Christina M. Currie: Growing pains

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Twice this week, I crept into Katie's room ready to blast out, "Rise and shine!" only to find she'd already risen and was nowhere to be found.

The first time was a sure recipe for a heart attack as the soft "good morning" turned to frantic bellows. There are few feelings worse than not knowing where you child is.

Then I heard her voice and followed it into the living room. Turns out she got out of bed in the middle of the night and crawled behind the couch, where my pile of extra blankets makes an ideal bed.

She loves it.

I don't. I'm not sure what to read into this. Is there a deep psychological explanation or is this merely cocooning? I remember transferring my bed to the closet and even the bath tub for a while, so it's probably just one of those things.

But there is other strangeness afoot. Three times this week, the girls have told me, "This dinner is great, Mom."

I don't know that I've ever heard them utter those words, let alone regarding back-to-back, home-cooked meals.

Maybe it's a growth spurt. Five-year-old Nikki keeps telling me, "My stomach sure is hungry."

Maybe it's that time of year?

I don't know. My working theory is that my real children may have been abducted and replaced with well-trained look-alikes.

Nikki, animal lover that she is, is taking it a few steps beyond normal. Grandpa helped her dig up several worms the other day, which she was fully prepared to take home.

Yeah, not gonna happen.

So, she stuck them in the dog's water dish (yes, it was filled with water) for safe keeping until she returned. She also managed to smuggle a box elder bug from Grandma's into the car and to the grocery store because, "I love him, Mom," which she cried when he was discovered.

She's 5. Shouldn't we still be into cute and cuddly?

Stubborn and independent Katie is a whole new person. She now cries at the drop of a hat. I'm constantly asking, "Katie, what's wrong?" only to hear, "My backpack fell over," "I can't find Nikki," "The dog almost touched me."

I'm totally at a loss here. The minutia that can prompt a flood of tears is unending. And baffling.

I still can remember hearing that "girls are too emotional." I was probably about 12.

I'm expecting the hormonal rollercoaster -- just not quite this fast.

I'd like to tell Katie the story of the boy who cried wolf. But my children are singularly oblivious to sarcasm, hidden lessons and my favorite, the "Let's see how you like it."

While on the phone, Katie followed me from room to room, battering me with a series of "Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom," to which I finally replied, "what, what, what, what, what." Every time she started talking, I said "what."

OK, so it's not a tactic you'll read about in any parenting manual.

You know why? Because it doesn't work.

Katie thought it was a hilarious new game, which I'm sure she'll eventually make me the target of.

I try not to berate Katie for her newfound emotional sensitivity. I certainly don't want to say, "That's nothing to cry about." Any psychiatrist in the world will tell you that a person's pain, regardless of how it appears to you, is real to them.

But still. My 6-year-old daughter is crying because the lead broke on her pencil, and eight seconds later, she's laughing because I tripped in my haste to help her.

We have less than two weeks before Halloween and plan to go costume shopping tonight. I'm thinking maybe my girls beat me to it.

They're changing right before my eyes.

I don't know about you, but I'm finding it a little spooky.

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