Oh, this Girl. My Mini. She’s nine now, going on 29 if you steal a peek at that old soul of hers. Sometimes, I look in her fierce brown eyes and I feel like I’m looking in a mirror—a timeless looking glass that reflects my face but not how we’re individually feeling. At least not in the moment when we both want what we want when we want it. But, contrary to what she thinks, I get it. I SO get it. Being a kid is hard. Being little in stature is even harder. And not having any control on what adults do or tell you to do, well, that is just the worst.
When I got knocked up almost 10 years ago, I had no idea what this mom gig would entail. Call me naive, but I just didn’t know any of it—the depth of love I could feel for another human being, the joy I would take from her triumphs, the humbled awe that her daily existence would bring me. That’s what I’m supposed to feel, right? So A+ for me, I got that covered at least. What I didn’t expect—and what makes me feel like the worst mom ever—are the I-want-to-pull-my-hair-out, lock-her-in-a-closet and not-be-a-mom-anymore moments. The tantrums, the tears, the screaming matches, the slamming doors. It sucks. There’s no way around it, and the frustration and hopelessness that rocks my body when we both exert our wills is exhausting. Not having a partner to share the burden with seems unfair at best and at times, leaves me feeling alone and unsure of my decisions.
Yet there she stands, stubborn and determined and sure that at 9, her way is the right way. She’s also just as certain that fairies live in gardens, that leprechauns mischievously hide pots of gold at the end of rainbows, and somehow, the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus collaborate with parents to make these holidays happen. I’m okay with that, by the way. I want her to believe as long as she can.
There’s another part, though, that she hides from the world, from me. As her Mom, I see it. Even when she tries to hide it. It’s the part of her that is trying to make sense of the world as a whole, that is trying to make sense of her daily dealings and the parts of her inside, especially her heart, that she’s still figuring out. And that’s okay, too. Given enough love and a little space, she’ll learn how to handle herself these inevitable ups and downs.
In the last couple months, life got complicated—as in down and out, bloody, broken, busy, barely able to keep up—and yet somehow, we made it through, although not wholly unscathed. Our spirits have been battered and our hearts bruised. and when I say “our,” it’s painful because I wish I was only speaking of mine. Basically, life happened—and the details of it don’t really matter because it could take on a hundred different scenarios in any household across the country without ever changing the same feelings of loss, disappoint, anger and frustration that we feel when life happens.
So how do I, as her Mom, knowing that she’s hurting inside, find a balance between correcting unacceptable behavior and teaching her appropriate outlets for her feelings? How do I heal her hurts while setting clear boundaries? And when all I want to do myself is collapse and cry, how do I show her how to walk with grace and push through whatever life tosses our way?
I see her sad face and hear the harsh words that have been coming from both our mouths, and as I’m trying to create a balanced, happy home-life, feeling like on a daily basis, I’m failing miserably. These words—hers and mine—fly from our lips like venom spewing from a snake and once they’ve been said out loud, they’re often difficult to take back. I’ve tried time-out, loss of (name your favorite activity), threatening, bribing, crying, talking. I’ve read all the books, consulted the child-rearing experts and made the reward charts. And yet, the battle rages on.
The answer is, I don’t have the answers. On my good days, I’m gentle and kind with my words, encouraging her to take deep breaths and work out her feelings by drawing pictures, writing stories, even screaming into her pillow. On those days, our home is filled with giggles and hugs. On those days, we actually resemble the happy faces that I post on social media to show the world what a perfect life we have. On my worst days, the front porch becomes purgatory, er, I mean time-out, where she’s locked out of the house, banging on the door to get back in while I cry on the couch and frantically google more parenting strategies. I don’t post those pictures.
Maybe the real answer is that it’s okay that I don’t always know the exact right thing to do, but that I keep trying. And every day, as her and I do this dance, I give myself a little grace to make the mistakes and the foresight to know that whatever happens today, is probably not going to tragically alter her entire existence. I know when I stop judging myself, I’m better able to pause, breathe, even laugh at myself and the ridiculousness of battling with a hormonal pre-tween that wants to rule the world. And of course, when all else fails, I just throw an extra $5 bucks into her “Future Therapy Fund” jar and call it a win. A good parent has to have a solid Plan B, right???