I’ve never given my mother enough credit for raising four children, three of those being strong, willful and independent daughters.
If my mom weren’t an incredibly strong woman herself, the strain might’ve put her into the ground.
Raising a daughter, I’ve discovered, is so incredibly different than raising a son. Our sons were straightforward in their needs and fairly easy to parent. We didn’t always make the best choices as young parents but as much as we screwed up, we must’ve done something right because they’re growing up to be fine young men.
By the time our daughter was born, we were notably older than when we had our sons. We’re kinder, gentler parents, more patient and understanding than we were in our early 20s and yet, our daughter is a holy terror with a mouth that could rival that of a 15-year-old Hannah Montana reject.
Still knowing all this, we’ve been fairly tolerant of her antics until the other day when she blithely, and unknowingly, broke my heart.
It was early morning and like me, she’s not a pleasant early-riser. Plainly speaking, she’s a wretched grouch when she first wakes up and since I am too, we try not to do a lot of talking before either of us is human. I was making her dad’s lunch for work and she was eating her breakfast. She saw me putting a few candies into Dad’s lunch bag and she erupted, thinking I’d given him all the candy, thus leaving nothing for her after school treat, yelling, “Why would you do that? You’re a horrible mom!”
The words seemed to echo between us, filling the space and eating up the air until all I could do was stare at my pint-sized, sass-mouthed demon child.
First, I was shocked that she would say something so hurtful to me and although I figured I might hear something of that nature later when she was in high school I never imagined it might happen so soon.
You see, although she’s my third child, this is the first time any of my children have ever said something like that to me. Sebastian was always a sweet boy and Jaidyn was my little buddy so those words never crossed their lips.
But that’s how girls are different, I suppose.
I kept the tears at bay and then after telling her she shouldn’t talk to me like that, I went upstairs and told my husband to talk to our daughter.
He did and a few moments later, she came upstairs and apologized. We made up and had a nice talk about it and we moved on but the incident has lingered in my mind.
It made me think of my relationship with my mom and how it has changed and matured over the years. I’m a strong person, capable of bearing a lot of responsibility and I’ve accomplished many things I’m proud of — all of these things are because I was raised by a strong, at times difficult, woman. There were times when we were incredibly close; in high school I would come home and sit on the kitchen counter and tell her all about my day while she made dinner and she always listened as if high school drama was the most interesting news she’d heard all day; she ran lines with me for every school play I was in; she scrimped and saved so I could have a class ring and senior portraits. And then there were times when we didn’t get along at all, when neither of us could be in the same room together without an argument. Once, I was so angry with her that I went a whole year without speaking to her. But in the end, I missed my mother and I know she missed me and we made up. As I’ve matured, I’ve realized I can’t waste time on petty complaints because time is finite and I can’t imagine my life without my mother in it.
She raised a strong, at times difficult daughter and I’m proud of who I am so that begs the question: Am I raising a strong daughter like my mother before me?
I don’t want to crush my daughter’s willful spirit, though I need to nudge her in the right direction when she veers too close to the edge.
I want to know that my daughter can handle adversity and won’t crumple in the face of disappointment. I want to know that life won’t beat her down, that she’ll have the strength to withstand the blows that will invariably come her way. I want to know that she’ll value herself enough to make hard, painful choices if the need should ever arise.
All these things and so much more that I don’t have the space or time to list — they’re up to me to teach her.
Just as my mother taught me.
Kim Van Meter is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News, and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.