READING BETWEEN THE PINES

If life's about the journey, does it matter how many bathroom breaks you take along the way?

No, not you. The you I’m referring to in this post is my seven-going-on-seventeen year-old daughter, Essa.

Running short on time and long on things to do, I had a simple conversation with my little girl the other day that went something like this.

Me: Essa, we’ve gotta pick up Taylor and Grace. Get in your car seat and let’s go.

Essa: Seriously Mom? Car seats are for babies.

Me: No, Essa. Car seats are for kids, and even though you like to think of yourself as someone who falls outside the National Highway Traffic Safety guidelines, you don’t.

Essa: Fine! (cue heavy foot stomping, something large and likely expensive crashing in the laundry room, and an exaggerated door slam)

It takes me about an hour to locate my car keys on any given day, and by the time I’d wrenched them out from under the bin-organizer-thingy in the hall that everyone ignores as they toss their shoes on the floor, I wasn’t in the best mood. When I got outside? This is what I found:

Here’s the thing. On paper, Essa did exactly as I’d asked. She got in her car seat. Never mind that she planted it on top of Taylor’s longboard, raced down the driveway sans-helmet, and flew across the street without bothering to look in any safe direction, raising her arms in some kind of “take that mom” victory cheer at the end.

Technically, she didn’t do anything wrong.

And this is where I detect the germinating seed of a growing problem.

My daughter, in many ways, is a lot like me, but her singular brand of Essaness is emerging about twenty years ahead of schedule…just in time for me to deal with it for the next ten.

So in an effort to keep both of us alive, I’m offering her a one-time only Guide to Getting Through the Next Decade Under the Same Roof as Me. Otherwise? Life as she knows it will exist solely within the confines of the four walls better known as her room, and we’ll both bear the pain of incarceration.

 Ten Ways to Act Like You Respect Me Even if You Don’t

1. Don’t be so obvious. It’s a lot easier to steal my wallet while you’re patting me on the back.

2. Compliment me. I’m especially vulnerable when being told I look younger than I am. Twenty-eight is a good place to start.

3. Tell any adult you encounter how much you admire me: your teacher, a friend’s parent, my therapist…kind words, even if completely fabricated, go a long way.

4. Timing is everything. If you can work it so I hear about this fake compliment right after you’ve told me I don’t look old enough to have had three kids? You’ve earned an entire week’s worth of heavy sighs and exaggerated eye rolls.

5. Pretend to be nice to your brother and sister. When you coldcock your brother in the head right in front of me it stresses me out. Hit him when I’m not around.

6. Don’t do drugs. Period. If you put any substance in your body that I’ve never let into mine? It won’t matter if you fake like me or not because I will kill you.

7. Synch your calendar with my cycle. There’s one day a month when you’re better off camping out in the scrub oak behind the house with a flashlight and some beef jerky rather than crossing my path.

8. Force those huge, expressive eyes to lock meaningfully with mine and channel a vibe of “wow mom, your wisdom just blows me away…thank you for being so magnificent” when I’m trying to teach you something rather than “I’m so blah, blah, blekity blah bored and stuff, and like, anyway, who do you think you are, and you so don’t get me and all that and are you done yet because I have better things to do.”

9. Use your Montessori education to your advantage. Less drama + more smiling = more peace = less restriction = more fun. See? A + B = C = D = E. Simple math that makes no sense is genius.

10. When in doubt, always tell the truth because I’ve not only been right where you are, I’m a step ahead of you. My genetic code is responsible for all the back alleyways and side streets on your map, and there’s no place you might dare to go that I haven’t already been.

I understand the theory of evolution, that my childhood took place in the Mesozoic Era, and you’re way ahead of wherever I was at your age. But slow down. It seems like only yesterday when you climbed into my lap, looked directly into my eyes, and asked if fairies were real. You’re an amazingly intuitive, intelligent little girl, and if you’ll take my hand and hold it over the next ten years like you’ve done for the past seven? I crisscross-applesauce promise I’ll let you go when it’s time for you to fly.

