Thursday, July 12, 2012

Choosing my battles

A new family of skunks has taken up residence under our shed in the backyard. This, unfortunately is not unusual. Some years are skunk free, others skunk full. I wouldn't be surprised if this summer proves to be the latter.

Now, other than the smell, and the fact that most lovely and ridiculous Cocoa, she of the eight skunkings (so far), will undoubtedly rise to double-digits by the fall, I'm inclined to let this fur family stay put.

Usually, after the dog is sprayed and I'm left to clean up the mess, I go into a harangue about getting rid of the little stinky critters. I would welcome Billy the Exterminator in a Louisiana second if he could trap these animals and deposit them elsewhere.

Unfortunately, instead of Billy, I have my husband, a kind and gentle man who is absolutely clueless about how to get rid of the skunks and keep them from burrowing underneath, but won't pay an exterminator to do the job and insists he will do it himself. Eventually. One day. This means I'm in for a lifetime of skunk families under my shed. These ones I have weren't the first and probably won't be the last.

I'm all for sealing up the place where the dog gets too close for (their) comfort and just letting them be. They don't spray in close confines if they can't get away, and they won't let loose where they sleep. That's why the shed doesn't smell skunky. And since I read that mothballs drive them away, we've invested in tossing some around, not to poison them of course, but to drive them away with an odor they find more obnoxious than their own. But if that doesn't work, just let them live there and keep Cocoa away. Oh, and invest in Skunk-Off and vinegar and water. The combination works wonders.

I'm learning how to choose my battles.

And just in time for the dog days of summer with the ever-changing, teenaged hormone-driven Earbaby.

It's too hot to fight, and yet, EB is geared for battle with us about 70 percent of the time. When she's not texting her friends or on Facebook, she's tuning us out with her headphones on, and saying "What?" every time she's asked a question. Or she's acting put upon when told to pick up after herself, make her bed (get up out of bed!), feed her fish, pick up after herself, turn the television down, pick up after herself ...

And after this daily dance of frustration, she will turn around and ask to be taken out for breakfast, or shopping, or dropped off at the movies with her friends (parents are never welcome). And after acting just sweet and nice enough to get what she wants, she goes back to being a brat. I just love this summer.

I recently read an article on a child's brain on the Great Schools website. I immediately clicked on the part for middle schoolers and realized someone had been to my house and observed my child. And from what my friends tell me of their daughters, this same person had been to their houses too. Apparently what is going on here, this failure to communicate, is normal. Can something be comforting and disheartening at the same time?

Well, this maddening, self-absorbed, put-upon behavior is normal and I just have to choose what battles I will  fight with EB. And I have to be ready to make these decisions Every. Single. Day. for the next few years, or the rest of my life, whichever ends first.

EB is either on top of me like a cheap suit, or so repulsed by me she can't stand to even feel my touch. She will complain if I kiss her forehead at home, but hug me goodbye at my job. In public. In the presence of my coworkers. She will close her door to me at home hours before insisting on coming in and sleeping with me in my bed while massaging my ear (still!), after months of finally staying all night in her own room. She'll talk my ear off one day, fall silent and sulky the next.

 And through all this, I have to be the grownup (who made that rule, anyway?) and not take it personally, not wring her neck, and love her unconditionally.

That last part is easy, the first two make sleeping with the skunks seem like a piece of cake.

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