I once heard my friend’s teen daughter call her a “life-ruiner” for disallowing her to wear a certain inappropriate outfit to a party she was attending.
Wow! A “life-ruiner”. Impressive. If I had a nickel for every time my first child said “I hate you” as a young teenager, I could buy myself a super fancy pair of ear plugs to wear through my third child’s upcoming teen years. Except I don’t think I will need them, because my third child, as is typical of third children, is on a completely different path. He knows how to win his mama over in other ways. He’s a lover not a fighter. They’re all lovers really, but this one has heard enough “I hate you” nonsense to know it ain’t really worth it. There are paths of less resistance to get him where he wants to be. Like just telling me what he wants.
Fortunately these days at 19, my first-born manchild is making up for lost time with a lot of “I love you’s”. I feel like the day is near that the number of “I love you’s” he’s uttered will surpass the number of “I hate you’s”, and that just might be the day where other special things happen for him. I can feel it coming. It’s bad karma to tell your mom you hate her, and he knows that.
My middle child Bella has a light touch with slurs such as “I hate you”. She pulls them out only when absolutely necessary. In her case it’s usually hyperbole like “you NEVER let me….._______!!!” or “you ALWAYS….._______!!!!!” . Good ole “always” and “never”, guaranteed to make a mother feel guilty for just a second. She’s an even-tempered girl and she’s had to carve out her own path in the wake of her older brother’s intensity. She generally prefers to take more of a “stone-you-to-death-with-cottonballs” approach to getting what she wants, rather than the “go-for-broke-kamikaze-style” approach of my oldest child.
My mother is a first-born who like Bella has two brothers. It is not easy to be a strong-willed first child raising another strong-willed first child. The only person that’s gonna get “broken” like a wild horse is the one doing the raising. The offspring is guaranteed to get broken by the world, and his or her dear mother’s words will come back to ring in his ears years later. I know this is true because I live it daily. In the language of recovery it’s commonly referred to as “life on life’s terms”.
I am convinced that a girl like Bella who is sandwiched between two boys is a very different type of middle child than the classic middle child stereotype. To make her way in the world effectively, a girl in this position has to be a maverick. Like some kind of girl superhero, she has to manage the boy energy coming at her from all directions. She learns how to both rise-above and subvert that energy and she also learns to love it.
But back to my mother, she is just plain a naturally virtuous person. She is honest, and loving and caring to a fault. If she has ever sustained the insult of a parking ticket or a library fine, I don’t know about it. She peppered my upbringing with common sense idioms that I did my best to shrug off, of the “a penny saved is a penny earned” variety. Like my first-born I’m sure, I knew in my heart even at the time that she was right, and on some level I was damned grateful for it. Unfortunately my default mode has often been that of a scientist in a motherly advice testing laboratory. When faced with a moral conundrum, I often have a visual or auditory hallucination of my mother telling me what to do, and then I try to decide if it’s worth proving her wrong.
I guess rebellion against one’s mother is a necessary part of the learning process. We all come out of the womb with a unique temperament, and to what degree we struggle seems to be partly an inborn tendency. I often have to remind my children “I am your mother, it’s my JOB to ask you these obvious questions and give you these stupid reminders!” I am quite certain that my children will thank me for it all some day, no matter how painful it is to them now, just as I am grateful for my mother every day and count my lucky stars that I was born her child. But it’s a hard job being a hated life-ruiner.