87 thoughts on “I Think I’m Smarter Than You

  1. What a lovely post! I have a seven/seventeen year-old daughter, too. Strong willed is good, even though it might kill their mamas in the process. 😉

    1. Anonymous says:

      Brilliant

      1. I love it when anyone calls me brilliant, but I’m not so vain as to assume that you, Anonymous, are referring to me. You may be talking about Essa, in which case I say blah.

    2. If one of us has to go down, I’ll take the bullet because that’s what awesome moms do.
      =)

      Good luck with your own version of Essa, Beth, and thanks for stopping by!

  2. Stac- your post couldn’t have come at a better time. The last 24 hours have been full of eye-rolls and foot stomps, tears, hugs, and forgiveness. What amazed me is that I can’t believe how I was caught off-guard by this new “mood” my 9 year old is in…I suppose I have been living in la-la land because the older child (a boy…) apparently constrains his eye-rolls and foot stomps to the private areas of his don’t-want-to-do-anything-I’ll-have-to-ask-forgiveness-for-later brain. I am printing and posting this instruction manual…but not just for Mira…the employees I manage could use this today as well. 🙂

    1. Tiff,

      That the product of Essa’s defiance might actually help your employees treat you with the goddess-like respect you deserve makes me smile. Please tell them that if they don’t behave themselves I’m sending Essa down for a personal visit. As for your daughter? There I’m at a loss. Maybe we can compare notes over the coming years and have an annual cryfest over a cocktail when I’m home.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, and for sharing Essa’s story.
      =)

  3. Barry says:

    She is such a beauty. I blame your side of the family for the stubbornness gene, however… 🙂

    1. As you know all too well Barry, she comes from a unique line of Essas who make an impression. Perhaps your Essa would like to adopt mine from about now until 2022?

    2. And you’re well within your rights to blame the stubborn gene on the Whittens. We’ve got an unusually large dose of crazy running around.

  4. She’s adorable. Good luck with her teen years!

    1. Thank you Adrienne. I’ll need all the help I can get. =/

  5. meizac says:

    Oh my gawd, I love this post!

    1. And I love you! Now that Le Clown is back, I wonder what’s going on with his assistantship?

      1. meizac says:

        I think you should be his assistant for all of eternity.

  6. meizac says:

    Reblogged this on Meizac's Blog and commented:
    With only *very* minor modifications, this could just as easily apply to Z and M.

    1. So you have TWO Essas? I sincerely wish you the best of luck, and now know where to go to commiserate. =|

      1. meizac says:

        I have a male and a female version. Unfortunately, the little one is learning far too much from her big brother.

      2. And be trapped in a circus tent with mimes and gypsies for the rest of my life? Three days is long enough. =p

  7. crubin says:

    As horrified as I was to see your daughter’s dare devil actions, that video made me laugh out loud. She definitely is ingenious in her defiance! Loved your list and completely agree–especially the not fighting with the siblings in your presence. What they do on their own time is fine. 🙂

    BTW, my kids went to a Montessori school up until middle school (one is finished there, the other will start 7th grade there next fall.) I can’t say enough good things about it. Yes, it’s a bit granola-ish, but the things those kids come out doing is amazing. As your daughter demonstrates!

    1. I’m totally with you, Carrie. Mine have gone Montessori from P3 – 5th grade, although we’re skipping the last year in the cycle so that they can each start in 6th at the bottom o the lonely middle school barrel like everyone else.

      I was just at a May Day music performance that the 5th grade put on. They took “follow the child” to a whole new level. It was complete pandemonium.
      =)

      1. crubin says:

        We’re fortunate to have a Montessori Middle School. It’s very well known, and teachers from around the world come to visit it. I’m amazed at what my now 9th grader achieved when he was there. Way ahead of me at that age!

      2. Our school is starting a middle school next year, but my son needs a larger social environment for 6th grade plus. That’s great that you have such an established option…I’ll look at it for my girls, but for the time being, we’re going mainstream. My son is going to flip out when he realizes how much homework he’ll have (and likely me too).

