Juliette is four. She is four All. Day. Long. And sometimes at night too. Good lord, it’s exhausting.
She’s sunny and singing one moment, and the next she’s screaming, “But I don’t want to take the high part!!!” which is what she calls the interstate, as though I can somehow create a new traffic pattern just for her. Or, “Oh no! Oh no! There’s a TEAR on my paper!!!” Like she’s never heard of tape.
But I think my all-time favorite (which I hear ten times a day) is: “She has the ________ (insert toy here)!! I want it! I wanted to play with it!” To which, I calmly (sometimes I’m calm, really, I am) reply, “Juliette. You weren’t even interested in that until she picked it up. If you want to play with it, you’re going to have to wait your turn.”
This, of course, is totally ineffective. She usually just throws herself down on the floor wailing, while I go looking for an open bottle of wine.
In addition to being just really f*king annoying, it also triggers all sorts of fear. I’m not talking about “The Fear” a la Rants from Mommyland. I’m talking about the anxiety that I’ve already totally screwed up my kid, that she’s going to grow up to be featured on America’s Most Wanted, or, almost as bad, just grow up to be a self-centered, entitled jerk. The anxiety that this greediness is a part of her character, an early manifestation of what will someday lead to her becoming the next Bernie Madoff, in the same way that torturing puppies indicates a future as a serial killer. Worst of all is the fear that my baby Bernie is this way because of some mistake I’ve made in parenting. It’s my fault. I’ve failed her.
Juliette is not my first four year old. I’ve already done this twice before.
When Zoë, my oldest, was four she frequently said things like, “Mommy, I hope this hurts your feelings: I wish Daddy was here, and you were gone all day.” Ouch.
I distinctly remember tearfully telling my step-mom that I didn’t like my kid. She tried to talk me off the ledge, telling me that I did, in fact, like her, and that if she was hurt, I’d go running to her side to make her feel better.
“I don’t think so,” I said. “I’d probably just tell her it served her right for being such a brat.”
Not my proudest moment.
Today, Zoë is eleven.
She just auditioned for the lead in her daddy’s production of Annie. Mike didn’t want anyone saying she got it because she was the director’s daughter, so he put together a committee to vote on the top spot. He didn’t have a vote.
The committee came down to four contenders and announced call backs. Zoë was sick as dog with a nasty cold (she’s been home all week) and still, she killed it in her audition. It was freaking incredible. Don’t believe me? Click here to see her sing “Tomorrow.”
Last night, she got the news that she did not get the part.
She really, really wanted it. She prepared with voice lessons (Thank you Fleming McWilliams!) and practice, and probably eleven-year-old prayers. In the end, it came down to Zoë vs. another girl, and the other girl won.
How did she react?
She said, “________ did really well at the auditions. I’m glad she gets this opportunity.”
And there it is: proof that four-years-old doesn’t last forever. Hope, that all that awful toddler behavior really is a function of an underdeveloped frontal lobe. Hope, that what we do as parents, no matter how limping and inadequate it seems, really is good enough to grow graceful, grateful kids. If only I can remember.
I would have loved to sit in that auditorium and watch my kid dressed in a red wig, belting out “Tomorrow.” I would have been so proud. But I will be SO MUCH PROUDER to watch my kid play Pepper, remembering how gracefully and selflessly, she let someone else have a turn.