This Mother/Daughter Thing

Oof.  This one is going to be hard to write.  Please, come sit in my confessional.

So, it’s been a hard week between me and the Madster.  I don’t know if she’d tell you that–she’s still fairly blissfully unaware of things that don’t immediately concern her–but I’m feeling it.  She’s been annoying the crap out of me, and I’ve been responding by, well, basically by being a cranky bitch who’s finding fault with the smallest of things and generally being awful.  Yeah…it’s grade A parenting.  She’s just been really…loud this week.  She will. not. stop. constantly. making. noise.  And she’s been less focused than usual–it’s taking two or three reminders to stay on task just get her to change her clothes or put on her shoes or put something in her backpack when you literally asked her 30 seconds prior.  It’s driving me nuts.  I may not always have been this way, but adult-me craves structure and quiet and order.  You know, all those things that don’t really mesh with two kids, two cats, a puppy, and a full-time job.

Earlier this week, when she was doing yet another loud and slightly weird thing, I sighed and said, “Oh, Maddie.  When are you going to learn to get out of your own way?”  It’s been haunting me ever since.

See, Maddie is ME.  Not me now, but younger-me.  I don’t think I had quite as much trouble physically controlling myself, but I was loud and I was obnoxious.  I didn’t have very many friends, and I was constantly saying, doing, wearing, eating the wrong thing.  I wasn’t stupid either, and I had no problem letting people know I thought this.  I was, quite often I’m pretty sure, an insufferable misfit, and I was told, by everyone, that this was not okay.  So, when we moved between 6th and 7th grades, I began the very, very slow process of remaking myself.  I couldn’t always “get out of my own way,” but by the time I graduated high school, and certainly by the time I entered college, I was a far cry from that awkward, loud, angry, “thirsty” girl who had indignantly tried (and spectacularly failed) to return playground insults and instead opted to read alone in a corner, knowing almost everything about her was “wrong” but not being able to stop the imperfect from showing itself. *

So, when I see Maddie losing control, getting too carried away, going from young and cute to immature and out of line, I cringe.  I cringe whenever she comes home saying so-and-so wouldn’t play with her.  I cringe whenever there’s a birthday party she’s not invited to.  I cringe whenever her teacher says she’d do better in class if only she could focus more intently.  Because she is me, and if I could do anything for her, I would keep her from experiencing childhood the way I did.  I would save her the pain and the embarrassment and the self-loathing.  That awful feeling of wishing you could be any other but that which you are.  Not wanting to turn inside out as much as wanting to turn outside in.

But here’s the thing:  She’s NOT me, or she doesn’t have to be.  Right now, for the most part, she’s perfectly happy, or as perfectly happy as a 7-year-old can be.  (I mean, she’s a 7yo girl.  There’s always going to be some inherent drama.)  You know what’s going to make her less happy?  The feeling that her own mother doesn’t love and accept her for who she is.  That her mother wishes she were different.  I can’t, and shouldn’t try to, change who she is, but I CAN change my response to it.  I can stop projecting the shame and guilt I still clearly feel about my own childhood onto her and just let her be who she is:  a smart, kind, beautiful, energetic little girl who will, most likely, be just fine.  I can stop nitpicking and badgering and harping.  I very clearly remember feeling as if everyone I knew wished I was at least a little different from the person I was, and I don’t want that for her, especially not from me.  She deserves better than that.

I only get one shot as this mother/daughter thing with her–you don’t really get “do-overs” when it comes to life-long relationships.  All the well-intentioned love in the world isn’t going to make a damn bit of difference if I can’t show it to her everyday.  I so desperately want to get this right.  I think it starts with getting out of my own way.

P.S. - Dear future Maddie, this one's for you.  At least this way, you'll know I tried.  Love you, darling!

P.S. – Dear future Maddie, this one’s for you. At least this way, you’ll know I tried. I love you.

*Yes, I am fully aware that ALL kids feel like this to some extent, but having spoken to several other people who grew up in circumstances similar to mine, I believe I am safe in saying my childhood may have been slightly more awkward than yours.  Bring over a bottle of wine sometime, and we can compare.  🙂