      3. crubin says:

        My oldest is now mainstream, but his Montessori middle school did give him a fair amount of homework to prepare him for the real world, even though that’s not the Montessori “way.” 🙂

  8. Cynosurd says:

    This is great! Love the rules. But things could get sticky when she realizes there’s a trove of your recollections in a past life celebrating unruliness and charming snarkyness out there on the web. Then you might be in trouble with the “but when you were my age…”

    1. This thought has definitely crossed my mind, however, I always have the parent standby in my back pocket that all kids absolutely hate…the classic “because I said so.”

      I love the “charming snarkyness” comment. I like being charming. Andy snarky. But never have the two been combined, so thank you. =)

  9. Anonymous says:

    Shipping her to live with her Uncle B and Aunt Miss is always an option 😉 She’s a girl after my own heart! hahahah

    1. Missy,
      I know you and Essa have an unusual bond. Maybe you need to tell me some stories from your childhood, or hold my hand through hers, or be a shoulder to cry on when she hates me, or all of the above…
      xoxo

  10. Essa is a beauty. And I would like to know her secret for making her eyelashes so long. That’s not fair.

    1. I agree about the lashes, and unfortunately for me, that’s one thing she didn’t get from my set of genes. Grrrrrrr.

      Thanks for the sweet comment, Madame (I love calling you Madame, by the way).

  11. Bryan says:

    She’s like a Mini-Stacie! You look adorable together. I have 5 kids from the ages of 17 through 6. All I can say is good luck Stacie!

    1. I TOTALLY get the gravatar pic now. You’re crazy, but now I know where I can ship Essa if things get out of hand.

      (and thanks for the compliment) =)

  12. Is it wrong that I really want to put a car seat on a longboard and go try that right now? Because I want to. Please don’t let her know.

    1. Your secret is safe with me. But please use a seatbelt or a piece of twine or a tree branch or something to stabilize your ride before you launch yourself into traffic. I almost went to law school so I feel the need to insert a disclaimer.
      =|

  13. So beautiful. So conniving. I swear, my heart stopped just a little as she sailed across that street without even looking. But then I thought, Stacie probably wouldn’t blog about Essa being mauled by a bus. Not right away. Yeah, the compliments do go a long way. Even though our cats can’t technically speak, when they suck up to me later at night after being little shits most of the day, all is forgiven. You’re lucky she’s not 17 yet. She’s going to be a heartbreaker and I have a feeling that your heart will be the first one broken. So hard to watch a little girl grow up and stop being a little girl.

    1. OK, I almost started crying. But not for the reason you think. You spelled my name wrong. So I edited your comment. Let me repeat: MY BLOGGING BESTIE SPELLED MY NAME WRONG! I hope you realize that when I spelled yours wrong a couple of blogs ago I was making fun of the girl with the huge glasses. Who spelled your name wrong. I would never misspell your name. I might misspell something unimportant, like my husband’s name, but never Cristy Carington Lewis. Ever.

      1. I am so sorry. My favorite cousin’s name is the same as yours, but she spells it Stacey. I’ve been messaging with her a lot on FB and, clearly, I was laughing so hard after reading your blog that I inadvertently spelled it wrong. It won’t happen again, Stacie Shadwikk. xo

      2. I feel better already.

      3. Really? Cause I’m still reeling from the fact that you spelled my last name wrong.

      4. Laura says:

        We can edit comments? Holy Mackrel, I think I just became a lot more popular. And beautiful, witty, well-written…

      5. Yes, on your dashboard. So now you can stay awake all night trying to figure out a just-witty-enough-response to Cristy’s post…. =)

      6. Oh, Stacie, you know this is just the beginning, right? I have gray hair popping up all over thanks to my childrens’ antics. You’ll start drinking soon if you haven’t already. 🙂 Great post and Essa and her momma are beautiful.

      7. I’m actually drinking as I type, is that good or bad?

        Thanks for the sweet comment….I’m coming to you for advice next.

  14. Essa is a beauty! I did freak also when she went across the street — but she’s okay, I’m glad, and there’s humor to her little show of rebelliousness — flipping two birds!

