“There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls.” -George Carlin
My daughter loves me. I can do no wrong. She’d do anything for me. The thing she wants most in the world is to help me out. She asks for chores. She cuddles with me on the couch and tells me what a great mom I am.
Last week, when we were on vacation, I could do no right. I was an evil, mean mom, who wanted her to be miserable, and didn’t care about her at all. She refused to do anything I asked. She argued about sunscreen, aloe, bedtime, and ever being asked to leave the pool. She didn’t even want to hug me.
I promise you, I’m not the one who changed.
We use the phrase “it’s just a phase” to calm ourselves and reassure each other that the difficult things our children do won’t last forever. But we don’t necessarily notice how true the phrase is. Our children are like the moon—and I’m not just talking about those of our children who are werewolves.
I mean that our children wax and wane in many things. Their interest in their parents. Their helpfulness. Their independence. Their growth spurts. Like the moon’s face, our favorite (and least favorite) traits of our child come and go.
Right now, my daughter’s in our “new moon” phase. Here, there are no problems from my perspective. Our daughter wants only to be a kid. She wants to be a good girl. She’s incredibly affectionate. She wants to eat cereal and watch Dora. This is the dream-child phase.
I love this phase. But like the new moon, it won’t last.
Troubles begin to show up like the tiniest sliver of a waxing crescent. It can be as subtle as a switch from Dora to iCarly. From accepting what’s offered at a meal to asking for something specific. And always, the reemergence of the whine.
Those little spurts of independence wax all the way through to the full moon. When her moon is full, she wants to be a big kid. She gets her own food, and a lot of it is meat. She fights anything that even looks like restriction. She wants only her friends, and has no interest in us, or anything we want of her. She must be her own self.
I love and hate this phase. But it too will not last.
Soon she tires of being entirely self sufficient, and the waning phase begins, often with something as simple as a request for a hug. Then she wants help picking out clothes, and asks, “What would you pick if you were a little girl?” when making a decision. Before I know it, it’s the new moon again.
Unlike the moon, our children aren’t regular. The phase change doesn’t take 28 days every month, and there are more variations than simple libration. But viewing them through this metaphor can help us to keep in mind that nothing we adore or detest about their behavior is set in stone.
Our kids change day to day. Remembering that everything might be just a phase can keep us from labeling them, or getting stuck in one way of interacting with them. Always be ready for complete change, because even when you get the rhythm of their phases down, there can always be an unexpected total eclipse. (And we won’t even talk about the dark side.)
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to enjoy the rest of this new moon. It’s due to change any minute now.