The Easy Way...Sometimes.
Remember Back to the Future, where Biff and his cronies are always telling people, “We can do this the easy way or the hard way.”
As a kid I was like, Fuck, Biff, man, has anyone ever answered that they want the hard way? Why bother asking poor Marty? However, as an adult who is raising my own kid, and at times what feels like 200 others, I get it. The path of least resistance is appealing because it’s exactly that: smoother in the moment. No pain, no irritation or emotional weight, no yelling or explaining or justifying or trying to put some goddamned sense into people, just the smooth sailing.
“Fifth grade is hard.”
“Mama, I don’t think you’re hearing me when I tell you I hate skiing.”
“Mama, I’m not just saying this because I’m tired: there are times I just want to scream at people.”
“Mama, I don’t know why, but I really want to lie to you right now.”
“I don’t want to play softball; the cleats hurt my feet.”
Those of you who know Livvy-Love know her tendency to be just a little extra and a lot emotional. As I’m pretty sure I could be described this way, no judgment. However, now that we’re in fifth grade, let me tell you, shit got real. I always thought the baby stage with the unending crying for no apparent reason (or at least one that could be verbalized) was difficult. And it was. I do not crave those days like some of my friends, but I will say, at least with a baby they tell you to let them cry it out a little, let them settle themselves. And that’s more doable with a baby because there was no asshole other baby in the crib that called your baby chubby, or weird, or stupid, or “a fat old pussy.” (Needed clarification on that one. Apparently, it was in reference to cats. Sure thing, Henry. Let’s go with that.)
So, puberty might not have arrived in terms of physical growth and development, but in mental and emotional development? We are in the throes people. And it can be awesome. It can also be godawful.
The easy thing for me to do in any one of these scenarios (one I definitely did in the skiing convo) is to ignore her. Kids are emotional. Kids are not always right. Kids need to suck it up and persevere because mama does not have the time, wherewithal or give a damn to listen to every complaint.
But. But. There are times that telling Liv to keep going without listening to her is valid. Skiing? Yea, it’s not her favorite. But we aren’t going down black diamonds, and it’s a family activity in which I’m just asking to spend time with her outside of our norm. That’s a no-brainer.
The other things get trickier. Emotional things, choosing her sports…letting her choose her sports.
Several times this past month Liv has confessed something to me, such as unexpected anger and fibs. In each of these moments I’ve curbed my first instinct: laughter. Because while it is funny to hear her tell me she really wants to lie to me, she’s not feeling humorous. Or like herself. In reality, most of these confessions come because she has no idea how she feels, but she knows she doesn’t want to feel them alone. The fact that they come at 9 pm after 4 hours of Irish dance and basketball practice are of no consequence. She needs to talk them out.
This is when the easy way won’t work. I can’t tell her she’s being emotional and tired and to finish her shower and go to bed. Those would be true statements, but they wouldn’t help her. Listening, taking those fifteen minutes to stand and blow dry her hair while she processes what is essentially hormones and too much interaction after a thirteen hour day, I do more for her than I would if I told her she was fine and moved on.
The same is true with softball. Wow. This is a tough one for me.
Livvy loves to dance. She loves to be pretty and extra and move her body. She loves mirrors (it has to be said). Old Man River and I have always said, no matter how much she dances, she will also play a sport where there are no mirrors involved. And softball was one of her favorites. Sure, it was mostly for friends, but her batting average was pretty damn high, and with a little growth and weight behind it, her pitch has the possibility of getting pretty great, too.
Again, it would have been easy to ignore her. To tell her she was playing, because she wasn’t a quitter, because she was on the cusp of becoming an actual ball-player (in 5 years:)). But, more than the cleats hurting her feet (I can’t even with that), the truth behind her statement was what she didn’t say: softball, like basketball, takes all of her time, and rather than play 3 games a week, she wants to take another dance class. To play more music. To try something new, like golf (bleh, why? I blame you, Laura).
This is, perhaps, the first time as a parent I haven’t made a quick, “you’re doing it” statement (yes, she’s almost 11; yes, I know how that looks. For this attitude I blame Big Mike Kehoe–a real dictator, he was). Instead, I asked why. And I listened. And, dammit, her reasoning (beyond the fucking cleats) made sense. Why should a 10 year old dedicate her entire spring to a sport she isn’t in love with, when she can do so many other things she does love, or might love?
Honestly, I can’t think of a reason.
And so, with this knowledge, Biff, I have learned the true reason for the hard way. The way in which I don’t ignore and brush off every statement as emotional or silly. The way that has me listening, just a little, when Liv really says what she wants. And giving it value. Because my girl, when she dances, she sure does make me happy.
We are ending January, beautiful people, and I have never been so tired. I didn’t even say yes this week. I just listened. Maybe that’s part of the interruption: not just saying yes, but also sitting and listening, even when answering questions and giving thoughtful answers seems like the hardest thing in the world. Especially because we know I like my quiet time 😉🤷🏻♀️
Stay tuned. <3