Sunday, February 17, 2008

Spirited Cries

I'm almost done cleaning out the attic in my head... there are still a few little cobwebs left...

I have a friend who is dealing with a "spirited" or "willful" child. She is exasperated and feels like she can't summon enough patience to handle her child's personality. She's tired and at the end of her rope. She feels like she's not measuring up as a mother.

Oh boy... does this ever sound familiar.

The good thing about having gone through a lot of crap in your life is that you have a lot to look back on and regret. Not that the regretting is fun, but in the midst of regret, you start to piece together how things could have been different. How you should have responded. How things might have turned out today. And then you can take your pain, and hope that it serves a higher purpose outside of yourself.

I once had a daughter that was spirited and willful, too. Life was so difficult. Every little thing turned into some huge catastrophe that was impossibly insurmountable. We screamed our hatred and loathing at each other with reckless abandon. How had flesh of my flesh become so hurtful and cruel? How had I become the monster that would yell so many ugly words back at her? I couldn't handle the chaos any longer and thought that her father could take over. In giving her the space I thought she needed, I've allowed a wider gap to grow. In a time when I thought we'd understand one another, I am instead experiencing her cold silence. We have not spoken in nearly six months. I call... I text... I email... to no avail. What does she want from me? I've cried that to the night sky so many times lately.

Last week, I got my answer.

In purging for our move, I came across old school items that kids usually bring home. Hand prints, self portraits, report cards... all the stuff you hang on to. It's usually so much fun to look back and remember your grown children as they were in the pigtails and jumprope years. I allowed myself a bit of time to soak in some memories as a break from the drudgery of moving. This time, it wasn't fun. I came across a journal that I had seen and read so many times. How could I have missed the message? In my daughter's first-grade scribbling were the words, "I love my house because my mommy is there."

~~gasp~~

I sat in stunned silence feeling the blow to my heart that I deserved. I came across more bits of paper and drawings that showed how much she loved me and wanted to be with me. In all my concern to keep a roof over my children's heads and have food on the table and clothing on their backs, I had glazed over the only nourishment this little child wanted: time with me. Instead of yelling at her for dragging her feet in the morning and making me late, I should have hugged her. Instead of threatening a spanking because she wouldn't finish dinner quickly, I should have sat down to ask about her day. Instead of rushing her off to a sitter so I could go work out, I should have taken her on my shoulders for a hike.

It's too late now.

I see in my friend's mother/daughter relationship the seeds of discord that are hauntingly familiar. Her daughter's cries are for any number of things, but really she's crying for time with mom, one on one. Beacuse I love them, I shared. Through tears, I admitted to her my failings in being so consumed with daily life as a stressed out mom that I had glazed over living as this child's mother. I know it's difficult to see when you're in it. There's so much to do and attend to. All I could offer her was the reality of my loss and how I let a beautiful little girl slip away from me because I was too overwhelmed to put "time" on my priority list. My friend received our story with the love and grace in which it was intended. Having that awareness doesn't make life any easier, but it sure will help to ease the strife in these precious years. And God willing, they will grow to understand and care for eachother in a wonderful loving relationship filled with memories of time well spent and a life of truly living.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My heart and prayers go out to all the parents that have this heaviness to bear. Remember, though, no matter how difficult your "spirited" child may be, a life without that precious one is immeasurably more painful. Seek assistance in any way, I implore you. Love your child through it all and they will grow and love you back... eventually.

17 comments:

skichick1968 said...

I found your blog very touching, thank you. I have two young "spirited" children of my own and have to constantly remind my husband that life is too short! The house can be clean when they're gone, cracker crumbs never hurt anyone, and we need to treasure our kids because they are gone too quickly! It's hard to remember that in the hustle to get out of the house in the morning but I try.

Lela Davidson said...

This is great. Always a needed reminder because we all get busy and forget what's right in front of us. Thanks.

Sugar said...

