Monday, January 12, 2009

Punch Diego

"Wake up, sleepyhead" I whispered into Liv's ear.

After some moaning, groaning, unintellible murmerings, out comes her little voice, thick with sleep, ringing like a sweet, little bell through the morning:

"You're stupid. Leave me alone. You're a stupid one."

That's her new special nickname for me, "stupid". It used to be "bitch". Now she just uses that word to describe anything that's annoying her, like "Mom, this candy is being a bitch. Open it for me, please!" I know I should lay down the law, try for one second of my life to be a good mother, and put her on a time out or something for the disrespectful language. But the truth is, I'm really not all that upset by it. I'm a lot more annoyed by her constant, improper use of the feminine pronoun "her". Like, "Her told me to share." Now, that gets my spanking hand itching to go.

Obviously, I don't spank my daughter for using bad grammar. She's only 3, for Christ's sake. What kind of person do you think I am?

The kind of person that I am is actually what's concerning me lately, though. Raising this child, watching her personality unfold, is the universe's furtive way of forcing me to analyze myself, in all my dysfunctional horror. Being a mother to Liv is making me confront the truth about makes me look in the mirror.

These days I've been avoiding mirrors as much as possible. And when I am faced with one, I do whatever needs to be done as quickly as I can and get the fuck away. My avoidance of reflection is not just about my recent weight gain, although there is certainly an element of vanity and shame in me about that. No, I'm just having a hard time meeting my own eye. Because the person I'm looking at is 33 years old and hasn't done a single damn thing of importance in her entire life. And yet, she looks at everything and everyone in the world with the harshest of criticisms, as if she could hold a candle to anybody's accomplishments. Truthfully, I judge nothing more harshly than myself. I am an eternal pessimist, raging against human nature, and the mundane things of life. Who else spends three hours preparing a treatise against the dangers of bumper stickers? What kind of person does this? I complain, I swear, I bitch, I pontificate as if my opinion actually mattered. And all of this would be fine, I suppose, if I was not a person responsible for the molding of another human being.

How much of what is wrong with me is being passed down to my child? How much of what is right? And of course, it begs the question, "How much truth, how much ASS, should I be showing to my child in these, her formative years of life?" Am I mortally wounding her by exposing her to my own twisted brand of humor, or by giving her a peek into the brutal window of mommy's soul? Or, by my unflinching honesty and lack of censure, am I empowering her to find her own path, embrace her own perfect and equally beautiful pleasant and wicked parts? I mean people talk a lot of shit about letting kids "be themselves" and "find who they are", but how often do we really see parents doing that? How often do most parents allow their children to say what they are really thinking and feeling without demanding they turn on the filter in the name of "respect", or "kindness", or "appropriateness"? I'm not saying we shouldn't set any limits. I'm just saying maybe we can move the line, just that much more, to allow for freer expression of emotion and ideas. Because I can tell you one thing: growing up in a religious household where expressing doubt or rage was a punishable offense really fucked me up for life. This blog is the evidence.

I want to make perfectly clear to anybody reading this that I am actually an outwardly calm, relatively pleasant individual. Anyone who knows me in regular life can vouch for the fact that I do not yell or scream, I do not throw objects, hit people, argue loudly or unnecessarily. What I'm talking about when I speak of my flaws, of which there are too many to count, is my undying pessimism, my vision of the world as a constant trial of the spirit seen through scratched up, grey colored glasses, and, of course, my constant and absolute disappointment in human motivation and action. I am just not sure I would wish the burden of this personality on anyone. Some people have said it's fun to know someone like me, but I highly doubt that there is anyone alive who would want to actually be someone like me. Most days, I don't want to be someone like me.

I've written before about my daughter's astonishing rage and overwhelming anger. Aside from having her "draw her mad", there are other tactics I've been using to facilitate her release of that enraged beast. One of the favorite games in our house is "Punch Diego". Todd bought her one of those boxing thingies (bop bags I think they're called) that's bottom heavy but top light so it comes back up immediately after you knock it down. (Sort of like me, hee!) It has a full-body image of that character Diego from Nick Jr's "Go, Diego, Go". Whenever Liv starts manifesting her rage inappropriately at me, or say, the cat, I say, "Go Punch Diego!" I love watching her punch and kick his stupid face with glee. Sometimes I even join in on the fun. Yes, Jackson family fun time sometimes includes drop kicking a plastic effigy of Dora the Explorer's smarmy cousin.

It's nice to have a scapegoat for all of life's ills. If Liv hits her head on the coffee table, blame Diego. If I burn Todd's grilled cheese sandwich, blame Diego. If a car bomb goes off in Iraq, blame Diego. Blame Fucking Diego.

Obviously, I'm not a good mother, by anyone's definition. But I love my daughter with unparalleled intensity, a positive intensity that I never knew existed in my heart before. My only hope is that she'll grow up strong and opinionated, without the taint of my cynicism and the sadness which gave it birth. At the very least, she seems to be finding her real voice sooner than I did. I mean this blog is about the only thing I've ever done that's completely honest, that's completely me. And that's pretty sad when you really stop and think about it. The ten people who take the time to read this blog are the only ten people in the world who know the real me. Lucky you.

I have high hopes for my girl. She is full of sass and confidence. She is blazing with the energy of a thousand coked up sorority girls. She has a wit that makes me laugh so hard I practically pee in my pants. The other day she said to me in a moment of annoyance at my denial of her earnest and polite request for a glass of soda, "I messed up my room so that you would trip". God, I love her for saying that. She's my hero. Bless her tiny, baby, evil heart.

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