Great Expectations {my daughter and me}


In early December I wrote my heart out about a fight I had with my daughter.  I'm not proud that I let an argument with my six year old get the best of me.  I'm not proud of how I acted, or the fact that I lost my voice, but writing it here, putting it all out there, it opened me up to acceptance.  It allowed me to accept advice from readers, who I'm sure were a little shy to bring up behavioral issues that make parents recoil.  It allowed me to accept constructive criticism from other people in my life on how I handled things.  It also allowed me to open myself up and accept the fact that she and I both may need help, like the professional kind. And I was totally fine with all of that.  I can accept those things.  Then I was on Facebook a few nights later, and found a post by Hands Free Mama, the title: The Bully too Close to Home.  And I just knew.  I just had this feeling, that I would connect with this post, that I would see myself in this post.  I just didn't realize how close to home it would hit.

The Bully too Close to Home is about Rachel and her first born daughter.  It's about a mother and daughter where the mother is a drill Sargent like antagonizer and the daughter is just a daughter, a child, a human.  I read so many things that resonated with me, I had to put my phone down twice.  Then I had to re read it twice.  Because I am the Bully in this house.  I am the Bully in my daughters life.  And that was something so ugly and hard to admit to myself that it made me sick to my stomach.

After reading Rachel's post, I thought about all of the ways I had been bullying my daughter. I thought about the standard of behavior I expected out of her.  I thought about all of the ways that I would and could correct her in a day.  Her socks didn't match, her hair was in her eyes, she was picking her nose (again!), her pants were sagging, she was biting her nails, I could go on, but you get the picture.  I thought about all of the times she bore the brunt of my frustrations.  How I was quickest to yell at her before everyone else.  How I would point out situations in which I had asked her to do "A", she chose to do "B" and now we had to do "C", and that was all her fault.  It isn't pretty my friends, but it is honest to God real life.  I was doing this.  I had been doing this for awhile, and now I was at a point where I wanted to stop, but was afraid that even if I did stop, too much time had passed.  That I would forever be her biggest bully.

A few nights after reading Rachel's post and about a week after our big fight, I was out with two of my dearest friends for one of their birthday's.  It was a great night spent talking about all things life, marriage, and family.  Then we started talking about writing, since two of us write, and I brought up Hands Free Mama. We talked about that post, and I confessed that I was the Bully in my home.  And that I was so embarrassed and devastated that I couldn't see that in myself until I read that post.  Then without even thinking about it I said,

"I have no idea why I expect her to be perfect when I'm not"

And that my friends was the break through.  The ahh-ha moment.

From the moment she was born, I expected perfection.  From her, from me.  I was under the impression that motherhood was going to be like any other job I ever had.  I was going to go through a training period, and then soon I was going to be a productive employee just as I had been in every job since college.  In case you are wondering, I'm still in training, I'm always learning.  But from the get go I have expected perfection out of that child.  I wanted her to be the perfect eater, the perfect sleeper, the perfect crawler, the perfect walker, and as she got older the perfect reader and the perfect speller. I wanted her to be quiet and play nicely with the other kids.  I wanted her to be the perfect child, with a clean room, clean teeth, and no arguments about bedtime.

Can you say Great Expectations?

As time went on, and as life didn't go according to plan, I allowed myself to lessen the expectation on myself, but never lessening the expectation of my daughter.  Why did I allow myself such grace and not do the same for her?  I have no idea.  I can't even begin to answer that question.  Maybe I thought that with enough "direction" (read bullying) I could direct her into the person I wanted her to be. Maybe I thought that her missteps were directly related to my mothering and that if I could see it, others could too.  Then they would know, that she's not perfect and that is my fault alone.  Maybe because I knew it was too late for me to be perfect, I could still strive for that for her.

Whatever the case may have been, it was so ugly and twisted that I just prayed and prayed that it wasn't too late.  That I wasn't too late to mend and repair my relationship with her. That I could finally let go of that perfect child I was expecting, and embrace the beautifully wild and chaotic spirit of a child that I got.  Because it's not for lack of love.  I love her, with my whole heart and whole self.  I've loved her every minute of her life, from the moment she took her first breath, from the moment she made me so sick with pregnancy.  From the moment those two pink lines appeared, I have loved her with such force.  So why on earth am I bullying her and her spirit?  And why does it seem that I can't love her without bullying her?

Since the discovery of my great expectations, I've tried to be more relaxed.  I've tried to be more positive.  I've tried to put myself in the shoes of a six year old.  I've even reminded myself that she is, in fact, SIX YEARS OLD.  I've switched my focus to showing love, instead of just talking about love.  I can tell her I love her a thousand times a day, but to show her, to do so without bullying her, that is what matters.  I'm on a mission to be less critical when she decides to wear leopard print leggings with a striped neon tank, and ugg boots for a trip to Target.  To not point out when she has a kool-aid mustache, or chocolate on her cheeks after a cupcake.  

These days, I try to ask her not to bite her fingernails down to the quick, and I try to remind her to wash her hands before dinner, instead of yelling and demeaning she do them.  Now I'm on a mission to ask, instead of pointing out what I don't like about a situation.  To stop myself from yelling before I even know what she is doing or not doing.  To take a breath, and remind myself, she is six, she is beautifully and wonderfully made, she is a gift, and she is no more perfect than I.  I cannot expect perfection from her when she expects not a single ounce of perfection from me.

Because if I'm being tearfully and brutally honest with you, she loves me anyway.  She loves me regardless of all the times I've yelled until I lost my voice.  All the times I pointed out that she put another hole in the knee of brand new pants, and for the love of all things cheetah print why are you getting holes in brand new pants.  She loved me when I was sad and depressed, and anxious and even when I didn't produce enough damn breast milk to feed her.  That kid, that child, that beautiful, stubborn, hard headed, creative, artistic, funny, sarcastic human loved me anyway.

