01 June 2009

Growing Up Is Hard To Do

Today is Katrina's first day back at school after her week-and-a-half term break. She has about 6 more weeks of school. Now is when we pay the price for the three-term system. More vacation during the year, which I think helps with the spring school-fatigue factor. But less summer vacation, as school runs until July 21 and starts up again the first week of September.

For me, the passing of time becomes more evident in the spring. The end of the school year, the girls' birthdays drawing near, my birthday in the not-too-distant past. Last year at this time, I was still pregnant, and expecting at least a few weeks alone at home with Katrina before the baby came. I never got those weeks, as Annika decided that the first day of summer vacation was a good time to make her move.

It's been a tough year for Katrina. She does not do change well, a characteristic she probably got from me. She is most happy when everything goes exactly as she expects...which, of course, almost never happens. A baby sister was not expected nor wanted, but now that she's here, Katrina loves her and worries over her and makes her giggle like no other person can.

Oh, but the anger is right there, too. And the anxiety. Our oldest girl feels so deeply...both the highs and the lows. And she speaks about it so rarely, whether because she doesn't have the words yet, or she doesn't want to, I'm not sure. Her swim teacher (who also majored in child psychology) said last fall that Katrina takes everything on her own shoulders. My girl needs to (?) or can't help but notice everything and everyone around her. It is a burden to her, at times, I think. She worries too much. Everything should be just right...even herself. When it is not, frustration ensues. She does not want to make mistakes.

I wish I could say I can't imagine how that feels, but I do. I recognize the frustration, the perfectionism. It makes me sad to realize that that internal pressure that I've struggled with for so many years (and have only partially overcome, in no small part due to becoming a mother) is also manifesting in my daughter. I wonder whether it is a genetic predisposition, or caused by mothering missteps or 6 years spent as an only child, or, or, or...

I worry. Some days I think we're too hard on her. Other days I'm sure we don't demand enough. Some days she has a perpetual scowl on her face. Other days, she is excited and expansive. Until she asks what's for dinner and I give the "wrong" answer. "Oh, WHY don't we ever have pizza?" she wails. Even if we just had it less than a week ago. And I wonder just how my happy little 6-year-old can turn into a sulky teenager in under a minute.

But then there are the days when I fall in love with her all over again. When I make her turn off the TV and computer and tell her to find something to do that doesn't involve a screen. And I come back from putting the baby down for a nap and find this:

That is her list of things to do. 1. Book, 2. Play with stuffed animals, 3. Art. She has already read a book, she said, and was playing with her WebKinz. Pretty soon she hauled out some art supplies and found directions for 3-D pictures.

Of course, I had to talk her down after the glue didn't stick as quickly and easily as she thought it should. But I was proud of her for being so self-directed.

Another day, she knocked on the neighbor's door and asked if the kids could take a walk with us. And as she and her little friends hurtled down the path in front of me, I could almost see the tension slipping away from her. And I remember last week, when she hunted tadpoles in the lake. And last year, when we tramped through the woods. And I remind myself that my little girl needs to be outside, even if she herself would rather watch TV. Even if *I* would rather read while she watched TV. And I vow to get over my tiredness and my comfort and my agenda and put her need to absorb the sunshine and get wet and dirty and breathe the spring air above my own wishes to get work done in the house or just to relax for a few minutes I've been going all day for Pete's sake!

And I wonder which one of us is growing up the most.

1 comment:

Wendy said...

So... I feel like I'm stalking you always being the one to leave comments, but... I guess I always have something to say! :)

You know, once again, I read this and wonder if K isn't my child? Which then, of course, makes me think that a great deal of her "stuff" is genetic. But seriously, you could have interchanged our names with much of this - right down to the being outside part. I think the only difference between K and I is that I kept ever MORE stuff inside when I was her age.