When my sister and I were young we would play a game with our mother, giving her impossible scenarios and asking her to pick an answer. “We’re in a boat in the middle of the ocean and it tips over. You can only save one of us. Which one do you save?” Or “Who do you love more, my sister or me?” As any good mother would, she always demurred, never giving a direct answer, never choosing one over the other. I love you equally, she would say. This frustrated me to no end, because, how can that be? How can she love us the same, how can she not pick one over the other? How can she not pick me?
My girls play the same game with me, and I answer them the same way my own mother did. But in my heart, my answer is different.
Which brings me to today. I am going to write about something today that I’ve skirted around for awhile. I have avoided airing it here because it makes me feel guilty, inadequate and ugly. I’m not even sure I’m ready to write now, because if anyone has anything unkind to say it will hurt me very much. I’ve found my regular readers/commenters to be extraordinarily kind though, and I’m hoping they (you!) will continue to be.
I wrote about sisters last week, and said that the second most difficult thing about parenting my girls is managing their relationship. I don’t think a lot of parents of two or more children will find that terribly shocking. I suspect it pretty much goes with the territory, and as much as I dislike it, I’m mostly OK with it.
But the most difficult thing about parenting my girls is one of my girls. Belle is an extremely challenging child. At five years old she acts like a toddler in many ways: she is impulsive and loud and into everything. I love her, because she is my child, but I don’t like her. She is abrasive and difficult and can be wildly inappropriate in ways I choose not to write about in more detail. I do not like the feelings she evokes in me.
And today I saw someone, professionally, about all that. I went in looking for parenting help, with anger management perhaps. But I left with the therapist thinking Belle should be her patient and not me. Some of what I had to say concerned her very much, and she felt we would both be better served by her seeing Belle. I’m willing to go that route. She’ll see her next week for the first time – a few minutes with me there, and then one-on-one with the therapist. I am nervous, but hopeful. I still feel guilty, inadequate and ugly. But I know that something has to change. It needs to start with me, and it has. I know I (still) need to change some things about my approach with her, but there may be things underneath that I’m not equipped to deal with. Enter therapist. We’ll see how it goes.