We’ve been talking about fears the last couple of weeks. I’ve shared some of the phobias my teenager and my middle-schooler have inherited from their mother, who has more than enough to go around. I’d be remiss if I left out my littlest child, Clementine. I would say the jury is still out on her, since she’s only five. But that wouldn’t be true. I don’t think she fears a single thing.
Although some might interpret Clementine’s aversion toward authority as fear, they would be wrong. She barges into authority. Anyone ever seen a calf repeatedly butting its head against a mother cow’s stomach when suckling? That aggression is to get the beleaguered cow to let more milk down. This is the kind of tactic Clementine leverages when up against authority.
When I was experiencing my geriatric pregnancy with this baby, I just knew that God would grace me with a serene child in my old age, one who would take care of me, read to me as my eyes dimmed, comb my silvered locks. I was convinced that this third and final child would be the calm in the storm that is my life. Instead, I am the stump of the Giving Tree.
She’s lovable of course. As long as she gets her way. She knows how to work moments -- and eyelashes. The other day, in a rare time of snuggling, I said, “Little love, you are my precious baby. I’m so glad I have you to cuddle with now, and someday, you’ll be there for me and take care of your momma in her old age.”
Her response was, “I doubt I’ll be able to get that much time off work.”
So, in trying to figure out what Clementine inherited from maternal genes, I’ll have to look beyond fears. I have yet to see her flinch. She’s only in preschool though, so perhaps I just haven’t had enough time to influence her yet.
I suffer from a bit of imposter syndrome -- this internalized doubt in my own accomplishments. Often, I feel as if, at any moment, my intellectual fraudulence will be revealed. Perhaps Clementine has inherited that. Perhaps her bravado is nothing more than an elaborate cover for her own inner doubts. If so, she is a consummate actress. She walks into every picnic as if she’s a chicken salad sandwich on a melamine plate with a side of chips and a pickle spear. And we are expected to unfurl a gingham picnic blanket as she arrives.
At teeball practice the other day, she was -- I do not lie -- autographing baseballs. You can even ask her grandma; she gifted her with one of them.
When one has a childlike Clementine, it’s hard to maintain a clutter free house. One can’t throw anything away. Every scribbled-on scrap of paper is priceless. I know, because I have tried to surreptitiously curate the Clementine Collection from time to time.
Typically, when Clementine is at preschool or playing with a sibling, I will collect, say, three smeared pieces of art from the stack of 56 works she created the day before. She’s so prolific, one might mistakenly think that she wouldn’t miss one or two iterations of “Stick Man with a Purple Dog.” But, no. She’ll not only notice, but protest with a kind of dramatic fervor common in a diva’s dressing room. I’m only able to cull the collection if I promise to sell the works on eBay, or better yet, consign them to Sotheby’s.
So, I have my doubts as to whether this is all an act on her part. She most likely did not inherit my imposter’s syndrome. I’m glad for that, because self-doubt and social anxiety can be so difficult to manage. By the way, please forget you ever heard I struggle with imposter syndrome. I’m not a fraud. Really.
Follow Little Spouse at facebook.com/littlespouseontheprairie or on Twitter at SpouseOnThePrairie@ValerieKuchera. Tune in next week!