Henry and I had the execrable audacity to repaint our 8-year old daughter’s bedroom against her will.
Two more heinous crushers-of-the-soul have never existed.
Upon first entering her freshly painted room Clare’s nostrils flared indignantly.
“The walls are yellow,” she spat.
“They’re a warm butter,” I enthused.
Her eyes rolled toward me in an expression that seemed to say, “Do you really think I’m a complete jackass?”
|A closet door apparently only a mom could love|
I blamed the butter walls on Henry who’d long coveted the Slate Paint Color Palette on our date nights at Restoration Hardware.
But it was I, and only I — Madame DeFarge (who knits the names of the people she wants killed) — that was to blame for the closet door.
You see — I had it rehung so that it opens in the opposite direction from whence it had formerly opened so when I walk into her room I won’t have to see the entire stock of Toys R Us inside.
As Clare wept bitterly abed that night, I lay next to her hardening my heart and trying to read “Misty of Chincoteague” to distract her.
She wanted to express her feelings, but just couldn’t find the appropriate word to describe this apocalypse.
“I feel …”
“Angry?” I asked.
“No, I feel …”
“Frustrated?” I supplied.
“No, I feel …”
“Sad, annoyed, bothered?”
“No, I feel …”
FWAP! FWAP! FWAP!
It was hard to hear her over the rotors of my helicopter parenting. Finally, she said, “I feel … betrayed.”
My closet resolve weakened. Betrayed? I a Betrayer?
I never thought I’d be besmirched with such an epitaph. No, I can’t let her see me sweat. She’s only eight. I can outmaneuver her.
I told her she had to put things in perspective. To step out of her body and look down on the scene of her life as though from the audience.
She was upset that her closet door opened a different direction?
What about her friend, Beatrix, who moved semi-annually to new places because of her dad’s job? Beatrix had just moved to a new country where she didn’t know anyone or even speak the language.
What about kids whose parents were heroin junkies and crack whores, who moved their kids from car, to shopping cart, to drainage tunnel? (Okay, I didn’t say that last thing. Yet).
“I know, Mommy,” Clare said. “I shouldn’t be so sensitive. But I just can’t help it.”
She’s admitting she’s wrong. No, no! She’s not going to get to me. Back you Empathy! Back I say!
She’s got to learn to live in the real world where closet doors never open the way you want them to.
If you give in now she’ll become one of these clinging, weak-kneed twenty-somethings that still live at home and expect their mothers to bring them buttered toast while they lounge in a recliner watching “Hung.”
But she’s only eight. And it is her closet door. And does it really matter whether your OCD anal-retentive, militant German gene has to see all the crud in her closet when she leaves the door open? What kind of Fraulein are you?
Shut up, Empathy
Here’s what I did. I didn’t say she could have the door back the way she wanted it. I said she had to try it this way for two weeks and if she still hates it she can have it back the way it was.
- Then I got her a fruit pop. And read her an extra chapter of Misty.
- Then tickled her back.
- Then lay beside her, protecting her from all the monsters she can’t see with her closet door opening the wrong way, until she fell asleep.
When I stood to tiptoe out of her room, I glanced back to see her long growing-up-too-fast limbs curled around Gymbo the Clown; her lovey from the time she was nine months old, and I thought to myself, “It’s just a freaking closet door, Shannon.”