If I were to draw a line of chalk on the floor and tell my daughter not to step over it, she would spend the next hour and a half teetering on one leg like a lopsided flamingo, balancing her big toe over the line without actually “stepping” foot to floor. If I remained quiet and did not interrupt, she’d then run to her bedroom for her favorite doll to orchestrate a puppet tap-dance on the other side of the chalk line, a cabaret called How Much Is Too Much Mama!
And if I still didn’t respond, she‘d hurl our terrified and elderly cat into enemy territory – fur flying, claws in the air, while screaming, “Torpedo kitty!” One might think at this point a child would give up, but not MY girl.
For the grand finale, my little spitfire would carefully erase the line of scrimmage with spit and a hanky, pick up the chalk and draw a new one, her line, a good ten feet away. She’d then produce a show featuring a tap-dancing doll and hissing cat, so loud that the neighbors would wonder if we were reenacting the feline version of West Side Story.
Why does my child delight in tormenting her poor mother, not to mention our elderly cat? Why do these lines have to be crossed, and patience tested, daily, sometimes even hourly? I don’t know. And I think that’s the answer. I don’t know. I may be the teacher, but she is the one handing out the test. And motherhood is an essay exam, never multiple choice.
My daughter’s exam would go something like this:
As my mom, would you define yourself as a pushover, tyrant, friend, or leader? And be honest. You know I know the truth!
How far is too far, and what exactly (be specific) are the consequences for said child going too far?
What happens when the line is not chalk on the floor but a boy, a curfew, or say a tattoo of Hello Kitty on my butt?
Do cats always land on their feet when dropped, and if so, at what height would you say is fatal?
The world will be grading your answers, so choose wisely and write neatly.
This line will always be moving, flexible, sometimes erased and even redrawn. There will never be a point where I think, “I’ve aced this. I know exactly what I’m doing now.”
Nope, I just have to sit here in the school of motherhood watching my lopsided flamingo balance one toe over the line, for the rest of our lives and hopefully we’ll survive this test and learn something in the process.