Some of you will look at this picture of Beth Ditto and be, if not disgusted, then at least deeply uncomfortable with it. Some of you will openly ridicule or despise it. Other people, myself included, can look at her … Continue reading
I am lost.
I am so totally, utterly and completely lost.
I don’t know which parenting book to read first, which website to visit, which therapist to call. I am struggling with the heavy weight of despair closing around me like a cage. It’s not so much my own depression that I am battling – though that war wages on (and on and on), it’s the added weight of feeling lost in my own family.
My beautiful baby girl – Beanie – I don’t think I could feel further away from her than I do right now. I think I have spent more time crying in the last few weeks than I have in the previous few years. I’m sure not having the buffer of the antidepressants makes things that much rawer but I also feel that it is the cumulative weight of my mothering grief that is really pouring out of me right now. Every day there is a new row, a new argument, a new drama to negotiate. Beanie is not yet 6 and she behaves like a hormonal teenager right down to the ‘”I’m not listening!” and the slamming of her bedroom door.
The hubble and I are struggling to understand what happened to our happy, funny little girl. When did this angry, sullen, overly sensitive teenager slip into our home and take her over? When did she decide that the only way to get our attention was to defy, challenge, ignore, scream, shout and push against us continually? Is this what being 5 is normally like? I keep hoping that it is a phase but I don’t think that it is. I had hoped that starting school would help her settle into a rhythm, help her to learn to listen and act as part of a little team. It has not. Her teacher, a lovely woman very experienced in teaching, has told us that Beanie is very ‘challenging’. Tell me about it. But where does that leave us? If a woman who has over 20 years of teaching calls our daughter challenging and finds her difficult to deal with, then what hope have we? We have a grand total of nearly 6 years experience of having children and most of those have been fraught. At least they have for me.
I can honestly say with my hand over my heart that I do not enjoy parenting. It’s not that I don’t love my children. Of course I do. With my whole conditional, demented heart but I do not enjoy the endlessness of this ‘difficult’ phase in my mothering journey. I have been on this road too long and no matter what help I seek, I am still here, still sitting in the shit and wishing it smelled differently. I cannot seem to move away from the sadness and the grief and the enormous guilt that I am forever saying and doing the wrong thing. I say things in anger that make my cheeks sting with shame afterwards. I try to reason with her like an adult, even though I know that she is still so very little. I lack the ability and the tools to know how to manage my angry child and not make it all worse. Not make my own anger and sadness worse. I’m sitting here, sobbing over my keyboard and trying to empty it all onto a page, so that i can at least find some space inside of me to figure out what to do next. Where to go now with my precious, rebellious, angry daughter.
Discipline doesn’t work, time-outs don’t work, consequences don’t work, taking things away from her doesn’t work. We have tried time-in’s but they are not working. I am desperately trying to master active listening, so that she feels heard – God knows with me for a mother and my own rage evident much of the time, she probably feels completely unheard – but I am trying so hard. I truly am. Nothing changes her behaviour. She is rude and disobedient to us in particular, but it has started spreading to other adults too – her grandparents, her aunty, whom she absolutely adores, and to people she barely knows. I’m only surprised that it hasn’t been more evident at school. She isn’t rude there, just disobedient. And she doesn’t listen to anyone. Not ever. And then we will have a week where very little behaviour is evident, where we seem to have turned a corner and then BANG! for no apparent reason, she overflows with brattishness all over again and we are left standing in the debris wondering what the fuck happened. And I sit there feeling like it is ALL my fault. That my anger, my difficulties with mothering, my impossibly high standards for myself (and therefore probably others too), have just fucked up my bright beautiful little girl and I deserve everything I get. And I’m sure everyone feels like this from time to time but I know how bad it gets here when I am way out of control with frustration and resentment and every little thing sets me off. I am on simmer all the time with this PND and yes, I decided to come off the medication anyway. Mainly because it was simply detaching me even more than I do myself, every time things got tough – which is EVERY DAY. I don’t want to be emotionally disconnected from my children. I don’t want to not feel anything or feel through cotton wool. I thought that it would help, but it didn’t and the withdrawal from even the low dose of SSRI’s that I was on, was phenomenally bad. I will not ever take that kind of drug again. Not ever.
She is struggling and I don’t know how to help her because I am struggling too. I can work through some of my difficulties with my therapist, but what can she do? The only person she really has to talk to is me, or the hubble, and obviously we are the last people she wants to talk to right now. So we have made the decision to take her to see a child psychologist/family therapist. This is a major step for me because I feel so horribly responsible for the whole situation. I am terrified that when I explain honestly to the therapist what has been happening, that he will recommend that Lily be immediately taken away from me. Thus realising my absolute worst nightmare – that I am such a shitty excuse for a mother that I am not safe to be around my babies.
