Monday, July 12, 2004

Great Expectations

I'd like to register a complaint.

If you visit Amazon -- the literary crack dealer -- you can find this very helpful parenting series. The first book, What to Expect When You're Expecting takes you month-by-month through pregnancy. Even if you've just begun your journey down the road to impending parenthood, you can read ahead and see what's coming. That way, when it happens, you can assume one of those "Oh I knew it all along" kind of attitudes, making you look like the smartest up-and-coming parent on the face of the planet.

Once the bundle of joy arrives, you can pick up the second and third book in the series, What to Expect, The First Year and What to Expect, The Toddler Years. With these volumes, you are set for quite awhile, and you can coordinate your calendar with the book, ensuring you are never caught offguard by any behavior or important milestone.

After that you get
NOTHING.

Just when you think you've got this parenting thing down, The What-To-Expect people abandon you faster than an overloaded diaper on a hot summer day. Gone are the helpful tips. Gone are the scheduled updates of every aspect of childhood. It's sink or swim time, and you, my dear unsuspecting parent just got tossed overboard during a hurricane armed with a pair of leaky water wings.

So, for all you floundering parents of the upper elementary years, I'm here for you.

What to Expect From Your Ten Year Old - Female Edition
What to expect from your ten year old is exactly opposite of what you might think you're expecting. However, once you start expecting the opposite of your original expectations, you're back to where you started in the first place, still not knowing what to expect.

Confused are you? Is your head spinning? Do you wish you could just go back to bed? THAT is what you should expect, because the name of the game is confusion and contradiction.

Some days it will be princesses, dress-up boxes and hand colored pictures of flowers and rainbows. Some days it will be surly attitudes, silent treatments and the ever hated whaaaat that flies from their lips every time you shoot them the straighten-up-or-fly-right look. You'll want to remove the word whaaaat from the dictionary, along with the nasally tone of voice that slides up and down the scale of ten year old indignation.

When your child is ten, they just can't quite decide if they are little or big, and spend most of their time firmly straddling the two. Clothes might be the usual running, jumping, climbing trees clothes of yester year, with no concern for style, whether or not they match, or if they are so dirty they could walk on their own. But turn around, and your ten year old is dressed to the nines, complete with jewelry, sunglasses and a purse. This will be the outfit she chooses to do household chores. A word of caution -- any questioning of the ensemble du jour will most likely result in the dreaded whaaaat?

The ten year old enjoys a variety of things to read, including "Go, Dogs, Go" Nancy Drew and "My Body Journal". It is particularly difficult during this turbulent time to remove certain objects long since outgrown. However, the instant your ten year says, "it's ok to give this away" then RUN, do not walk. Do not ask if they are sure. Do not stop to say thank you. Your next question could possibly make them change their mind.

The ten year old will continue to resist bathing as they did in their younger, less confusing times. However, once in the shower, it will take a crowbar to get them out, and this will only happen after your child has become a prune and the hot water tank is empty. AND THEN, wrinkly and dripping, your ten year old will ask if she can have a foot soak. Oh, and a pedicure and a manicure. With nail polish. And when you give her the "are you kidding me" look because it's 10 minutes until bedtime, you'll get it. Whaaaaat?

The list of wants and desires a ten year old possesses becomes longer and more complicated. Candy is no longer the sole desire. Now there are shoes, purses, necklaces, bracelets, ChapStick, MORE ChapStick (because 97 variations of Wild Watermelon Strawberry Candy Apple Berry Zing aren't enough) and any liquid that contains glitter.

In addition to the nail-grating Whaaaaat? be prepared to hear "I can do it MYSELF" with increased frequency. There are, however, exceptions to this rule, including being too tired, too lazy, or being asked to do a task that involves pets and/or poop. Then they ask for help. Then they ask for favors for "just this one time". There are also times when you will wish the "I can do it MYSELF" phrase did not kick in, especially when dealing with hair. Although any self-made hair style generally exceeds the best efforts of the father, it will take considerable skill do undo askew ponytails or remove several of the dozen and a half hair doodads the ten-year old has deemed to be "perfect" and "beautiful".

The best advice which can be offered is to lay loose and roll with the punches. Give your ten-year old the room to grow and explore. Just be sure to have the favorite stuffed friend nearby for those moments when she really needs them. And when you go to the movies to see a Disney Cartoon, and your ten year old becomes apoplectic because she sees a preview and it's HILLARY DUFF! MOM, IT'S HILLARY DUFF! HILLARY DUFF! Just look at her and give her that perfectly timed, "Whaaaaat?"

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh, and I feel your pain, but you are doing a terrific job with her, so enjoy it while it lasts;)

~Grace

Anonymous said...

Alex turns five this week, and I'm skeered!

She's already to the glitter and purse stage. And.. makeup.
Ack.

~Grace

Tracie said...

Bwah! Enter my hell, oh mighty Tuna. Wait til she's FOURTEEN! It does not get better. The older Kourtney gets, the more she thinks she knows- and the more she thinks she knows, the more she argues....and she still does the whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaattttttttttttt at me. But, as was said- you are doing a good job- you can recognize that it's difficult for her too. And space is important. Lots of it.