Thursday, 11 July 2013

My demon daughter: Many mothers of boys long for a girl, but be careful what you wish for, says besotted but battle-weary mother

Via - Daily Mail

Last Saturday evening she started terrorising us again. I was in the sitting room with my three sons, Raymond 16, Leonard, ten, and Jerry, eight, when the all-too-familiar wailing started.
We'd just settled down with a Chinese takeaway to watch Batman Returns, excited about a lovely evening together after seeing off the smallest member of our family, six-year-old Ottoline, on a sleepover.
'See you tomorrow,' we trilled at her, waving her off. Then, out of earshot, the boys let out a whoop of delight.

My little madam: Lucy with her six-year-old daughter Ottoline
My little madam: Lucy with her six-year-old daughter Ottoline

Ottoline would undoubtedly have started screaming before we'd even sat down. She would probably have refused the meal before announcing she wouldn't watch a 'boys' movie - demanding something like Barbie instead.
Because although Ottoline may look angelic, she acts like a little demon. She bites. She scratches. She shouts and wails, caterwauling for hours if she doesn't get what she wants.
And she never wants to go to bed. After hours spent coaxing and cajoling her, I inevitably lose my temper, possibly even pushing her up the stairs, from where her screams can last up to an hour. So, most Saturday nights, we run out of time to do anything together at all.
But this time I had managed to persuade a friend to take Ottoline for the night - promising endless babysitting (in fact, almost having to pay her). She has a daughter the same age (a lovely, well-behaved one) and, weirdly, our two girls seem to get on. What could go wrong?
I was so looking forward to spending time with my sons. The boys and I are a harmonious unit when left alone, but we had only just settled down for some crispy duck when we heard it outside: the unmistakeable sound of my daughter shouting her head off.
'What's that?' asked Jerry, nervously. 'Is it Ottoline?' said a panicky Leonard. Raymond calmly reached for the remote control and turned the volume up. 'Just ignore it,' he said. 'It's our ears playing tricks on us.'
A little demon: She scratches, she shouts, and wails. And she never wants to go to bed.
A little demon: She scratches, she shouts, and wails. And she never wants to go to bed.
Two minutes later there was a frantic banging on the front door. And there, on the doorstep, was my little girl, red-eyed and screaming.
'I WANT COME HOME!' she wailed, inconsolably. My friend, standing beside her, shrugged, looking desperate. 'Sorry,' she said. 'She just wouldn't settle.'
In one fell swoop our lovely evening was destroyed - just like every other evening and almost every other day.
I couldn't help reminding myself, I had wanted this - I did everything I could to ensure I got a girl after three boys. Although every expectant mother insists she doesn't care what sex her child is, when surveyed last year, 45  per cent of women admitted they longed for a girl.
I even bought a DIY gender selection 'kit' off the internet, containing a thermometer so I could plot my ovulation days and strict advice on my diet and even the position in which I had sex. Did it work? Who can tell . . . all I know is that Ottoline, my longed-for little girl, arrived nine months later.
This all came to mind when I was listening last week to a debate on whether gender selection, for social reasons, should be made legal in the UK. A leading medical ethicist feels it should. 
'Be careful what you wish for!' I shouted at the radio. My Ottoline seemed to hit the terrible twos and never leave them behind.
Whereas my sons are sweetness and light, Ottoline is loud, noisy, screechy and demanding. We live in a state of shock - a six-year-old girl's version of martial law.
Everything with her is a trial: from washing her hair (she hates that) to cutting her nails (she hates that even more) to getting her dressed (this invokes hours of screaming). And so we all creep around her - it's like treading on eggshells stuffed with Semtex.
I've tried to put my foot down, but Ottoline has defied everything. One day I yelled (in extreme frustration): 'Right that's it! I am going to smack you!'
'Oh are you?' she said, cool as a cucumber. 'Go on then - and see if I care.'
She then proffered up her bottom in such an insouciant way that the fire in my belly was quenched.
But we still all love her to death. She is the apple of my eye, and her brothers could not be kinder. But how does she repay them? With routine physical and verbal abuse.
Jerry, she attacks - biting and scratching. Leonard is so kind to her it makes me want to weep when she turns on him and screams: 'Go away, Piggy!'
Even Raymond, who is possessed of almost super-human levels of sangfroid, has given up on her.
This is not how it was supposed to be. For years, all I ever wanted was a baby girl. I had visions of us shopping together, reading Flower Fairies, pressing blossom, maybe riding ponies and horses.
So I was in shock when I had Raymond. I was even more in shock when I had two more boys. My life turned into one long paean to Thomas the Tank Engine and pulling legs off spiders.
Oh brother: Ottoline's brothers are well-behaved, in contrast to their out-of-control sister
Oh brother: Ottoline's brothers are well-behaved, in contrast to their out-of-control sister

I'd almost given up on having a girl until I stumbled on a website filled with old wives' tales that promised to guarantee one.
Soon, I was cutting down on protein and bulking up on carbs and dairy to decrease the acidity of my womb, before insisting my then-husband and I (we separated 18 months ago) made love in the missionary position - afterwards lying prone for an hour to give the 'female' swimmers the best chance of success. 
When I found I was pregnant with a daughter, I was so happy I cried for days. And after I gave birth in April 2007, I spent days on end marvelling at her. A girl! A girl!
Yes, Ottoline has completed our family, but not quite in the way I expected. I love her so much my bones hurt, but I have never experienced anything as exhausting as her. I thought I knew how to do this mothering lark, but Ottoline's behaviour drives me to tears.
I am sure she has been sent here to teach us all a lesson. I'm just not sure what that is.
Now, I have been through all the reasons why she might be such a handful. Is it because she is the only girl? She complains she has 'no one to play with' and wishes she has a sister. But I am 46. This is not going to happen.
It's not as if she wants for attention. Her brothers think she is spoiled because I spend so much time and money satiating her desire for pink plastic tat. Her room is full of dolls and dressing-up clothes. 
Bossy: There's no doubt Ottoline is a handful - but why?
Bossy: There's no doubt Ottoline is a handful - but why?

She has a constant stream of friends round for playdates and sleepovers - although she often screams at them so badly that they ask, tearfully, if they can go home.
I wonder if it's all because she's the baby of the family. But I am the youngest of four and not at all like that. My mother says I was a bit bossy, but not in Ottoline's league.
Then I feel the terrible guilt at the fact that her father and I have separated. She is very much a Daddy's girl, and the past 18 months must have been terrible for her. But Ottoline sees her father a lot and her behaviour is no worse than before we split.
I have done a straw poll of other mums and the simple answer seems to be that it is an age thing.
Three friends of mine have told me how bossy their daughters are compared with their sons - so much so, that one of them is even sending her girl off to boarding school as soon as she turns seven.
When I tell my male friends about her behaviour, they snigger: 'Do you know yourself at all?' one said to me, raising an eyebrow.
Perhaps I was a little horror and my mother just doesn't want to tell me. Or maybe I was so dreadful, she's simply blocked it all out.
We'll always love Ottoline to bits. But I wish she would carry on being herself - only less so. We all need some peace.

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