I realized something yesterday. I really don’t “get” my daughter. As much as I write about her, I can’t get inside her head. Her brothers? I know what makes them tick. I can look around the world and find things that will thrill them. But my independent-minded little 4-year-old? The one who is halfway to toilet trained and a long way from speaking? I don’t really know what’s going on in her head. I know there’s plenty going on in that cute little brain. But I don’t know what it is.
Truth be told, it’s a little unsettling. Okay—very unsettling. There’s a good chance that Julianna will be living with us forever (we can hope for a different scenario, but it seems prudent to be prepared). And she’s my only girl. Why is it that I “get” the boys better than the one with whom I ought to share a gender-specific world view?
So last night I put the boys in the bathtub and went down the hall to her room to spend some quality time with her. I know she loves books. And music. And school buses. And the carousel at the mall. But the boys love those things, too. What is it that makes her unique? Nicholas adores cars and trucks and things that go. Alex is into space and superheroes and art.
Not knowing what comparable things Julianna might enjoy sharing with Mommy, I opted to read to her, and try to work on identifying colors, which unfortunately remains in the “emerging” skill category.
I sat with her, thinking how much I wanted to feel close to her, and how she’s getting too big to tolerate being “chewed” like a baby or toddler. We read Sandra Boynton and Crayola Rainbow and pointed to colors around the room. She was thrilled at the unexpected one-on-one time. She wanted to play the crying game (more on that tomorrow); she wanted to hug me repeatedly—both of which provoke reactions in Mommy that she thinks are hysterically funny. Both of which I encourage because I crave those hugs. She gave me that big goofy giggle with her lips pulled over her teeth—a most un-photogenic giggle, which nonetheless reduces me to a helpless glob of goo every time. That girl, I realized, has me wrapped right around her finger.
When it was time for bath, she went down the hall with me, got in the tub, let me lay her back and wash her hair without screaming bloody murder. If you’ve ever been in this house at bath time, you know how noteworthy that is!
And I realize that maybe it doesn’t matter that I don’t “get” her. Because she “gets” me.
FWIW, I have a boy and a girl, and I find that my boy is MUCH easier to read, get, understand, etc. My daughter is much more of a cypher. And I’ve heard other moms of both-gendered kids say the same thing, special needs aside…
Kind of like the, uh, plumbing, you know? With boys it’s All Out There; with girls it’s sort of hidden inside and clearly it’s doing what it needs to but you can’t actually identify it. Know what I mean? 🙂
(Obviously no generalization works across the board–just something I’ve heard from others and observed anecdotally in my own life. 🙂
It was a relief to me to hear that you feel like you don’t “get” Julianna. I often feel the same way about my middle child, Katherine, who is five-and-a-half. When it suits her, she is very articulate. When those moments happen, it’s as if she opened a window or door and allowed me to come in for a while. Then when the mood passes, I am left guessing again about what’s going on in her head. I feel guilty about it sometimes, thinking that she’s only that way because she’s gotten the middle child treatment. I guess I just wanted you to know that I feel the same way and Katherine’s ability to converse only partially clears up the mystery.
One of the biggest mysteries as a parent, I think, is getting to know our children. What do they like? What do they think about? I really never felt like I “knew” a child of mine from the get-go until I had my third daughter. But I have enjoyed getting to know my oldest daughter, especially as she blossoms into pre-teen territory (gasp!) and sometimes it’s hard as I get to know my 2nd-born daughter because she and I have never “clicked” and I worry that we never will. But every so often, something happens that shows me that she, too, loves me (in addition to her adored father).
So far, my son and I have known each other better than I expected, but I often think it’s because he is so much like his father in disposition.
This is a great post.