My newest revelation occurred during one of my conversations with my best friend. Really, it seems that most of my "ah ha" moments occur during my conversations with her. We have a lot of great talks.
Anyway, we were discussing my daughter's wonderful behaviors. Again, A has always been the kid who acts perfect around everyone. She obeys the rules, says "yes ma'am," "please," and "thank you." She's that way with everyone but me. It's not like she's got multiple personality disorder or even that she's acting bratty. She's just being A, uncensored. What I see is raw emotion.
Before I got my depression under control I thought "what have I done wrong?" A would be hysterical with me, but when someone else would step in and do whatever I had been trying, A would respond calmly and settle down.
Seeing that was hard for me for a long time. I thought maybe I had "babied" A too much. I thought if I had done something differently that my relationship with her would have been different. I thought perhaps my insecurities as a mom had rubbed off on her and made her an insecure infant. I had about a million of these self-blaming scripts that ran through my head.
Then one day it started to click: A felt more comfortable with me than any other person in her life. She and I have a special bond. She knows I love her unconditionally.
Whoa! What a compliment.
However, really "getting it" was a process. Sure, I "knew" this--but why was she prone to acting the way she did. Surely I had done something wrong...
Now, I'm glad to say that I think after 4 1/2 years it has finally sunk in. A feels so confident in my love for her that she knows she can truly let her feelings show through and nothing will change between us. It certainly doesn't make her behaviors easy to deal with, but now I know I didn't do anything wrong. I also know that she really has reasons for acting the way she does. She's highly emotional. She's 4. She's doing the best she can. She's relying on me to teach her how to handle these intense feelings.
Boy do I have a long road to hoe, but I know that there will be a confident, self-controlled young lady on the other end.
The second part to this post is what I realized the other day. I have always seen so much of me in A. I can relate to a lot of her preferences because I felt the way she acts when I was a kid. I just don't remember acting the way she does. I always thought perhaps the reason my mom doesn't have any specific parenting tips to give me (other than the fact that I don't ask her) was because she just forgot how things were.
A few memories came to mind, though, that helped shed a different light on things. There are two times in my life that I can honestly remember (there are probably a few more than that, but not many) that I truly let loose and acted the way A acts with me. In those instances, I remember being aware that Mom was close to the edge of "going crazy" (as I called her episodes), but I didn't care and just went ahead and threw a fit.
Whoa...it hit me that I never had the solace that A has. As a child my mother was never someone I could afford to let see me at my worst. I knew that her love for me was conditional. I couldn't lose that love, so I acted like an angel.
I will say that my grandma gave me the closest thing I knew to unconditional love. I wouldn't say that her love had strings attached, but she had mental problems of her own. I don't think she would have loved me differently. I do think she would have acted differently. I learned early on what to say and what not to say. Not for fear of making Grandma angry, but I knew that her response would have either confused me or taxed her mentally. So, I censored myself around her too.
The bright side of all of this is that the ability to cope with anxiety and depression seems to grow stronger from generation to generation. Sure, I struggle with those disorders, but not like my mom and grandma. Sure, A will be prone to depression and anxiety, but her arsenal will already have a few strategies in it that will help her deal with the issues she'll face. Some of the strategies won't take any effort on her part because she and I have been working together on them since she was a toddler. Some will take a conscious effort. Then, there may be times she needs more help. There may be times she needs to see a counselor regularly or take medication for a while. And she'll grow up knowing that's ok.