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We’ve been having a tough time with parenting. My 4-year-old daughter’s emotions zig zag without
warning from euphoric glee to sullen desperation. Often times as she stomps off in a fit of rage
that to us seems nonsensical, my husband and I shrug at each other. We are at a loss. I never pictured parenting a child who was so
When I’m alone, my fears mushroom and multiply. I wonder if we need to see family therapy or
if something “really bad” has happened to my daughter to make her so irrational
and so hotly angry. I asked my other
friends and they assure me it’s just a phase. Something about that looming fifth birthday sets kids off.
My fears swirl and twist around each other, distracting me
from my greatest fear of all: Maybe I’m not up for this challenge.
Yes, I’m afraid that my mothering, my particular combination
of love, patience, skill, willingness and instinct are not enough for my
daughter. What if she needs some other
combination, one that I don’t have? That’s the fear that stalks me in the quiet moments after the dust of
the latest meltdown has settled and her eye lids have fluttered to sleep.
I’m also straining to keep a promise I made to myself the
day I peed on the stick and got the beautiful plus sign telling me I was
pregnant. I will never shut my kid’s
feelings down. It was the one thing
I vowed; it was my no matter what. Every other thing — private school, camp, piano
lessons, road trips through Americana — I was willing to forego, but not
this. My kid was going to grow up
knowing that her mother celebrated all of her feelings and would support her in
expressing them, even and especially anger. Period.
As I watch her big emotions, I remember my promise and take deep breaths, exuding calm even though I’m scared.
Of course I made that promise before she turned 4, before
she grew long solid legs that she wasn’t afraid to kick or arms she wasn’t
afraid of flailing in my face. That was before she actually had any real
emotions beyond a plaintive cry for milk or sleep.
I can’t let go of my promise, even though there are days
when I want to tell her to just stop,
already. The other day I walked out
of the room before saying, “Can you ever be happy about anything instead of
angry all the time?” That’s exactly the
kind of statement I would rather die than make to her.
My promise to support her anger is a maypole that I dance
around every time I see her set off when something doesn’t go her way. I get her to a safe place — usually the
gigantic bean bag in our family room — and let her keen and wail and cry and
shake the frustration out of her system. As I watch her big emotions, I remember my promise and take deep
breaths, exuding calm even though I’m scared, scared that she needs something more than a loving mom who’s willing to
hold her and bear witness to her feelings.
My hope is that my darkest fears about this chapter are no
more real than the monsters I used to think lived under my bed. I do take comfort in knowing that I’m giving
her my best — the deepest, richest part of my love that no one else has laid a
claim to. And I pray that it’s good
enough for her. I’m not sure what else