How Did We Survive? Kids

Like Mother, Like Daughter

February 17, 2011

Mother and Daughter, Like Mother, Like Daughter, Moms and daughters

Both of my children had a birthday in the last week. My daughter turned 8 and my son turned 18. The fact that my son will soon be flying away from the nest when he goes off to college next year has had me reflecting on many things.

I can’t believe how fast the last 18 years have gone. Aside from the toddler years my son has been a breeze. He is polite, he is respectful, he is helpful and he is clever. He is also smart and though he won’t admit it, he has a heart of gold.

Mothers and sons, raising healthy boys

Many of you know that my mother suffered a debilitating illness when I was a young child. I was 4 when she became mentally and physically handicapped which effectively reversed our roles. I bathed my mother, I dressed my mother and I was her shoulder to cry on when I was far too young to understand, or had the ability to deal with, the information she shared with me. My mother and I had a very dysfunctional relationship because of this role reversal. Because I was the one who had to care for her at such a young age I have, as a parent, been reluctant to rely on my son to care for my daughter after her father left us. I wanted him to have a normal childhood and not have the responsibilities of an adult.

While I have not been the party mom these last 8 years, leaving my son to care for his sister while I go out and have fun, I have certainly relied on him to babysit here and there, mostly for work or running to the store but enough that he asks if I need him to babysit before he makes plans of his own. My son is busy. He has a job after school, he is on the robotics team and he has a girlfriend. He spends less and less time at home and soon it will be nothing more than stopping by to get some laundry done and maybe get a bite to eat. At least until he has kids of his own.

My daughter and I spend a lot of time together and it has dawned on me that she and I are very much alike. Last night I was helping her with her homework, something she hates, when she told me she was stupid.

Mothers and daughters, single parenting, raising strong daughters, parenting, how do I raise a strong girl,

My daughter is a lot of things but she is not stupid. In fact she has been testing in the gifted levels since she entered school. No, she isn’t stupid, but she is stubborn and I told her as much last night.

We were working on math problems, subtraction. I pulled out a jar of pennies to try to illustrate how the whole thing worked and she wasn’t having any of it. She knew what to do but she didn’t want to do it. Subtraction is difficult for her and she needs to think to solve the problem. She has not memorized the simple subtraction problems nor am I able to explain how some of the simple tricks work.

It was a losing battle and we were both getting very frustrated with one another.

When she called herself stupid I was taken aback. Where did this come from? She said one of her classmates had called her stupid and my daughter, who is so worried about what other people think of her, took it to heart.

I tried to explain to her, without calling this classmate stupid, that kids say dumb things sometimes. I explained that this kid couldn’t possibly know if she was or was not stupid, that he was not qualified to assess her intelligence. When that didn’t convince her I talked to her about all the things that make her a wonderful person, things that show she is indeed very smart.

She has an amazing sense of humor for an 8 year old. She might not be able to remember the punch lines to a joke but she can tell a story, with perfect timing, and have people laughing. She tosses out these hilarious quips when watching TV shows such as Hannah Montanna, and the inconsistencies of Sponge Bob are not lost on her. When she doesn’t understand how something works she is the first one to Google it.

Like my son, my daughter has her own style and is happy to walk to the beat of a different drum. She will be called ‘quirky’ and ‘complicated’ when she is older because she does not and will not fit into a predetermined mold. She is a square peg.

As was I.

I was (and still am) quirky, complicated and goofy. Like my daughter I also thought I was stupid. I had a hard time with math and would go to any length not to do it. I didn’t listen in class and I most certainly never bothered to memorize any tables. My grades were not good and I was convinced I was stupid and that my prep school was only humoring me because my father paid such outrageous tuition. I was also convinced they felt sorry for me because of my mother. And I suspect to some degree they did.

It’s funny because like me, my mother told me over and over again that I was not stupid. She also told me I was not funny looking and that I was in fact beautiful, another conversation I have with my daughter often enough. I didn’t believe my mother when she tried to reassure me that I was okay because my father often told me that my mother was not playing with a full deck due to her handicap. He said this when my mother would say something horribly mean to excuse her inexcusable behavior and I assumed it applied to everything she said so I had a pretty crappy sense of self worth because honestly I didn’t know what to believe and I didn’t know enough to believe in myself. That would take years of practice.

