When you become a mother, there are hundreds of things that no one warned you about. The bleeding nipples, the constant worrying, how you can both love and want to strangle your child at the same time. For me, ALL OF MOTHERHOOD was a shock because I never really paid attention when people with kids talked before.
But the thing that I am finding the most surprising, or perhaps the most difficult to deal with is that it has made very clear exactly what my mother did right. Lately though, it is becoming more and more obvious what she did wrong. Not that I didn't already go through therapy for a hundred years and deal with all my Mommy blame issues. Up until recently, I really thought I had forgiven her. I had decided that I was going to just use what I knew to not make the same mistakes with my child. And I do a really good job of providing Lila with structure where I had none.
There are plenty of things that I already knew about my mother. My mother (just like I do) suffered from a debilitating depression through most of my childhood. Because of this, she had little patience for my greedy desire for attention and would disappear at night to see her friends to be someone else for a few hours and forget her problems. The depression also made it hard for her to commit me to anything. No instrument lessons or dance or extra-curricular activities because committing me meant a commitment for her. I also know that she never pushed me, never gave me chores, never taught me to sat goals, never gave me boundaries. I always just slid by. I was smart. I was pretty. I was a kid and didn't know that I was lacking life skills because I was always able to talk myself out of any setback.
As a mother suffering from depression, I often find that I am too overwhelmed or exhausted to hear another whiny plea for a toy. I desperately want to just give in and let Lila watch TV all day and eat whatever the hell she wants because it is REALLY FUCKING HARD to sit there any listen to her cry when I ask her to do the things she needs to do. But I don't. Because my job as a parent doesn't allow me to. And as much as I want to take a handful of Xanax and walk away sometimes, I CAN'T. I understand the avoidance and withdrawal that my mother needed in order to preserve what little energy her illness left her with each day. I understand how much easier it would be to just decide I don't really care and just give in. It is easier to see your child happy than unhappy. I forgive her for feeling that way. Because I feel that way every day.
My mother is long recovered from her depression. She found medication that keeps the worst of it away and has worked out some of her own demons with a therapist. But here's the thing. As my child's daycare provider, the person who Lila spends several hours each day, my mother STILL does all these things. And it fucking infuriates me.
All the things that I demand of my child, all the ways that I try to mould her into a well-behaved, appreciative, cooperative kid is undone every single day. It seems that each time I pick her up, there is some argument with my mother because she has again disregarded my wishes and given something or allowed Lila to do something I have told her not to.
For example, (and believe me, this is just one) Lila was getting stomach aches. It occurred to me that she ate grilled cheese sandwiches a lot and those give ME stomach aches. So I told my mother not to give her any for the entire week to see if she still has stomach aches. And what did Lila have for lunch THE DAY AFTER I told my mother this? A MOTHERFUCKING GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICH. And when I asked my mother why the hell she gave Lila a grilled cheese sandwich, she shrugged and said, "that's what she wanted for lunch." I often have to remind my mother that Lila is 4. She wants an elevator in her bedroom closet and wants to get a pet Lion. Four year olds are not allowed to make every decision in their lives. That's why they need babysitters.
Of course, my mother maintains that she does these kinds of things because she is a GRANDMOTHER and that grandmothers are supposed to spoil their grand kids, which would be fine if Lila went over there once a month. But that's not even the point. Little things like this only remind me of why as an adult, I have such a hard time with moderation and why I am (illogically) crushed if I cannot get people to give me the things I want.
I have posted a few blogs about my mother spoiling Lila, and you will find plenty of examples here,
here, and also here of how my mother refuses to listen to me with regard to how I choose to raise my child. In her mind, I turned out just fine and so she must have done things right. BUT I DID NOT TURN OUT FINE!!! I am selfish (I was given whatever I asked for), I am lazy and unmotivated (there was never an incentive for doing anything or a punishment for not doing it) , I am very smart but cannot finish anything (no one ever made sure I did) and I have always been an underachiever (how do you push yourself if no one every pushed you to do ANYTHING you said you didn't want to do?). Additionally, it never clicked that other people actually SET GOALS for the things they wanted to do and worked toward them until I was 26. I always just had things "happen" to me. Don't even get me started about money problems (my parents' view of money and credit are seriously fucking ridiculous - my mother believes in signing up for every credit card that she possibly can, and then maxing them out and making the minimum payments because "I won't be around that long anyway. I might as well get the things I want now before I'm dead. NO I AM NOT JOKING).
(I have already posted about how shitty I am as an adult HERE)
I KNOW that she gave these things to me. I blame her because my father just went along with whatever my mother said. And at some point in my mid-twenties, I realized that it was no longer her responsibility and it was up to me to try to change these deficiencies. And I really thought I had forgiven her because when I became a mother (and subsequently a mother with depression), I UNDERSTOOD why she did the things she did.
But I look at myself with Lila and I can't help but to be angry at my mother. Because I don't want to have to instill those things in her. I don't have any idea how to, because I suck at them myself. In fact, I want to be left the hell alone most of the time. But I know what I have to do. This isn't some transcendental knowledge or wisdom that I have. This is what fucking parenting is. It is all about responsibility. It is about loving someone enough to do what they NEED even of they fucking hate you for it. It is filled with difficulty and discomfort and headaches and insanity. But that's all just the basic part of the job.
Why did she do what was easy with me? And why does she refuse to listen when I try to tell her that love is not just buying Lila toys and letting her throw several blobs of raw cookie dough at the ceiling so she can laugh when it sticks (nope, not kidding about that either). It is about setting limits so that she knows what to expect. It is about making sure she is getting the foods she needs to grow and learn and feel good. It is about telling her that you will not tolerate bad behavior because you don't want her to grow up to be a total asshole. She does not understand this. She says she does, but she reverts to the things that I described the next day.
This makes me feel disappointed in her. I am disappointed that she didn't do better with me. I am disappointed that she never bothered. I am disappointed that she thinks love is about temporary happiness, even if it destroys the future potential. I am just so fucking sad about it.