Parenting is hard. There’s no map, no instructions. It’s confusing and at times exasperating. I know that most of the time when we, as parents, feel like failures, it’s usually not the case. We’re all doing our best.
But this time I did fail at something.
I failed to see your fear. I failed to see your anxiety. I failed to see all the signs that you needed me desperately.
As I rushed you along the path of your life making sure all the basics were done like cleaning your teeth, getting yourself dressed, brushing your hair, making it to school on time, and having you walk through those scary school gates on your own, I lost something.
I lost my empathy for exactly how terrified you must actually be.
I should have seen it in your unusually foul moods, the sudden meltdowns, and the unexplained defiance. I should have realized that behind all the bad behavior I was so quick to threaten and punish you for, there was an absolutely terrified little girl trying so hard to be perfect at school, get all the good behavior stickers, and to please the one person in the world who knows you best: your own mother.
But in my haste to make sure you’re being a responsible “big girl” I overlooked the vulnerability that this great big world can create.
Sure, I know you’re scared and anxious about having a full day of school and endless expectations put upon you by all of the adults in your life. But I didn’t really let the concept of what this can do to you emotionally really sink in. I didn’t guide you through it. I just expected you to be able to adjust.
But you needed me. Your tantrums were a sign of complete exhaustion and over-stimulation. You were lost. You don’t know who you are yet and you need your mother to be that torch of light as you walk this transitional path we adults call growing up.
I felt anger at your bad mood and impolite tone. How dare you speak to me like that. It’s unacceptable. How shall I punish you for this? How can I teach you to act properly?
To punish you when you are obviously so terrified is not teaching you. It’s just a reaction to behavior that makes me feel as though I’m failing as a parent.
In truth, my real failure as a parent was not recognizing that you need love, you need confidence, and you also need me to curb my own temper.
You often reflect my own reactions back to me. You often copy my temperament. You admire me. You adore me. And when I behave carelessly with your feelings because it may be inconvenient for me to deal with or I just don’t take the time to understand, you then treat me carelessly as well.
So, dear daughter. I will try and do better, react better, and understand better. It’s been a long time since I was a little girl like you, and if I think about it, I remember how truly frightening all these new places, people, responsibilities and expectations can be.
As a parent, I will probably fail again on some level, but I promise to cherish your journey on a deeper level and take the time to really listen to you. I brought you into this world, and I will continue to strive harder as a mother to become wiser, stronger, and more vigilant as you venture forward into life.
I love you always,