My place on the map shifted, and suddenly I was off the map. I was in parts unknown. I was not undiscoverable; I just needed another map that showed this new territory. The look in Baby Girl's eye, the tone in her voice had changed. I hadn't been here before, not with her. This was a new epoch in parenting her. She was six years-old now and asserting it. She resisted me now in a way that said, You aren't the only house on this street. I know there are other others and I've visited them. I've peeked into windows and seen how they do things differently. Compliance from her in this house was no longer guaranteed, she seemed to say.
I knew this shift in geography had been imminent for some time. An explorer does not come by her title by sitting on the couch, watching "Word Girl" and accepting that Captain Huggyface wraps it up neatly with a gorilla pantomime every time. She had questions, like, What will happen if I say no to this? and How far can this face of anguish take me? and What kind of consequences can I expect if I totally ignore directions here for as long as possible?
This is not a continental drift we are experiencing. Just a six year-old growing in complexity of character, which brings pain and elation and utter awe. As a parent, you see the face of the baby that you once held, whose dependence on you felt near-worshipful, and at the same time you see the face of the child whose independence is the merchandise you sent away for in a catalogue six years-ago, but when it finally arrived, it was packaged differently than expected. It was bigger and more overwhelming and more emotionally expensive than it had appeared in the picture.
Your child defies and you remember the prodigal son. How he returned and his father didn't have any questions for him. He just embraced his son. The difference is that the prodigal son was repentant and was open to the embrace.
When your children defy you, you also see the face of the child you once were, defiant because the whole world is unfair, and everything is awful and not your fault and totally ruined.