I am guilty of projecting things that I feel or felt as a child, onto my own. That isn’t something easily admitted by a parent, but here I am, doing it anyway. This time, it was the 100th day of school and dress up like someone who is 100.
Earlier this year; I realized that I criticize my daughter most for the things that remind me of MYSELF in her. Ouch. That stung. After that stark realization and my stunned reaction passed. I was consumed with remorse, it felt like I was literally regurgitating emotion as it was coming out as enormous tear drops that left thick streaks down your face.
For years. Years. I would hear, Beth, what’s wrong? Are you mad? You look pissed. You could kill someone with your glares! You should smile more. Many, many variations of that, but you get the idea.
There have been few revelations in my life that hit me as hard as this one did. I was watching my little one walk across a gym floor as the flower girl in Homecoming (which she did not want to do, I should add). There is only one person I know that can produce genuine RBF like my child, that would be her mother. If I told one person, I told 7 people, tell her to smile!! She found me in the crowd, and I did it again then, too. I glared at her and mouthed the word, SMILE!!! I glared with the intention of making her see through my facial expression that she was going to be in trouble if she didn’t smile. Dang. I just need to say, it really sucked typing that just now.
I went through the pictures and of about 200, there were maybe 4 where she was smiling. The rest…well if pictures could talk, these would say SCREW YOU, WORLD! Oh, was I disappointed in those pictures. I laid in bed that night and continued to dwell on it, of course. Then, it hit me. Like a MLB player crow-hopped, took a swing with a heavy metal bat and the sole intention of knocking it out of the park, except TO MY SKULL. I was criticizing her for being like me! Whoa, nelly. Back up a second. Was I wrong for that? Yes. I absolutely was. Here’s why —
I am trying to love myself. I am trying to love being different, in all the ways that I am, big or small. I want to be different. I want to get to that place in life where I don’t NEED anyone else to love me, because I love me. I want to be confident and strong and courageous. It takes a whole lot of courage to stand tall and be proud when you aren’t part of the “in crowd”.
So, what was I teaching her exactly? That she needed to do what people thought she needed to do. Not be who she was. FAIL. FAIL. FAIL. Yeah, I tanked that one. Thankfully, we instill honesty in our trio family. Forgiveness, and we are never too proud to admit when we are wrong. Sometimes that’s the child to the adult. But, it’s also the adult to the child, too. This time, it was my turn. What she got from me was complete transparency.
I got down on the floor and spoke to her eye to eye. I told her that I owed her an apology. She didn’t understand at first. But I told her that I realized that I was being very critical of her and it was wrong. I told her I was sorry that I didn’t realize it sooner. I promised to do better and not constantly tell her to smile or nag at her if she nothing was wrong and she just wanted to have some down time. I also told her that I understood why she did some of those things. Finally, she asked a question. “Why do you know that?” It was simple. “Because you are just like me, sweetheart.” “And you are perfect, just the way you are.”
The important part, I asked her if she would forgive me. She did.
Fast forward back to present and the 100th day of school. I must have spent $200.00 on outfits and hair accessories. She wasn’t having any of it. She wanted to do something simple (just like what I would want, ahem) but I wanted her to dress up in something more bold. By the end of this week, I was downright mad. Not mad, I was angry. Angry at my little one. Man, that sounds awful, too. The truth often is ugly and messy, though.
I was angry because I would do anything for her. WOW. Talk about backwards. I was angry at her, because I would do anything for her. Right before bed, the MLB with the steel bat paid me another visit. I realized why I was angry. I was experiencing grief. Again. My mother wasn’t around to help me with stuff like this when I was growing up. I don’t remember a single birthday party and only one Christmas. Prom, homecoming, graduation, that was all me, alone. No one else.
I was so busy dwelling on how angry she was making me about spraying her hair silver and wearing knee high socks, I didn’t take five minutes to think. Then the moment shows itself to me and I see things for what they are. There’s my little girl who has no idea why I am mad and the other one. The little girl inside me, who isn’t mad, but is heart broken. Time for another moment of truth.
I told her I was sorry, again. I explained to her that when I was growing up, I didn’t really have anyone to help me with stuff like this and I just wanted things to be perfect for her. But, I realized that whatever she wanted to do was already perfect. It was perfect for her and that was all that mattered. Then she asked me, “not even your grandpa was with you?” “No, baby. My grandpa died when I was really young.” She sat for a minute and I finally broke the silence by telling her that I was sorry for being angry. It wasn’t really anger. It was sadness. Once more, I asked her if she forgave me. She responded the same way she always has.
Breaking the cycle is hard. But it is nothing more than a CYCLE. It CAN be broken. But you have to throw everything you have at it. You have to want it more than you want anything. Look into your fire, smile, take a deep breath and walk right through. There is no path around, only through. Find what you have in your life worth fighting for, hold on tight and let those fires forge you.
Be honest with your children, treat them with respect, love, compassion and don’t forget your humility. What they see and hear from us today is molding the person they will become. Mold them into the person you needed.