As parents we love our children … unconditionally. Yet, as my stepfather has pointed out — we always love our children, but we do not always have to like them.
For those scratching their heads, perhaps I should elaborate.
I grew up hearing the phrase, “I hope you grow up to have one just like you.” I heard this often and from many in our family. Sparing the gory details, it is not only fair, but accurate to say, I was a challenging child.
The words headstrong, stubborn, opinionated, picky and sensitive would all accurately describe who I was as a child. Of course there are a few more flattering adjectives I could share, but I don’t think those would be the words that prompted this well-known phrase.
I know I am not the only one who grew up with this phrase and sadly this past holiday season I realized the wish, well … it had been granted.
In past columns I have made mention of my daughter Maddy and her ‘challenging’ personality. This past holiday season I came to realize that the parts of her personality I find most ‘challenging’ are attributed to how I was as a child. Oh, what a great epiphany that was … Good grief.
Now, before I get into the details I feel it necessary to say, I love this kid. She brings me much joy, pride and amazement.
With that said, we will fast forward to Christmas morning.
Our son, who is 6, awoke at 4:30 a.m. with excitement he could not contain, the first thing he did was wake his sister to share his joy. Unfortunately, Maddy had a rough night with a bit of the flu and was not as excited as her older brother.
As we made our way to the tree, Jackson was delighted to see that making the ‘Nice List’ had paid off in spades and his list items were waiting under the tree. Maddy had requested a Pillow Pet and a ‘jumping baby,’ which she found awaiting her as well.
A few extra items had been left for her from Santa, as her list was a bit shorter (two items) than her brother’s.
One can only imagine the shock on her father’s and my face as she looked to the tree and said, “Why Santa bring me a tea cart? I didn’t ask for that.” Note: there was no joy or surprise in her voice as she posed the question. The question was actually delivered with a tone of disgust.
Embracing his role as the older sibling our son quickly stated, “He must have thought you were really good, sissy, and wanted to bring you something special.”
Well, sadly, Maddy wasn’t having it. She could care less about the tea cart or much of her other gifts received the rest of the day.
Now, this would be the place where I am sure many are reading this with much criticism and disgust. Words like spoiled, ungrateful, bratty and pathetic may be in a few heads of readers and, as this child’s mom, I get that.
So much so, that they were the words that crossed my mind on that beautiful Christmas morning. I later retreated to our room and called my mother. The pain was clear in my voice. I knew that little girl, because I was that little girl and it broke my heart.
As a ‘glass half full’ type of person I regained my composure and looked to the bright side. As a woman, who once was that little girl, I understood her. As hard as it was to accept that she had inherited the character flaws, which had passed over her brother, I took comfort in knowing I could handle this.
Much of my childhood I was viewed as a spoiled little brat, by much of our family. Primarily because I too had no appreciation for things I did not ask for. I knew what I wanted and, well … that was it. I was a ‘less is more’ type of kid. Stuff did not mean anything to me, unless it was the ‘stuff’ I had asked for or longed for. Being the only child of a young single mom, our family loved trying to fill the father hole with stuff and that was lost on me.
So now, 40 years later, as I deal with my ‘just like you’ child, I know what to do.
Is it hard? Absolutely. The good news, however, is that I think I grew up to be a pretty well grounded and grateful adult. This, of course, came from a mother who managed my behavior like an expert. Many a Christmas gift was given away just months after receiving it and it did not bother me one bit.
So what does all this mean, really? Well, honestly that is something I am still learning. I spent many of my adult years blaming my family for the type of child I had been. They must have made me that way, is often what I thought. Now, four decades later, I know better. I know the values and manners my husband and I work so hard at instilling in our children. I know what we give, as well as deny our children, closely managing excess of stuff and quality of time and life experiences. I know better than what the rest of the world might believe.
Lastly, I know that eventually and hopefully, this too will pass. Now if I can just keep myself from passing on the age-old phrase, maybe with this generation we can break the curse.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at email@example.com or by calling 847-3021.