* this entire post is to make me feel better - read - this entire post is boring and not funny. Muh bad.*
Before Zeni came home I knew that being a multiracial family would make us a family that was more noticed and more scrutinized in public. People notice what is out of the ordinary and families of different colors are. It is not a good thing or a bad thing, and I don't think less of people who notice us - I would notice us too were I not me and were I able to write less confusing sentences.
When Zeni was a baby people were always coming up to us to talk about her. Sometimes it was welcome and sometimes not, but I finally feel like I have a grip on how to deal with it. I have my few lines: "thank you, both my children are beautiful", "she is pretty, and smart too!" and so on. Sometimes I still feel sick to my stomach when I have to tell someone to back off, sometimes I have an interaction that I replay in my mind afterwards wishing I had said more or hadn't said as much, but for the most part I feel capable and competent and like I am showing my children how to talk to people in a polite way and still maintain their boundaries.
So of course just when I get that under my belt things change and I am faced with a new twist on being in public with my family; whereas before it was strangers approaching us, now it is Zeni approaching and engaging with strangers everywhere - and it is driving me nuts.
1. We are at the park eating goldfish. Another mom opens up a pack of (the exact same) goldfish for her little ones. Zeni stands quietly next to the mom until mom looks to Z and then Z puts on her sweetest face and says "Can I have one?"
2. Z notices a parent who is actually playing with their children, while her own mother sits and chats with friends. Z inserts herself into that family's play, getting pushed on the swings, helped across the monkey bars, etc. as if she herself was (a) unable to play on her own and (b) is a neglected child with no family. She will do this for hours. The less annoyed the other parent is with her behavior, the more annoyed I am with them and her.
3. Any unattended stroller, weather it contains a baby or not, is in Z's mind fair game for her to rummage through, push around, and otherwise overtake.
4. Things that Z knows are off limits (and honestly we don't have that many things that are off limits - entering the chicken coop is one, putting dirty things in our mouths is another, as is asking strangers for food) she will wait until we have people over or are in a public place and then do each of them, repeatedly, until after 1 warning she is given a time out during which she screams as if she was just flogged. It is the kind of screaming where she can't breath and has snot running everywhere, and stops only when she catches a strangers eye and then looks at them, pleading with her eyes for them to rescue her from her bitch of a mother.
Does this not sound like a big deal? Maybe these sound like normal 2 year old things to be doing but there is an edge to them that is manipulative and obstinate. There is. I feel it every time she does it. It has gotten to the point where every time we are out I know I will have to remove her from a situation and I am tense the whole time waiting for it.
I think I have figured out that at least part of the reason this behavior sends me around the bend is because she is using what she has learned from other people - that she is adorable, unusual, cute, sweet, etc. - she is using her looks to get what she wants, and that is *not* an ok lesson for my daughter to take with her as she grows up. That's not the whole reason, and I can't quite put my finger on the rest of it. I'm sure it's tied up with adoption and mothering a girl and a control freak parenting a stubborn smarty pants.
Things have gotten better in the past week after I had a little sit down with myself to set some limits in my mind. I had been making decisions on the spot about what was and was not ok and that was leading to my acting out of anger instead of consistent and thought out boundaries. So now I know - asking other people for food - not ok (and for now neither is accepting food from anyone except our closest friends. Getting an unsolicited push on the swings or help down the slide is ok but getting help after sitting at the top of the slide for minutes (that feel to me like hours!) waiting for someone to come help her is not. Staring people down until they look at her and start to coo over how cute she is - not ok.
And so continue the adventures of parenting...