I'm happy to report that when it comes to mothering an almost-twelve-year-old daughter, all doubt has been removed. There is no doubt whatsoever that absolutely everything I do, say, and am is completely, unequivocally, totally, one-hundred-percent wrong.
The certainty has its comforting moments--of course, I'd rather be right than wrong, but I have to admit there's a certain sense of freedom in knowing I can't win--it's a lot easier to throw up my hands, flip a coin, just wing it when I know I can't possibly be right. Just by being, I am already wrong. I've got nothing to lose.
I'm exaggerating, but only a little and if you have an adolescent daughter or, for that matter, can remember being an adolescent daughter, you know exactly how little I am exaggerating.
A short list of recent infractions: I woke her at 7:45 (as she'd asked) and was informed that's too early. Next day, I woke her at 7:45 (as she'd asked) and was informed that it was too late. I bought her an alarm clock to eliminate this issue. The alarm is too loud and it's not loud enough and it's too hard to set and I didn't remind her to set it and WHY do I keep reminding her to set it? She's not a baby! She says we don't spend enough time together, but when we do, she can't stand the sight of me, the sound of my voice, the activities I pick for us to do together...
OK. I'm exaggerating again. But, again, just a little.
I may be in danger of being disloyal to my gender but I have to say, in my experience, the drama of living with a girl on the cusp of adolescence is wholly different and much more, uh, dramatic than seeing a boy through the same passage. All three of my boys have had their surly, door-slamming, I-wish-I'd-never-been-born moments, but they seemed to come less often--and less loudly--than Daughter-Only's you-can't-do-anything-right-moments. Not only that, but the boys seem--have always seemed--less inclined to take my failures as a mom and human being personally and, conversely, less likely to make personal attacks when they're in a bad mood.
Do the early stirrings of womanly hormones account for some of the mood swings? Most likely, but that's of little comfort, considering the fact that we have to spend (at minimum) another six-plus years under the same roof. And, honestly, Daughter-Only has always been more drama-prone than her brothers. She has been so high maintenance at times that I have joked that if she had been my first child, she would be an only child.
Every time that joke comes out of my mouth, I feel the sharp pinch of guilt. I hate catching myself comparing my children to one another. I know from personal experience the way accidental, offhand comparisons can breed years of resentment between siblings and cause all sorts of self-image issues. But, really, I don't mean it in a bad way.
My relationship with Daughter-Only just seems so much more tangled and complex than mine with her brothers. Sometimes the boys hate me and sometimes they love me and mostly they just ignore me until they need something from me, but I'm always reasonably sure that we'll all get over it. With Daughter-Only, it seems like every single thing (especially lately but, really, since she could talk) is a matter of life or death. Is it that she's a girl or is it just that she's who she is and the girl thing is incidental?
One thing you can be sure of--whatever I think the answer might be, I'm soooooo wrong.