Saturday, November 24, 2012

You Are Not the Mother Your Child Wants

I went to brunch with my friend a few days ago (when R was in school: I am so happy she's well enough to go again!!!). She has a daughter the same age as R so we were talking about being mothers and how easy it is to feel inadequate. I said that it's important to remember that right now, to our daughters we are perfect. This made us both feel better.

But it was a lie. I don't really think that at all. R certainly loves me, more than anyone else in the world: she enjoys my company, she longs for me when I'm not there, she is happy to see me whenever I appear, she trusts me completely, and just my presence makes her feel better. If she had a million dollars, she would gladly give it all to me (instead, she gives her equivalent, unsolicited hugs and kisses, bits of food, and toys). But I know she doesn't think I'm perfect.

In fact, a fair portion of the time she is furious with me. If she could talk, she would scream "I HATE YOU! YOU RUIN EVERYTHING! YOU MAKE ME SO ANGRY!" Right now she is screaming in rage, because I am night-weaning her (while she was ill, she started waking up at night to nurse again, sometimes multiple times, and now that she's better wants to retain this pleasant (for her) habit). 

I read the blog Love Live Grow (even though I disagree with pretty much everything the writer advocates, I think she's an interesting person) and she wrote a post about how she's "exactly the mother he [her son] needs and wants". It was in the context of her struggling with depression, so I didn't comment, but honestly this is a lie. Often, I am NOT the mother R wants (like all the time I am thwarting her will), and the same is true for any child.

Being a good parent means making unpopular decisions. I think most parents accept this, but to me it's equally important to accept that making those decisions will give R feelings of pure rage and even hatred. In order to be a psychologically whole person, she needs to know that all her feelings, even those which are scary and upsetting (like hating your mother), are OK. I want her to feel comfortable with being angry with me, and with expressing that anger (albeit only in socially appropriate ways). Otherwise I am just teaching her to lie, both to me and to herself. 


  1. I think this is a matter of semantics. If your child eventually wants to grow up to be a functioning member of society, then I think they do want a parent who teaches them and shows them how to do that - even if it makes them angry or frustrated. Of my friends who grew up with strict parents - they are happy, and doing well on their own. Of those who were raised by parents who wanted to be friends - they are struggling to hold down jobs and deal with authority figures. I guess it just depends on how wide of a scope you look through. :)

    Even if it's not true, I like to think that Ginny wants me.

  2. idk I think kids want boundaries, even if they don't necessarily agree with it right now I think it's what the kids want for their long term happiness. I guess needs versus wants...