The ups and downs of parenting; unpredictable, sometimes unmanageable, and yet often immensely enjoyable. Case in point – my daughter; she alone is a 7-year-old ball of volatility. Combine that with parental efforts at lab work, random rites of passage and motherly attempts at hairstyling, and you’re on your way to a snapshot of the last 24 hours in my parenting journey.
Initially it started off with my daughter’s desire for lovely bouncy curls. She wanted ones resembling those she received at the hair stylist the other day after a quick trim (and truly, they were quite fetching). The problem? Momma is not adept at styling hair. Mostly, we leave that to our Auntie – she owns her own salon, and can do mighty amounts of hair magic. But currently she lives 2,500 miles away, which leaves Momma quite on her own, and very in the lurch for delivering on the hair front. Since it was late on a school night when the request (more like ‘demand’) was made, and we currently don’t have any curlers, I had the bold idea of trying to rag-roll her hair as an experiment. She seemed up for it, so we washed, half-dried, and rag-rolled our way to a happy little knot-tied head in no time.
Next we had a not-so-pleasant task to attend to. We needed to take a small blood sample from my daughter’s finger for a food sensitivity test we are running on her. As they kindly sent us two lancets, we had already used one on Daddy’s finger a few days earlier as an example (which didn’t seem to be as useful as we had hoped). Now we needed to do the actual deed on her finger, and she was not having it. We tried preparing her for it, reasoning, cajoling – nothing. We then tried the ‘forceful hold’, which led to immediate hysterics and a physical clamp-down. Not pretty. We took a break so we all could breathe, which resulted in her locking herself first in the bathroom, then in her bedroom. Then we all sat down for another conversation; she gave us a rather convincing argument of why she didn’t need the test at all, and we tried to use the kindest possible way to knock her argument down and explain that we were doing it anyway. She somehow let slip that she had poked herself with a sewing needle earlier that day; oddly enough, that was our in. We were able to convince her that the lancet wouldn’t hurt any more than the needle; that (along with a bribe that eventually was upped to $20) finally got her to reconsider. Her last request was that she be able to push the lancet herself, to which we agreed. Only given that we were now 45 minutes into the ordeal and the parental units were tiring quickly, we didn’t realize that we had actually fallen for a carefully calculated ploy. No sooner had I set the lancet in my sheepishly grinning daughter’s hand did she launch it behind the dresser; the heavy, immovable, unable-to-reach-underneath-flat-against-the-wall dresser. We’d been had; and my patience was about gone. We retrieved the lancet and again resorted to the ‘forceful hold’; we finally got a finger free, and got the lancet in place. Again the hysterics ensued, at least until the blood started to flow; then she was fascinated. “Wow, Mom, look at it drip!” All at once, she was fine. We filled all five circles in no time flat. My husband and I just looked at each other in wonderment. The whole ordeal had taken over an hour; we were exhausted, sweating and spent. I wasn’t sure which turnip we had really just gotten the blood from; her, or us.
A mere half hour later, my daughter popped out of bed and into the living room full of excitement. It seemed the lower front tooth she had been wiggling for the last two days had finally worked its way loose. As she animatedly waved her tooth in the air, she yelled she had lost it and then gave us a huge happy grin. Only she looked less like a seven-year-old and more like a boxer in round seven of a prize fight; teeth and gums smeared with red, and more blood oozing from the gap in the front. Honestly, it kind of freaked me out. I was ready for the gap in her teeth; I was not so ready for all the blood. She was so thrilled, standing there smiling from ear to ear, and I was trying ignore my gut instincts towards my daughter and her bloody mug. I pasted a fake smile on my face and steered her towards the bathroom where we rinsed her mouth out, secured the tooth in her fairy pillow, and finally got her snuggled into bed. I was hard pressed not to immediately follow her; it had been one heck of a night, and I’d had enough blood and sweat to last me quite some time.
Lest we forget about the rag-rolled hair… Fast forward to next morning; she was super excited to take the rags out to see what the result was. I reminded her that it was an experiment, and whatever the outcome, we could always make sure it looked okay for school. I unrolled the first couple of strips, and we could already tell the experiment was a dud; her hair has natural curl already, and I think the strips were just too thin and her hair really took it in. It was really more of a funny kinky curl instead of the lovely large rolls she was hoping for. As I took more of the strips out, her expression got worse; I reminded her of the ‘experiment’ discussion, and that I could simply re-wet it and dry it straighter for her. Once they were all out, she took a final look in the mirror and exclaimed, “Mom, I can NOT go to school like this. I look like Mayor Washington!” It took me a minute to grasp her train of thought, but once I did I asked her, “Do you mean George Washington?” Her response, “Yeah, Mom, my head looks just like George Washington!” I couldn’t help but laugh out loud as I also corrected her, and explained that George Washington was actually a president, not a mayor. She then corrected herself, “Okay fine, but I STILL can’t go to school looking like PRESIDENT Washington!!” I’m happy to report that after employing a little water and hot air, her hair was presentable for the day; no George Washington in sight.
It was such an absolute shift from the night before; no stress, no pressure, no guilt over bloodletting my own child. Instead it was a complete release of laughter and joy and sincere delight over the amusement of seven-year-old logic. It almost felt like compensation for the trials of the previous evening. I suppose, in a way, that’s exactly what the ups and downs of parenting are. You face countless struggles; many unpredictable, even unmanageable. But the rewards are often more enjoyable than you would ever imagine; they make all the blood and sweat worth it.