Ski Chick:
Thanks for your comments. AMEN to that!

Lela:
Wow... thanks for checking in. And your welcome. :)

Anonymous said...

I thought this entry was very touching, and it really hit home with my feelings about my youngest son. For Valentine's week, his kindergarten teacher sent home homework for Mom or Dad to complete. We were to write 5 reasons that we love our child. I wrote mine out and he just treasured the affirmation of my love and was a little angel for the next two days. Amazing what the power of love, which we sometimes take for granted, can do. I need to remember to be there for him more. It's hard when the challenges of life weigh on my mind, but I need to remember that despite what feels like his efforts to push me away, he is just calling out to me in need of being reminded about what a terrific person he is and how my life is blessed by loving him.

Jenny, the Bloggess said...

Your awesomeness was featured on BS Sunday on the Houston Chronicle Online: http://tinyurl.com/6c2w4u

whensheworeponytails said...

Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. Thank you for writing this.

That Crazy Mom said...

Oh ouch. I'm right there with you. I have a 17 yr old who no longer lives with me, who I barely speak to, and who just told me to "eff" off a few days ago.

Jen said...

I have that 7 year old living at my house right now - and I am constantly immersed in being a single, professional mom of the most willful, demanding, disrespectful child I've ever known. And my focus is always only to get through the day, and never on the idea of enjoying the time we might have together - though I see the occasional evidence that it's what she really wants. But that evidence gets lost in the tiredness and the constant, relentless battles with her. I will try very, very hard to remember your words.

RR Mama said...

Your story was like a flash back for me. I remember a time when my parents would spend time with my brother and I. And I also remember a time when they didn't. Thank you for being so honest. Thank you for being so bold. Now that I am the parent I make it a point to spend time with my boys. To listen, to cuddle, to just be. Thank you for reminding me my time with them is short and precious.

Sugar said...

I have a special place in my heart for all you moms... thanks for commenting... for reading... and for loving your kids... no matter what.

ET @ Titus2:3-5 said...

I needed to hear this today. I'm so glad I stumbled across you. I have one very spirited 5-year-old, four others who see the attention she gets and try to mimic her behaviour, and a naughty puppy. Today was not a great day. I yelled an swore and yelled some more. Now I'm crying. This mothering thing is just not easy.

Wendy said...

This is a beautiful post, Sugar - and I can imagine it was hard to write. Its amazing how days can be sucked away into "getting stuff done." This is a wonderful reminder to take a breather now and then!

Anonymous said...

A very wise woman once told me that children have a very specific "attention quota" that they need to have met every day.

Ideally a parent chooses to meet that requirement positively (reading together, playing a game, walking, watching spiders build a web, rolling marbles down the driveway, etc.). It doesn't take a child long to learn to settle for negative attention just to keep themselves in the spotlight long enough to get their quota...

Zereh

Sugar said...

Zereh:

Thanks for sharing that wisdom. I learned that lesson far too late. That was the main reason behind this post. I was seeing my relationship repeat itself in another family. I've since met many people who were struggling with the same issues. Your comment may give them some pause... which would be wonderful, wouldn't it?

Corina - Down to Earth Mama said...

Thanks. This sounds very much like the last few months here. I am embarrassed to admit that. Alot of that has to do with how I feel about myself and the depression I feel (it honestly runs in my family). Furthermore, my stress causes them to be stressed. I have taken steps to rectify this situation. Thanks for sharing. I was feeling alone in this. And furthermore, I hope that one day, you can rectify your relationship.

Kelly King Anderson-Startup Princess said...

Sugar, this was very meaningful to me, thank you for sharing your pain and also your answer...you are a beautiful person. I'll be thinking of you and your family. ;)

Sandra Foyt said...

Thank you! I give both of my children my time, but it's not always the loving affirmation that they need. My older daughter and I spend way too much time butting heads. I really needed to hear what you wrote to remind me to give them what they truly need.