8:48 a.m. - 2012-12-01
That said, sometimes I find it really hard to act lovingly toward them. I find myself being overly critical, and falling way, way off the perfect parent wagon.
When my daughter Mar was little, I could watch her sleeping for hours, just admiring how perfect and amazing she was. I made that, I'd think -- something from nothing, a complete perfect person when there was no one...
A couple of things happened to my awe. One, my kids got older and started talking. Second, my husband (who I loved and who I planned on "building a family" with) started cheating on me when I was four months pregnant with our son, and moved out a year later.
For a long time my kids just reminded me, constantly and excruciatingly, that my best friend and soul mate had thrown me away for someone else. I didn't blame or regret my kids at all, but when I looked at them I hated myself. It is hard to be a good parent when your children make you loathe yourself and want to die.
I suppose that feeling isn't as intense anymore, but now there's the fact he spoils the kids horribly when he's with him and they like him better, or at least I think they do. I'm not going to say that they love him more, because I am the primary caretaker and main parent, but they would rather be with him, going places and eating out and getting constant new toys, than home with me doing chores and cleaning their rooms and being told to stop fighting so I can do homework. I am strict and he is beyond permissive. The rules change when they cross my threshhold, and every time my son gets a time out or is told to eat his dinner or he won't get dessert, he whimpers, "I want my daddy back!" I hear this about 100 times a day, and I'm sure my daughter is thinking it, too.
It's hard to be a good parent, the best parent you can be, when you feel like no matter how understanding and patient and loving you are, you can't hold a candle to the parent who spends a lot of money on them in their eyes.
On top of this, my son has been in the terrible twos for (by my calculation) about two years. Children are different, and my son is one of those children who is a handful. He has been able to dismantle babyproof contraptions since he could crawl. The first thing he did when he learned to roll over was roll over to my husband's computer and destroy it, and he's the reason I don't OWN any sharp kitchen knives and I've disabled all but one of the burners on my stove. For the last six months, in addition to being destructive, he has been doing the tearless howl thing from the time he wakes up until the time he goes to bed about EVERY LITTLE THING. He exists to color on walls, break things, get into things he knows damn well are off limits, and harass or injure his sister. He is NO FUN. None. I tell myself that this is a stage, but it's been two years and I'm still waiting for him to grow out of it.
I try to give him positive attention, but any time I praise him or admire something, he immediately stops doing it.
My daughter is a major source of guilt for me, because she gets a lot of the fallout from the fact that her brother is incorrigible. I spend so much energy on him that I don't give her her share, and I'm often so irritated with him that the last thing I want to do is pay attention to ANOTHER child.
My daughter is the total opposite of my son -- the child with the angelic temperament, eager to please, loving, and a bottomless pit for affection. She would sit in my lap all day if I would hold still. Part of the problem is that I feel like no matter how much love and attention I give her, it's never enough.
She is easy to love, but maybe I also feel guilty because I find her so much easier to love than her brother, and maybe I have a favorite and show it. (And that's why he's so incorrigible? I don't think so, though -- she has ALWAYS been the way she is, and even as babies they were nothing alike, and very much like they are now as older children.) She is so impossibly sweet (and forgiving of and loving toward her brother, even though he's awful) that she reminds me of Matt, her dad. And there is this little voice in my head saying that she'll get sick of me too; I'm not good enough for her and eventually she will figure that out. She will stop forgiving my imperfections and find someone better, like he did.
I'm just writing this stuff down because I want to be a better parent. I can hit the parenting books again and work on techniques, but the books I have don't really address how you feel about your kids, and I know that has to play a part in how you handle them.
I think I am going to talk to Mar about how I believe that "stuff" doesn't equal love -- not to put her father down, but to explain to her that constant aquisition goes against my value system and that the reason I don't constantly buy them stuff is not that I don't love them or can't afford it (technically, daddy's money is still my money) but because I don't like materialism. Maybe I should have the right to say I don't agree, if he has the right to raise them in a way that is totally contrary to how I want my kids raised. I should have the right to let them know that daddy and I feel differently on this subject.
I was never a materialistic kid, and the way she and her brother are about stuff would have bothered me if I was her peer, which is probably part of the reason it bothers me now. I was different as a kid, though, in a lot of ways. Maybe I was the only kindergartener on the planet who didn't want Christmas presents, so it shouldn't bug me too much that my daughter is part of the 99 percent who have a Christmas list a mile long and tell their parents about it daily.
Oh well. Do I feel better now?