Friday, May 1, 2009

Mommy fears

I am afraid.

I think it's hard to be a mom without having fears. Some moms fear that their children will get sick, or be snatched from a parking lot, or hit their heads on coffee tables. I have felt all of those fears.

But these days, one of my biggest fears is that my daughter will turn into a brat.

I'm typing this, knowing that label is highly distasteful to me and probably to readers. And yet I'm not going to reword it because emotionally, that's the fear I've got. Honestly, I don't even know if it's a very logical fear, but logic often plays only a bit role on the stage of fear.

I was a compliant child. I mean, ultra-compliant. I was scared to death of displeasing my parents, or God, or any other authority figure. I was a follower of the "letter of the law."

Chickie didn't get that compliant gene. Instead she is more like her dad. She has a fun-loving temperament that wants to try new things, and test all the limits, and get away with breaking the rules. I know this is her personality, and that there are fantastic aspects to her quirks--she will probably be a leader, and she'll speak her mind without worrying too much about what people think.

But it's so foreign to the way I was as a kid, and it scares me. When I have to tell her multiple times to do go upstairs for bed, I fear that I've been too easy on her. When I force her to take a bath she doesn't want to take, and she screams her way through it, I fear I've been too hard on her. I just don't know where that perfect balance is, and I suppose I'll be trying to figure it out for the next 15 years or more.

I don't want a child who is so wild and unruly that we can't go to a restaurant without getting dirty looks and whispered judgment. That thought sickens me, and so I require respect from my daughter, and I try to be consistent with discipline. Yet I also don't want to suppress her fantastic, spirited personality, so I try to give her grace.

I just hope that even when I give her too much discipline one day, and too much leeway the next, there will be enough love mixed in that I won't mess her up too badly. I hope that God will have the grace to guide my path, and Chickie's. I hope in a decade and a half, when she's graduating from high school, I'll have tears of pride in my eyes when I realize that Chickie has become a young woman who, while imperfect, displays both strength and humility.

I am hopeful.


Heather said...

Again...understood by me. I have one that is so unlike me that it scares me - being much like his father but his father doesn't always like to admit it. Many days I have this big question mark over my head when I'm faced with the part of him I don't understand...especially in the discipline parts.

It is SO difficult to "get it right" with what others would expect, our own expectations and to discipline in The Lord's way. If only we can remember to pray through these more trying the moment but that's not usually where my thoughts are.

Mothering is not easy. Having three boys, seeing the stages that they go through and knowing that some of this is a stage - helps. On the other hand...some of the attitude within the stage is character. They ALL discipline differently and can leave me in a tizzy of emotion when they all need it at once.

I imagine that you're building a wonderful relationship with your little girl (and boy) - I wouldn't worry about her looking like a brat or becoming one...except maybe in the teen years AND that, my dear, is an entirely new season of mothering (don't go there in thought - it could get scary).

Take care, C. Beth and believe she'll be "just right" because we're all perfectly and wonderfully made...that's what He said :o)

Heather said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jen said...

Gah....if parenting were easy, everyone would do it. I know how you feel..I have a seven year old who is exactly the same. Makes me crazy and proud all at the same time!

My Teacher Hat said...

After 5 years of teaching 12-to-17-year-olds, I've met quite a few kids who could be described as brats. The ones who are defiant, are angry at being told what to do, and insist that nothing is ever their fault.

I've met a lot of their parents, too.

And here's what's interesting: in every case, no exceptions, the parents were defiant (on their kids' behalf), were angry at the teachers who would dare to try and tell the kids what to do, and insisted that nothing was their kids' fault. These are the parents who say to teachers, "I don't believe your side of the story," or (I got this one recently from the mother of an atrociously disrespectful 14-year-old), "I know her behavior in class is disrespectful. But I'm not going to tell her not to do that. She is her own person, and I won't presume to tell her what to do."

Not once have I found a parent of a defiant, bratty kid who is consistent, firm, and loving with discipline. Not once. Keep doing what you're doing, and Chickie may be a little rebellious, but she will not be a brat. She will still disobey. But she will know the difference between right and wrong, she will know when she has done something wrong, and she will feel bad about it.

