My seven year old daughter informed me today that her younger brother embarrasses her. This information has left me conflicted. On the one hand, I am sympathetic. I had a younger brother and he embarrassed me. On the other hand, "Hey, you little Wednesday Addams wannabe, that's my SON you're talking about!"
Y. is a beautiful boy, both inside and out. At the age of three, he uses words like microscope and esophagus. He helps me mop the floor and puts his clothes in the laundry hamper without being asked. He's vibrant and talkative.
And my daughter is embarrassed by him.
This, I think, is one of those territories where one has to sit back and let the kids figure it out. I can't force her not to cringe when her brother starts chattering about how he'll be thirty two on his birthday when he'll actually be three. It terrifies me that one day, I will replace her brother. It's inevitable, I think. No matter how cool I am, I will embarrass her if I step outside of "normal" parenthood. Which I will because as my mother and mother in law have often said on different occasions, "you have strange ideas about parenting.
It's taken me a long time to like me, and I don't know if I'm prepared to tolerate the girl's dislike for me. Can you force someone to love you? No? What if they're your child? Then?
I remember when Y. was born and how excited N. was about it. There's a beautiful photo of her holding him as she gazed at his little face with love and wonder. One might call the look "motherly." If I had been asked at that moment if N. would every be embarrassed by her brother, I would've scoffed. Grown ups aren't the only ones that change how they feel. Children tend to do it, too, if not more often.
I want to tell her that she, too, was once three years old.
I want to remind her how she used to run circles around her portable, little potty rhythmically chanting, "I need a diaper, I need a diaper, I need a diaper."
Or about how one time we were lunching at the club at the golf course near our home and she loudly proclaimed in a packed room where I was the only woman, "This chair hurts my vagina."
Or how about when she threw up on me without any warning once on the way to Saudi and I had to walk around the plane with a blanket full of vomit?
There was also the time she cried and cried and CRIED at preschool and I had no option other than removing her from the class. I want to tell her how embarrassed I felt when the teacher of the class looked at me in a way that I was absolutely sure was full of blame.
I was embarrassed every single one of those times, but I loved her, you know? The love was more important than my feeling cool. Or even being cool.
I hope she gets that.
Because, like I said, Wednesday Addams, that's my SON.