No, not you. The you I’m referring to in this post is my seven-going-on-seventeen year-old daughter, Essa.
Running short on time and long on things to do, I had a simple conversation with my little girl the other day that went something like this.
Me: Essa, we’ve gotta pick up Taylor and Grace. Get in your car seat and let’s go.
Essa: Seriously Mom? Car seats are for babies.
Me: No, Essa. Car seats are for kids, and even though you like to think of yourself as someone who falls outside the National Highway Traffic Safety guidelines, you don’t.
Essa: Fine! (cue heavy foot stomping, something large and likely expensive crashing in the laundry room, and an exaggerated door slam)
It takes me about an hour to locate my car keys on any given day, and by the time I’d wrenched them out from under the bin-organizer-thingy in the hall that everyone ignores as they toss their shoes on the floor, I wasn’t in the best mood. When I got outside? This is what I found:
Here’s the thing. On paper, Essa did exactly as I’d asked. She got in her car seat. Never mind that she planted it on top of Taylor’s longboard, raced down the driveway sans-helmet, and flew across the street without bothering to look in any safe direction, raising her arms in some kind of “take that mom” victory cheer at the end.
Technically, she didn’t do anything wrong.
And this is where I detect the germinating seed of a growing problem.
My daughter, in many ways, is a lot like me, but her singular brand of Essaness is emerging about twenty years ahead of schedule…just in time for me to deal with it for the next ten.
So in an effort to keep both of us alive, I’m offering her a one-time only Guide to Getting Through the Next Decade Under the Same Roof as Me. Otherwise? Life as she knows it will exist solely within the confines of the four walls better known as her room, and we’ll both bear the pain of incarceration.
Ten Ways to Act Like You Respect Me Even if You Don’t
1. Don’t be so obvious. It’s a lot easier to steal my wallet while you’re patting me on the back.
2. Compliment me. I’m especially vulnerable when being told I look younger than I am. Twenty-eight is a good place to start.
3. Tell any adult you encounter how much you admire me: your teacher, a friend’s parent, my therapist…kind words, even if completely fabricated, go a long way.
4. Timing is everything. If you can work it so I hear about this fake compliment right after you’ve told me I don’t look old enough to have had three kids? You’ve earned an entire week’s worth of heavy sighs and exaggerated eye rolls.
5. Pretend to be nice to your brother and sister. When you coldcock your brother in the head right in front of me it stresses me out. Hit him when I’m not around.
6. Don’t do drugs. Period. If you put any substance in your body that I’ve never let into mine? It won’t matter if you fake like me or not because I will kill you.
7. Synch your calendar with my cycle. There’s one day a month when you’re better off camping out in the scrub oak behind the house with a flashlight and some beef jerky rather than crossing my path.
8. Force those huge, expressive eyes to lock meaningfully with mine and channel a vibe of “wow mom, your wisdom just blows me away…thank you for being so magnificent” when I’m trying to teach you something rather than “I’m so blah, blah, blekity blah bored and stuff, and like, anyway, who do you think you are, and you so don’t get me and all that and are you done yet because I have better things to do.”
9. Use your Montessori education to your advantage. Less drama + more smiling = more peace = less restriction = more fun. See? A + B = C = D = E. Simple math that makes no sense is genius.
10. When in doubt, always tell the truth because I’ve not only been right where you are, I’m a step ahead of you. My genetic code is responsible for all the back alleyways and side streets on your map, and there’s no place you might dare to go that I haven’t already been.
I understand the theory of evolution, that my childhood took place in the Mesozoic Era, and you’re way ahead of wherever I was at your age. But slow down. It seems like only yesterday when you climbed into my lap, looked directly into my eyes, and asked if fairies were real. You’re an amazingly intuitive, intelligent little girl, and if you’ll take my hand and hold it over the next ten years like you’ve done for the past seven? I crisscross-applesauce promise I’ll let you go when it’s time for you to fly.