Sandra said...

Boy, Beth does this hit close to home. It brings back all the self-doubt I had when raising my children.

I hope this experience of mine might help you as it did me.

I went to a conference on managing many years ago and the speaker told us not to confuse "excellent" with "perfect". He said it is impossible to be a "perfect" manager but you can be an "excellent" manager by doing it to the very best of your ability.

That gave me great comfort when I applied it to my insecurities about parenting, because I knew I was doing my very best, but had never considered myself an "excellent" parent.

The prayer I said many times during the child-rearing years was this: "Please diminish the things I do wrong, and enhance the things I do right, because I haven't a clue which is which!" And, I meant it!

I know you pray for your children and I know you do your best. I believe with all my heart THAT IS ENOUGH. You are an EXCELLENT mother!

My Teacher Hat said...

You inspired me to write a blog post about setting limits!

Lindsay @ Makely said...

Tom and I just had this conversation last night, as Zack was screaming in bed. He's a very willful child (and getting more willful by the second) and wasn't minding last night. We asked him to get in bed about 10 times and he chose to play with his toys instead. So, we picked him up, kissed him goodnight and left the room - without reading books to him which was his usual routine. He flipped! Tom said, as you did, that I hope one day he'll thank me for this, but it still makes us sad. He has to learn rules and boundaries and know that we when ask him to do something, he needs to do it.

Three years old is such a struggle. So much that we still can't decide if we should have another child. We should have had one earlier!

Lyndsay said...

I feel like I could write a page long response, but I won't.

Instead, I'll sum it up by saying Kate and Chickie are long-lost twins ... and I share the exact some concerns and battle how to handle it.

Cathy said...

I've often said you didn't deserve to get a strong-willed child since you were so compliant, but you do very well with whom God gave you! I'm proud of you and your "mothering". I'm sure you've received reassurance from the comments people have given. Sounds like many of them have been where you are.
Chickie is just strengthening her leadership skills! She WILL be a leader - probably already is with her peers. Love, Mom

Call Me Cate said...

I think the fact that you started this post talking about fear and ended talking about hope says a lot. I don't have children but I've found most difficult situations (maybe like parenting?) work out unless you lose hope and give up trying.

Janell said...

Great post, Beth, and I have enjoyed the comments too. My oldest, Mia, is very compliant, to the point where I worry that she will be bullied. My second, Dee, is the polar opposite, testing EVERY SINGLE LIMIT (over and over and over just to make sure I really mean it...)! So I totally get your feelings. Sometimes when faced with Dee's defiance I am absolutely flummoxed. And I have some of the same fears you mentioned.

But I think and hope you are right, that if we are consistent and firm most of the time, but still give them room to have the control they crave in situations where it's appropriate, that will go a long way toward curbing "brattiness." And I have no doubt that Chickie will make you very proud someday!

Our Scoop said...

Amen! That is such a true fear! I find that I am afraid of SO many things now. I didn't realize I was so fearful until I had Andrew. Now I am afraid of so much and yet I don't want to make him a big sissy and show him my fears. I don't know how to maintain that healthy balance of rational fear for safety and not irrational fear so he has to live in a bubble! I could write about this for many many pages but I'll stop now :)

Unknown said...

I agree with Grammy's comment. I would add that Chickie KNOWS she is loved and she KNOWS there are rules. She will disregard the former and conveniently forget the latter sometimes, but she will grow up KNOWING. That's your job as a parent and you are working at it.

In the meantime, we sit back with compassion for you and the engineer as parents and smiles at our grandchildren.

Love, Sampa

LEstes65 said...

Chickie won't be a brat. She's testing limits because that's in the fine print of her current age. She will test you and The Engineer and those of us that teach her Sunday school class. And because there is always love and understanding, we'll all guide her (imperfectly or otherwise) and teach her.

Just know that what you're seeing is different from how you were. But it's completely appropriate for her age. Terrible twos or threes - depending on the age. And as you already know - once you get this one figured out, she'll be on to the next phase.

