Where I Stop and She Begins.

.us.

Having a kid is funny.

Not ‘ha ha’ funny, more like, the world as I knew it before her is totally turned upside down as I journey through this thing called ‘motherhood’.

I see her and go, ‘Oh, she has my eyes. My face shape. My downturn smile. My eyebrows, my sense of humor.’

She was part of my body, I grew her from a microscopic particle into a freaking human being! She’s mine in so many ways.

But she’s not mine at all, and not me at all…she’s something different. Herself.

I get to sit back and watch it all happen, trying not to be mistaken about where I end and she begins.
*********

Toddlerhood with this one was not easy. Her “terrible twos” started at one and lasted until four. As I saw it, it was my job to set boundaries, limits, schedules, discipline. It was my job to turn this lump of a human being into something respectable. So I did. I told her when, where, what, and how to eat. I told her when to take a nap, when to go to bed at night, and when to wake up. I told her what she should say and in what tone to say it. I signed her up for class after class that I thought she should be involved in…dance, sports, singing, etc. I told her when it was time for potty training, I told her what outfits she could wear in what combination.

She didn’t enjoy my meddling, to put it mildly. But this was played out with my other friends with kids, too, so I would sit around with my peers and commiserate about how difficult our children were…about what a tough job it was to be a mom…

Even then, I knew Naturalist had a little something *extra* to her willful disobedience, something that I didn’t see in many other kids. She had a presence to her, a tangible force that demanded respect. When I crossed that line, she’d push back at me as strongly as I was pushing her.

I remember once, at 18 months, I told her not to touch something. She touched it. I grabbed her hands and repeated it again, “Don’t touch that!”. She looked away and immediately touched it again when I let her go. I took her shoulders in my hands and waited for her to look at me so I could say it again. She refused to meet my eyes. I put her cheeks in my hands and turned her face to mine so she’d have to look at me. “DO NOT TOUCH THAT” I demanded. She was locked in my gaze, but I heard her quietly whispering something softly. When I stopped talking, she stopped whispering. I said it again, “Don’t touch!” and she immediately whispered, again. Under her breath she was saying, “toenails…toenails…toenails…” For whatever reason, that was her escape word, and from then on when I would force my will against hers, she would silently whisper that to herself and then carry on with whatever she was trying to do, until our stubborness clashed against each other leaving one or both of us in tears.

She already knew at that young age what I had to learn over the course of the next dozen years of being her mother…My job as a mom wasn’t to set anything for her, it wasn’t to turn her into anything she wasn’t already. She was already respectable. She was already her own person. She already knew her schedule and what she needed. She had as strongly developed internal clock as I did. She didn’t need me to tell her when to eat, sleep, nap, or play. Her terrible twos was just a way to get me to listen to her try and tell me to back off and let her live. My job as a mom was to respect her and provide her with choices and opportunities to help her grow and thrive.

If I hadn’t come to this realization when we started unschooling, then I think her teenage years would have been just like her terrible two’s, except with more drastic consequences than stomping feet and words whispered under her breath. The scary thing to parents about teenagers is that when they have tantrums, they have a lot more options besides going to their rooms.

She is me in so many ways. My flesh and blood. My sacrifices. My nurturing care. My physical shape in the form of her hands, her face, her coloring.

But she is not me. She is her. Her body. Her interests. Her personality, even if it mirrors mine in so many ways, is not for me to meddle with. Even when I don’t understand her. And I frequently don’t. But I respect her. I give her room to make choices and know all the options and consequences. I make hard choices, like leaving behind a standardized school system when it was clear they weren’t going to give her the respect she deserved…even though I didn’t know what else we would do.

The payback for this is that she respects me right back. Without conflict (most of the time…lol…), we enjoy each other’s company. She listens to me as much as I listen to her. She gives me a break as often as I give her one. She tolerates my differences from her to the level that I tolerate her differences from me.

I hate to say it, but her toddlerhood, the time between baby and kid, was not enjoyable to me. It was a lot of work and a lot of challenges. But this second toddlerhood, with her between kid and adult, is one of the best times I’ve had with her so far.

**********
On a side note, things here in Colorado have taken a turn for the overwhelming. This whole moving thing does not play to my strengths. At all. Romping around at the beach DOES play to my strengths. Totally. But there is no beach here. Just a cold, blustery (as in, freakishly strong) winds and a sun that offers no warmth.

