Tallulah, as most of us know, is a fierce girl.
She was a fierce baby, so it was no surprise to me that she grew into a fierce girl.
Mostly she is able to contain her fierceness these days, although it does appear every now and again, to remind us that underneath the calm exterior beats the savage brow of indignation and outrage.
When she first went to school we lived in fear of being called up to say she had been suspended. This might sound harsh, but as a toddler she used to go to a local play group, barricade herself into the Wendy house using buggies, and shout at the other children out of the window until they went away. If that didn’t work, she would throw things at them. Being winsome was never her forte.
She has been known to stretch a tantrum to about four hours of sheer physical exertion just because she didn’t want her hair brushed a certain way.
The fact that she has made it this far without injury and/or prison for both of us is a perpetual thing of wonder to us.
We were utterly amazed, therefore, when she took to school like a duck to water. All her parents evening reports are glowing. Her academic work is great and she has lots of friends. We used to warn teachers what she was like at home, in case she went postal one day and locked herself in the store cupboard and started fashioning Molotov cocktails out of chalk dust, but they all looked at us as if we had Munchausen’s by Proxy or something, so we gave up. We figured that if they wouldn’t take the warning that was their look out.
Obviously, if you’re going to have a child who is difficult, it is generally best to confine those difficulties to home, and have glowing reports from abroad rather than the other way around.
Although I blame many of my grey hairs on her finest moments.
To be fair to Tallulah, she has made enormous strides in the last few years, reining in some of her more explosive tendencies, and has worked incredibly hard to figure out how to exist in a world of social niceties which she finds frankly baffling. We are stupendously proud of her.
Last week, however, she let the beast out of the cage at school for the very first time, and it is fair to say that it was a pretty horrific week for all involved. Tallulah started off with the best of intentions, and when those intentions were not appreciated to her liking, and the outcome was not to her liking, she bridled, and quite a few of the things she has so agonisingly and pain stakingly learned over the last few years went completely out of the window.
Initially, what happened was not a big thing, but Tallulah’s refusal to relent meant that it grew and grew all week until it cast a huge shadow over everything else, and something had to give.
Turns out it was Tallulah. Which was surprising.
Her fierceness was something of a shock to everyone at school. To Tallulah’s eternal credit, it has been a long, long time coming and and the event that sparked her behaviour was the tip of an iceberg she had been valiantly trying to overcome by other means up to the point where she said ‘Sod it.’ and went off the deep end. And when I say went off the deep end, it was still nothing compared to what she would have done, say five years earlier in the same situation. For Tallulah, it was a mild explosion.
She did not behave well, my fierce and beautiful daughter. She really buggered things up, and she got into gargantuan amounts of trouble over it at home and at school, so her week has been an enormous pile of pooh, most of which she really, really struggled to understand, holding fiercely as she did to the fact that she believed what she had done was justified and therefore did not merit the bollocking she received.
I worked hard all week, as did her gran and granddad to try to help her get herself out of the mess she had made, but her righteous indignation kept her in thrall to her doom to the very last moment, when she finally decided that she had to bend, and admit defeat. The fact that she did that, in front of her whole class, is a sign to me of her utter bravery, because Tallulah is not the sort of girl who backs down, nor does she ever admit that she is in the wrong. She would rather tear her own arm off and beat herself with it than say sorry, even when she knows full well she has erred.
But she did say sorry.
And that gives me hope that she will find a bit of peace in her mind, which has been woefully troubled this week. It gives me hope that she will deal better with situations like these when they inevitably arise in her future. It gives me hope that she has learned something useful from all the pain she has suffered this week. I think she shocked and frightened herself to be honest, and when she was in the middle of things she didn’t feel capable of finding her own way out of the mess she had made. I think she got a bit lost.
That doesn’t excuse her behaviour, by the way, and as I said, she did get punished for it, but it does mean that if I can think this way, and talk this way with her, that hopefully it won’t have been a wasted experience for either of us. She will be better prepared for what might come up, and so will I.
I have been thinking about writing this post since Friday when everything came to a head. Should you tell people that your daughter has been naughty?
I love her with every fibre of my being. I would defend her to the death (which is a distinct possibility where Tallulah is concerned), but that does not mean that I am ignorant to her flaws. I shouldn’t be. I have enough of them myself. It’s just that I’ve had thirty years longer than she has to iron out some of the wrinkles. I think she is learning quicker than I did at her age. She is certainly a thousand times braver than I was at her age.
I love her despite herself. I love her, probably more because she is not perfect. I love her tenacity, her sense of morality, her sense of outrage, her utter indifference to what anyone else thinks of her when she is truly in a passion about something. I love her when she is difficult and unhappy and perplexed because that’s when she needs it the most. I love her because she is bright and brilliant and worth ten thousand of any other children she will come into contact with (except her brother and sister), and she is going to shine, that child of mine. She is going to shine with the same fierceness she puts into her anger and hurt and indignation and she will be spectacular.