Tuesday, February 15, 2005

I blame the child...

No one really warns you that being a parent can make you feel like you're hovering on the brink between sane and insane. Sure, you can try to pretend you've got it all under control, but can you really, really have control of a toddler at any time? Toddlers, by their nature, are completely unpredictable. Wild cards. Sweet one second and terrifying the next. Just when you think you know what you're doing, the three-year-old changes all of the rules. At least, that's what my three-year-old seems to be doing. It's either that or she was abducted by aliens and switched with a strange alien child.

It's not that I don't adore my daughter. I do. She's a wonderful, hilarious, crazy, energetic drama queen in training, and sometimes part mountain goat, like when she scaled a stack of carpet rolls in the home improvement warehouse the other day. Did I feel totally in control while trying to yell softly at my toddler perched atop the berber mountain? Umm, no.

She used to be compliant at dinner time, happily eating any vegetable I put before her, along with almost anything else. Now, anything I serve had better be free of "dirty" vegetables like peppers or mushrooms, and whatever it is should be doused in ketchup or barbeque sauce. She used to happily wear anything I put on her in the mornings, but now she feels best in opaque tights and a Maryland basketball t-shirt, or some K-State footie jammies (which do look smashing in the grocery store, by the way), or Elmo slippers, a plastic tiara, and a feather boa. I try to ignore the odd wardrobe choices, since I'm a "pick your battles" kind of mom, but the thought of her adorable, coordinating ensembles sitting in the closet in favor of outfits that might also be seen in the local strip bar (sans Elmo slippers, of course) makes me a little sad.

Yesterday she managed to empty a box of potty training wipes into the toilet in the span of a minute as I dared contemplate painting my fingernails. It's like she has a sense of the times when my thoughts shift from her for even a few seconds. She pounces upon those moments, in fact. 75 wipes in the toilet make a very big mess, by the way. Oh, and the baby powder on top made a nice paste that is probably turning the septic system into some kind of superadhesive as we speak.

Today she (and her cousin, who is equally as adorable and maddening) snuck out of the house as I enjoyed a cup of coffee with my sister-in-law. When we snapped out of our brief moment of adult conversation, we found the girls naked in a mud puddle outside the front door. I actually took this discovery in stride, until the girls, surprised at being caught, immediately ran back inside and flung themselves upon my bed, naked and very muddy. So much for those beautiful Egyptian cotton sheets.

Admittedly, her tricks as of late have left me feeling exhausted and much closer to the completely stark raving mad side of the fence. And yet I know that I could not live without this child. That's another thing they never tell you about being a parent. I never knew I would love someone so much, even in the midst of unclogging toilets and wiping Sprite from the inside of my purse and chasing naked, muddy people through the yard and picking individual bits of oregano out of spaghetti sauce and making 867 cups of chocolate milk a day. Yes, I blame the child for my perpetual lateness, wrinkled clothes, mystery stains, wet carpets and absolute insanity. But her charm, her utter mysteriousness, her infectious laugh, the way she works a plastic tiara like it's Harry Winston, and those blue eyes looking up at me from whatever mischief she is knee-deep in.... Maybe insanity isn't too high a price to pay just to be near her.

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