    1. I’m glad you are happy about her seven year-old sassiness. I’m gonna hit you up when it’s time t ship her out. =p

  15. My daughter is 15 so I can relate to what you said, only not quite as funny. You are hilarious, adorable and from what I can tell, a great mom. Wonderful post Stacie. 🙂

    1. I love you more each and every day Wendy. Since you’re a little ahead of me and have lived to tell the tale, I now have hope that I can make it through the next decade intact. =)

  16. You’re such a good mom! My mom told me to NEVER hit my sister. You’re giving your kids the option. You might as well, we’ll do it anyway.

    1. Path of least resistance.

  17. Loved it! In fact, I’m going to print it out and hang it on our fridge as well as on the inside of my kids’ bedroom doors (so they can read it after they stomp into their bedrooms and slam the doors.) In fact, I think I’ll send a copy home with my daughter’s bff who definitely doesn’t respect me. I’ll just have to amend the “one day a month” because I’m hormonally challenged.

    1. Guess what. My one day a month is today. I almost strangled my daughter, Grace, because she wouldn’t sit still for me to put her hair in a ponytail this morning before school.

      Thanks for the comment. It’s the only thing that’s happened this morning that hasn’t made me mad.
      =)

  18. Anonymous says:

    Stac……..Oh the memories of days gone by. Your insight into what to expect trails back to your days of knowing so much more than me and you didn’t even start that until you were about 13!!!!!!!!!!! Essa has at least a five-year head start on you. I just have to wish you well!! As described in a former blog….keep the bullhorn close by.
    Love mom and happy mother’s day!!

    1. Happy Mom’s Day to you. You’re the best Mom ever, despite the fact that you foiled every single one of my secret plans. xoxo

  19. billmcmorrow says:

    Hahaha, criss-cross applesauce. Great read as always Stacie Chadwick. You’ve been blogrolled. Deal with it.

    1. I’m honored, especially to be featured by someone who shares my love of everything 80s, and somehow survived the decade. Thank you, Bill!

  20. Delightful, hilarious, well written, heart-warming, truthful. Keeping them believing in themselves while trying to teach them good stuff and settiung them limits is the hardest job on the planet. Our daughter is 21 now – bright, intuitive, courageous, perceptive, questioning, creative, hard-working, polite, and beautiful. She can also argue me to a standstill – me! – in under two minutes. This is my greatest achievement as a parent. The rest was all her mother’s doing.

    1. I’m a big fan of spirited debate, as long as it isn’t about curfews, illegal substances, or boys. Thanks for the great note, Yolly. Hopefully my girls will follow the path set by your lovely girl… =)

  21. Anastasia says:

    Hahahahaha… Its funny, I remember being like that as a kid – but with more subtlety, as we were beaten regularly “lol”. And I get this weird feeling when confronted with this from kids or coworkers. It’s half “I will slug you into next week for being a snot to me when you know exactly what I meant” and half “ugh, I LOVE the intelligence, independence and don’t-tell-me-what-to-do-ness of this so much that I’m actually proud of this person, despite them being wrong and me wanting to punish them for their ‘tude.” It’s total love/hate.

    1. She’s one-of-a-kind and constantly surprising me. Thanks for the awesome note, Anastasia!

  22. Reminds me why I’m so glad my two girls are actually 23 and nearly 20… Love, love, love # 7. Happy Mother’s Day! :>

    1. To know that you all made it through alive is incredibly reassuring. Thanks for the note!

  23. Laura says:

    Great, Stacie! Totally made me laugh, even while nodding that knowing nod… been there… still there (only worse)… you have my sympathies… nice strategies! You forgot to work in the random & spontaneous shoulder/hand/foot massage. Those erase many transgressions in our household. Isabella was also Montessori-bred, but has survived the rigors of Catholic school for the past three years as a counterbalance to all that freedom and creativity and damn encouragement for rebellion! I mean, individual expression [italics]. Love the pic of you two! Beautiful!

