Aisling, who in the outside world is demure, polite and modest, has a totally different personality that emerges in the bosom of her family. Kayte doesn't believe it. Katie and Michelle have seen brief glimpses of it. I have to live with it at least sixteen hours a day and sometimes I fray around the edges.
Aisling, chez nous, is very loud, very clingy, very inclined to jump out from behind doors in darkened rooms and crash her fingers down so hard on the piano keys that baby birds fall out of their nests in trees on the next block. Her favorite style of hug is to come up behind me when I'm sitting at my desk, wrap her arms around my neck, tighten her grasp until my eyes bulge and then cooing, "I wuv ooo Mommy wommy lommy nommy" in an obnoxious little baby voice that would make the skin on the back of my neck crawl, if it weren't being pinched bloodless by Aisling's Titan grip.
She also likes to tickle people, diving in on them like a seagull, emitting cackling shrieks of laughter as she pokes and pinches and leaves long fingernail scrapes on your skin.
She usually likes to do these things between 4:00-6:00 p.m., which is my lowest point of the day, the time when I go into a sinking spell and feel particularly fragile.
Aisling has presented me with a list of grievances this afternoon that prove I am a bad mother. I'd like to share them with you:
1. I tried to slap the snot out of her leg in the minivan because she wouldn't stop putting her sweaty bare foot that she'd just slid out of her Croc onto my bare arm. Since I was driving, I missed her leg, but did catch her shin with my fingernail, leaving a small scrape that didn't draw blood.
2. I dropped Aisling and Meelyn off at the door of the market to run in and buy a can of sliced water chestnuts and a bag of ice so that I could stay in the van with the AC running on the rest of the groceries. As Aisling exited the van, she stood outside of my driver's side window with her lips pursed, mutely requesting a goodbye kiss before she set out on that long journey into Kroger. I put down my window a fraction of an inch, and, remembering the sweaty foot incident, told her rather sharply that I had no intention of kissing her goodbye when her departure and return was estimated to last about six minutes, tops. She trudged off after Meelyn with her head hanging, as if I'd just finished selling her to the gypsies and was sitting there eagerly counting my money.
3. I refused to tell her what a Strawberry Festival is since she just asked me on Saturday what a Strawberry Festival was and I told her then.
4. When we got home, she leaped out of the van and stood so that I couldn't open my door without hitting her with it, stepping back tantalizingly and then jumping forward while I yelled at her, "Aisling, GET OUT OF THE WAY." Finally, I decided that any bruises incurred would eventually fade and opened the door gently, but unfortunately right at the time she leaned forward to grin at me like a monkey, so that the opening van door hit her on the nose. The impact was very slight and there was no blood, but she acted like I'd just run over her head with a lawnmower.
"My nose!" she shrieked in an unconscious Marcia Brady imitation.
I got out of the van and said, "I'm so sorry, honey. I didn't mean for that to happen."
"You hit me with the door!"
"Well, yeah, I intended to do that. I just didn't mean to hit you in the face."
She clutched her nose and flailed around the driveway. "Why would you do something like that?"
I began to lose patience. "Um, I don't know. Let me think. Could it be, do you suppose, because you wouldn't let me out of the van?"
"Oh, yeah. I forgot." She smiled reminiscently.
"YOU'RE NOT HURT, even! You're SMILING!" I was outraged.
Aisling immediately rearranged her expression. "It hurt for a moment," she assured me, and then she made as if to poke me in the side again.
I got about two centimeters from her face and breathed quiet words laced with venom, "Aisling, I am not playing around with you any longer. I swear to God and all the holy saints in heaven that I will smack your bottom so hard, your back teeth will rattle if you don't draw back that finger right this second."
Aisling recoiled in horror. "You CUSSED! Mommy, how COULD you? Mommy, you need to go to CONFESSION! Call Father and make an appointment, Mommy! Shall I look up his number?"
I didn't answer. I picked up a bag of groceries and stalked into the house, where she followed me meekly. She started to speak, but I held up one palm. The look on my face must have cowed her for once. I came quietly into the dining room and sat at the computer to start typing this, thinking that I wasn't the only one in the family who needs to go to confession, and wondering if she would melt or burst into flame if she dipped her fingers in the holy water font.
Edited to add: A couple of hours later, we were sitting side by side on the sofa and Aisling, acting like the spawn of hell, elbowed me in the boob on purpose. That was the moment, my friends, when my wild Irish rose.
I shall draw a curtain over the events that transpired immediately thereafter. Let me just say that Aisling has given me a heartfelt apology and has been very very very angelic for the past couple of hours. But she's still grounded from sitting next to me for the rest of this day.
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