I hope I can pass along to my daughter the strength necessary to go through and enjoy this life. I know I have already passed on to her a love of writing, zany shoes and Bugs Bunny but I don’t know yet if I have taught her that life is not always fair because at the age of 8 it should be and no one should have to teach anyone that. But it is a lesson that needs to be learned sooner rather than later. I hope I can teach her that while words can be extremely powerful they are only strong if we give them credence. That no matter what others say, it is what she believes that truly matters.

I apologize for this being so long, apparently I have channeled Joann from Laundry Hurts My Feelings. Sorry, I don’t have a U2 song to recommend.

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No Comments

  • Reply Jayne February 18, 2011 at 1:51 am

    You’re a good mommy.

  • Reply Comedy Plus February 18, 2011 at 1:59 am

    Growing up is much tougher now than when I was a kid. It was still brutal, but nothing like now. Kids can indeed be cruel. You however are being a wonderful supportive parent. It’s good that you see yourself in your daughter. That will help guide you as she grows up. I think that gives you a wonderful edge.

    Have a terrific day. 🙂

    • Reply redheadranting March 3, 2011 at 2:34 pm

      I don’t know if it is harder or not, certainly it is busier and that makes it more competitive and challenging but the struggles are about the same. Kids have been mean for a long long time, the only difference now is that they have a lot more tools to be mean with.

  • Reply moooooog35 February 18, 2011 at 2:12 am

    That was pretty damn awesome.

  • Reply Katherine Murray February 18, 2011 at 4:04 am

    Wow, I could have written a lot of that…. “I’m stupid”… yup, I felt the same way. I think I’ve heard my daughter say it a few times, but it wasn’t anything that lasted for more than a few minutes. We women have to teach our daughters that they are strong, smart, don’t need no stinkin man AND that it is more important to be beautiful on the inside than the outside. Is there a book somewhere that will tell me how to DO this?!

    • Reply redheadranting March 3, 2011 at 2:33 pm

      I disagree on the needing a man part. They might not need a man but having one, or a partner, is a really awesome thing. Being divorced I worry that my kids don’t have any idea how to be in a healthy relationship.

  • Reply cardiogirl February 18, 2011 at 8:58 am

    Man, no one told me how difficult parenthood would be. Small kids (infants/toddlers) = small problems; big kids = big problems.

    I am so nervous about my kids’ developing self esteem. I struggle with my own sense of self and I really don’t want them to have to deal with that, too. S far the only thing I’ve figured out is that you have to give more than lip service.

    My mom never really knew me so I didn’t feel like her positive opinion had any merit. She was just saying it because she was my mom. I’ve been trying to really listen to what’s going on with my kids and casually comment on how resourceful they are or how clever a certain idea is so I have credibility.

    Although when they get into that I’m-so-stupid spiral there’s no talking to them.

    • Reply redheadranting March 3, 2011 at 2:32 pm

      Parenthood is hard.

      I worry constantly about the self esteem thing too and I worry that they think my opinion is only because I am their mother and that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Of course I love my kids but I also really like them.

  • Reply Jaffer February 18, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    I must say, you look quite beautiful in the first picture.

    Great post, I’ve learned a lot of things about being a mom today.

    Edit: Must ad more after reading the comments here.

    My girlfriend grew up in a different household than mine. While children in my family were given to do whatever they pleased, my girlfriend’s life was pre-decided for her.
    She was hardly given a chance to show the person she was even when before she met me.

    Now I have quite an interesting task on hand to bring a whole person out of her shell. It’s a terrifying thought at times… but I’m on a mission and I thank God everyday that it is me and not someone else.

    • Reply redheadranting March 3, 2011 at 2:30 pm

      It will be interesting to see who she develops into. Keep us posted.

  • Reply Thomas C. February 18, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    What a completely beautiful and moving post. I can’t tell you how much this resonated with me.

    My father died when I was 3, and I was told, at a very early age, that I was “the man of the house,” and that it was my job to take care of everyone. And I took that responsibility on in ways that no small child ever should.

    I see glimpses of myself in my niece. When she was just 4 years old, her younger sister, an 18 month old toddler, died very suddenly. Since then, she’s been so sensitive to so many things. When other kids were mean to her on the playground, she’d run and hide so that people couldn’t see she was upset. She demands that no one cry in front of her for any reason at all. And she gets very frustrated when she doesn’t have the ability to make everything okay for everyone else.

    Life can be really tough for kids, and for really complex reasons. Thanks so much for sharing this with us. It means a lot.

