If you’ve just picked this up, please hold on a second while I compose myself. Or compose my thoughts on the riddle wrapped up in an enigma stiffed into a Russian doll hidden in a labyrinth on the outer edges of a conundrum that is my young teenage daughter’s brain, and process our latest run-in.
K had asked me the night before to call her a little earlier for school, so she could do her hair. This a lengthy and intricate process that involves hair-straighteners, clips, false starts, sighs and the occasional expletive, which we may or may not choose to ignore. Choose your battles, they say — we seem to be choosing our interventions.
She can only use the mirror in the main bathroom for this ritual because apparently the full length mirror in her room isn’t full length enough to allow her to do all this standing up. Or sitting down without using her brother’s chair from his bedroom — which she often nabs without asking him. His room is on one side of the bathroom and her’s is on the other side.
“Two more minutes,” she said when I called her before 7am. She was still there 15 minutes later after I came up having taken out the dog, turned on the heating and a few other bits and pieces. She was the one who had asked me to call her, remember?
In the meantime, our boy O is finally coming to after being called a few times. He had football training in a biting wind and slanting rain the evening before and had opted for a morning shower.
This one seems to be working better: you’ve got a strong-willed kid so instead of ultimatums you offer options: “You want your shower now or in the morning?’ — ‘morning’ — “sound!”
His feet had finally reached the bedroom floor when I noticed the cord from K’s hair-straightener stretching from the socket in the landing and running under the door of the main bathroom.
“K, O has to have a shower … we said that last night … that’s why you asked to be called early …
“Woooohhh!”, she exclaimed, or something like that and stomped her foot.
“I neeeddd to do my hair!”
“Yes, but you will have to do it in your own room, O has to have a shower, you know that.”
The bathroom door is flung open and K is standing there fuming like the Evil Queen in Snow White, another woman who had issues with mirrors.
Luckily K doesn’t go bad spells, and there was no thunder or coloured lightning flashing, but if looks could kill …
“You never think about anybody else only yourselves,” she bristled, brushing past me and heading for her room, slamming the door behind her.
O, meanwhile, says to me, “I don’t have time for a shower now, we’ve wasted too much time …”
“Nice try, my boy, now get into that shower .…”
He grins as he heads for the bathroom.
K is only getting warmed up.
“I will have to get O’s chair to do my hair properly.”
She’s talking about the office chair in O’s room, where he does his homework. This had caused an almighty rumpus last night when she had taken it without his permission and he wanted it back. IMMEDIATELY! It was late and O was beyond tired so there was no time for subtlety or negotiation.
“Give me my chair … NOWWW!”
“It’s my chair, you BITCH … ”
That kind of thing.
Now, I’m at the door of K’s room, knocking on the door, opening it and talking to the back of her head, as she sits seething on the edge of her bed, beside the floor mirror.
“Look you can’t just take his chair, you know what happened last night …”
“It’s your own fault,” she shoots back, “all talk about getting me a new chair …
“Hang on a second here, K, what is all this anger, shouting …
“I’m not SHOUTING … you’re just wasting my time now, I have to get READY! … please GET OUT of my room!”
She’s still not even looking at me, her arms folded in the highest dudgeon, and then some.
Of course I can’t let it pass. I know she is not listening, and cares less, but I feel duty bound to lay on the Dad lecture.
“We said we would get you a chair, but you wouldn’t go with Mom when she wanted to go to Ikea … but this is us buying you a chair because yes, you could do with one, but you are not ENTITLED to it … we are the ones PAYING for it, not you, so at least some kind of thanks …” I know I’ve lost because my angry voice has escaped out of me.
“Who’s the one shouting?” she says, all calm and reasonable.
“And what’s this anger thing,” I bluster on … “It’s just not acceptable … you want something from us and you are INSULTING us and ABUSING us … how does that make any kind of sense?”
“Look Dad I need to get READY! Get OUT! NOW!”
I truth I am giving my own arse a headache with my sanctimonious guff, but I feel caught between a rock and a hard place … trying to puncture this bubble of self-centred entitlement and get her to engage with us and her brother in a respectful manner, the way people negotiate in the real world, the one we are supposed to be preparing her for.
I turn away and head downstairs.
The next 20 minutes passes off against a backdrop of simmering tension, with O joining in our condemnations of K’s behaviour, so we have to turn on him and remind him he is not the parent here.
“Listen here, O, you’re her younger brother, and there you are having a go at her, and acting like you are her parent … how would you feel if you had a younger sister and she was doing that to you … just cop on, will you!”
He just smirks, continuing to insult her with his eyes and hand gestures that stop when we are looking, as she glares malevolently at him from her crouched position over her bowl of Golden Crunch.
Naturally enough none of this behavious seems to happen when K is with her friends, and by all account she is a properly polite kid in her class in school, participates well and all that, and I suppose we should be glad that Hurricane K seems to be confined to our house.
But, it’s bloody exhausting.
How crazy is it to be shattered, mentally and physically, half an hour after getting up! My first coffee of the day when they finally all go out the door a pick me up rather than a relaxing brew?
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