    1. Thanks for your sweet comment, Laura. Since you seem to have done an amazing job raising your daughter, you may be hearing from me from time to time. Or I may just show up on your front door step with an overnight bag and a bottle of wine. =p

      1. Laura says:

        Oh, pleeeeeease do! You’ll find that pre-teen girls are perfectly capable of surviving for a couple days in a locked room, just so they have a little food, water, nail polish, and iTunes. (That is, if your husband needs a get-away at the same time.)

  24. Oh could I relate! And mine is only five! Just think what she could do in a few years. I am very scared, Stacie. One of my friends has teen daughters and she always tells me the way my daughter acts now will be how she is when she’s 15. Lord have mercy! Great post, loved the picture.

    1. Essa has an older sister and brother, so let the drama begin! My son starts middle school next year, and from what I understand, it’s an entirely parallel, yet foreign universe.

      Thanks for the visit and comment. Hopefully we can cry on each other’s blog shoulders as time goes by.

      =/

  25. sweetmother says:

    um, okay, this might be my most favorite post of yours EVER. i loved it and who in the hell filmed that without yelling, ‘little girl, THE STREET, THE STREET!!!’ because that’s what i would’ve been yelling in the background. i can only assume you live on a cul de sac. and pheeeeeew, it’s been TOO LONG since i’ve been on your blog. things are calming down at the ‘lodge’ thank god. anyway, so good, so good to read this piece. it was awesome. xoxo, sm

    1. Sweet Mother!
      So happy to see you. It’s been too waaaayyyyyy too long. Miss ya and thanks for the visit. Will be by to see you as soon as I lock Essa in her room.
      =)

      1. sweetmother says:

        loool. 😉 she’s adorable too. xoxo

  26. hollybernabe says:

    Your daughter is lovely! And I sympathize. My daughter is ten going on 25, herself.

    1. We can commiserate together if you change your walking route to come through Denver…thanks for stopping by Holly!

  27. Kathy V. says:

    Wow. I have to say, I’m impressed. Her act of derring-do combined premeditated a$$holery, insight into your character, and joie de vivre in a way that is far beyond her years. I think you might have a future super-villain on your hands.

    1. Do you, by chance have a super-villain on your hands? You sound like you have Essa’s number, and I would like to nominate you as my new therapist, especially if you can provide me with a map.
      =/

      1. Kathy V. says:

        You mistake me, madam. I AM A SUPER VILLAIN. Mwah-ha-ha-ha-ha!

      2. I like evil people.

      3. Kathy V. says:

        We are the most interesting kind.

  28. guest says:

    Those seats really are for babies. Has the whole world gone mad?

    1. According to Essa? Yes.

  29. Christine says:

    Shit. Shitshitshitshitshit. So this is what you were talking about? I am so screwed…

    1. I think you may be in for some trouble Christine…. =p

  30. Simon says:

    She is a pretty little girl that is gonna keep you on your toes for a while. This aw my favorite part: “I’m a step ahead of you. My genetic code is responsible for all the back alleyways and side streets on your map, and there’s no place you might dare to go that I haven’t already been.” Really good stuff Stacie.

    1. Thanks, Simon. It helps that I’ve done just about everything she might consider. =)

  31. bronxboy55 says:

    I have two daughters, now in their twenties, and I remember feeling almost disappointed that they didn’t know how to play the game better. Was it some deficiency in pattern recognition? This behavior always produces this result, so why keep choosing that other behavior? Maybe it’s a necessary part of growing up and doing the separation thing. I have no idea. But I loved this entire post, Stacie, especially: “Pretend to be nice to your brother and sister. When you coldcock Taylor in the head right in front of me it stresses me out. Hit him when I’m not around.”

    1. As you can probably tell, Essa is not the worrier I referenced on your blog. She’s the opposite. Which really worries me. =)

      Thanks, Charles, for your visit and thoughtful comment. I love it when you stop by.

  32. A.J. Goode says:

    Number 5 is my favorite!

    1. Mine too, especially when my youngest gives my oldest a black eye. I’m all, “In your face!” =p

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