I feel like I’m losing this parenting game. I’m trying so hard to do everything perfectly, to be what my daughters need me to be, to fill them with love and positive energy and help them to build the strength that they’ll need to survive in this chaotic world. Lately, I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, but my oldest is constantly rebelling against me.
I try incredibly hard to give her the space she needs, to explore behaviors and ideas and choices without scrutiny, but even with her unprecedented independence, I feel like a failure. Am I just trying too hard to make her secure and content? Am I expecting her to understand concepts that are beyond her years?
It has always been important to me to nurture my children in a way that doesn’t interfere with who they are or who they are becoming. I try to guide them without stifling their creativity. I try to teach them social constructs without demanding they conform, but when your five year old is making high pitched noises in the middle of the grocery store, picking up trash all over the floor “for her collection”, and running around on all fours because “she’s a Dalmatian”, I find it hard to not feel a teensy bit perturbed.
Gentle discipline and attachment parenting were so much easier before my daughter started telling me that she likes to make messes, she likes to make me feel bad, she likes to throw sand in her sister’s face, and she likes to pretend that she cannot hear me calling her name. We cannot go outside without Amara finding a patch of dirt to rub her entire body into, even if she was just bathed, and even if we are on our way someplace where I’d prefer her to look presentable. Usually I don’t mind her getting good and dirty, I encourage puddle jumping and digging for worms, but if we’re not outdoors for outdoor play there is a limit. If she’s not filthy she’s making contorted faces with wild, unfocused eyes and twitching her head from side to side in jerking motions while raising her arms to her chest like a tyrannosaurus rex and walking on tip-toes.
AAUGH!!!! Is this just childhood? Is this how it feels to be five? I don’t remember life before the age of nine so I cannot recall a time where I behaved in such a fashion. Is every child at some point their parent’s precious little tantrum throwing, annoying, back-talking little *&%!*^!???
What drives me the craziest is her utter lack of response to every method I use. I’ve been there done that with getting angry, raising my voice, and punitive responses. I don’t want to revert back to that, it always made me feel sick and guilty and cruel. I want to be kind, empathetic, friendly, and humorous, but she finds a way to challenge absolutely everything I say and I refuse to enter into senseless debate with a kindergartener. I hate feeling like the enemy.
It’s not that her behavior is dangerously extreme, at times she does risk damaging property, but usually it’s simpler things (i.e. running across a parking lot without me and before looking both ways, constantly creating a delay, and just being generally irritating). The problem is that if I say even one thing to try getting her to temper herself she acts flat out crazy! I don’t feel like I should just back down and never say anything, but I cannot even suggest better choices lately without her rebelling.
If she rebels against me at five years old I can hardly wait for when she’s 15! My theory has always been that if we can have a solid bond while she’s growing up, we will be better able to deal with bigger issues when she’s in her teens. I want her to feel like she can talk to me, that I respect and understand her completely, but lately I feel like my child got swapped out with some demonic otherworldly creature sent here solely to test my patience and torment me.
I suppose no mother knows quite what she’s doing or if what she tries is right or will ruin her children eventually. I can certainly say one thing; I never thought I’d see the day where I’d be relieved that she would soon be going to school. Since our plan was to homeschool I had only considered her going away to learn as something surrounded with negativity. Now, I am elated. I will enjoy these last three weeks of her being home with me, even if she’s filthy and walking through stores like an alien, because soon I will probably miss her antics and maybe, just maybe, long for them.