“Look at me. Please.”
She’s only four, and yet I hear myself saying these words to my eldest daughter daily. Imploring and even begging her to see me standing here trying to connect amidst the frustration of a “human moment” where her will and boundary testing is far more powerful than my patience.
In these moments, I find myself in a constant state of “trying.”
Trying to be the right kind of mother for this kind of daughter.
Trying to say the thing that will teach her manners and self-responsibility, but not shame her.
Trying to lead with love and connection over the traditional parenting paradigms valuing control and discipline.
Trying to be the best version of me in moments that are often mirroring back to me my least favorite human traits.
My daughter is excruciatingly sensitive.
So am I.
My daughter is unreasonable (and a bit terrifying) when hungry.
So am I.
My daughter wants love and connection, even when she’s at at the peak of emotional rage.
So do I.
My daughter is cautious and self-aware, making it nearly impossible to force her into something before she’s ready. And when she is, the shift in perception and attitude is swift and palpable.
So I lean heavily on all that self-awareness when I’m asking her to look at me and she won’t. I stare straight into the mirror she holds up when she’s sobbing uncontrollably because I’ve drawn a line in the sand and said it’s this or that, and she can’t have the in-between.
I, personally, love the in-between. I dive into the spaces between two opposing truths and I make myself a nest. Not willing to fall into the trap of believing my life’s choices are black and white or that my thoughts or actions can be good or bad.
I’m not sure she understands there’s an in between at all, but in these moments of parenting, it makes sense to me that my daughter is resistant to staying in the corner I’ve backed her into. If I’m honest, I can see parallels of me behaving the same way yesterday, last week, two decades ago.
So in my BEST mothering moments—the ones when I lead with self-awareness, love and empathy, instead of ultimatums and exhaustion—I get curious, and I ask myself WHY.
Why have I drawn this line in the sand and what does it say about ME that I’m drawing it right now? When did my mood bend from upbeat to beat down and did my daughter have anything to do with it or am I imposing my mood on her will?
And I understand that there really is no right or wrong. And my mother was doing the best she could with the information she had, and so am I. And every encounter can bring us closer together or farther apart, and even if I mess up this moment, I can choose again in 5 minutes and invite her eyes to find mine. And when she’s finally ready to look at me, she’ll see a mama who’s only positive about the following: “I love you. I care. I’m trying. I’m human. I’m learning. Let’s keep doing this together. Forever and always.”