that I would get it and by get it, she meant that I wouldn't just understand her but it would get it back and therefore understand us better. My daughter just turned one, so I have yet to "get IT" but I do get it. Moms are always right.

Holly | 6:24 AM

My heart is mush. The feelings every daughter/mother feel over & over @ some point in time. Very well said.

ericka.erwin | 8:07 AM

I have a 10 yr old and an 8 yr old daughter. My oldest is currently testing her limits and it breaks my heart when we fight. I try to resolve it as quick as possible and not yell so much but it's difficult when she gives me attitude and a smart mouth. I haven't had to go thru that with my youngest. Maybe we butt heads because we are a lot alike... who knows. Thank you for this post, it makes me feel not so alone.

Billie | 7:43 PM

There's an emotional growth spurt that happens to girls right around when they turn 4. Sometimes a little earlier, sometimes a little later, depends on the emotional maturity level of the child. Boys are usually even later. They begin to see themselves as an individual. Along with this comes more self awareness and consequently more desire for their own individuality and independence. I remember loving that sage was experiencing it but going crazy while she did it! She used to cry over EVERYTHING!! I can't imagine how her teenaged years will be worse! Thankfully we all got through it and like you said, she and I are closer for it. Emery hasn't totally hit her stride on this one yet, I'm still waiting for it to happen.

HAS | 1:51 PM

I love this post. The pics are so great. The writing is so real...I feel like this with my soon-to-be-4 son, except I feel like I am the rebellious, challenging toddler to his "Archer" and it makes me feel like sh*t as a mother. Thanks for the honesty!
I fall more in love with your family after every post. Bo & Rev's birthday post was great, too. I think your family is so "complete," and such a perfect little unit.