Mondays and Fridays (the two full days each week that Hallie and I spend together) occasionally mirror what I once envisioned parenting a daughter would look like. I help Hallie pick out a pretty dress to wear, braid her blond curls, and tickle her little chin as I buckle her into her car seat. I drop my cheerful girl off at the gym childcare center, and after a quick cardio or strength workout to clear my head, she and I head off to run errands.
We put gas in the car, stock up on home goods at Target, and buy groceries, all the while singing songs and talking about what she's learning in preschool, her friends, and how much she loves to dance. At home we read stories, color pictures, and bake cookies until time to walk leisurely, hand in hand, through the neighborhood to pick up her older brother from school.
It's a pretty picture, isn't it?
Approximately one in every 12 days spent with Hallie plays out as I've described above. The rest are slightly less idyllic.
Hallie melts down for the first time when I won't let her wear her swimsuit to the gym. It's 44 degrees outside, and while I've been known to wear my swimsuit in even less swimwear-friendly weather, Hallie doesn't know that and is, to put it mildly, a winter weather wimp. Once wrestled into an appropriate outfit, Hallie refuses to brush her teeth, refuses to brush her hair, and refuses to hug her daddy goodbye as he heads out the door to work. She kicks me in the ribs as I buckle her into her carseat, and as we enter the gym, my temperamental gal literally growls at the lovely young woman working at the front desk. I enjoy my workouts more than usual on days like these.
Of course Hallie doesn't want to run errands, so she cries at the gas station, knocks over a display of Easter pencils at Target, and rips up my list at the grocery store. She'll only sing "Last Friday Night" by Katy Perry, which she heard once on the radio before I realized the lyrics were inappropriate for preschoolers, and she'll only discuss how she'd rather be watching cartoons. The grocery store staff members hear us coming and pray we don't chose their check-out lane.
Upon arriving home and being released from her carseat, Hallie buckles herself into Will's carseat and sits in the car, pouting, for 20 minutes. She finally comes inside when I mention baking, but then melts down again because - I kid you not - the recipe doesn't include enough ingredients and therefore doesn't take long enough to make. When it's time to pick up her brother I very nearly drag her to school, and once there, she hides behind the bushes and refuses to come out when it's time to walk home.
A "typical" day with Hallie is mentally and emotionally exhausting. She hurts my feelings, drives me up the wall, and on particularly rough days, has me convinced that I'm losing my mind.
Hallie is so much more than all that. She is fierce and passionate. She is proud, confident, and independent. She knows who she is and where she's going, and she's sure as hell not going to let me - or anyone else, for that matter - get in the way of either. She is teaching me to be a more creative, more patient, and more compassionate mother, and at night, once she has come out of her room for the last (17th) time and has finally fallen asleep, I am able to recognize and acknowledge that she is teaching me to be a better person.