On the occasion of my daughter’s birthday

We recently celebrated my daughter, Hannah’s, fifteenth birthday. We named her after my maternal grandmother because who can resist a palindrome? (We briefly considered naming her Able was I ere I saw Elba, but thought that the other kids might make fun of her.) Hannah is my favorite child (yes, she’s my only child, but let’s not quibble), but she hasn’t always been the easiest person to live with.

Two years ago, Hannah had her Bat Mitzvah, the Jewish ritual that marks the beginning of adulthood. She read a portion of the Torah, and wrote an essay that explored its meaning in relation to her world. At the end of her speech, she allowed as how she thought she was a “difficult child.” I was horrified to realize that my loving, tolerant, long-suffering nature had not been enough to disguise my true feelings. Fortunately, the parents also get to give a speech (about the child, not the Torah reading, since by that time most of us have forgotten everything we learned in Hebrew school) so we can rebut anything that needs rebutting. In part, this is what I said:

“Hannah is a wonderful person and her father and I love her very much. When she was a baby we thought she was the most beautiful thing we’d ever seen, and we told her that all the time. Then I realized that telling her she was beautiful was probably not the most important message to impart so I started telling her she was smart and funny and kind and beautiful.” You’ll note that I never actually said she wasn’t a difficult child.

Andrew took a crack at it too, but he tackled the question head-on. “I wonder, where could difficult have come from, your parents? Let’s pause for a moment and consider your parents’ personalities. … For example: I am NOT difficult… but Mummy IS. Well, question answered!” He then went on at great length to describe what a chimera is, thereby losing all credibility. He had a big finish though, “We LOVE your identity, with all its bits and pieces.”

So here we are, two years later. She’s still smart and funny and kind and beautiful. But something’s different. She’s not difficult anymore. Instead, I’d describe her as passionate. She feels things deeply; sorrow, joy, anger, all the feelings on the spectrum. Maybe she never was difficult. It is after all, a hard thing to judge, and people sometimes label others as difficult when that couldn’t be further from the truth (see above).

For Hannah’s birthday, we got her tickets to see Matthew Morrison, Mr. Schuester of Glee, perform at the Wang Theatre. The day after we gave her the tickets, he canceled most of the tour, including his appearance in Boston. Apparently there are other things he’d rather do, like join New Kids on the Block and the Backstreet Boys on their joint summer tour. That’s the story on the street anyway. If you ask me, he’s just being difficult.

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7 responses to “On the occasion of my daughter’s birthday

  1. I think you handled your daughter’s assertion with class. On some level, she appreciates that you stick with her I’m sure. Aren’t children always worried their parents will stop caring?

    There are easy children and difficult children. I wonder how relationships change over time. I know my mother and sister-in-law had a difficult relationship. Now they’re like siamese twins!

    I’m sorry about the birthday present problem. I know you went out of your way to do something special.

  2. Why do I suspect that you were a similarly “difficult” child? 🙂

  3. “Difficult” and “passionate” are the same thing, and are in the eye of the beholder I suspect. Maybe it was you who changed, Judy!

  4. Very nice post.
    Have you considered the dread presence of hormones? It’s amazing how they go from monster to human again by the time they leave middle school.

  5. I wonder why we are so reluctant to admit that at times, our children were “difficult.” There is no such thing as a perfect parent, and goodness knows, no such thing as a perfect child. Both my wonderful children were difficult at certain stages, and I’ll readily admit, we did not always have perfect solutions. Maybe amnesia sets in, and what we recall of our children’s childhood is mainly what we want to recall. But that they were difficult at times doesn’t make them any less loveable.

  6. I love this post – I remember those difficult years as I was going through them at the same time along with you! I’m glad you have seen the light at the end of the tunnel as we have too (at least most days.)

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