Thursday, March 20, 2008

I Believe They Call it "Spirited".

I did not have a great relationship with my mother beyond the age of 11 or 12. By the time puberty awakened my hormones and my maturity surpassed that of my mother, I was pretty sure that we were not going to be attending mother/daughter luncheons together in my adult life. I have dealt with it, but it never ceases to be painful that I don't like my Mom. I can hear the collective gasp every time I utter those words. Women who have lost their Mothers, tragically or prematurely, will actually begin to argue with me. "You are lucky to still have your Mother," they say with barely disguised contempt. I feel for them, I do, but I also think that they suffer from a sort of grief induced amnesia. Suddenly, what was a typically complicated mother/daughter relationship becomes an idealized, pastel colored love fest complete with gently given and kindly received advice. I have listened to friends tell me these strange anecdotes about their dead mothers. The story is about how Mom crushed their hopes of pursuing a career in theatre and yet they tell it with this wistful, misty eyed tone and then end the tale with a little gem like, "Oh, she worried too much. She had a hard time being happy about anything." I guess I can only hope that when my Mom dies, the irritating scars of my youth will miraculously be replaced by peculiar false memories of the good times we shared. It would be better than living with the constant fear that my daughter is going to wake up on her 12th birthday and begin a lifelong dislike of all things Mom. I would never ask my child to spend time with someone she didn't like. I viciously concluded that Violet would not like my mother either, so when my Mother came to visit Violet for the first time, I never left them alone for any length of time. Of course, Violet was still in her exclusionary phase (Mama-Dada-Local Grandma being the only acceptable adults) and I didn't have to work too hard to keep her in my sight. It would break my heart into tiny, dust-like shards if my daughter grew to feel about me the way I feel about my own mother. So, why am I moaning about this (aside from the fact that I've never sought therapy)? I have what the parenting experts would call a "spirited child". She is bright, vivacious, outgoing and charming. She is also strong-willed, independent and clever. These are all the things you hope to hear in a workplace performance evaluation, but from the perspective of Mommy they are all daily challenges. I want her to be all of these wonderful things, but I also want her to stop pooping in her panties and take a nap. I am in the awful position of trying to temper all of these traits without stifling them. How do you say to a two and half year old, "Don't be afraid to use your voice, but maybe you don't use it quite so loud here at the bank." Maybe it is that simple and I am the one who needs an attitude adjustment. I have already been forced to pretend that I don't care where my child chooses to relieve herself. Perhaps, I need to pretend that I don't care whether or not she loves me? I mean, I loved her when she was a newborn and did nothing but suck the very life essence out of me. I have to remember that unconditional response when she is emotionally sucking the life essence out of me.
Shall I employ the immortal words of .38 Special?

Just hold on loosely
but don't let go
if you cling too tightly
you're gonna lose control

I can't believe I just did that. If Violet could read, she would have lost respect for me already.

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