Antonia, my oldest, was a born nervous wreck. If I didnât know better, Iâd have said that sheâd been sharing womb space with Marilyn Manson for nine months. Traumatized is the only word I can use to describe her little facial expressions and her glass-shattering vocal pitch for the first year of her life. I do realize that newborns are supposed to cry. Some even have a condition commonly referred to as colic. But this wasâ¦ different. Antonia seemed genetically-inclined to be disturbed by things like sunlight, water, nutrition, voices that didnât belong to her mother, shiny things, furry things, socks, music, kisses, touching in general, and the concept of SLEEP, for crying out loudâ¦ I say this because she cried out loud. For YEARS UPON YEARS, she cried out loud.
When she was two months old, I decided to quit my job because I was afraid that day care people would surely throw her out with the dirty diapers just from sheer delirium. I thought, ONLY the person who gave birth to this thing can dig their claws into the cliff of sanity and keep from descending into prison. Alls I can say is THANK GOD I had that innate love thing going on. Otherwise, who knows.
But, unbelievably, doctor after doctor checked her out and told me how TOTALLY healthy she was. HOW, I wondered. She barely eats because sheâs too busy crying. She sleeps in ten-minute increments, but only if I lay her on my chest and sleep in an upright position in front of a TV with the volume COMPLETELY turned down and the dryer humming ever-so-softly in the background. She bites her nails and pulls out her hair, and something tells me that if I offered her a cigarette, sheâd actually BREATHE a little easier. She HATES life!
Friends and relatives tried to comfort me by telling me this parenting thing will get easier. They’d say things like, just wait till sheâs walking, youâll long for the days when you couldnât PRY her off your leg with a good set of linemanâs pliers. Just wait till she gets some teeth and can eat candyâ¦ itâs the ultimate bargaining tool to get a kid to be quiet for a minute. None of those things turned out to be the Godsend that everyone guaranteed theyâd be. Once she started walking she just grabbed my hand and took me with her as she screamed about the birds chirping or cold floors beneath her feet or people making eye contact. She had no interest in candy for the first five years of her life, either. It was like she KNEW there were ulterior motives involved in its flagrant distribution.
Something DID eventually make things all better for Antonia. Having another child. Jonah was my Godsend. He distracted his older sister by slobbering all over her pretty-girl shoes, and eating off of her plate, and grabbing fistfuls of her hair and taking them with him to another room. She loved him dearly for it.
Sheâs ten now. And, yes, much calmer. One might even say serene. But this parenting gig continues to knock me to my knees. Antonia wants an email account and her own blog now. I know lots of good parents out there have allowed their children the privilege of stretching their wings a little, and their worlds havenât fallen apart for having done so. And I also know that there ARE options like parent-controlled email accounts and blogs. But Iâm still not completely sure that sheâs ready for THAT much independence. What would I have published on my blog had I been allowed such an opportunity at the age of ten? I realize that Iâm someone who torched her high school diaries after college because she finally saw that excessive amounts of melodrama could corrode a personâs eyeballs. But, still, I wonder if I would have gossiped about that girl Debbie who had a head lice problem? Would I have confessed about my crush on Joshua Feaselman? Would I have talked about how afraid I was of Mr. Westbrook’s teeth? And my grandmaâs closet? Would I have had the wherewithal to not give out my address and phone number and favorite place to ride my bike on weekends? I donât know, but it makes me kind of glad that I didnât have that option.
My daughter, on the other hand, is growing up to be a bright, discerning, thoughtful human being. But sheâs still TEN. And, okay, yeah, maybe Iâm missing that clingy baby of mine who didnât know how to interact with the outside world for the first five years of her life. But itâs not just water and sunlight anymore. Scarier things exist. Chain letters, pornographic spam, forty-year-old men googling phrases like âI heart my Tamagotchi!â? Thereâs only so much I can do to protect my grown baby now that she doesnât demand that I hold her hand 23 hours of the day. And that kills me sometimes…. SO MUCH MORE than the glass-shattering cries ever did.
How about you… do you allow your kids to have email accounts and blogs?