Who’s to Blame?

She hadn’t even finished making her way down the stairs and into our room to fold herself between us for the morning cuddle when she started issuing complaints. Buddy-roo‘s disposition at this hour of the day (7:00 am) has never been cheerful, nor quiet, but it seems now – at the age of five – to be growing in petulance. We’ve tried to discourage her by ignoring it, forbidding it, making fun of it, and then ignoring it again. We haven’t (yet) found the cure for what ails her every morning. Given that her bed is built into the wall, we can’t even say she got up on the wrong side of it.

No precaution or response on our part seems to change this daily outburst from its current crankiness to something more subtle and cheerful, like her sister, Short-pants, who we hardly hear descending the stairs from her room before the door creaks open and she slides soundlessly under the sheets and into my embrace. Sleep then quickly takes her back into its possession, inviting us to return as well.
Not so Buddy-roo. Something is always wrong. Even though she may have slept well all night in her warm nested cubbyhole. Even though a cup of apple juice is waiting for her on my bed table to quench her morning thirst. Even if her big sister takes the place on my side of the bed – even when she’s the first to wake up and crawl in with us – leaving Buddy-roo the coveted center spot between her parents. Even if there’s no school. Even if pancakes have been promised. It’s a miserable moment, this first one of her day.

For the record, she does cheer up as the day goes on. But the first fifteen minutes are brutal.

This morning her complaint: “I didn’t want the light to come so early.” She preached to a sleeping choir. Her grievance mounted into a full-on whine and then the ultimate attribution:

“It’s cuz of Papa.”

I, too, am quite practiced at faulting him for things that don’t go my way. But this is over the top. It’s not like he left the shade on her skylight open, or he made a boisterous noise that woke us all from deep slumber. Or like he willed the sun to rise. There’s no way to assign the blame to him, as enjoyable as that would be.
But with her, there’s always some other force or person to blame for all her terrible times. Without a moment’s reflection, everything is because of someone else. She lives, remarkably, without responsibility. And without guilt. About this I am actually a little envious.

But is she different than any one of us? Only in her honesty. I think deep down we all like to blame someone else for our misfortunes. We blame Wall Street, the banks, the Fed. We blame the sub-prime lenders and also the people who signed up for their unrealistic loans. We blame Edward Liddy and Timothy Geithner. We blame Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh; they blame the New York Times and Jon Stewart, who in turn blames Rick Santelli and Jim Cramer. For a while, Saddam Hussein was a convenient guy to blame. Then we blamed Bush and Cheney (still do). Now we’ve got Obama, who’s actually said he’ll take responsibility for the economic mess, but not without first refusing the blame for it. (Can you blame him?) But how quickly we’ll forget and lose our capacity to forgive him for not fixing it fast enough or well enough. He won’t escape the blame, either.

I’m not exempt. It’s always the rotten fault of my clients. Or it’s the French. And of course my kids, they’re to blame for the train wreck they’ve made of my life. And then there’s De-facto. It’s his fault, after all, that I got pregnant in the first place.

See? It is cuz of Papa.

One Response to “Who’s to Blame?”

  • Jenny Says:

    I know that kid! That was my big sister as a little girl. Hell had no fury like my sister awoken — whether by humans, Mother Nature, or her own biological clock. She was just an unhappy, ratty-haired little tyrant in the mornings. My own 5-year-old is crazy happy in the mornings but has less predictable “patterns” of combustibility. We can be laughing and playing one minute, and the next, she’s brooding in a corner, unhappy about some perceived offense that nobody else noticed. Ahhhh, five.

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