Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.

She stresses so much. What’s stress for an eleven year old? What’s normal? What’s eleven really to look like, aside from pot bellies and jangly legs that have trouble finding their places?

I find myself having conversations more often now with her, not just parent child but almost like person to person. It occurred to me today, joking with her on the phone, that I like her. I really do like her as a person, that I’m proud of the woman she’s becoming. I try and tell her when I can but what do we hear at that age? The compliments, the validation rolls off like water on a duck but the quick short words, spoken in that just home from work and I have 15 things to do frustration-those stick, like putty on a window. It’s a constant struggle to curb my tongue in those times, to remind her, and her sister, that I’m tired, I’m a little worn or jesus H FUCK I just need 10 minutes of no one asking for something or requiring my brain to work.

I need that time, that quiet space, even if it’s just in my head.

She’s like me that way. Ponderous, increasingly introverted and thoughtful. I suppose this should be viewed as a “warning sign” but honestly it’s a progression. She loved people as a baby, as a toddler. Before people showed themselves for the tremendous shits they can be. So she started to guard herself, be more wary. Take deliberate chances. She prefers her own bed to sleepovers. I tell her I agree. Nothing is better than ones own bed.

So her stress over her father, over the decision to spend the summer with him this year, is hard to stay out of. Yes, I could force her to go and maybe in the long run I will. Her sister wants so desperately to go and I can’t stomach the thought of depriving her or their father of them. It’s not fair to him. It feels wrong to force her on an issue so clearly linked to her wellbeing. Her inability to fight off a tummy bug and the sudden appearance of a head cold makes me wonder if she isn’t stressing about it more than she lets on. It’s a lot of pressure, choosing a parent this way. I frankly hoped it would never happen.

He’s put himself in this position, I can try and remedy it, but I can’t fix what he’s already set up to fall. It makes me sad, but there’s not much I can do.

But she’s not the smiling, love to all baby she was. She’s not the bubbly friendly toddler. She’s a moody pre teen with very firm opinions of what’s right or wrong. She’s a charming and confused young woman, deciding who belongs in her life. She’s deciding who’s worth the stress, and who isn’t.

I want a summer at home she tells me.

This is home. That’s what matters. I cannot force her away from home.

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