The year she didn’t sing.

I struggled with this post. It’s the battle every writer faces and I’m sure over the next few years the question of “is this okay to write about, to share?” will pop up more and more often as I balance the privacy of my children versus representing what really happens in our day-to-day adventures. I don’t like the idea of scrubbing or (unnecessarily) censoring our stories. Life is messy, people can be unkind, things don’t always go as planned. Selecting only stories that end happily or paint everyone in their best doesn’t help anyone strive to be better or feel better through shared experiences. And yet sometimes sharing can be hurtful and embarrassing. They can do more harm than good. When those less-than-perfect stories you’re sharing involve another person – especially when they involve your children, the people you most want to protect – it feels like so much more is at stake. I don’t let my children read my blog. But someday they will. And I hope what I’ve chosen to share won’t betray the all-important mom/daughter trust.

So that’s what’s been swirling around in my brain as I’ve been recovering from the Birthday Incident of 2014. (Hey! Guess what? It was my birthday Wednesday!)

It was a lovely day. Having just returned from vacation, and to receive maximum adoration, I decided not to take the day off work. Indeed, there was a bagel-and-fruit reception to celebrate the kick-off of renovations to the building my big day and my co-worker brought me a bottle of wine and a basket of The Most Delicious lemon cakes. Well wishes flew in via phone calls, texts, and social media niches. Every time I announced “It’s my birthday: adore me!”, my audience complied. Like I said – a lovely day.

I came home from work to hear glowing reports of how the girls’ day had gone. They cleaned for me and dressed up all fancy for dinner. Because they had been so good, I gave in when they insisted I open presents before dinner. Gift cards for the bookstore from the girls, their dad and their stepmom; the new Black Keys cd; some more survival movies and The Shining adaptation; an egg poaching pan; and Pictionary (the girls’ new love). An impressive haul! For dinner, the girls, Kim, and I met Corrie and John and their girls at a local dive for our favorite Irish Nachos. The girls were given plenty of quarters to keep them occupied in the game room. We enjoyed our dinners and adult conversation and didn’t hear any. whining. at all. A better time couldn’t have been custom-ordered!

But then. The girls were tired and we had to stop at Target, which they clearly didn’t want to do. Several warnings were issued for deteriorating behavior. By the time we got home, both girls had been given early bedtime. And Gracie was quite upset with me for having yelled at her so many times for whining.

Gracie…Gracie is having a hard time being 10. She is all tween-y and moody and getting used to the teeny-tiny hormones that are starting to flood her poor pitiful self. She’s either happy-go-lucky and giggly and geektastic like her usual self, or else she goes all purple minion and is annoyed and huffy and mad at everyone. It’s a Tale of Two Gracies at Casa de Katie right now. I understand what she’s going through and she and I have had lots of talks to try to help her understand. It’s normal. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s incredibly sucky for her, but it’s normal and it will pass. I thought I’d have more time before this phase started, but still… It’s normal and it will pass. I tell this to myself. I tell this to Gracie. And I repeat it. Over and over and over.

Telling myself it was normal and it would pass didn’t help the other night, though. We had lit candles in the cupcakes the girls and Auntie Kim had baked for me and were getting ready to sing Happy Birthday. Gracie was annoyed she was being forced into the kitchen. She didn’t want a cupcake. She didn’t want to sing. She didn’t want to do anything other than sulk in front of the TV, and she made sure we all knew it. The candles were lit. Pics were snapped. Bee and Auntie Kim started singing with gusto. And Gracie did nothing. After she sneaked a peek at my face – which fell – she did start humming along. But. My ten-year-old daughter, my mini-me with whom I’ve joked and nerded out and built a really close, fantastic relationship with, was not singing happy birthday to me. A small act of defiance and yet so much bigger than any of the fights we’ve had. My heart broke into a million pieces. While I managed not to cry until later when I was in the shower, I let her see the sadness on my face because I wanted her to know that her actions mean something. Auntie Kim called her out of it – calmly, but firmly – and I could see Gracie was a bit embarrassed, but the pain had been inflicted.

Ten. I had no idea these years were going to start at ten. I know we’ll get through them and I know they’ll be hard. An unsung song might seem like a blip on the radar of what we make it through. I feel so unprepared. I’ll just keep dog-paddling and hope signs like this one show up the morning after, and keep faith that with a lot of both hard work and patience, we’ll be okay in the end.

Love

She didn’t apologize, but this was waiting for me the next morning when I woke up.

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