And it's about time I showed her that I do love her the same.


13 comments:

  1. Sitting here in tears. I can relate so much, so very much. I love you for writing this. I will come back when I can think of words rather than just mush. But know I understand, I catch so many glimpses of it in myself. Mine is so engrained, after all it's how I was raised. Nothing I ever did or could do was ever the right thing. Speaking when they wanted quiet was punishable by the belt. As was giggling, laughing, playing or being a kid. If I dropped a plate I would be yelled at and told I was stupid and I was a mistake, then the belt again. My dad was the biggest bully I've ever known. He still is. Sometimes in my home it comes through in me too. I'm sorry and praying for grace for all of us. Xo

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  2. Very well written... And you have to know that you aren't alone. I could have written this post... Except my daughter is about to turn 15. You have the advantage of knowing now... And course correcting (as do I; it's never too late). If you don't, it will lead to a loss of self-confidence, depression, cutting, or worse. Believe me.

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  3. I couldn't keep from crying as I read this. It's like I was reading about the relationship between my daughters and me. I'm so much harder on them than the boys and it's like I realize I am but can't stop myself from flying off the handle when they don't do things to MY standard. My standard, cause in my mind, if they don't put their clothes in the drawer the way I want it, pair mismatched clothes, or sweep the kitchen a different way it's wrong. But it's not. Their seven and five, they're still learning everything about life (as am I) and it would do them and me a world of good to remember that.

    Anyway, this post just hit me HARD. Know that you're not alone. A bunch of us parents are making the same mistake and your post is helping to open our eyes.

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  4. Oh how I can relate to this Megan. Last night I was giving the boys their bath, and bath time has become stressful because they fight a lot about toys and who's touching who etc. I've started yelling a lot more than I care to admit. And cussing. :( It is pretty horrible. Last night I used the F word when I yelled at Landon. Immediately I felt this huge wave of shame and guilt and embarrassment come over me. WHO is this person/this parent I've become? Oh I just want to cry thinking about it. All because he didn't want to stand up to be washed because he thought it was his brother's turn. I really need to do some work on my patience. Thanks for being so honest and sharing this...it has moved me to try harder with my boys.

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  5. Oh, Megan. You are not alone in this. About a year or so ago I could have written this same post. I was so quick to expect perfection out of Brookelyn, because for years she was that super easy, always well behaved child. And as soon as she'd slip up, I was so quick to judge, yell, get angry, etc. One night Matt talked to me about it and I realized that I was being hard on her, really hard.. bullying even. Ever since then it's in the back of my mind, every time I speak to her, to remember that she's 10. Yes, I have high expectations of her, but I canNOT expect perfection. YOU are such an awesome mama, especially to have realized this, talked about it publicly and to work so hard to change things. Good for you! And, you're so right, they love us despite all of our shortcoming. That in itself is amazing. I hope that from here on out your relationship with her continues to get better & better!!

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  6. I don't have the perfect words or wisdom to tell you what to do or how to manage situations. I don't because I am a mother. I am not a perfect mother. None of us are...we are just mothers who want the best for our children...no, we want them to be better than us. We want to do for our daughters what we wanted done for us. We want to be the parent but also the friend...the confidant, but the one to steer her in the right direction. The thing is we need to remember, especially with our first borns, that they made us a mother. They made us who we are and we owe it to our first born daughters to be an example. You are her example and that is wonderful. That you can stop yourself in your tracks is what matters. You are doing great. I promise you that. You are doing your brand of great...the great that only your daughter can grow from. As you know, my first born is my daughter....the girl who I never will be...the best part of me. She teaches me everyday what beautiful is and what good is...so, I think instead of them learning from us about how to be - a lot of the time they teach us. And, sweetheart, SHE is doing a great job. She has the best mother for her and she knows it.
    I don't know if this comment made any sense, really...I'm just pouring my love onto this comment for you and little miss. Because you can do hard things...and you are showing her that she can too. Love you.

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  7. This totally hit home. I have caught myself in that same ah-ha moment with Maggie, and I'm happy to say once I acknowledged it I've gotten better for her sake and mine. Yes it's a daily battle, but working on it and learning from mistakes only makes us stronger. Your girl's are lucky and blessed to have you as their mama and role model. I can guarantee there will be more tough moments, but also great ones, and those moments you need to hold on to because those are the ones that matter to our little ones. <3

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  8. Love the post Megan. I too read Hands Free Mama's post and it made me think also about being easier on my kids. They are little and need to be little while they can. You wrote this beautifully :)

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  9. Thank you for being so honest. I fear sometimes I'm going down the same path with my daughter, I need to stop. She's learning about the world and I need to guide her, not push her this way and that.

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  10. I so needed this. I am going through this right now.

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  11. You made me cry with this post. I was telling my husband about it last night. We expect our kids never to act up and to always do the right thing and its so sad. I needed to hear this. Thanks for your words and for writing this post.

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  12. So I have been avoiding reading this post because I knew I was going to be learning something about myself ( I'm totally not trying to be selfish when I say that) you are so freaking right. A bully. Your situation is exactly the same with me and my firstborn, my six year old daughter.

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  13. It cut me off!!! Your words rang through to my inner soul, the part that rarely gets touched. I need to change. Immediately. For what you said is true, how is it fair to have these expectations of our kids when we fall so short? Thank you my friend, more than you will know. You are a strong strong woman to bare this information and while you do, so many of us connect.

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