What the fuck do I do? How do I turn this horrible heartbreaking situation around and make it into something good before she hits her teens and we find ourselves in every parent’s worst teen nightmare. I am scared for our family and I am scared for her. This much wilfulness needs to find an outlet that is positive and self nourishing or it will destroy her and everything around her. I know. I’m jumping ahead wildly, she is only 5, but I can see it coming the way a rabbit can see the headlights of an oncoming truck and can’t seem to move out of its way. I am a staring down a semi with ‘out of control Wild Child’ written on its grille. And it terrifies me.
If you could see her – you would immediately know how wonderful she is. She is so smart, and so capable and she has such perseverance – she will try something over and over again until she masters it. That’s not to say that she does it with any kind of patience – we have many, many tantrums over her inability to do something initially, but she keeps going back. I know that feeling. I am the same. I don’t want her to be like me. I don’t want her to carry my issues as her own. I want her Spirit to remain intact. I just also want her to understand that in finding some way to express herself that is not defiance or downright rudeness, she is giving herself tools to manage her own volatile emotions and that can only be a good thing.
But if you did meet her, you might be amazed at how often we have to ask her to do something before it gets done. Or you might notice how cheeky she can be, how inappropriately she often behaves – like flashing her bottom at people for no apparent reason, or at us because she knows it incenses us. Or you might notice that she has seemingly boundless energy, which she more often than not uses to get into mischief or to just push buttons until something snaps and we go spiralling into another argument, another weepy tantrum, another round of screaming and door slamming. Even my patient, kind, playful hubble is losing the plot.
When she sleeps, I go and sit by her bed and tuck her into her blankets. I kiss her softly on the cheek and stroke her head or hand and I tell her how much I love her. I tell it to her as she sleeps because I keep praying that in that open unconscious state, she will hear me as she can’t seem to when she is awake. My heart is breaking for our relationship. I don’t know how to move forward with her. I don’t know how to mend all that is broken between us and it is torture and pain and so much sadness I can’t contain it all. I think that I have spent most of the time between school drop off and this entry, crying. I am not someone who cries much. But these last few weeks I have made up for that in spades. I have never felt so ineffectual and there is only so much gentle discipline I can try with my exasperating child before I revert back to the disciplinarian and get angry again.
I am crying for myself and for her – that she feels so wounded that all we have is this fractured connection. I am crying for my wee Bear who is already picking up on her behaviour and copying it – as he does everything else she does. I am crying for the strain it is putting on my relationship with my beautiful, compassionate husband – and though I know he loves me and trusts me and understands how hard I’m trying, I also know that in his heart, he blames me a little too. I am crying for the nurturing mamma in me who can’t seem to catch a break and who would tear herself in half if she thought it would make everyone happier. I am crying for her because I so want to step into the role of mother and I cannot. I just don’t know how to do this. I don’t know how to travel this path with any kind of grace or understanding. I feel as if I am just swinging wildly from one problem to another with no way of making the pendulum stop.
I keep asking the Great Mystery to reach out a hand to help me. I need some guidance to figure out how to do this right. I don’t expect a life filled with roses and sunsets on the beach but it would be nice to know that there is even a chance I can spend one whole day with my child where we love each other and enjoy each other’s company. One day in which there is no drama, no tears, no anger, no pulling away or withdrawing. One day in which I can hold her hand and see the child she is inside and make her laugh again.
For her and for myself I am asking The Powers That Be – please, please help me. Please show me a way to make this right before it gets stuck in wrong, forever.
I want to begin my blog today with a long loud *SIGH*. It has been a good, bad, up, down, laughing, shouting, frustrating and funny sort of a day and I have enjoyed it and hated in equal measure and often within seconds of each other.
