We decided to name her Daryl after watching a sci-fi movie about an android child by the name Daryl that was programmed to be the perfect child. Daryl was so perfect that the he reprogrammed some errors into his psychology so that his mother would feel like she had some purpose in raising him. The android was a boy child but we didn’t like Daryl as a boy’s name. We liked it as a girl’s name. The fact that we were so struck with that name after watching a movie about a child so perfect, that he had to reprogram himself to give his mother something to do, tells you something about our expectations for this new daughter of ours.
We were so convinced about the perfectness of our soon to be born child that we scheduled her birth to happen during summer break between my second and third year of law school. As it happened, it took the whole three months to get pregnant so Daryl’s due date was scheduled at the very end of summer break. I was delighted to be able to take summer classes after all. That left one week to have the baby and return to classes in the fall. Things couldn’t be tidier. Obviously the heavens were pleased with us.
Daryl would be my second child. My oldest daughter was now ten years old and had already gotten used to following me around the country as I dragged her with me through college and law school. She knew the ropes and had been an easy child. I attributed her easiness to my being such a superb parent. I was one of those people who looked on in horror as parents dealt with unruly children in restaurants and grocery stores. I could not understand how a parent could allow a child to over react, throwing fits in public places. I would never allow such a thing.
Daryl came along a few days early. I started contractions during one of my summer final exams. I was able to finish the exam before heading to the hospital but I still had one exam that I would need to make up later. It was just a small hick-up in the perfect plan; nothing that I couldn’t sort out.
Daryl arrived into the world with five fingers on each hand and five toes on each foot, a perfect ten on the Apgar scale. Our plan to have a perfect family with two perfect children was moving along with near perfect timing. We brought her home and installed her in the basinet in our room and fell head over heels in love with her. She was beautiful and perfect, every parent’s dream.
But this second child, this perfect child named Daryl was not going to let me skip merrily along the path I had plotted out for myself. She was not like her older sister, who knew the score she was born into and agreed to the party line. Daryl had her own party line and she was not going to budge from it. She decided not to start talking until she was three years old. She did not like falling asleep at night or ever. It took tremendous coaxing to get her to sleep each night. She wanted an enormous amount of my focus and had an amazing ability to get what she wanted. She could throw a tantrum to beat all tantrums. She had terrors of many things: squiggly toys of any kind, bath tubs, trees, bugs of any kind, and sand to name a few. Even as a small baby if we walked under a tree she would scream her head off. I had to carry her into the street and around any overhanging limbs.
Daryl did not need any reprogramming to make me understand that this child needed me. She needed me more than the few hours I had to spare between classes and exams and work. It would take me years to see this. She never gave up on me though. She kept after me with all the tools she had in her arsenal. She threw more temper tantrums with far more violence that I had ever seen in my life. She threw them in department stores, grocery stores, restaurants, and at the hair dressers. Now I was the mother that other people stared at and shook their head.
I continued to try to make Daryl fit what I thought was normal and she continued to be just who she was. I have seen other people try to make Daryl fit into some type of a mold with no more success than I had. Daryl was determined to be Daryl. She was not going to be reprogrammed by anyone.
When Daryl was very little she was most at peace when she cuddled up next to me on the couch and we would do nothing. We would just lie there together. I didn’t know it then, but she was giving me exactly what I needed: a little rest from the world and the values the world held for me.
Daryl has always been the one who was right to hold fiercely to who she is and not let anyone mold her into someone she is not. I was the one that was trying to mold both her and myself into what I thought was the perfect person. I was better off leaving all that behind and just being me. I needed a little and perfect Daryl to show me that.