When Becky was a baby, we lived in a small town in Illinois where our church had a mom's group that met Monday afternoons (they still meet from what I've heard).
It was a good group of moms and kids, one that I actually enjoyed and where I forged one or two meaningful friendships. That doesn't always happen in moms groups, especially given the recent trend toward uber-motherhood and the never-ending and always fatiguing mommy in-fighting (work v. home, breast v. bottle, vaccinations v. vaccination fears, blah-blah-blah). I miss those friendships but I'd be lying to you if I told you I missed being part of a weekly playgroup.
The group I belonged to in Illinois did quite a bit together - pumpkin farm, children's museum , cookouts - as well as weekly meetings. Sometimes when the weather was bad in the winter, we'd meet at the McDonald's play center the next town over (think very small towns here, peeps, surrounded by field after field of corn and soybeans).
At one of those McD's meetups, when Becky couldn't have been much more than a year old and I was pregnant with Huck, some of the bigger kids pushed past her, almost knocking her over. She in turn pushed them right back before I could stop her. I apologized for her pushing just as the other mom apologized for her own child's behavior. We laughed a bit, and then I looked at Becky whose soon-to-be-infamous toddler temper was already beginning to show it's ugly, flaming, screaming head at that young age.
"Well," I said, not realizing just how prophetic these words would be, "She's a fighter. No one's ever going to push her around in life."
I came back to that thought again and again and again as Becky went through one horrendous meltdown after another during her twos and her threes. No matter what the cost of her behavior - a timeout on the stairs, the loss of a fun privlege, the loss of a favorite toy or even ALL her toys (oh yeah, I did that; packed them ALL up in boxes not just once but TWICE) - she didn't care. She was going down kicking and screaming, fighting until the very end.
She grew out of it and I survived as well, despite many two o'clock phone calls to my husband that would beg to differ if he had bothered to record them for posterity. Most times, I made them from the laundry room where I'd gone to cry and get myself together enough to face Round Nine.
Really, that Knute survived me surviving her is a miracle unto itself.
But it did come to an end, almost as quickly as it had come on in the beginning. The temper tantrums gave way to pouty but quiet - mercifully quiet - timeouts followed by genuine apologies. The fighting for power gave way to compromise. I sighed with relief (and still do), realizing that our relationship wouldn't always be this way and, even better, that I would be the only one to remember how bad, how utterly demoralizing those early tantrums truly were.
Becky is eight now and she's still a fighter but in the best way. She looks out for her brothers for the most part although their capacity to gang up in annoying her at times makes my home resemble a live taping of Phineas and Ferb. She cares deeply about fairness and justice and issues of right and wrong. It's a delight to see that her passionate temperment (and yes, I will own that in her) is channeled toward doing good in this world.
She is quick-witted as well, always joking and matching me word for word in moments of dry sarcasm that crack us both up. She has also mastered the "Oh, Mom" eye roll that I'm sure once drove my own mother around the bend. But that's ok; she uses it sparingly and only when annoyances are coming at her from every front (mom, brothers, Brownie trying to steal her cookie), usually just after school when she's decompressing from her day.
And she still likes to just be with me, just spend time with me doing whatever it is I'm doing so long as we're doing it together. After two snow days at home and a delay today, she didn't want to go back to school. "I just want to stay with you, Mom, " she said this morning, sighing a bit before putting her shoes and coat on.
I just want to be with her, too. She's a great kid. And it's a wonderous, delightful, and unexpected surprise and blessing to me to be building a relationship with my daughter that has more to do with companionship and company than mere caretaking.