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.