I thought it was my parenting skills or lack thereof but I think it's more widespread than just my poor parenting skills. It's a family dynamic that somehow keeps everything else in and out of balance. The symbiosis of parent/child relationship, particularly in the high strung. It's true that every child is unique and needs more attention at one time or another, but there seems to be a preponderance of families that have one particular child that the other members of the family orbit. The one that dictates whether there will be peace or war. The child that holds the delicate balance within his or her hands and can crush or delight parental spirits and family bonding.
I've long maintained that there is, in nearly every family, one black sheep. If you don't know who it is, it is probably you. I will continue this litany because it makes me laugh when defenses arise, fingers point, and finally hands come up in surrender. But I think the truth is more complex than this.
There is one child that is higher strung, has louder vibrations, and bigger tears but if a tree falls in the forest, does it make any noise? In other words, there is another member of this chemical reaction that is rarely taken into account. One parent is more finely attuned to the subtle changes of that particular child's moods. She watches the child's pupil size, carefully monitors the voice decibels, counts the smiles as opposed to the scowls, and stands on guard at any time to intervene.
Some may call us a Helicopter Mom as we hover and assess. We are always at the ready to feed the child who is susceptible to deviations of blood sugar, guide the child to take a nap, give her a drink of water if we believe the problem is hydration. We ask about stool passing, eating habits, even (gasp!) menstrual cycles because we are trained to be the mediator between our children and the world. Or just between our children.
We stand ready to sacrifice ourselves if called to do so. When the pupils are too dilated, the voice too loud, agitation increasing, we know we will have to jump into the combat zone in order to minimize damage and save the other siblings from bodily harm or emotional insults. Every once in awhile, we are physically assaulted but more often than not, we are verbally slapped. I will admit that I have been told how much I am loathed, hated, and a failure as a parent. In fact, I'll come clean and tell you I've heard it from more than one child. I've heard it enough times that I can actually smile and reply with a perky, "Okay! Thanks for telling me!"
My job description indicates that I am to love my children unconditionally and I do. It does not say, in even the small print, that I have to be loved by them. I also found a loophole that I interpret that I don't always have to like my children. Sometimes one or another bugs the hell out of me. Those are the times when I know I need to disconnect my supersensory skills, allow Dad into the arena, and bow out. Often, it is the change of parent that defuses the impending bomb detonation. He notices the increase of electricity in the air nearly as well as I do but he allows me to play my part as the ears in the forest because it's what I do.
In the past week I've taken note of the mothers and fathers who, in passing, have mentioned that they struggle with one of their children more than the others. One is more needy, anxious, surly, hungry, angry, hormonal, or compulsive. On the other hand, one parent rises to the scale to balance the little universe. Sometimes we are successful. Other times, not so much.
So I may add to my children's woe, but I have the best intentions. I realize now why my dad spent a little more time with me than the other children and why, even though I'm middle age, he frustratingly reminds me every day to get an appointment with the rheumatologist or talks to my doctor at church so he can be more helpful to me. Even though I chewed him out yesterday for crossing ethical lines. Then I apologized. Because I get it. I was the anxious tree falling in the forest and he was the ears. Even though he's now 75% deaf, he still hears my branches creak. It's built into his DNA.
If this blog is still accessible in 30 years, I hope that child I am most attuned to realizes that I love her. And if, in 30 years I am still asking any of my children about their pooping habits, I hereby give them permission to slap me.
There simply must be a statute that limits the amount of mortification a parent can cause a grown child. Until those children are grown, however, we reign supreme.