Bethie is doing great. She started speech therapy and is learning to say "Yesssssssssss." She's energetic, smart, and hilarious.
But something pretty horrible happened last October.
She turned three.
Which means that now, every day at 11am, I pick her up at school. She is cute and charming to the teachers, to the teachers' aids, to the other parents, to the other kids waiting on the little steps. She says, "BUH byyyyye!" in her signature way and waves or hugs each of them as they all remark how adorable she is, her teacher gives me some anecdote about how nurturing she was to another child when he was crying, the boymoms say how they love her wardrobe and hairbows, and she prances to the her coach/Ford Expedition that awaits.
Then she hops in the car, all by herself, and I hold my breath.
If it is a good day, she looks at me and says, "Mama! 'Peech?" or "'Ome?" or "Go?"or maybe "Eat?" and launches into a modified version of Wheels on the Bus.
But some days it is one of Those Days.
And on Those Days, after her customary charm and prance, she alights her coach and just stands there. When I ask her to get in her carseat, she looks at me, squints her adorable little almond eyes, and says, "NO." So when I lift her up to physically put her in her carseat, she arches her back and slides down so that it is almost impossible for me to do the buckle, chanting, "No, no, NO Mommy! NO! NOOOOOO!" Then she holds up both of her little cute little hands and arranges her cute little middle fingers and shoots me a double bird.
Okay, not really. Her fine motor skills are not quite that advanced. They didn't have a lot of playdoh in the orphanage, you know. Had she had access to small muscle building toys I'm sure she would have perfected the double bird by now and maybe added a, what do you call it, when you put one hand into the crook of your other elbow? As if to say SHOVE IT, MAMA ?
Those Days, I don't like. Those Days I take a deep breath and wonder how long till I can get her into bed for a nap and hope that I have a Yo Gabba Gabba waiting on the DVR. Those Days I handle really well. Sometimes. Sometimes on Those Days I don't handle it well, because as much as I was hoping I would magically evolve into the perfect mother the moment we adopted her, dang it, it hasn't happened yet.
Yesterday, she took one of Those Days to a whole new level. Yesterday shall go down as Bethie's First Epic Tantrum.
It was about five o'clock and I was helping Eva rearrange her room. Bethie had had one fruit popsicle and came to me, face smeared in red, holding another wrapped in plastic, asking, "Ope? I wan more. Ope?" I told her no, one was enough. She screamed YESSSSSSSSSS. I said no.
She screamed NO! MOMMY! WANT! MORE!
And she threw the popsicle down on the floor.
I told her to pick it up.
She screamed NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!
And slammed the door in my face.
Okay, this, this is the difference between boys and girls. I've had two toddler boys. One of them was very strong willed. Very challenging. But he never slammed a door in my face. Slamming doors in faces in a female thing. Slamming doors is a, I'D FLIP MY FINGERS AND MY TOES OFF AT YOU RIGHT NOW IF ONLY I HAD THE FINE MOTOR SKILLS TO DO SO.
Females slamming doors in faces has built an entire network, y'all.
Evangeline, sweet, mostly obedient, so conscientious almost ten year old Evangeline, who loves her little sister more than almost anything in the world, watched all this, wide eyed. Then she turned to me incredulously and said, "Who does she think she is?!"
Smirking at the irony, I opened the slammed door and said, it's bedtime now, little girl. NOOOOOOOOOOO! NO NIGHTNIGHT! NOOOOOOOOO! It's been a while since I undressed a child whose bones have suddenly turned into noodles, but the skills came back. Got the clothes off. Then laying her down on the bed, I crossed one of my legs over her thrashing legs while inserting two kicking feet into a pullup and pajama pants on still thrashing legs. Then pulling a top over a screaming, gyrating head.
I won. The pyjamas were on.
I didn't earn that Tantrum Management mommy merit badge for nothing, y'all.
Then I kissed her, told her I loved her, and put her to bed. She tried to run out of the room several times and we had to fetch her and lay her back down. She screamed. About 20 minutes. Then fell asleep. Deep, deep asleep. For fourteen hours.
Afterwards, Eva was going on and on about how unbelievable that was. She was amazed. She couldn't believe that her precious little sister had done that. Over a popsicle!
I said, "Eva. You know when I told you you were hard? That was you. THAT WAS YOU."
"Every day??" she asked.
I nodded. "Just about. Every. Day."
Her eyes were as big as saucers. "Wow."
For Halloween of 2006, when people asked what she was going to dress up as, I always said, "A witch," then muttered, "appropriately."
She was all of 25 months old.
And she was a terrorist.
I have a clear memory of me, very pregnant with Ike, at the very end of my frayed hormonal rope, looking at a beautiful, charming-to-everyone-ELSE three year old girl, who glared at me with squinted eyes as I said in a very pathetic Sally Struthers voice, Do you even love me? Do you? Because the way that you treat me, I don't even think you love me!
I blogged about that girl. I wrote this when she was exactly - exactly - Bethie's age. Later, I confessed to you here:
I recently told Walker, at the end of an especially hard day, "If Eva Rose and I were dating, we would have broken it off by now. We would both have said, "It's not you, it's me. You're great, really. I just don't think it's working out."
But we're not dating. She's my daughter. She's the result of my prayers and wishes. And, as always, God knew to answer the prayers that I never prayed, but needed. For I can no longer claim to be unaware of my own sin. I can never claim to be ignorant of my own need for the cross. I can never, ever deny my desperation for daily, sometimes hourly, redemption.
I think there was also another reason. I think that while God was refining me by the fire of one crazy strong willed toddler, he was also preparing me for the crazy strong willed sister who would follow her later. Those hard hard years were a grace in disguise. Because that first little girl? I birthed her myself. She had no traumatic background. She wasn't taken from all she knew before she became ours. There was no tragedy in her past. She had no issues, attachment or otherwise. Yet she almost caused me to lose my ever loving mind. Just about. Every. Day.
And now, she's helping me to raise her protege.
I have thought many times over the past year that I am really, really glad Bethie was not my first child, but my fifth. My fifth two year old. My fifth three year old. Because if my first child were adopted, I know I would be freaking out right now, thinking that tantrum, and all Those Days leading up to it was an adoption thing, an attachment thing, a parenting thing.
It's a three year old thing.
Three year olds are narcissistic, irrational, demon-possessed little sociopaths.
Until five minutes later when they are adorable, cuddly, funny little puppies.
They are all like this.
All of them.
Whether you adopt them or not.
So, sweet little Bethie, with your adorable/evil ways, I'm on to you, girl. I know that October, when you turn four, will be the month of my deliverance. It will get better. I know this is not the Forever You, nor the Forever Me. I know that This Too Shall Pass.
I know that you are exploring, testing, seeing just how far you can push me. Seeing just how far my love for you will stretch.
Bring it on, pumpkin. Momma can take it. My love for you will stretch and stretch and stretch and it will never, ever break.
And I might even love you just a little bit more, the minute you turn four.