Yesterday, my daughter hiked a pitch-black, rough lava tube at Mt. St. Helens. It averages 42 degrees F all year round, with a cold wind in complete darkness. She had nothing but a headlamp and my small 350 lumen flashlight (and me). She took point–no fear, just fatigue on the way back up. Clearly her father’s family’s coal mining genes passed to her.
My family doesn’t have any coal mining genes and giant holes in the ground are not things I seek out. True, I’d wanted to hike this for ages, but had put off because of the drive, the potential for crowds, and so forth. The last time I’d hiked in a cave was Carlsbad Caverns, which is very impressive but also well lit and not really a hike. We can add yesterday’s cave hike to the list of things I have done because I refuse to be afraid of something in front of my daughter, because that’s pretty much what got me through the place where we reached the end–we pressed on until we were crouched below I have no idea how many tons of rock (in a seismically active area) anyway. Every cell in my body wanted to get the hell out of there, but I forced myself to say things like, “Look at the minerals reflecting the light!”
I’m sure I sounded completely insane.
And yet: last night, pH slept on the floor of my room because she was too scared to sleep in her room (next to ours) because she can’t see me (it’s about me, not my husband, which is funny because I’m really not the dangerous one) through the wall. Her room has a nice bed with a soft mattress. We have waxed oak floors and there’s no rug where she sleeps, so it’s not exactly comfortable. We have tried the carrot approach, the stick approach, and are on the “you are grounded from media if you sleep in our room” approach; the two have nothing to do with one another, but it was all we had left. She would rather go without media (or allowance–another failed attempt) than sleep in her room with a light on. If she falls asleep in our room she will sleep all night long–and often late. If she falls asleep in her room it’s inevitable she will wake up screaming at 3 AM and I will be the one who wakes up to deal with it. (I am the light sleeper and she yells for Mom, not Dad, and again, I don’t know why: I am not the dangerous one.)
pH is terrified of strange bathrooms–the sort with plumbing–because there might be crocodiles in there somewhere. I have explained valves to her, but no dice. I have to accompany her to the bathroom at Dairy Queen (actually, any restaurant) and most gas stations are right out. But she can use a vault toilet at some random lake in rural Washington, no problem. (There is a family story about my brother accidentally peeing on an owl at one of those, in a different state, but this is not about him.) Through the miracle of Trackers, she got used to port-a-potties, something I never thought would happen. I’m not there yet. I hate the things (and only get by in remembering I used outhouses in the South on occasion, and those are really scary).
She’s just turned nine. It’s an odd developmental period: careening toward puberty, still a child, still needing me and not wanting to need me. Mother and daughter stuff is hard enough before you add in homeschooling. We are together a lot (this is probably where I should sing the praises of summer, and of camps, and of time to myself), and she both wants to be and doesn’t want to be with me, both wants and doesn’t want my approval, and I have to parent through it, anyway, and then be an academic taskmaster on top of it. (That part is easy compared to the rest.)
Still. For all the people who remembered how she used to shriek at the touch of a plant (or even grass) on her body, getting to the place where she can identify most of the plants on the side of the road, to hike and climb and get dirty…we’ve come an incredibly long way. (If only she hadn’t screamed about the wasp right after we’d gotten out of the cave…but admittedly, it was a huge wasp.)
We’re getting there.