i think about parenting a lot, and the things that ruth has opened my eyes to. there are nuggets of pure joy she has brought to my life. i like to focus on these. then, there are other things.
the other day, we were in a real knock-down drag out. she hadn’t had a nap. that’s the first thing. it was a saturday, but i was alone with her as greg left for a few hours to pursue some out-of-home hobby for the afternoon. that was the second. the issue just happened to be about getting ready to go outside. i guess that was the third. now, i won’t go into a play-by-play, i’ll spare you the agony of that, plus i don’t feel like reliving it. let me recap. i had put on her shoes and socks about five times only to have her, a few moments later, fall to the ground in a fit of fury and rip them off again, crying and screaming as she did so (her screaming tone not only makes my eardrums throb from the trauma, but seems to pluck at some taut string that runs right down the very center of my being. must be a central nerve or something, that vibrates like a bass string about to snap). i went through my usual repertoire of defense. playing it cool, making threats, getting angry, and then finally ignoring her, which she can stand least of all. i walked over to the couch, sat down, and stared out the window, trying to calm myself down. as soon as she realized what i was doing, she stopped crying, got up, and begin to yell at me that she wanted to go outside and that i needed to put her shoes and socks on for her, NOW. i said no, that i was unhappy with her right then and i wasn’t going to help her. well, then she hit me with a real curve ball and said, in a snotty tone, “fine, then i’ll go outside without you. bye” and she stormed away to her room.
oh my god, i thought, she’s me. it’s a really unpleasant reality check to see another person, one you happen to be raising, mirror your behavior like that. your worst behavior. the behavior that you hate that you do, that you would never wish to pass on to anyone under any circumstance. that you pray, if you pray, to god to help you to not ever do again, amen, every time you do it. she’s doing what i do, i thought, and she’s not even a scorpio. she’s manipulating my feelings and being as destructive as i get when i get into a fight. the worst combination of all, i thought right then, might be a taurus with a scorpio for a mother. oh my god. what have i done? what sort of Frankenstein monster have we created and set loose upon the world?
something i have come to the realization of, having a daughter such as i have, is that, as parents, what we want, deep in our cores, is for our children to turn out nothing like us, that they become the people we could never be. possibly one of the hardest things to witness in your children is to see them struggling with the things you struggle with. as a child, i was painfully shy, very sensitive, and had a terrible temper. what i wouldn’t give to have a child that is outgoing, confident, and even-keeled. how painful it is to watch ruth try to pedal for about two seconds on her trike before she gets so angry that she gets up and knocks the whole thing over (i’m convinced that she could pedal it if she had even an ounce of patience in her little body). i can feel her anger, it’s so familiar to me (because it comes from me!). and a sense of doom sets in, about the troubles that i know, from experience, a temper like that will get her in her life (at least until she’s thirty). and when she shies away from other people and kids, my heart just aches inside, screaming, “no! don’t be like me! be confident! you can do it!”
it might not be so bad if i had already come to terms with my own temper and shyness and had any useful tools to pass on to her to deal with them. but that’s the kicker, damn it! i’m still struggling with these things myself! it is doubly unpleasant to be confronted with the bad things in your personality while you are still struggling with them in your day to day life. it’s so ironic, that the things you dislike the most about yourself would show up to taunt you in your offspring. so, while i’m half thinking to myself, that day with ruth and the socks and shoes, “why is she so difficult?” and “this is unacceptable behavior,” the other half of me is realizing that everything she’s doing is coming from me. i’m doing this, in some crazy cosmic way, to myself. but not only that, the fact that i still have problems with my temper and such is what’s making it so difficult to deal with her tantrum in the first place. how is that for a double or triple-edged sword?
i mean, i have actually had people say to me, “all you do is feed and clothe them, take care of them and love them. what’s so hard about that?” _______________!!!!!!!! (that’s my response)
well, the hard part is difficult to describe, but i try. the hard part would be everything else. aka: the majority of the time. the fact that everything seems to be a test of character and strength that i am constantly failing. every encounter is modelling proper behavior, respect for others, esteem for themselves, that they are picking up like stains on a white shirt. everything matters! that’s the best i can do to describe what parenting is about. if i had to sum it up, that would be it. two words. full of responsibility and implications.
wow, that was a good rant. i feel better now. all that being said, i wouldn’t trade it for the world, it’s the best thing that’s happened to me and yadda, yadda, yadda:) like i said, there are those fun house mirror times, when you see yourself in a very unflattering light, and then there are those nuggets of pure joy. and then there is everything else in between. what the hell are you gonna do? all i can do is take the things i learn and try to do something useful with them. if i ever think of anything, i’ll let you know.