Sometimes, I really am the world’s worst mother. It’s not just something that my kids say to hurt my feelings.
On Thursday morning, I got really fed up with the fact that the Bee was dawdling about getting ready for school (like–it was 8:15, she needs to be at school by 8:30, she was still in her pajamas). This is a dawdling that’s been going on for a week, and I was/am so tired of having to nag my kid out of the house every day.
We got into a huge fight about it–at one point, she, landisdad and I were all screaming–and finally I yelled, “what’s wrong with you?” at her, and she broke down in tears and told me that one of her friends has been making fun of her clothes every day. Because they ‘don’t match.’ And because she wears the same sneakers every day. And that two days ago, this other girl pointed out to her several times that she was wearing a purple shirt and brown socks. And that the Bee, for the past week, has been freezing up every time she opens her dresser before she gets ready in the morning, because she is afraid that she will pick the wrong thing to wear.
Was. Not. Prepared.
I honestly believed that we had a few years before this “I’m telling you this hard truth because I’m your friend and I want you to be a better person/popular/cuter” kind of bullshit started.
And I honestly believed that, when it happened, I would actually help my daughter through it in a calm and supportive way, instead of screaming at her.
We’ve had a bunch of conversations about this topic since then, and come up with some strategies for her to call out the other girl for bullying her, and enlisting some of her other friends as a support network. I told her a story about how I ran away from school when I was in the fourth grade, because I was getting teased for an outfit that I was wearing. I’ve asked her repeatedly why she didn’t tell me and landisdad what was going on earlier. You know what she said? “It’s embarrassing, mom.”
So we talked some more about that, and about how there are other adults that she can talk to, if she doesn’t want to talk to me and landisdad about things like this, and about how we live in a country where people will judge you on your appearance, and you have to learn to be happy with the way that you look, or else there will always be someone making you feel bad about it because you’re too fat, or your skin is too dark, or your nose is too big, or you wear too many stripy clothes, or you have feet that are too large, or eleventy-million other things that are not “the norm.”
And I feel like she’s going to be okay about this, in the long run, and she will learn to stand up for herself against bullies, and she’s a tough kid.
But I also feel like I fucked up, and that at a time when my kid really needed me to pay attention to her, and notice things about her, what I chose to do was make her feel worse about herself, because she was making me late for work.
The thing about parenting is, you can’t wallow in your own feelings of fucked-up-ed-ness. I’d like to spend a bunch of time lying in my bed, curled in the fetal position, but that’s not going to make the thing I fucked up better. I’d like to invite you, oh people of the internets, to come over and kick me in the head, but that’s not going to make it better either.
So instead, I post this cautionary tale:
Sometimes, your kid is not dawdling just to get on your last nerve. Sometimes, your kid has a rich and fascinating (and even scary) interior life that has nothing to do with you. Pay attention.