When parenting gets hard

I’ve started writing many posts which have remained unfinished. I write posts in my head as I’m driving, doing the dishes, brushing my teeth and tucking the children in bed but they never make it onto paper or this space. There is, however, one thing I need to get out of my system right now. I just don’t know how to do it.

It’s my first daughter. The first big love of my life. She’s turning eight in a few weeks and I’m having the hardest time coming to terms with it. I don’t want to be the mother who mourns the babies who are now growing into little ladies (well, one of them is but the other one is pretty sure she’s turning eight too). I want to enjoy each stage of their life, like I want to enjoy mine. I want to be grateful for the fact that they are healthy and growing, acquiring new skills and their own personality as they do so. But there are a few issues I need to resolve before I can honestly enjoy the age Maia is at.

I have thought long and hard about why I am so upset all the time. Most of the time, I am upset with her. I don’t like saying it out loud, but it’s a fact that I cannot deny. I’m giving her a hard time right now, as she is giving me. We’ve been struggling with what I can only call a shift in our roles for the past year or so. She is no longer a baby or a small child. At the same time, she’s not old enough to be as independent as she thinks she should be. She goes from wanting to walk to the grocery on her own to wanting help with getting dressed in the space of one morning. She wants to cook a meal on her own but needs me to cut her meat in small pieces at dinnertime. I want her to be responsible for her own things and to clean up after herself but expect her to prefer my company to that of her friends. We cannot yet let go of how things have been so far, but we’re both eager for the change that’s heading our way.

I’ve come to realise that babies and toddlers are no work at all. You keep them clean and fed, you entertain them and enjoy their milestones, you kiss and hug them as much as you want and that is pretty much all there is to it. When those toddlers are old enough to have their own likes and dislikes, opinions about every topic under the sun (most of the time opposing yours) and feelings that run as deep as yours do, that’s when parenting gets hard. It might be that our personalities are too similar or that we are both very sensitive, but our relationship has become a very complex one. I look at her friends and the way they interact with their parents and wonder whether any of them are struggling behind the happy facades. I’m not ashamed to say that I’m learning how to parent my daughter every single day. I don’t think I will ever stop learning. Just when you think that the sleepless nights are a thing of the past, there comes another type of exhaustion and it has little to do with the physical kind that babies bring with them.

I don’t know if anyone will make sense of this rambling post, but if you do, if you’ve been there and know what I’m talking about, please be in touch. Your comments and messages have been invaluable in helping me through some tough times in the past and I’m hoping some of you might have already been through all this and can offer some advice.

Discussing her birthday cake. We might go for Charlie and Lola for the 3rd consecutive year!
Discussing her birthday cake. We might go for Charlie and Lola for the 3rd consecutive year!

PS – In case I didn’t make it very clear, I love my daughter more than my own life and that is precisely why I’m struggling so much right now.

 

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8 Comments

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  1. You are not rambling, you made perfect sense… Well to me you did πŸ™‚ I’m still struggling with my two!! And they are married, with children of their own… I thought my life would be easier at this stage, but it isn’t… Things happen, we try to do our best with our kids. I’ve made mistakes, but then who didn’t…
    Hon, take one day at a time… Talk to her, let her know you are there. From what you write, she is very intelligent for her age, and I think she gets it from you and the way you live your life as a family. Don’t doubt yourself… Talk to your mom, she may surprise you….

  2. You are very articulate. I hope you never doubt that you’re a great mom (or if you do, remember that you are!). πŸ™‚

    Loreta is right, you never stop with the struggles. I think your’s may be a bit more intense because Maia is so bright and you all are so similiar in personality. She’s a clever girl and though her brain can process at a higher level, her emotional maturity hasn’t caught up. &&& she’s the oldest and is cutting the path for Robin. Everything with her is new. When Robin reaches this age, you’ll have a frame of reference.

    I know that with my eldest, I often wondered if my expectations were appropriate. Did I want to much from him? Probably, at times. But we both came out of it okay and as a 20 year old man, he still calls his mama for advice and just to say hi.

    Maia knows you love her and that’s the most important thing in the world. She has absolutely no doubt that you’re there for her and always will be. The rest, the struggle, is what adds beauty to your relationship.

    Wish we weren’t an ocean apart. I’d give you a hug! πŸ™‚

    • Thanks Jill, you’re too sweet. I used to feel that her emotional intelligence was far behind her intellectual maturity when she was smaller but I somehow stopped thinking that as she got older. You may be right in this respect. Thanks for your words.

  3. You made perfect sense to me too! I remember the first time I had this bittersweet feeling – not wanting my daughter to grow so fast because it was getting so difficult, the constant bickering and opposition, the ‘no’s, the sudden cold realisation that , no, she is not an extension of me, but an individual, opinionated and, well, a defiant challenge to many of my (perhaps unrealistic) expectations. That’s when I really started wishing earnestly for another child, subconsciously wanting to prove to myself that I “could handle my second one better”. She must have been about 2 years old then… ten years down the line, I’m still learning. I nag too much, about school/home work, about using Maltese more, about what I interpret as disrespect sometimes, about her fiery independence which gives way to sibling rivalry at the end of the day, about my need to hug her, which isn’t always reciprocated. I probably would have homeschooled if it was legal in Malta- I really feel (strongly) that noone knows her as well as I (we) do, and what she needs isn’t always what is being offered to her. Our expectations of her are often unfairly dictated by a school curriculum which causes stress and unnecessary pressures, and we did choose a school where these are indeed kept to a minimum.. And I also do find myself evaluating other parents and their daughters, very often lately, comparing my relationship to theirs. But this doesn’t help in the long run. Sometimes, a hot chocolate, just me and her, away from home, with no reference to school or duties/expectations, is what we both need.

    So no, you’re not alone in this, it IS because you love her so much that it is so emotionally taxing (otherwise you wouldn’t care so much, would you?). And behind the many happy facades we are often surrounded with, I do suspect a certain lack of emotional involvement sometimes.

    Take care of yourself , and keep up the great job you’re doing πŸ™‚

    • Oh Sonia, how I agree with you about the curriculum! I too feel Maia’s personality is not allowed to develop freely in our schools and we, like you, chose a school which doesn’t put too much pressure on the pupils. Maia would thrive with a more creative, less sedentary way of learning. Not that she has problems at school (for now) but she would be much happier and so would I.

      • We have actually been blessed with a school (an independent one in our case) where our daughter has not been suppressed creatively; her individuality has been celebrated rather than stifled; she has thrived in such an environment. But at senior school level there are more expectations, and less time for creative intra-curricular outlets, more assessments and exams, and learning doesn’t seem that natural
        anymore. She does well, but misses the experiential learning she experienced in early and middle
        school, where mistakes weren’t penalised πŸ™‚ In our case, the school itself is very pro-individuality, but still has to conform to a curriculum dictated by the education department in preparation of matsec exams eventually. So there is a sort of dichotomy which creates confusion sometimes. My girl has always asked ‘why’ before committing herself to studying something ‘just because’, and this is causing a bit of stress lately. It’s part of growing up really, but I feel for her. Letting them know you love them, always, whatever they do or don’t do, is our daily challenge as parents.

      • Your daughter’s school sounds great! I agree there’s a big change between primary and secondary school. In our case there already was a huge leap between kinder and year 1.

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