This evening, my nine-year-old, Meg, came over to me as I was working on my computer.
“Are you writing about my tantrums?”
Where’s this coming from? I wondered.
I haven’t written about her tantrums, those explosive manifestations of her unhappiness here in England, that have been so bad that I’d thought many times of having all of us return to Boston despite the fact that 3/4 of us, my older daughter, my mother, and I have, except for Meg’s unhappiness (which is a HUGE “except for”), been having an excellent time here. I subscribe to the theory that you’re only as happy as your unhappiest child, and Meg has been miserable here except for the occasional weekends in Crich with her cousins.
The fact is that ever since we moved to Cambridge and Meg started school here she’s been having, shall we say, loud expostulations accompanied by crying and harsh words (in short, her word: tantrums) most evenings and mornings connected to going to school, along with daily outbreaks of hypochondria (sore throat, sick tummy, hurt toe–no part of her anatomy untouched). And it’s been going on for six months. Almost every single school day. Without a break. It’s been emotionally wiping out me and my mother, making my older daughter angry, and hasn’t been a picnic for Meg, either.
Meg clearly doesn’t want to move away from this topic. “Why don’t you write about it?”
The tantrums? “Because it’s very personal to you.”
This is exactly why it’s so hard to do a blog. Where do you draw the line between public and private? With my children, I hold it pretty close to the vest. Ah, the stories I could tell, if I had their permission.
“It’s okay, Mommy. I don’t mind.”
“I don’t mind. Really.”
Here one of my children is saying it’s okay to write about her. All of a sudden I see the huge wall that I’ve carefully erected between my blogging and my kids crumbling.
I used to write a parenting column for the Boston Globe. I’d occasionally (okay, in every column) refer to something my kids said or did in order to get the topic at hand (nutrition, swearing, weekly allowance, whatever), going. The rule I had for my kids was, it’s your story and if you don’t want me to use it, that’s fine. But if you let me use it, you get $5.
This is how people reading my column learned that I had to lock away cookies and junk food from my son who has no self-control when it comes to this stuff, that Meg, at age seven, called her best friend a “douche-ball” (sic), and that I had to plead with my older daughter Katie to go to church with me on Easter and that when she asked at two in the afternoon on her birthday to be taken to the beach an hour up the coast, I took her.
“You’re saying it’s okay that I write about your tantrums?” And about the reason why she’s so miserable and how guilty I feel about it because on so many levels I can totally understand how she feels?
Wow. It’s like a whole new world is opening up. There’s so much I can say on the subject of, as the “responsible adult,” making a major family decision that has worked out extremely well for most of the family and very badly for one member.
Keep posted. And I owe Meg $5.