Before I had a child, I heard parents say things like that and I would think, quite frankly, it was bullshit. I wasn’t necessarily judgmental of them because I’ve always had a well of compassion for how difficult parenting is. But at the same time, that compassion battled some very high expectations I set for parents in general, and later myself.
The Divine Miss M heads off to camp soon, her first that involves extended overnight stays. I am a little anxious and a lot nervous for her. It could be an amazing, empowering experience and I mostly think it will be. At the same time, a part of me worries because she doesn’t know anyone else going and socially, she’s always been a bit challenged.
Having said that, the timing of camp could not possibly be better. Every parent gets mad or frustrated or loses their patience but I’m somewhere else right now, somewhere beyond that. Our daughter possesses phenomenal qualities of intelligence, brilliantly dry wit, occasionally compassion, and flashes of insight into human nature that both astound me and fill me with pride. But recently, she has also been
exceptionally difficult damn near impossible to deal with. I know a lot of it is perfectly normal for her age. Maybe no other parents reach this point and my current feelings are the result of my own shortcomings. But the constant disregard of everything we say because she’s decided we’re wrong or don’t know what we’re talking about, the perverse sense of entitlement where nothing is ever enough or appreciated, the hideous degree to which she can be self-centered and the utterly relentless battle of wills and pushing of boundaries is, at this point, just demoralizing.
As parents, Jodi and I are probably incapable of raising a daughter who is easily compliant. I know that. M’s strong-will, demanding nature, independent thinking and tendency to question every damn thing are all qualities any child of ours is bound to possess. All qualities I actually want her to have in the long run. But I apparently have my limits on how much I can deal with and navigate and I’ve reached a point where the only immediate word that comes to mind when I think about my daughter is ‘relentless.’ She is just relentless in Every. Single. Thing. At one point this week, during yet another deteriorating conversation, I looked at her and thought, “I’m not mad. I don’t even feel anger. I’m not even sure I’m frustrated anymore. I just don’t like you. At all. As a person.“ And then I walked into our bedroom, closed the door and cried.
No doubt as we begin to pack her bags for camp, I will grow increasingly nervous and excited for her because this experience could be many things and I so, so hope all of those things are good and positive. I realize as we’re driving away, I’ll be fighting back tears. And then we’ll get home and the house will seem increasingly quiet and way too neat. Within a couple of days, our Lab will begin fretting and trying to make us notice M’s not here because obviously that must have escaped our attention. And I know I will miss her terribly. None of that changes because, like most parents, I love her more than I could ever adequately describe in mere words. But I am honest enough to acknowledge that right now, I need this camp as much as she does. I need a break that won’t be solved by her having an overnight with a friend or me getting an hour or two to myself. Maybe camp will help us both re-set and if not, maybe it will at least give me a chance to get back to the parent I want to be, because this definitely isn’t it.
(Note: If this is the first post you’ve ever read on this blog, you’re likely to think I’m a terrible, bitter parent who should never have been allowed to have kids. And perhaps, in a week or two, I might be horrified enough by these words to agree with you but right now, all I’d be able to say is get over yourself. Read more, judge less.).