Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Guilt Trips

My son loves to tell Kate - the 16-year-old stepgranddaughter here that he frequently does not recognize me these days. He takes much pleasure in telling her that I am not - definitely NOT - the same person who raised him. Usually when he is telling her this line it is because Kate and I have had a bit of a go-round - happens from time-to-time when her ideas and mine collide - and she is in a mood where she thinks I am most definitely the ogre to end all ogres too.

Sometimes she probably is right on that. Because sometimes I am more than a little bit opinionated and my expectations most certainly do NOT match up with hers - primarily in the school work and future plans arenas.

But my son is right too in that if SHE thinks I am rough, miserable, demanding, it really is a good thing she wasn't around me oh, anywhere from 14 to 25 years or so ago. Back then, my kids only had me to deal with because their Dad was out of the picture by then so I had to come down harder on them then than I maybe would have done had our lives been a bit different. Kate has her Dad, my daughter too, who are trying to guide her and by all rights, I probably should stay clear completely but you know, some old habits really do die very hard.

My older daughter has always picked on me, trying to make me feel guilty a lot of the time for things she feels I did differently with her than what I did with her little sister, Mandy. And, she is right there too because there were a lot of things I changed in my mode of operation between the oldest and the youngest of my three kids. But then too, there were some things I learned from the oldest, then from my son too that just didn't work, or didn't work very well so I eliminated them. There were things I learned too that I worried about with the oldest and realized through the next two kids that I was worrying needlessly too so I dropped those ideas too.

And then, there was also the factor that Mandy - the youngest - is much, much more like her dad than the other two kids were and that also called for a change in my method of attack or discipline.

Sometimes, somethings with Mandy, I just had to take a step back and put up with what she did here and there and tell myself that someday I would, hopefully, live long enough to see her struggle with a child so bullheaded that you just wanted to pull your hair out, one strand at a time and then, start on that kid's hair too! And you know what -I take so much pleasure in saying this -even though I am not condoning some of the things Maya does, nor that Kate does either - but it is nice at times to see both those kids doing some things very similar to what Mandy did to me and watch her getting really, really frustrated with them too - just the same way I did back then!

Yep - Revenge is sweet you know!

One thing that was really difficult to deal with when Mandy was younger though was her penchant for making phone calls. Not just any phone calls mind you, but long distance phone calls! Her best friend from kindergarten through today moved away from this area when Mandy was nine. The girl's father was working away from here during the week (about 90 miles from here) and coming home on weekends but one day in July of 1984, their house caught fire and burned completely to the ground so the father decided then to just move the family down to the area where he was working. Mandy did go there every summer and spent a considerable amount of time whenever possible with that family - like a second daughter she was to them - but there were times when she would get the urge that she just had to speak to her friend and so she would call her on the phone with no second thoughts of how much those calls ran my phone bill up each month.

At first, I just lectured her -told her one call a month, or limit the time, etc. But the last straw came when Mandy was about 13-years-old and one month my phone bill included $90 extra charges from long distance calls Mandy had made just to that one friend! I hit the ceiling then. Called the phone company and set up my phone account so that in order to make a long-long distance call, you would have to dial an access number. Because my son was very good about NOT using the phone, understood the billing problems I had there, I trusted him with the access code number to be used in case of dire emergency. I couldn't just flat out cancel my long distance access completely because where I was working at the time was also a long distance call and the kids still needed to have a way to get in touch with ME in case of emergency too. (Those calls though were long distance but considered to be "local long-distance.)

For about 2-3 months, things seemed to be calming down with the phone bill. I wasn't getting hit with major bills run up each month by Mandy anyway. Then after about the 3rd month, suddenly I discovered there were long distance calls on my bill again - to Mandy's friend's number no less. I first cornered my son and asked if he had given Mandy the access number and he said no, he hadn't. So I asked Mandy how she managed to dial those calls and she informed me very calmly she had just dialed them through.

What? How could that be, I asked her. You have to have the access code to do that so where did you get the access code?

"Oh that," she replied, "I called the operator and had her dial it for me!" Needless to say, that ended my ban on the long distance service and the need for an access code. Did no good to have it there anyway when the telephone company would provide it themselves to the kid, ya know!

One other little story I recall too about my kids and the toys they had growing up - Carrie was, like most girls her age, interested early on in Barbie dolls. It was frustrating for her early on when Clate discovered her toys, along with his, because he too liked to play with the Barbie dolls. (My ex just raised his eyebrows over that but didn't have a major hissy fit over it.) But Carrie was really upset initially because Clate's idea of playing with her Barbie dolls meant really that they would all become headless - he just liked to pop the heads off them. Frustrating as that was to deal with at first, once Carrie realized you could just pop the heads back on, she did get over that little trick her brother had there.

But the Christmas of 1978 - when Carrie was 11, one of the gifts she received was a "Farah Faucett Head" - a doll's head of the image of that movie star and different kinds of make-up, etc., that a young girl could apply to the face - a means to help her learn a bit about application of make-up, ways to restyle hair, etc. Carrie loved that doll head - with a passion.

One day, I came home from work and found the house in bedlam. My Mom was babysitting the kids and when I came in, she and the two girls were back in the girls' bedroom, Mandy crying, Carrie screaming and kicking wildly towards Mandy and my Mom in between an 11-year-old and a three-year-old - holding them - or trying to hold them - apart!

What the heck was going on here? What started all this mess anyway I asked?

As it turned out, Mandy had gotten into the makeup that came with that doll head thing and had proceeded to literally paint it on the dolls face - so darkly that the doll looked like she was Indian. And, Carrie was absolutely crushed and very, very angry with her little sister for her having "Deliberately ruined" her doll's head.

Almost thirty years have passed since that happened and Carrie still reminds me - and Mandy - about how she destroyed her most favorite toy of all toys.

I think Carrie is taking so much pleasure in watching how Maya gets into any and all makeup she can -or if none is available, she uses crayons or markers to paint herself - or the walls or the sofa or anything else she comes in contact with too -kind of like her mother did years ago ya know.

Meanwhile - Mandy and I have been thinking lately of trying to see if maybe we can find one of those Farah doll heads on e-bay or some thing like that and if it isn't too outrageously priced, maybe get it and give it to Carrie for Christmas or her birthday some year.

Wonder if that will allow her then to finally forgive her baby sister for what she did back in the spring of 1979?


Anonymous said...

Oh, childhood memories can leave really deep traces. Sounded like she was a bit too smart... *giggles*

Catmoves said...

The trials and tribulations of being a peace maker between kids. Sounds like you handled it as best it could be done, though.
Yep, Carrie will forgive her completely. It's just part of growing into adulthood.
And maybe she'll teach Mandy's kids to paint each other's faces?

Linda said...

I don't believe that "forgive and forget" applies to childhood traumas inflicted by other siblings!

Sylvia said...

L love to read your memories.

Natalie said...

Most of the time I'm a little sad I grew up as an only child. But after reading this, I'm happy no one messed up my Barbie make-up head!

Theresa said...

Wow that Mandy was sure a go getter, calling the operator- very impressive-- I can't believe the operator did it for her makes you wonder.

Yes sometimes it is hard to forget when something you love was destroyed- but lesson learned, keep your things away from a 3 year old.

I find it funny when my sister's complains about and then ask me to do something with her teenage daughter (18)- I just laugh because her daughter is just like her and she can't see it. I just laugh and say paybacks are tough.

Minnesotablue said...

My two daughters have always complained that I gave my son special treatment because he was a male and couln't get pregnant.Knowing my daughters they will never give it up.