Thursday, July 19, 2012
Walking Talking Mirrors
There is nothing like being a parent and seeing yourself reflected in your children's personalities to make you realize where you fall short. We have three children and while they are each their own person, but they are also very, very much like us. And not always in nice ways. "They didn't get that from me!" might be a frequent phrase around here. Each time it's uttered in the back of my mind I feel a twinge because I know they did, in fact "get that from me".
As a parent you do you very best for your kids, but sometimes your very best isn't very pretty. No one is perfect and no matter how hard we try some of our worst traits (and to be fair, our best, too) get passed down to our kids. All our kids have gone through stages of extreme difficulty. They pass in and out of them, sometimes leaving the offensive stage before we have really figured out what to do with it.
And sometimes it seems that a difficult stage isn't just a stage, but maybe a personality trait.
One of our kids has a pretty difficult personality. If you know us in real life you know exactly which kid I mean. Our middle child came out spunky and stubborn, with a mind solidly her own. She was never a particularly cuddly baby. She never much cared to be held for hours on end like most babies. She enjoyed cuddles during feedings, but then would wiggle out of my arms to rest peacefully in a swing or her crib.
After our cuddly son, this independent minded little creature was a surprise to me. After she got old enough to share her opinions (which wasn't very old at all) she became a surprise to everyone else. The first few years of her life all anyone ever told her and me was how beautiful she was. She has tiny little features, pretty skin, bright blue eyes, blonde hair with natural highlights I used to pay hundreds to get. She is beautiful.
As she has gotten older we hear things like "Wow. She must be a handful." "She's gonna give you a run for your money, that one." "She's a spitfire isn't she?" and she is all those things. I agree with the people who say that. But each time my heart breaks a tiny bit. She is stubborn, she is sarcastic (a trait that is extremely hard to understand from a 6 year old), she is dramatic, she is easily offended, she says exactly what she thinks right when she thinks it. She does far better with one playmate then several and frequently is drawn to the most animated person in the room.
These are all traits I have. She is a ton like me in many ways.
Being a kid was hard for me. Really really hard. I think in spite of the personality traits we share I still had a more happy-go-lucky disposition, but I definitely see myself in her. I didn't have a ton of friends, I was weird (probably not a shock), my filter didn't work properly (I am still working on that, ask my mother), I didn't always know how to read a room to adjust my voice/energy level/behaviour properly. As such lots of kids didn't know what to do with me and it was a lot easier for parents to just not invite me to birthday parties. Kids being kids would regularly inform me that I wasn't invited because their parents didn't like me, or I was [fill int the blank].
Last year a someone told my daughter told me she wasn't invited to play at her house because one of the girls parents/caregivers said that my daughter was "too wild". My daughetr told me this and my heart stopped. I was instantly brought back to my own childhood telling my mom the same thing. Her response, which had always stung me, suddenly made sense. My mom had reacted with irritation and waved it away. I always thought she was irritated with me and thought I was being silly (I may have been), so my pain was never validated and instead was cemented.
I ended up doing the exact same thing. I was irritated at the kid and adult for saying the things they did, but also didn't want this little moment to become a defining moment and tried to wave it off, casually. Maybe I have scarred her for life. Don't worry she will be sure to tell me.
So yeah. There might be a little elementary school baggage being toted around here. Yes, I am working on letting it go. No, I am not doing a very good job of it. It's hard when you see yourself reflected right at you every day.
As difficult as my daughter's personality (and my own) might be, it is the one God gave her. He can and will use her in amazing ways. Just like I hope He is using me. These personality traits don't have to be a liability. Certainly my daughter will have a harder time growing up than her siblings, but hopefully I can help ease the blow.
PS My mom is awesome. I was a dramatic kid and couldn't have been a ball to raise, though she will probably tell you otherwise.