Sunday, April 1, 2012

It's Active

Stereotypes are starting to come into fruition.  
I was having a conversation with a lady in line at the grocery store.  She saw me with my three girls hanging all over the cart, my situation came up and she said – in a non-offensive manner, “Oh, you’re raising three girls by yourself, good luck with that, wait until you see what you’re in for.” I respond to her, “I know, I have some challenges in front of me,”   I get it, I thought.  Three girls, without a mother, I need to listen more, yell less, and I need to take deep breathes when they start dating boys.  Yes, I had some challenges, I would just have to pay attention and have more patience. 
Interesting thing is, she smiled at my response and rubbed my shoulder, almost like she was in on a little secret that has yet to been revealed to me.  I wanted to respond, “Your mystery smile isn’t working; there’s no secret here.  I’m raising three girls and someday I’ll have to go bra shopping.  I understand what I am in for!”  But I just smiled back.

“Alright girls time for bed.  Kelly, turn off the TV.  Molly, put the dolls away. Haley, get off the phone.  Come on, everyone get their PJs on.” I say, as I initiate the beginning of the bedtime ritual.  It starts off with us all going to the girls bedroom, getting on pajamas, brushing teeth, returning to the bedroom, and each girl gets to pick their own book for me to read to them.
Kelly and Molly get their pajamas on first and run off to the bathroom to brush teeth.  Haley comes in and picks out her PJs and takes them to the bathroom – at almost 12, she has made it clear she should not be getting dressed in front of people.  Molly and Haley almost collide at the door as Molly has come running in from the bathroom at full speed in order to be the first one to be read to.  Toothpaste is still on her bottom lip as she picks a princess book and jumps in my lap.  We start reading and Kelly comes walking into the bedroom.  She seems to be having a conversation with herself in her head, as she looks up towards the ceiling and her mouth is moving.  She takes her sweet time and eventually climbs to the edge of the bed to wait her turn.  Haley is still in the bathroom. Clearly, Molly is the only one who thought there was a race to be read to first.
We finish the book – only skipped about four pages tonight, a luxury I lose once they learn how to read and follow along – and Kelly, with book in hand, climbs in my lap replacing Molly.  Molly retreats to her bed, with the book we just read, and lies down and “rereads” it, reciting by memory what she remembers I said.  I get halfway through Kelly’s book when Haley enters the room, storms over to the laundry basket, throws her day clothes into it, walks to me while I’m in mid-sentence, and throws her arm straight towards my face sticking out all five fingers as if she’s Superwoman using her hand powers.
“Five!” Haley says. “Name five good things about me!  You can’t even do it, can you?”
“Wait, what?” I say.
“Five, I bet you can’t even name five things that I’m good at!” 
Haley takes off her glasses and slams them a little too hard on her dresser. I wince at the thought of replacing expensive glasses.
“Where is this coming from?” I say.  “Weren’t you just in the bathroom brushing your teeth?  Did I miss something?”
“I’m not good at anything.”
“I can name five things I’m good at,” says Kelly, and sits up proudly in my lap.
“Not now Kelly,” Haley yells.  “This isn’t about you; I’m trying to talk to dad.”
“Haley,” I say. “Calm down, I don’t know where this is coming from.”
“See, you can’t even name one.”
I realize that she’s not looking for me to logically explain why this line of question is unwarranted.  My 11 year-old daughter is asking me to name five things good about her.  Where this came from is irrelevant, why she is suddenly anger has no bearing on this conversation.  She wants to know five things.  So, I rattle off five things: sense of humor, good friend, imagination, etc…
“Half of those don’t count because you’re my dad.” She counters.
“No Haley, I’ve heard other people say those about you.”  I respond, fighting back my first response of, “Come on Haley, this is silly.”
“Okay, fine.  Is there still time for me to have a book?” she asks.
Huh?  It’s over.  That’s it?  Wait, there should be more, we need to talk for an hour about her mental stability, why she felt like this, and how can we avoid these feelings in the future.  But she is standing in front of me holding a book.  So I read it to her, put them all to bed, wait for the other shoe to drop, and turn off the light and walk out of the room.
“Goodnight Dad.” Haley says, as if she hasn’t a care in the world.
For about the 10th time tonight I censor myself, as I want to say, “So going back to the five things, what happened there?”  But I think I know what happened there.  A lady a few months ago at a grocery store told me, as she patted my shoulder with a smile that made it seem like she was holding a secret I didn’t fully understand.
“Oh, you’re raising three girls by yourself, good luck with that, wait until you see what you’re in for.”


  1. You are such a good writer! Love how you relate your stories.

  2. Thanks Matt for sharing a piece of your life. I am in awe of your bedtime routine. I have four kids and by the time we get to the bedtime routine I have to admit I take a few shortcuts. Two of my children are twin girls that are eleven going on twelve. It is such a mystery sometimes how quickly they go from one emotion to another. The hardest part for me is tucking them in at night and not being able to sit down with their dad afterwards and talk about the lastest drama they are experiencing. I miss having that person that loves them every bit as much as I do to share my concerns or moments of pride with.

  3. Matt,
    Best of luck raising your daughters! I used to have a sign in my house that was something like "Raising teenagers is like nailing Jello to a tree!"
    Yep it is that easy. And the mood swings will give you whiplash on a good day. The bad days are a knife to the gut. The first time they look you right in the face and announce they HATE YOU! with venom in the voice and probably a finger pointed with also stab you! Then brace yourself for the next bear hug.
    I had another sign about parenthood isn't for wussies! Enjoy the good days and squirrel those away for the days when you need to heal the knife wounds. Eventually, when they get to mid 20's or so or parents them selves the globe rotates around and suddenly you are a smart and needed resource. The hope that eventually things would come around to a balance we could all live with got me thru the very dark days.
    Good Luck!