Did you ever play that game, you know the one where your older brother and one of his friends take away the ball you are playing with and make you try to get it back from them, tossing it over your head back and forth. Maybe it was doll you were playing with, near the swing set in the shade of the ash tree, the Ken doll, which he broke by popping its head off too many times and playing monkey in the middle with the stupid thing’s body.
The adult version of monkey in the middle is the gossip game. And I find myself getting so angry when I am in the middle. It is like a trigger, push the button and I get annoyed. Push, annoyed, push, annoyed, push….then I realize that the answer is to not respond by being annoyed. But what then?
My daughter is working something akin to 30 hours a week and taking 19 credit hours. I barely see her. I drive her to school in the mornings 4 days a week, both tired and grumpy enough to just say have a good day, or to comment on how it smells like fall when we leave the house. We talk about the yew bush by the front door which has been beset by carrion flies though nothing dead is under it, and it does not smell. I think they like the berries, but they swarm up when you walk to the door. Its gross. What’s with the flies? I don’t know I raked and hosed it but I cannot figure it out. I am tempted to buy fly paper, though it is just as gross as the flies to me. I speak to her late in the night she has locked her keys in her truck and is looking for the spare, the only reason I am still up is because I slept half the afternoon on the sofa, once she leaves I get into bed and read for a little while before my eyes close all by themselves. She is working on her brakes in the darkness as I sleep.
I am proud of her for doing this, saving money by fixing her own car. It is a slow process, unprepared, and many trips to the auto parts store. But already she has given herself a gift of knowledge and skill that I do not have. I worry for her short term safety but she has the long term already in hand. And all the work and education and the struggle for us both of her living at home (because trust me she and I would love it if she moved out, 20 year olds are not meant to live with their Mom), she will graduate debt free, which is exactly the problem with the 20 somethings protesting on Wall Street. If she has no decent job offers on graduation at least she doesn’t have 100,000 dollars of loans hanging over her. She potentially could continue to work at Pizza Hut until something else comes along.
What is it with mothers and daughters though? My own Mom whom I talked to about 16 hours ago chimes in just as I am leaving to go to the store, are those brakes fixed yet? It is too early to call my daughter. I tell her I don’t know. I won’t call this early, I know how hard she is working, on the off chance she is sleeping I don’t want to bug her. Later when she texts me I ask, and I tell her to call her grandmother because once again I am monkey in the middle and grandma is mad because I don’t know the answer or perhaps because I tell her how I hate being in that position and she doesn’t want to hear it.
I have this notion that it is hard enough to take care of myself sometimes, I cannot carry the burden of everyone else’s egos and troubles on my shoulders. I muddle through the day, day after day. I lie awake at night, night after night. I do the best I can, and I appreciate the days when I don’t have to being a monkey, hopping about trying to figure out how best to catch whatever it is that is flying back and forth over my head. Like the game of duck duck goose, I prefer to just not be involved rather than to have to face the feelings it leaves me with.