    • Reply redheadranting March 3, 2011 at 2:29 pm

      Your poor niece, my heart goes out to her. I can’t imagine losing my brother and we aren’t that close anymore. He had a heart attack a few years ago and for a moment I thought I was going to lose him and it was one of the scariest moments I have been through. I’m sorry about the loss of your father at such a young age.

  • Reply Pricilla February 18, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    In caring so much you show your love.
    My mother abdicated her care and dove into a bottle.
    Your daughter will figure it all out and be strong – especially with such good support behind her.

    • Reply redheadranting March 3, 2011 at 2:27 pm

      I’m sorry to hear that Pricilla, that must have been difficult. My mom tried to be there but her disabilities and brain damage made it really hard for her to be present. Her drinking didn’t help either.

  • Reply babs (beetle) February 18, 2011 at 9:15 pm

    What a lovely post. I think your daughter will grow up very well rounded, with a sensitive mum like you.

    • Reply redheadranting March 3, 2011 at 2:26 pm

      I hope so. And I hope she learns to embrace her inner bitch a little. Not right now, that could wait until she is in her 20s and out of the house, but it is something she needs to develop just a little.

  • Reply Nicky February 19, 2011 at 4:07 am

    All you can do is be there for her, and you’re doing that. And doing it well. I found it helpful when my kids were little to ask them how they reacted to those types of incidents, what affect their actions had, and what they would do differently if they had chance. I found it helped them to express themselves, problem-solve and learn to resolve conflicts on their own.

    • Reply redheadranting March 3, 2011 at 2:25 pm

      I’ve done that and it seems to make an impact in the moment but then it’s gone. She is like Charlie Sheen letting her anger fuel her desire to win. Or something like that anyway.

  • Reply Unfinished Rambler February 20, 2011 at 12:17 am

    Not many blog posts bring a tear (one tear, mind you 😉 to my eyes, but this one did, at least, to one eye. 🙂 No, really, it was very sweet. Your daughter is lucky to have a mother like you.

  • Reply Ferd February 20, 2011 at 8:34 pm

    This was a very special post, Jen, thank you very much!
    Your son sounds like the son every parent wishes they had. Isn’t that great!? Good luck to him in college next year, and good luck to you when it is time for him to go. That’s gonna hurt a bit!
    And your daughter sounds like a smart, interesting, complex little person, already a wonder at age 8! Yep, like mother, like daughter.
    You’re a gem, Jen!

    • Reply redheadranting March 3, 2011 at 2:23 pm

      Thanks Ferd. I will miss my son but he is going to school across the river, a whole three miles from home and even though he thinks he wants to live in the dorms something tells me that novelty will wear off when he can’t raid the fridge at midnight and he has to share a tiny room with a stranger. And laundry. My daughter is a spitfire, always has been, probably the hair.

  • Reply Mikewj February 25, 2011 at 3:07 am

    Jen, I read this post the day you put it up but didn’t comment because it was very moving and I wanted to give it some thought. And here’s what I think: It’s amazing. You’re amazing. This is one of your top three posts, and you’ve written some good ones in the couple of years I’ve been reading. When you get down and get honest, you blow me away.

    For some reason, this post reminds me of an exchange from “The Homecoming,” the pilot movie for, of all things, “The Waltons.” It’s a wonderful film (believe it or not) with many highly quotable lines. One of my favorites is when one of the younger daughters complains that one of her brothers said she was ugly. So she nervously asks her mom, “Do you think I’m pretty?” And the mom simply says, “No.” No smile. No twinkle in the eye. Just a cold no. There’s a moment of stunned silence, and then the mom says, with all the confidence and truth and love that only a mother can muster and convey to a child, “I KNOW you’re pretty.” And then she matter-of-factly turns back to the baking she was working on, as if it’s a matter that’s closed for discussion.

    I love that scene, and I love this post.

    I can’t wait to read your book, whenever you finally get around to finishing it.

    • Reply redheadranting March 3, 2011 at 2:21 pm

      Thanks Jim Bob, I appreciate that. I was never a huge fan of the Waltons, it always took way too long for them to go to sleep and for some reason that bugged me. Goodnight already. I don’t recall the pilot but will look for it online because it might be a good show to watch with my daughter.

  • Reply Mikewj March 3, 2011 at 7:23 am

    Why did you only 13 comments on this post, one of your best? What’s wrong with the fucking world? And why didn’t you respond to the comments that were left? What am I missing here?

    • Reply redheadranting March 3, 2011 at 2:20 pm

      I didn’t respond because I got really sick and couldn’t type very well let alone get out of bed. Thanks for the reminder.

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