Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Look of Love (Ouch)

She’s a very well-behaved person now, so it’s hard to believe, but Emma was once an accomplished biter. She avoided being shunned at the playground or expelled from preschool, but she had a pretty serious habit going for a while. Her most consistent and gullible victim was, you guessed it, me. 

I fell repeatedly for her predatory tricks because, in the ramp-up to chomping, she’d affect a look of utmost love and adoration. Cocking her tiny head to one side and making warm and gooey eye contact, she’d lean in close. A string of drool would drip from her slackened lips. I’d feel myself melting. 

Then she’d clamp down her little canines and refuse to let go. 

I fell for this act so consistently because I wanted, really wanted, to believe that THIS was the day she would Hug and Snuggle and Love Mommy. It took me a long (pathetically long) time to admit to myself that this ball of pre-nuclear energy NEVER wanted to hugsnugglelove. She wanted to move. She wanted to go to the playground NOW. And, when she felt like it, she wanted to tear into a hunk of my flesh with her baby teeth.

I had reason to remember the Biting Years just this week. Emma, newly 16, received her driver’s license recently. For a while, she was euphoric. She texted all her friends. And then she turned to me with a soft-focus gaze and cocked her lovely head to one side. “Mommy,” she murmured, “What are you doing tomorrow?”
Um, yoga, work, errands, picking up Mary after school.

She snapped the sweetness shut like a sterling silver compact. I could almost hear the click. “Do you REALLY need the car? I think it would be a better use of energy if I could drive it to school. Besides, you always say how much you hate to drive.”

So, it turns out, she wasn’t settling in for a mom-to-girl chat, she was fishing for use of the very vehicle she’s referred to as “pathetic & sad” and “a freak car.” Even though it was my wheels she was after, and not a sliver of my shoulder muscle, the feeling was similar. 

The interrogations have been ongoing. Each day I am expected to account for my intended whereabouts and offer “alternate transportation” suggestions. I finally shared an online calendar of my schedule with her, hoping that transparency will bring relief, but I don’t have much hope.

Life with Emma has not changed. She still wants nothing more than to move. She wants to go to the playground NOW. The only thing left for me to do is hand over the car keys. And maybe find a few bandaids to put over the wound.

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