I will hide in my double peppermint hot chocolate a little longer here at Starbucks, and then return to the fray…

Photo on 2010-04-13 at 14.14

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13 Responses

  1. What a lovely post you fabulous woman you. Thank you for reminding me what I need to remember about my own girl. I try so hard and flip flop ALL the time ….. gah…. good to know it’s worth it in the end!!

    Good luck in Colorado…. the wind is doing it’s damnedest here in Nebraska and I’m betting we’re in for some Tornadoes sooner or later.

    Head for the sea, quick quick quick !!!

    • the wind is driving me insane!

      Oh, wait, I’m already there. Nevermind. But it is very windy! I hope you never got any tornadoes, but don’t get blown away!

  2. Ditto what Tiffany said!! Except here on the east coast Australia the autumn days are sunny with a cool breeze. Perfect.

    Jasmine (4) is always pushing us away and then desperately pulling us back to her. I’m also filling in the gaps in her need for attachment parenting … we were affectionate and loving, but I hadn’t heard of AP until a year or two ago, and it’s so clearly what she needs. I often wish I understood the thoughts she can’t express yet! When the days are hard I try to imagine us years from now, and do everything I can to ensure our relationship will be as respectful and loving as you’ve described.

    šŸ™‚ Vanessa

  3. Wow, journal description of your early years sounds so much like my relationship with my 8yr old girl. I am sad to say it, but most of our days together are spent butting heads and pushing up against one another. She frequently communicates the sadness inside of her and her feeling like she is not a good person. It scares me and saddens me at the same time. I thought by bringing her home from a place she was jo reapected that I was doing what was best for her. Now I am sad to say that I am beginning to believe that her dad and I are so caught up on disciplining her nd demanding respect, we are actually losin it. She won’t even give me a kiss. Sadly for my son, her frequent outbursts take up so much time & attention, he is beginning to behave poorly to. šŸ˜¦ Bravo to you that you were able to choose you relationship over your fear of where she could end up if you did not take the reigns and it has worked out wonderfully for you & the Naturalist. When I relaxwd for a season last year, our first hs’ling year,she & I both seemed happier but I did not see a behaviorial change. Hence,I have deviated back to that old “sphingally”behavior. (Peer pressure from spouse &family) implied my easy going, attempt to create respect by giving respect without force demand was obviously a failure.
    Here now I sit, with thoughts of evaluating & possibly medicating her, crossing my mind for the first time ever. I pray that one day ou relationship will mimick the tenderness of yours & naturalists. Until then, I feel we have gone two steps forward, three steps back. :~{

    • yes, true respect is never demanded, but earned mutually. šŸ™‚ It’s hard when other people who you care about and who care about you are on a different page about raising a child. As if it’s not difficult enough!

      I just try to remember the golden rule, always. If it’s not something I would appreciate someone doing to me, then i don’t do it to my kids.

      Try not to count your steps, either forward or backwards. Just try to enjoy each moment you have with your daughter, who is a true gift and blessing. šŸ™‚

  4. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    I love how you can articulate the exact thing I need to hear exactly when I need to hear it.

    Daughter is almost 15 and this “second toddlerhood” for us too is way more enjoyable than the first. Granted it’s still not ALL sunshine and roses but I really believe that unschooling paved the way for us to be more respecting of each other.

    It’s amazing how far that respect will take you when dealing with a teenager/parent relationship.

    • respect is so important in the second toddlerhood, I’m finding. !!! Glad to hear yours (well, hers…) is way more enjoyable for you both! lol

  5. I’ve just discovered your blog and am so enjoying it. Though this post reminds me a bit of my daughter, it’s an even more familiar situation with my son. Only 5 and our respective stubborn natures already clash on a regular basis. Even when I know how I should handle things…it’s hard. I love his fiery personality, but am hoping we’ll both be more mature and relax a little by the time he’s a teenager!

  6. thanks! welcome to my little piece of the bloggosphere!

    My youngest is 5, had I not already gotten all my clashing out with my oldest I’m sure I would be doing more of it with her, LOL. I don’t call her Sassy for nothing!

  7. I so needed to hear this. I am aware that this too is the route I want to take with my son (19 mo), but sometimes it is so difficult to travel the road I want to take. Pre-kids I thought it was my job as a parent to mold them into something/ who they were to be, but I now see things so differently. My heart is leading me and when I look into the eyes of my son, I don’t want to “make” him into something or make him do anything. I want to guide and direct him to become himself. I love hearing that Naturalist respects you back and that you can see the fruit of your parenting in how she relates to you. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Yep. Yours is officially my new favorite blog.

  9. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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