Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Alien Child

I'm sure that I'm not the first parent to think that their child is a visitor from another planet. Most days I look at Lily and think that she is just here collecting data on the daily habits of the suburban family. Navigating life as Lily's mom has been so different from Caroline. I understand Caroline because she is so like me. She wears her heart on her sleeve. Right or wrong, you always know where you stand (even if that's in earshot of screaming and crying).

Lily on the other hand seems so happy go lucky. Never upset, never worried. That couldn't be farther from the truth. It just shows in different ways, like rapid fire questions or bossing people around. I have quickly learned that I can avoid headaches and mess if I just answer her questions truthfully. Forget fairies and other magic stories, this kid wants the facts. That's not to say she doesn't have an imagination. She does, but make believe lives in it's own place (everything in her life has it's compartment), she will clearly tell you it's not real, it's just for fun. When people try to tease her and say things like "look there's a purple elephant!" Lily will chuckle knowingly and look at me, "Mom, that's not true! Elephants aren't purple."

She seems so fearless, but she is terrified of the dark. One night she started crying about monsters. I pulled out my tried and true tale of "Monster Spray" that kept them away. Lily's response was "That can't be true because I know monsters aren't real, they just live in my head!" The look of annoyance on her face when she called me on my lie, cured me of that forever.

She seems to know no fear, but once she understands the dangers, she is so cautious. Once she knows that "This is a rule," she is a tyrant about it. The trick is to explain it to her satisfaction or she'll figure it out the hard way. The old advice about avoiding "over explaining to your child" doesn't apply here. You can't over explain to this kid.

My biggest problem with her is the comedy aspect. She is a certified "laughter junky." If she thinks that it will get a laugh, she'll do it. Sometimes even at the expense of known safety rules. Lily does impersonations of all of the people in her life and TV characters. She hears a story once and recites it from memory with added voices and dialogue. Suddenly she has decided that she is too old for "little kid shows" and wants to watch Caroline's shows. That lasted only one day before I got hit with the biggest wall of preteen attitude from my pint sized four year old. Caroline's shows have been deemed "iappopriate" (her word) for Lily. It is so hard to politely whisper to strangers " I know she's funny, but please don't laugh, she'll never stop."

Once we set a rule, God help us if we veer at all away from it. Lily first let us know and then the next time inform us that we let her do it once so she should get to do it again.

I know she's smart. I'm not saying this in that bragging mommy way (My little angel can sing on tune while reading the encyclopedia, while painting a recreation of Starry Night). Lily can just figure things out without any help from us. Rob borrowed money from her any she knew how much she had and how much she had left. I feel a little bad about her having us for parents. We are both pretty smart people. The problem is that we a very quiet and independent in our intelligence. We don't sit around having lofty discussions. We sit around trading smart ass barbs. I never pushed Caroline to read. I figured it would happen on it's own and it did. I've never been a flash card Mom or a factoid Mom. I love TV and have no reservations about it. I love the computer, but also love books just as much. I just think that Lily would be better off with parents who could teach her to use her skills for good instead of mayhem.

I am wondering if I should try to teach her to read and write this summer, but honestly, I'm kind of enjoying the ride. I like her unbridled wackiness. I don't want to button her up into academia. The other night after a particularly episode of kookiness involving costume changes, dialogue in song, and air quotes, Rob looked at me and said that she reminded him of a friend of ours from high school. This guy was one of the brightest and wittiest people that I've ever met, but with absolutely no drive or regard for structured education. He was in the gifted program, but barely passed, yet he blew his SATs out of the water. My first response was a sarcastic "great!" Then Rob said, "I bet he's a very interesting adult. Besides, I doubt he had a hard assed mother like you. You'll keep her in line."

The more I think about it, I think she came here from Planet Silly to loosen us up. Otherwise we'd be sitting around exchanging sarcastic quips then going right back to our books or computer. Alone, but separate. Lily unites us in wacky sweetness. I laugh at least a dozen times a day. She is unleashed joy. Maybe we'll just work on the comedic chops. She already has bunny ears. What do you think of getting her an fake arrow through the head?

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