I would be remiss if I didn’t write a piece about my daughter and how she has blossomed. It was hard for so long. She was in distress. I was too. It was as if the umbilical cord were never cut. Her hurt was mine and my moods were hers. Years into it I realized she wouldn’t survive if I didn’t get stronger and make some changes.
I wrote about her here and on Facebook. Some, but certainly not all, of our struggles were public. I worried that it wasn’t fair of me to do but this forum, and the feedback from the people who read what I write, along with the act of writing, was part of what changed my parenting, and helped her in return. I think the good outweighs the bad in this instance.
I forget the annoying psycho-jargon her school therapist used a few years ago when she announced what the problem was but it boiled down to our relationship being broken. “Mom-blame” is what someone said to me, rolling their eyes, when I told them what she had said but sometimes it’s true; I was to blame. But it’s never that simple or pat. Life isn’t always easy. We don’t always have access to our best selves. Sometimes we’re hollow. The rotten thing my kids have to deal with is that there isn’t another parent to take over when I’ve gone flat.
I am not good at multitasking. I can do one thing at a time and only one thing. I can’t cook dinner in a messy kitchen. I can’t pay the necessary attention to the cars and trucks whizzing past when there’s screaming in the car. I’m not a good friend when I have nothing extra. I couldn’t be a good parent when the stressors were too high. One calmed down and then another. Catherine isn’t sick. A not-quite-right relationship ended. More photography work brings fewer financial worries. In the midst of these things, years in the making, has been the struggle to become a parent I am proud of being. I am there. I like who I am to my children. I don’t react strongly to every little thing. I am able to both live in and enjoy the moment. I love being with my children and no longer long for time alone. The three of us are happy.
My Violet is her own separate self. When I get in a bad mood she can shake it off instead of allowing it to envelop her in a pointy black shroud. She is no longer terrified if I’m sad or angry. I no longer see her as an extension of myself, destined for similar mistakes and experiences. She trusts me and my love for her. I am finally worthy of her trust.
Screaming is no longer the norm in our house but the other night I got angry. Ralphie waited until bedtime on a Sunday night to tell me he had more homework. He’s in an advanced work class and it’s too much for him. The work is hard, the homework overwhelming and he’s missing recess and gym as punishment for not being organized and handing his work in late. He’s understandably stressed. He cried for fifteen minutes after I yelled at him.
I left him sobbing in a heap and went to bed frustrated. This is a boy who has to let it all out before we can make repairs. Violet came in and asked me to take some deep breaths. She told me to think about bunnies and rainbows. Then she said “You’re going to quit the job you don’t enjoy. You’re going to make enough money so we can go on fun vacations. Remember how much we all love each other and how much fun we have. I want you to think about who we love and who loves us…” and so on. She may not always answer when I speak but it’s clear that she listens. Her guided meditation calmed me down. Ralphie calmed down too and went to bed. Getting his work done the next morning did the trick.
Violet is a mother’s helper to a family a block away. One evening a week for an hour she plays with three little girls under the age of three while the parents go about their chores. She draws with the girls. They dance. Before I pick her up she reads them a book and she ends each visit with three big spinning hugs. She’s making money. She’s a responsible and lovely person. She has good friends. Nice kids who I like very much. She’s generous and shares the goodies I put in her lunch with the posse of friends she sits with in the cafeteria. She’s happy and calm and knows she’s well-loved. Gone are the cries of “You don’t love me.” Gone are the tantrums and upset. After years of being the snarly-haired mismatched girl she brushes her hair every day and has her very own sense of style. She is as solid and lovely a person as I can hope to know. She is my favorite girl in the world.