All Your Flaws with Piggy Tails, Parenting: The Sober Side Part II
(for the intro to this series of blog posts, see the post on Oct 26th "Do you Respect Your Kids?")
It’s just the ugly truth of parenting — we pass along our habits to our kids. The best ones and the worst ones. ‘Course as we watch our kids interact in the world, it’s usually the worst habits of ours that we notice gaping at us from the personal chasm that is our child.
One of the things I noticed early on was how much time my kid spent “on the phone.” She would take a plastic brick or a banana or anything that could remotely resemble a cell phone, hold it up to her little face and jabber and jabber into it. When I’d interupt her to ask if she wanted something to eat, she’d hold up her little finger to me and say, “Excu me, I’m onna phone, Mama.” Mental note at the time: “Spend less time on the phone around the kid.”
I’m not saying anything new. Kids pick up our habits, tone of voice, figures of speech, etc. Kids are little mimics. They literally synthesize the world around them and then interact with the world using that information. So, the kid who is bullied at home, bullies on the playground (sometimes). The kid who is coddled at home, coddles in the classroom (sometimes). This is not my main point.
My main point is how difficult it is to see our worst habits shoved in our faces by these little beings who are supposed to be the object of our unending love. My little guy was (is) stubborn. Her being stubborn was a pain in the ass. Knowing that she GOT that stubborn streak from ME was the actual torture. What could I have done to mitigate her attainment of that particular personality tic of mine? Change my whole personality overnight the moment she was born? No. Obviously not.
So, the alternative was to get nice and comfortable with seeing my faults personified in my daughter’s behavior. My condescending tone. My irrascible attitude. My inability to share. My bossiness. My obsessiveness with technicalities. My sedentary nature. Glass half full? Sure, some of these traits turned on their head make for great creativity or productivity. But that’s not what I saw, what I saw was how I fall short as a human being and that experience was grueling.
Dr. Phil, Oprah, Dr. Oz, Ellen, Dr. Laura, Maury, whomever — none of these people talk about this aspect of raising a child. How each and every insecurity we carry as people is magnified and thrown in our face by the child’s behavior. By the child’s very existence. No wonder parents get so fucking pissed off at their kids, right? I mean, I understand it. Who wants to be reminded that they have a bad attitude for six hours straight? If I didn’t have that voice in my head whispering, “She’s only doing you. She’s only doing you.” I would have gotten royally pissed off at her.
But, fortunately, I did have that voice in my head. Where did it come from? Probably the same place I got the idea that my kid is a separate, independent entity from me. (No, not completely independent, but independent in her mind, in her thinking, in her way of seeing.) Now maybe those two statements seem contradictory — how she’s independent, but she’s a walking-talking tiny version of me. Well, they’re not contradictory. Yes, I influenced her behavior greatly. But she made that behavior her own. She could only do that if she were separate from me. Otherwise, she’d have been a robot. And she was definitely not that.
I wish more parents would look to the source of their child’s irksome behavior before piling on the punishing remarks and actions. With a little humility, it’s easy to say, ‘Hey, I know you’ve seen me do that, let’s talk about it.” — This would be a more nuanced version of “Do as I say, not as I do,” which, as we all know, doesn’t work.
Part III of Parenting: The Sober Side -- "Being the Parent."