Toddler girls have a special ability to take your heart in their tiny little hands, squeeze every last ounce of love out of it then hand it back to you expecting you to love them like your heart was whole again and you hadn’t lost a drop. My daughter is no exception. My greatest fear is that my mother’s curse has indeed come to life in the deep blue eyes of my greatest love.
“I hope you have one just like you.”
Well, I do and she is.
Every hurt I ever inflicted on my mother whether knowing or unknowing is undoubtedly coming back to me twofold with Miss O. I see it in her eyes and in the way she “humpfs” at her father and me. It sends me up a tree faster than a squirrel chased by rabid guard dogs. I know I did this to my parents, too. In fact, that tantrum face up there, that’s me at age two, mid-tantrum at Christmas. It’s one of my favorite photos.
Lately, I’ve noticed that my own frustrations with whatever the current situation is, is slowly replaced by a feeling of dread. Dread that I’m losing my sweet baby girl and fear that I’m failing as her mother. Worse yet, that I’m becoming the exact kind of mom I said I wasn’t going to be.
I’m not one of those moms who’s got to be her friend or anything. I’m her mom. Her parent. I know I’ve got to be the bad guy and say no, making her cry and stamp her little feet from time to time, but I can’t stand it when she looks at me and tells me she’s sad because I don’t love her. That’s just straight up NOT TRUE, but something makes her feel that way, right?
Try having an in-depth analysis of feelings with a 2-and-a-half-year old sometime. If for whatever reason you’ve been spared this experience, allow me to enlighten you. What follows is a pretty usual conversation after a five-minutes-alone-to-calm-down break (for both of us) after a tantrum over something she was either told she couldn’t have or do.
Me: “Baby, why are you upset?”
Miss O: “Because I’m crying’”
Me: “What made you cry, baby?”
Miss O: “Because, because, because I was not nice to you.”
Me: (thinking I’m getting somewhere) “That’s true. You did (insert broken rule here). Why were you not nice to me, baby?”
Miss O: “I want (insert thing she’s freaking out over) and you say no.”
Me: “Yes, baby, I know you want (whatever the thing is), but Mommy said no and you were not nice to Mommy, and you got upset, so you had five minutes to calm down. I love you, baby. Can I have a hug?”
Miss O: “You don’t say I love you to me.” (Spoken with a venom only a toddler can deliver with such ferocity and stinging accuracy. This is also her way of telling me I’m not allowed to tell her I love her right now.)
Me: “Baby, I do love you. I tell you all the time in the morning and when you come home from school and at bedtime. I love you so much. I like to tell you I love you. Can I have a hug and show you?”
Miss O: “No.”
Me: (trying not to cry) “Can I tell you I love you?”
Miss O: “No.”
Me: (seriously trying not to cry or let my nose run) “Baby, why do you think Mommy doesn’t love you?”
Miss O: “Because I’m crying’”
And so the loop continues. Sometimes I divert the loop by getting her to tell me what different thing she might want other than the one in question, but it still ends with running to Daddy with open arms as if he’s just delivered her from Medusa’s stony gaze. It’s awesome on so many levels.
I can’t wait until she turns 12. I’m pretty sure that’s when I fully turned on my mother and became a hellacious, eye-rolling, know-it-all, tween-beast. I think I was in college before I recognized my mother was a person with actual feelings. Each one of these precious moments with my daughter makes me feel like an even bigger jerk to my mother and chips away at my already faltering mommy-confidence. How will I damage my daughter? Let me count the ways…
I knew this was coming. I didn’t really want to believe it, but here it is staring me in the runny-nosed tear-streaked face. Now the work to steel myself begins. How does one become tough enough to absorb all the hurt, turn it into love, then put it back out as love?
I’ll have to ask my mom.
2 thoughts on “The Sins of Our Past: My Mother’s Curse is Alive and Well in My Toddler”
This post really came alive when I did a dramatic reading for Shawn. He just said, “Welcome to Parenthood. Screw the terrible twos — the terrible threes are the problem. At two they just push all the buttons they can find. At three they know EXACTLY what buttons to push AND they know what the buttons do”. She has your number alright. Lord. Having a 9 year old boy is so lovely suddenly. Hang in there! Remember, you two will get along again in her early 20’s! Breathe and drink the wine.