One of the things I find most frustrating about parenting is the lack of immediate results. By the time it becomes apparent whether or not landisdad and I have been good parents, it'll be too late to do anything about it. As regular readers know, I don't have the world's best relationship with my own parents, and there are moments in my life as a mom where I feel headed for a repeat performance, especially with the Bee.
I remember, growing up, there was a moment that I was fighting with my mom when I was about 13 where she said to me, "you fight just like your father!" What she meant by that was that I was relentless in a fight–I would say or do the most hurtful thing I could think of, to win an argument. And she was right–I would go straight for the jugular every time.
For many years, I thought of this as a strength. I thought that if I could hurt someone else more than they could hurt me, it meant that I was stronger than they were. I'm afraid that I've passed that method of fighting on to my daughter, just as I've come to realize how ridiculously awful a person that made me (and yes, the sharp poking in my eye? I'm aware that's the razor-like barb of irony).
There are near-daily temper tantrums. There is screaming. There are repeated threats to cause bodily harm. There is slamming and hitting and breaking and almost total disrespect for the idea that other people have feelings. So far, no cursing, but hey, there are still the pre-teen years. And who knows? Maybe this is normal. Maybe the Bee has the same number and ferocity of arguments with her parents as any about-to-be-seven-year-old girl. She's the only one I've ever parented, so I have a pretty narrow frame of reference.
As I lay in bed last night, pondering where I went wrong helping the Bee to develop a healthy way to fight, I was thinking about my own failure to develop a conflict strategy that's different from my dad's. I'm the adult in this relationship, and I have to be the one who figures it out. I can't let the current situation continue, because it will surely end as my relationship with my dad has done–not speaking, not visiting, not communicating in any way. The last time I saw my dad, I was pregnant with the Potato, but we didn't know the gender of the baby. To this day, he doesn't know if I had a boy or a girl. It's one of those things that could make you crazy if you thought about it too much, so I don't.
There was a period, after the Bee was born, when my dad and I tried to have a normal relationship, but our history and my stepmother got in the way. I don't know if I'll ever talk to him again–nor do I particularly want to do so. I can't figure out a way to deal with the Bee that involves me and my dad putting aside our (at this point mutual) animosity, because that is just not gonna happen.
It's hard to parent yourself as an adult, but I feel like that's what I'm going to have to do. I have to teach myself how to be different, so I can teach her how to be different. But how am I going to know if it worked?