November 16, 2012 by Julia
Sometimes I wish we could skip over the part where our children have to learn things for themselves. I wish for once Fiona would take me at my word that she is tired, and that just lying in her bed for a bit (“You don’t even have to sleep! Just relax!”) would make everything better. I can only hope 15-month-old Jack will get the message that he can’t run down a flight of stairs before he actually takes that leap.
But who am I kidding? I never believed my mom, either. In fact, any hint of suggestion that I didn’t already know just what I needed or wanted was highly offensive to me. Especially when it involved something indirectly affecting my feelings, like lack of sleep or food or crazy hormones. How dare she presume to know what was making me feel this way? No one knew my mind better than me. I refused to chalk up my complicated, valid emotions to needs so base as hunger or sleep.
Now, in my thirties, I can finally admit that sleep (or lack of it) is a major precursor to my mood. I know that if I try some diet that leaves me hungry, I will be a pain in the ass all afternoon. (Part of the reason I no longer believe in diets.) And I am constantly saying to Fiona, “You need to eat something!” or “You’re just so tired…” as she sobs incoherently into my shoulder. She doesn’t want to hear it any more than I did. But I can’t help myself, because I know it’s a big part of the truth. And I want to make things better, the same way my mom did.
I truly fear the teenage years, for them, and for me. So much heartbreak awaits them. So much banging of my own head against the wall of their stubborn wills and attitude and superiority toward the world of totally ignorant, hypocritical, unfeeling adults. Fiona slams doors on a regular basis, flings herself onto the couch in hysterics, and says things to me like, “Do you wish it was bedtime right now, Mommy?? Well, you should, because you’re TIRED ALL THE TIME!!” Ouch. That one today really hurt me. She is four years old, going on fourteen. What will I do when she’s taller than me, and can go places by herself?
And yet…and yet. She needs to make her own way through the muck of life the same way I did/am. Looking back on my own coming of age, would I skip over my experiences, as painful as they were, for something cleaner? Would I trade those visceral, risky feelings for something more sensible, something less mine? Of course not.
Sometimes I think all we can do is fervently show our love for them, and model the best of what we believe, in our own lives. I’m pretty sure they are going to be who they are born to be, regardless of what we tell them. (My beliefs have changed over the years, but I still feel like the same person I was at four years old.) They might never take our advice. They will get hurt; it is guaranteed.
But they still need us, desperately. They will take our shoulder to cry on, if we offer it enough times. And if we can quietly offer ourselves, without scolding or simplification, all the better.
After the mother-daughter storm of words had passed today, and we were curled up watching Beauty and the Beast together, eating mint chocolate chip Klondike bars, I was thinking, this the high part of the roller coaster ride of having a daughter.
She said “Mommy?” I said, “What?” and she said, “I’m glad I have a good mommy.” I think she said it because I was just sitting with her, not doing anything else.