I don’t know why I find the whole mothering thing so hard some days but I do. There are days when I could just curl up inside the fridge vegetable crisper just to get a few precious minutes to myself – to rest, recuperate, rejuvenate and find the strength to just get up and carry on. Beanie is not a difficult child, not really. Like most kids she becomes her most destructive and her most challenging when she feels she has to compete for my attention with anything – a phone call, the toaster (being used, I might add, to make her favourite snack, raisin toast!), my husband, the tv – whatever. These are the times that all her shoes come out of the cupboard and get thrown around her room, the DVD’s are unpacked from the cabinet, the TV gets switched off, then on, then off, then on – all to an endless chant of ‘No Lily!’ by an increasing frustrated mummy-bear. Today I went from smiling and chatting with her to snarling like a rabid wolverine because she asked me for ‘nana’ and when I gave it to her, she poked her fingers through it and then flung it onto the kitchen floor (which is so dirty that it makes me tired just thinking about cleaning it). She spent the afternoon whining and crying every time I moved into another room and wanted to be carried everywhere. She refused to eat the lovely pumpkin and goat cheese risotto I cooked for her and screamed when I tried to put her into her baby-seat to eat her freshly made toast – so, I decided to put her in the bath. Ohhhhhhh. Let’s just say that the carpet will be wet for a month and she was hyper by the end of it.
However, I suspect that she was just overtired having missed her afternoon nap (because she refused to go to sleep despite 6 books and lots of encouragement from an eager to nap mamma) and so after her usual ritual of hair-drying, pj struggling and 3 books, she requested ‘boobie’ (which was refused as I am both sore and trying to wean her), had a cry when I refused and then dropped to sleep in about 10 minutes. Normally it takes between 45 minutes and an hour and a half to get the child to go to sleep and this is with either myself or my husband in the bed with her. Attachment parenting is so labour intensive and yet I love the idea of raising a well-adjusted, secure baby. The only problem is that I find myself shouting at her and calling her a ‘stupid girl’ (to be fair, she was hanging off the 600 different computer leads under my desk and I was terrified she’d be electrocuted) or something equally reprehensible and it makes me wonder if I shouldn’t just abandon the whole ‘attachment parenting’ style in favour of something that has me just popping her in a cot to go to sleep on her own in her own time. It seems to be a case of maintaining my sanity whilst still creating a nurturing child environment and on some days the two just don’t gel. Days like these.
I sometimes hate myself as a mother. This is not too harsh a statement. It’s the Gods honest truth. I sometimes say and do things to my child that I absolutely hate myself for and I then become crippled with a guilt that eats away at me like a slow-burning cancer. I have talked about how hard the first year of mothering has been for me before but I have to admit that it hasn’t really gotten much easier. I still feel regularly overwhelmed with the difficulty of raising my child when I can’t seem to control my temper or my tongue. I know that part of the problem is that I’m trying to be a ‘perfect’ mummy. I know this and yet i still can’t seem to let myself off the hook. I guess I feel that my mistakes are crimes against childhood and that I should get life in the prison of guilt. It sounds dramatic doesn’t it? That’s bloody actors for you. Not to mention writers. Always the drama, drama, drama. Yet I feel that I deserve all the shit I give myself because I have yet to go a whole two days without some kind of ugly explosion and it shames me. There are days when I feel I could literally strangle my child and yet I could not love her more. My heart aches with the love that I have for her and I would give up my life to keep her safe. How then is it that I still fall so often into these old patterns created in my own childhood? How is that I have still not learned the art of self-control? How is it that I cannot protect my child from myself? From my weaknesses and my failings.
It took me 16-months to realise that I might be suffering from post-natal depression (and that was an amateur diagnosis by a stranger) and I have still not really accepted that this might be really, actually, true for me. I hate the idea that I might be a ‘depressive’ person despite the fact that many of my closest (and most loved) friends have visited this dark and torturous place called depression from time to time. I have always prided myself on my ability to ‘cope’ – just like all the women in my family. We shrug and get on with it because that’s what needs to happen. The fiery Celtic spirit that resides within this woman is both my truest nature and my fiercest critic. We Celts don’t rest until the work is done and we never ask for help. We are kindness itself to strangers but would run ourselves through with a broadsword for any minor fault or flaw. It’s tiring. I am tired. I am sad. I am at war with myself again because I have not lived up to the (ridiculous) standards of parenting that I have set for myself and which I still manage to find time to write testily about. See – nice, normal, schizophrenic mamma in action.
What I hate is the feeling that tomorrow I will still not know how to do it any better than I did today because this is who I am right now. This is all I am capable of right now. This is the ‘what is’ as they say in Buddhism and to fight the now, the what is, is to be unavailable to the present moment which is the only moment in which I can effect change. That’s the double edged sword of it all. I have to be at peace with my failure and allow it to sit within me like a big black duck quacking maniacally (not sure about that image!) and just be with it. Did I mention that I have a little difficulty with surrendering? Well that means surrendering to this feeling of failure and despondency. It means letting the tears come and trying not to be ashamed of myself and my mothering. It means letting the light into the darkness by not shutting myself in or down but by simply allowing it all to just be.
And I don’t want to.
I don’t like it.