My four daughters have turned out wonderfully--well educated, professionally successful, happily married, excellent mothers. I wonder what diagnosis they would earn now. Certainly, I worried at least three of them were bipolar, if not spawns of Satan. Only the youngest was perceived as well-adjusted by our schools. As a foursome, they are frightening, although pictures would delude you into thinking they are sweet. You would have to go to Stop Drugging Children Into Obedience to see the evidence.
Names are changed to protest the guilty. Emma (1973) was the Adventurer; Michelle (1975) was the Strategist (a kind word for Machiavelli) and Scientist; Jane (1978) was the Writer and Critic of the Existential Order of Things; Molly (1982) was the gifted CEO/Human Relations Specialist. Here were some diagnostic indicators. Obviously not all applied to all four daughters.
They were chronically late. No one could get off to school in the morning without substantial maternal help, usually involving driving. It seems miraculous that Emma got herself up and functioning all around the world, and Molly gets up at 6 to get to her high school history job.
They never picked up their toys. I have stepped on 20,000 lego pieces in the dark. To this day I cannot walk across a dark room without my toes' going on alert.
Emma and a friend decorated their bedroom with a mixture of desitin and baby power while their grandpa benignly looked on. She painted her entire body purple when I was on the phone with a frantic new mother. ready to give up breastfeeding. A sister had to have helped, but none confessed.
Bedtime was a joke. A friend said you could call our house at any time of the night; someone would be sure to be awake and delighted to talk to you about anything for as long as you needed.
They told their mommy "I hate you" with not an ounce of guilt or remorse. I tolerated it as long as they could elaborate.When I asked Emma why she was acting like a devil child at age five, she explained "Mommy, I used all my goodness up in school." She now uses her goodness working for world peace and international cooperation. At Columbia's School of International Affairs she specialized in transitional justice--what happens after the dictator is topped,the civil war ends, genocide stops.For several years what she wanted for Christmas were books on genocide.
Jane, the Writer absolutely refused to do the assigned kindergarten homework, writing sentences using a list of words. "Writers use their own words." The teacher had no answer and conceded the battle. We had called her Katie as a baby and toddler. At 20 months she nailed us: "It makes me sad you called me Katie when my name is Katherine." All through Harvard Law School, she made her reputation blogging as Katherine.
Jane loathed many of her high school teachers and would rant abut their stupidity most afternoons after school. Her younger sister Molly would just shrug and dismiss the same teachers as losers. Jane convinced her rigid high school art teacher to allow her to miss class and submit a portfolio. She argued that artists decide what art to make. "Jane has such integrity," the teacher marveled.
They almost never lost power battles with their doormat mommy. Emma should have been born with a printout, "You will win exactly five battles with this child. Choose them carefully." I was warned. She repeatedly stuck out her tongue at me on the delivery table. I did win the important battles, but I only learned their importance by losing the rest. By the time her sisters came along, I was so demoralized that I didn't fight battles that I could easily have won:)
At various ages the Writer melted down because the pretty blue rental car had vanished; her aunt and uncle didn't have a second child her age; she was not attending a school that closed three years previously; there wasn't enough snow; election day would be a day before her 18th birthday four years from now (her daughter will have the same problem). She was a lovely, sensitive child, eager to please when she wasn't battling the existential order of things. She is now a human rights lawyer and writer, heroically battling the existential order of things. If you google Katherine and torture, she is the first hit. Try googling Katherine and "Obsidian Wings." I can't connect you to her Supreme Court briefs without revealing her name. Befor she was 30, s researched, wrote, and edited much of Jane Mayer's The Dark Side and Joseph Margulies's Guantanamo and the Abuse of Presidential Power.
Michelle, the Strategist, only ran fevers, thereby missing school, on the three school days without the gifted program pullout. I conducted ad hoc home schooling for bored students who could cough convincingly. Although the charges were dismissed, the school reported us for child abuse because we allowed them to miss so much school. The school social worker explained, "They miss so much school and still are the top students." The always studied and learned productively at home. Once Emma and Michelle stood at our huge blackboard, and in one hour Emma taught Michelle, 2 years younger, all the math she knew.
Watching her older sister Emma's confrontations with us, Michelle decided charm was the better strategy. She would precede any request with glowing appreciation. We wanted to succumb to her will. She is now the director of strategic planning for Biogen. When she was 13, she observed my arguing with their dad and observed, "Mom, you need to wear more perfume."
Just 3, Michelle refused to talk and only whispered when we spent a vacation with my parents, my brother, and his 3 kids. She had never had to share her grandparents with anyone but Emma. She whispered to my mother, "With my cousins here, when I talk, no one listens. When I whisper, everyone listens." She never slipped up, even if she woke in the middle of the night. In the water, she would only make sounds that weren't words.
Emma pulled the hair and dumped sand over the heads of playmates whose mommies would reliably go round the twist. (She has traveled to over 75 countries, and has lived in Niger, Rwanda and Kosovo.) She ended her three-year sand eating on the day our doctor looked her in the eye and said he would recommend all his patients eat sand for their good health. For old-times sake, she would occasionally revert to the diet when babysat by a hysteric mommy. A good friend confessed to me that she thought Emma would be in jail by the time she was 16 because she was so defiant, very unempressed by what people thought. Her perceptive kindergarten teacher observed that "Emma knows my limits and will go right up to the top of them, but never over. She bosts she never has had to bribe anyone in her world travels.
At age 2 the Strategist magic markered $2000 painting. To be fair, artist was able to fix the picture. The same culprit destroyed another family's audiotapes of their kids when babies and toddlers. She could find things that had been lost for months.
Notice I omitted my baby Molly, the CEO. The most mature, disguised as the youngest, was perfectly sane from birth and struggled valiantly to contain, organize, and direct her crazy family. This is a lifetime job. All my difficult communications with her sisters and their husbands are best filtered through the CEO. She was the only one who liked school and went willingly. Molly idolized Madonna when she was 3. She memorized all Madonna's songs, danced around with her grandma's rosary beads around her neck, proclaiming she was a material girl and wanted to be on TV. If only You Tube had been around then!
There is much worse I cannot mention because they might be reading this blog.
I questioned my sanity again and again throughout their childhoods. But I am very proud that I could cherish their intelligence, creativity, and individuality and was never tempted to drug their uniqueness, no matter how it disrupted our lives. They insisted they are going to emphasize order more and creativity less with their own kids. I am ecstatic watching my 5 grandchildren outwit their parents.My 3 grandaughters will be in the same school year and presumably will be unleashed on the world at the same time.