I can tell you - she is NOT a brat and NOT on the road to brat-dom. And you know me. I would tell you if I thought otherwise.

Personally - if I had a daughter? I'd be THRILLED to see she had a backbone and was willing to fight back a little. I'd be terrified of the compliant girl - knowing what she'd have to contend with as a teen.

You have God at the center of your family. He will NOT fail you in raising your kids.

caryn said...

From one ultra compliant child to another you are not alone with this fear! This post sums up the fears I have raising my one year old daughter. I got some great information from the comments .

Mary said...

beth, coming out of lurkdom!
i think every mother out there can relate..i know i can.
(especially since your chickie sounds just like my E!)
but i think you hit it on the nail here..
"I hope that God will have the grace to guide my path, and Chickie's."
i think if you continue to stay humble and let him lead you in this thing called parenthood, then you guys will be just fine. :)
(i'm hoping the same for myself, as well! hehe)

Julie said...

Wow- I totally understand. The best comfort I have came from something my sister once said to me:

God knows what he's doing. There's a reason God gave this little person to you and there's a reason he gave you to this little person.

ACitizenOfThisWorld said...

Don't be afraid. Children who are not totally compliant of their parents are usually happier. They have the chance to try things and learn to decide on their own. (I wish I was less compliant when I was a child.) And Chickie is still too young. I have a cousin who was really a pain in the neck when she was young. Now, she is an energetic, athletic, and active young woman who everybody loves. And very successful in her studies too.

C. Beth said...

Simply Heather--Three boys...I'm not sure how you do it! :) But you clearly do it well. Thank you for the encouragement!

Jen--Yes--crazy and proud all at the same time--great way to put it!

My Teacher Hat--Great insight, and really enjoyed the follow-up blog post you wrote, too.

Sandra--I love your insights & encouragement; thank you! And that prayer--great--am about to use it in a blog post.

Living With Lindsay--Thank you for sharing your struggles too! It was good seeing you & Zack at the playdate (& other kids too)--being reminded that other kids throw tantrums and disobey too. It was great timing for me to see other imperfect kids!

Lyndsay--Yes, our little girls have so much in common! Do you think in real life they'd be best friends or competitive enemies? Maybe frenemies? :)

Mom--Thank you so much for the encouragement! It means so much coming from you.

Cate--Yes, sometimes the fear is bigger than the hope, and sometimes it's the other way around--I think you're right; I just need to keep the hope there, whether in small or large amounts!

Janell--I really liked the way you said it--"give them room to have the control they crave in situations where it's appropriate." Sorta choosing your battles.

Our Scoop--There's just so much more on the line once we have kids!!

Dad--Thank you so much for such a sweet and encouraging comment!

LEstes65--I really, really appreciate you sharing your perspective as someone who observes her week to week. Thank you for assuring me she is not a brat!!

caryn--I'm glad this helped you too!

mary--Great insight--easier said than done, but most worthwhile things aren't easy, are they?

Julie--Thank you for the encouragement! Your trust in God challenges me to have more trust.

ACitizen--I like the story of your cousin! Thank you for sharing it! And I also appreciate what you said about happiness. She may be moody and sometimes ornery, but she is happy!

LEstes65 said...


2cats said...

I think self doubt is a natural state for any parent who is doing what they should be doing. Which is training their children to become responsible adults.
My husband and I never knew if we were doing the right thing. We never knew if the lessons we tried to teach our son were reaching their mark.
But last week he called home to tell me about an experience he had just had. He had in fact listened when we had talked. He followed our instructions right down the line.
That was a satisfying day.
You too will have that day happen when you know that all the worry and frustration have been worth it.

A Girl Named Me said...

A little late to the party here, but had to comment...

Chickie won't be a brat. You see, the parents of brats aren't the ones who are concerned with such things.

A very wise person once told me that my son was "awful" at home because that's where it is safe to test the limits.

Console yourself with the fact that you've made it safe for Chickie to test the limits at home.