“Child with a child pretending…” that’s what Joni Mitchell wrote before giving up her daughter for adoption. On days like these I really understand where she was coming from in that song. On days like these I feel as if I’m engaged in some never ending battle with my child but I’m fighting as a child, not as an adult. It is a battle of the Id’s and I think I’m coming off worst.
During my more challenging times with my daughter, Lily, I can hear myself reprimanding her from the wounded child within. I can hear the resentment in my voice, that petulant tone that reminds me of a stroppy toddler plaintively yelling about how life is ‘so unfair!’ And that’s how I feel on days like today. That life is dealing me an unfair blow. That the struggles that I am engaged in are just too much.
Lately I’ve noticed how I am talking to her more and more from this resentful inner child and I’ve been trying to figure out why. Why do I respond to my child as a child? Id meeting Id in head on collision – one of us always coming off worst. There is no give in the Battle of the ids, there is no quarter given for having an off day or for not understanding why you can’t pull Daddy’s screwdriver out of the tool draw and play with it. It’s a take no prisoners kind of deal and I am becoming increasingly convinced that my mothering skills are so crap because I am working from this place of thwarted id – that I am, through mothering, dealing with the unfairness and fear and anger that my own childhood was soaked in. The question then becomes, how do I go beyond these limits? How do I wash myself clean of the past and come to mothering with new eyes, fresh energy and without resentment clouding my judgement and my ability to relate to my daughter in a playful, creative and patient way. How do I call time on the Battle of the Ids?
Honestly, I don’t know. If it was that easy to leave our pasts behind, we’d have all merrily cut the baggage away years ago. God knows it would be lighter and easier to trip the light fantastic without it all banging along in the dust behind us. But I truly believe that our children are our greatest teachers – mini-gurus in disguise as hummus smeared, shitty-nappied whingers who never sleep. And if I come at this baffling mothering thing from that angle, I know that on these days of greatest challenge is the potential for greatest learning, if I can just get over myself enough to let it penetrate. I have truly struggled today, there have been many tears (most of them mine) and there has been much anger and much frustration on both sides. These are the days when I feel that living on the front line in Iraq would be more enjoyable and potentially more rewarding than trying, for the third time in a day, to encourage my thrashing, resistant daughter to sleep. I have seriously considered burning all my books (not just the parenting ones) just to be free from the pressure to read any more of them. To be free to return to a more instinctive state of mothering where I can just take each day as it comes and try to roll with the punches. I know that the weight of my own expectations can be suffocating and the perceived failures all the more crushing because of that. I know that I long to the be this Great Mother, patient, loving, endlessly creative and compassionate and able to lull my child to sleep with loving strokes and soft songs and I know that my precocious, frustrated nature does not sit well on that throne. I often think that I’m just doing this whole mothering thing the wrong way and that I should go to the other side of the fence – to sleep school and putting Lily in her own room instead of cuddling her to sleep and encouraging her to ‘let go of her sad’s and angrys’ before sleep in the style of the Aware Baby. It all seems too much on days like these and I do feel like a child with a child and we are both behaving badly!
I often wonder when I will feel that I have fully inhabited my adult skin and fully taken responsibility for my own life and therefore Lily’s. I wonder if I will ever stop resisting the process, the endless daily process of unravelling the person that we were before children, to become the people we must become to raise our children well. I think they are called ‘Mother’s’ but I could be wrong. I wonder when I will feel that I’m doing even an average job of raising my baby and if I will ever get to the end of a single day of parenting and think, ‘Today was a good day, you did well.’ It hasn’t happened yet.
How do I move from this place of wounded child to a place where I am a whole woman raising an aware baby? How can I patch up the holes in my psyche that were damaged by my own less than perfect childhood and approach Lily’s childhood with a different set of eyes, responses and understandings? She is the most important job I will ever do, so why do I keep trudging through the days hanging out for my vacation?
I’m sure there are mother’s out there to whom this scenario is completely foreign and if that’s you, give me your bloody phone number so I can drop Lily off at your house and go and get my nails done or get my hair cut for the first time in nearly 2 years. However, I’m secretly hoping that I’m not the only one who feels overwhelmed with anger and frustration in my daily life with my beautiful, inquisitive and funny child. I’m hoping that this is just part of the mothering journey and not just part of MY journey and that it all does get easier.
Maybe Id’s all part of the journey of mothering and I should be girding my loins for the clash of the Super Ego’s – which according to Jung, should start happening any time now.
God help me.