My daughter and I had a wee spat last night. It was pretty basic stuff, beginning with her present tendency to find all aspects of her brother's corporeal presence unbearably irritating, and brought to an abrupt climax when she punched him to make her point. She put forth an impassioned defence based on the assertion that she was merely "swatting" him, swatting being a benign, non-punishable action completely different from the punch of which she was so unjustly accused. I, the implacable judge, pointed out that she was three feet away from me when she struck him, with a fist, hard enough to hurt, and no amount of semantics was going to commute the time out. She pronounced me the Worst Mother in the UNIVERSE, stalked to her room and dove under the bedcovers.
Normally at this point, I disengage. She grumbles for a few minutes, picks up a book, regains control, and all is well by the time she emerges. Nothing further said. Lately though, I've been increasingly aware that the golden age of my absolute authority is quickly winding to a close and the scary vortex of puberty is looming. I wondered if I could find a way to stay engaged in the middle of her anger, to do something wise and wonderful and Good Mother-ish to ease her way back to self-control. (And truthfully, there are some very good reasons why this is a particularly thorny challenge. Mainstream parenting advice works brilliantly on my son; on the girl - not so much.)
I walked to the side of her bed. She shouted at me to go away, buried herself in the duvet, and I stood there, trying to imagine what I could say. What one of those really Good Mothers with the perma-smile and perfect children would say. (The intellectual comfort of a legitimate diagnosis doesn't stop me from judging myself against their scrubbed and polished soccer-mom perfection.) Totally blank. A minute went by, and still nothing. And then I had a completely childish impulse of my own to just stay there, quiet as a mouse, and see what might transpire.
The minutes ticked by. There was a little wiggling, and finally a curious face poked out to see what was going on. A moment of stunned silence... and then helpless giggles at the absurdity of the whole thing. She threw her arms around me and we laughed until the tears ran down our cheeks.
It was magic. I'm not sure why I feel compelled to write it down here, except that I want to mark the moment, remember that sometimes it can be this way.