Friday, January 16, 2009

Once upon a time

I dreamed about the mother I would one day become. Self-reliant, talented, dramatic, passionate, artistic, ultimate friend, spiritual example, giver, confident, lover of life. And yet today in this very early hour on a school day, I would settle for really good mom. But is it settling, really? To be adored and thought well of by your children?

Yesterday my daughter said she hated me. Flat-out-defiantly-mad-nostrils-flaring-hated me. Surprisingly, I kept my cool. "In your room," I said as my heart stopped beating in disbelief. Fear overtook my body and I had to sit down for a moment. "This can't be happening," I thought. I refuse to have a daughter who 1) has so little respect for her mother and 2) actually feels that way.

My past was being dug up from the trenches with her words. A past in which the words, "I hate you." were said like "hello" and "goodbye". Every insecurity and insatiable nightmare of my own self-worth as a mother was settling on me like a dark and menacing cloud. My fears of repeating the relationship I had with my own mother sent me into panic mode. Oh no - I would not have it. I had to stop this immediately. And so I did the opposite of what my gut reaction told me to do and I actually stayed calm. I reasoned "calmly" and I talked about what she was feeling and why she would say such a thing. Even after a repeat temper tantrum when I explained that sorry was not actually enough and that there are consequences to our actions, I stayed "calm".

Before I knew it my heart started beating again and I could feel actual warmth return to my panic-stricken face. She repented after she finally calmed down and we had a peaceful evening. The truth, in fact, was that she did not hate me. And although that in itself was a tremendous relief, I believe I learned a more valuable lesson from this experience. The mother I dreamed of being one day is no longer any concern of mine. I am one now. And a really good one, at that.


Rachel said...

Ah, I dread the day when Charlotte will say those words to me. And yet, it will come. No matter what. Because even children with the "best" mothers (whatever that means) will have their tantrums.

Two things I like to think about when I'm feeling that special brand of insecurity: 1) that we don't have to be perfect - in fact, there is no such thing in motherhood - but just good enough and 2) that Mother's Day talk by a girl in Florida where she began, "I have the meanest mom in the whole world" (and then talked all about how grateful she was for a mom who set limits and imposed rules - in other words, who did her job).

Your kids are happy and well-adjusted. They're bright and creative. They're well-fed and goodness knows they're well-dressed. :) You're doing a brilliant job.

BTW, I'm going to Renton Goodwill with my mother today. I will miss you terribly.

Lara Neves said...

I don't know how kids just seem to know that saying that will kill us. Perhaps because it would kill them if we were to ever say it to them. I have one child that doesn't say it, instead she says "I don't love you anymore" when she's having her moment.

Good job dealing with it. And I can tell, you are a great mother!

Pittman Four said...

When they do say I hate you... it makes me think of when you blow into an infants face and it takes their breath away. Those words can so quickly take the breath out of us, and I feel like I'm doing what that baby does. Struggle to regain that breath. What I've realized now with my girls growing up. It's with their frustrated mind that those are the only words that they can sometimes grasp to help us see what they are feeling. They know that it will hurt us but they know that we love them so much that we won't stop loving them. Sometimes I think it's a test to make sure that we do love them no matter what. The one thing I would do was to let them know that it did hurt, then their apology would come a few hours later with a lot of remorse. They would simply come into my bed and hold me and say in their sweet voice I'm sorry and I love you, I don't know why I said that.

Then after a few years of the I hate you I would yell... Well I love you no matter how you feel. Then there would be storming down the hallway with a slammed door to follow. then the apology and I love you a few hours later.

Always know what a great mom you are... The I hate you should make you know that you obviously are doing something right. Especially how you handled it.

Bethanne said...

Amen to that. You ARE a great mom and being even a good one is HARD.

Isn't it funny that even small things that they say (like they'd prefer daddy) hurt so bad? Like all the time and love and emotions that you put into your loving them and sacrificing for them mean nothing to them? Obviously it isn't like that, but I never imagined how their words would affect me...and mine are still way young! Truly the hardest and yet most rewarding role we will ever play!

Cali said...

"there was no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one." — Jill Churchill.

regina said...

Carrie, since I'm as old as dirt I can say this... just remember to "lighten up" it's not the last time you'll probably hear that (remember the teenage years)- BUT I'm living proof they do grow up to love you!!

You're a good mom- don't forget that!

Anonymous said...

Dear Carrie,

I have to say that i am extremely glad that you learned to deal with your own child so well. They never really mean that they "hate" you; they just really don't like you at that moment.

But, honestly, people are good enough at displaying their own faults. Whatever issues you had with your mother, your children are old enough to get on this blog and read what you said about her--not to mention all the other people that read this. That being the case, it's in poor taste to bring up the problems between you and your mother--even if the message about you and your daughter was a good one.

I'm happy for you. Just remember that most people don't really mean what they say in anger and upset.

Cheers and the best to you.

-Ashley MacBryan

Carrie said...

Being in "poor taste" was certainly not the intent. I really doubt that I am the only one who had a rough relationship with their mother, and so with that said I believe my only fault in this post is writing a specific encounter.

But I also do not feel there is any wrong in learning from your past mistakes so that you may become a better parent yourself. I gave a specific example, so that the severity of the words "i hate you" would be understood. To some they are just silly words, to me, they represent the words "I" said so often to my own mother and a part of my past I never wanted to repeat.

This blog is a journal for me; a way to record my mistakes as well as triumphs. But it is also a way to communicate with other readers. Some who may have felt the same things in the their life. Some who may be able to relate. And for that reason, I will let my daughter read this blog one day if she wants to (right now she is too young). And I will let her know that mommy was sad about this event in particular because she used to say it to her own mother and regrets it so much.

And so Ashley, although I do not know who you are, and although I appreciate your thoughts because they certainly got me thinking, I am going to have to disagree with you this time around (although you made me realize that if I explained myself better in this post I wouldn't be writing this right now). If I let any faults known, they were my own.

Anonymous said...

I am grateful of the way you are raising your chldren... You have tons more patience than I did.. but mostly you don't allow your children to speak to you that way.. because of all that you children had to endure between a billion moves and a sick father.. no money etc, I let you kids get away with too much..and yet was overprotective at the smae time... the younger kids are having a mom who learned much from you and is doing much better.. I am just thrilled you turned out sooo AWESOME!!!
thank you for teaching about this bloggin thing...

Lisa S said...

I know two thirds the year has past...and you probably have heard those words again...when my younger one said it to me..knowing that it would feel bad on my part..I very calmly and sweetly looked at her and said." oh, you'll get over it, and I still love you. Eventually she realized that her mean words weren't going to bother she began to say that she didn't like me right now. She is 16 now and is loved by many.

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