“I am leaving.” Three simple words that can break a parent’s heart.
Chloe was angry at us. It started because, in a touching attempt to be a loving sister, she was having trouble wrapping up a canister that she filled up with gifts for Sophie. After a brief respite from her bad mood during a stroll on a local hiking trail, when she was happy to prance among the logs and the rocks (see a smiling Chloe in photo to right), the frustration found its way back to the surface as soon as the four of us boarded a pedal boat at the park.
Having chosen to sit in the front of the boat with her father, Chloe quickly decided that this had been the wrong choice – that the back two seats were preferable (perhaps because that’s where her sister was sitting). Her increasingly shrill complaints about her plight tested us mightily. It was all we could do to refrain from tossing our little angel into the pond for a practice swim.
A little later, she had calmed down enough for me to try to talk to her about her behavior. This, of course, upset her all over again.
Poor Chloe. She doesn’t like to be criticized. Everything is always someone else’s fault (this personality trait is eerily reminiscent of my father, whom she never knew – she must have inherited a recessive gene). She also doesn’t like to apologize for her misdeeds. When I asked her to apologize to her daddy for her behavior, and to give him a hug, she was extremely resistant. But then she had a bright idea. She would apologize and give him a hug if I gave her the Webkinz I had bought for her a few weeks ago.
This led to my trying to explain that: (1) I would never reward with a gift the kind of behavior she exhibited earlier; and (2) she should say she’s sorry only if she is sorry, not because she thinks she’ll be rewarded for the apology. Pretty good, huh? This lecture greatly angered her, because she was extremely proud of her quid pro quo proposal.
It was during this disagreement that she announced to me that she was going to leave. “Leave what?” I asked. “Home,” was her reply.
Indeed, as soon as we got back to the house Chloe started to pack up her supplies in a plastic supermarket bag. Three bananas, one pluot, one 100-calorie bag of Lorna Doone cookies and a half-bottle of water. Not enough to sustain her for more than an hour, but at least the contents were mostly nutritious. So what if we’re raising a daughter who wants to run away? At least we can console ourselves knowing that the next time she tries to fly the coop she’ll likely fill her bag with bananas instead of gummy bears.
Chloe then proceeded out the back door in a huff. Sophie cried after her and went outside to follow, and my husband joined them as well. I stayed behind, lamenting my inadequacies as a mother. Our big girl marched behind the garage, and a few minutes later the three of them were sitting on the curb in front of the house. She laid out her list of grievances to her daddy:
(1) We don’t give her enough spending money.
(2) She doesn’t get to watch as much TV as she used to.
(3) She doesn’t want to do chores.
(4) She wants her fourth Webkinz, which I promised to give her before school starts if she behaved (of course, she conveniently forgot the caveat).
Eventually, she came back inside and we cuddled a bit. But she had obviously had enough of airing her complaints, because her lips were sealed with me. I told her that she was extremely special to me because she’s my first daughter. But that I still expected her to try to rein in her anger, to listen to us and to generally behave. The rest of the afternoon was like it should be – she was happier, we made cookies, and practiced math together (she loves math – how cool is that?).
Has anyone invented GPS chips that parents can implant in children at birth in case they ever decide to make good on threats “to leave?” If so, sign me up, please.