Shores of Lake Michigan 2013
I knew my firstborn was stubborn. She was 12 days past her due date when the labor contractions began to nudge her towards her birthday. A few years later, her nursery school teachers requested a conference (the first of many unscheduled parent-teacher conferences I would attend).
Turns out my spirited 3-year old refused to stay in ‘Circle Time’ for the full 20 minutes. Instead, she would wander from the circle to the Housekeeping Corner to ‘cook’ breakfast in her miniature kitchen. It wasn’t that she refused to return to the circle or stubbornly remained far from the toddler crowd, but that she would shout “BREAKFAST!” to the classroom.
And her friends had the audacity to follow her lead, opening lego boxes, splashing in the water table and yes, some would come to see if she magically made breakfast, somehow, from the ancient wooden eels, a plastic apple and half a velcro pizza.
Now, she is a young woman on the verge of adulthood. Yet she has even more charisma, more influence and more sass, while her stubbornness has been chiseled into a statue of determination, tenacity and persistence. Instead of ‘conference requests’ directed toward me, she regularly emails and chats with her teachers. Whenever there is an issue, she handles it by gradually winning them with her charm, faultless logic and verbal sword play.
The second daughter arrived 4 years after the first. She was also 12 days overdue and, after having labor induced for 12 hours, she simply refused to be born and I was sent home. A few days later, labor was induced again, this time for 29 hours, but she stubbornly waited until few minutes past midnight when Gemini was in the sky to greet the world on her birthday.
Constantly in the shadow of her older sister, my second rigidly conformed to rules in pursuit of perfectionism which was diametrically opposite how my first handled life. Often in family conversations, daughter #2 would listen the entire time then finally she would speak, like a jury foreman announcing a verdict. Usually her succinct sentence or two showed wisdom well beyond her years and instantly condemned or redeemed whomever received her judgement.
In 6th grade daughter #2 wrote a story about her family. Her description of me was painfully honest and caused me to re-evaluate my priorities in life. Within a year, I was putting my family firmly in first place again. Here’s the quote:
“..then the clackity-clack of her heels on the cold, slate tiles caused a cacophony as our dogs tried to outbark each other, which led to most of the family shouting at the dogs to be quiet until all that could be heard was the drop of each shoe and my mother padding across the wooden kitchen floor in search of food. It was an odd symphony that announced her arrival home: too late for dinner again.
Hours later, as pre-dawn pink began to light the sky, the symphony was more pianissimo on carpeting while the dogs slept in their crate. Then I would hear her energetic heels tapping their dance on the wood as she crossed the kitchen, then the slate tiles, always further and further away from me.”
Nearly 4 years to the day after my second daughter was born, along came the baby, who had those two as older sisters. She slowly channeled her stubborn like-a-terrier personality into THE most persistent kid in the world. She remembers everything: conversations, promises, deals, and, of course she’s always right with her didactic memory. Her sisters sometimes think we are easier on her, but no – she keeps her word, does her work, expects what was promised and she’ll keep on reminding me every 2 minutes for hours and days and weeks until I tick it off my very long list.
I’m grateful I’ve been able to work with my lovely, gorgeous, smart daughters on building strong, loving relationships with each one and as a family. Sometimes I watch each of them sleep, wondering what they are dreaming as I enjoy the tranquility of silence. And then the clock starts melodically ticking down those precious hours until the marvellous, madness and mayhem starts up again when the sun peeks over the eastern horizon.