I worry when my daughter is unkind and pushes and yells and refuses to share. But I love her something fierce and that's a start.

To My Daughter, from Your Anxious Mother

I worry when my daughter is unkind and pushes and yells and refuses to share. But I love her something fierce and that's a start.

By Marina Kalcina of Slay-at-Home Mum

Your face is contorted – fire engine red with rage. In fact, it’s so red it’s starting to turn purple. Your cries escalate with every second that passes and as I watch you, your skin turns blotchy. My stomach is tied up in knots and my face burns with embarrassment.

“No. You need to learn how to share with others,” I say as I turn away from you.

I force myself to join in on the conversation with our visitors. Both mothers, but I know that the sheer force of your tantrums has shocked them – they would have shocked even the most seasoned professional. Let’s face it, though; despite what anyone would have the world believe, when it comes to parenting, no one is a professional. Not even Tizzie Hall.

Your cries eventually stop, but you haven’t forgotten about the books I took away and hid from you. You ask for them and I give in. I always give in. So what have I taught you? Am I teaching you that if you cry long and hard enough, you’ll get your way? Or am I teaching you that if you stop crying and ask nicely, then you’ll get your way? I don’t know. All I know is, I can’t stand your cries. I can’t stand your sadness. I can’t stand your tears. But I wonder if my weakness, my ‘giving in,’ is doing you harm. I wonder and I worry.

The next morning I’m driving us to the gym. You’ll play with the kids in crèche while I work out. Thoughts of the previous day’s play date fill my head. I remember how every time a child came near your toys, or near me, you screamed. You even pushed over a little girl who dared to look at our cat, Buffy, through the back sliding door. You pushed her. For looking at our cat. Dread washes over me. Sadness takes hold. I start to cry and I wonder how you got this way. Is it a reflection of me? Is it my terrible parenting? Did I somehow miss the signs and forget to give you the ‘sharing’ lesson? Is there a sharing lesson? Or is this yet another phase that ‘too shall pass’ – just like the ‘putting everything in your mouth phase.’

Then, of course, I wonder what people think. What do other mothers think of you – screaming every time their sweet children come near me? Screaming every time they dare to touch one of your favourite books? What do they think of me? Are they asking themselves ‘what is she teaching her?’ Are they thinking that I lack serious parenting skills? Do they think I’m a terrible mother? Am I? Not everyone is a good mother, despite what those t-shirts and memes say. Some are naturals. Some have the perfect parenting qualities. Others do not. Maybe I don’t? I don’t know.

Hot tears trace their way down my cheeks, jaw, then neck. I don’t want you to see me like this so I am careful to angle my face away from you. I consider turning around and going home to cry in the comfort of the living room. I’m just so tired, overwhelmed, and filled with panic that I am failing you as a mother. I think of how I called you selfish yesterday when one of the moms told her child not to touch your favourite books and I immediately feel sick. I called you selfish. I said it out loud in front of a whole room full of people. Are you? Are you selfish or did you just have a bad day? Is it me you take after in that department? Is it your father? Is it something I’ve inadvertently taught you? I don’t know.

Parenting makes me sad. I don’t know what I’m doing. I try to follow my gut but often veer off track when I listen to other people’s advice or opinions. I have no idea what parts of your behaviour are phases and not worth worrying about and what parts need particular attention. Even then, I don’t know how to reason with you. How to teach you. How to explain things to you. I let other people’s voices into my head too easily. But that’s not what makes me sad – no. It’s the fact that all of this could have a negative impact on you. You absorb my words and my actions. What if I’m leading you astray?

I never laid down any strict parenting rules when I became pregnant with you – opting to read and follow your cues – but the one thing I wanted was to ensure you knew how to be empathetic. I wanted to somehow teach you empathy. I want this so badly. So when you trip over, no matter how small the fall, I always make sure I ask, “are you OK?” When your pretend baby pretend cries, I always encourage you to give it a cuddle. When your aunty is studying and can’t make it to family dinners, I encourage you to say, ‘I love you’ over the phone because I know she is feeling stressed, and I know it will make her feel better. If daddy pretend cries, I encourage you to hug him.

But when one of your little baby friends uses my hand to pull herself up, you scream ‘OFF!’ and try to kick her off me. Where did you learn this? I have no idea, but I worry that people will think you somehow learnt it from me, or worse, that you are a ‘rotten’ child – dark and mean. This train of thought kills me.

I want you to be empathetic and caring. This is what matters to me. But sometimes I think you are not.

Not yet anyway.

So, what are you?

You are feisty and strong-willed. Cheeky and stubborn. You love to sing and laugh. You love me – oh God, do you love me. You know what you want – and yet you are only two. You are two. You have your whole life ahead of you. The dark side of me laments that that is a long time for me to somehow fuck things up. That there’s ample time for me to somehow pass on a bunch of bad shit I never wanted you to learn. Ample time for me to fill you with biscuits and cake instead of veggies and protein.

But there’s another side of me. A side that sees there’s time for empathy and caring. Time to learn compassion. Time for you to realise that just because another child is holding my hand, it doesn’t mean I can’t hold yours. Time to model sharing over and over and over until you do it without thinking. Time to love you so hard that you will never doubt yourself because no matter what happens to you in this lifetime, you will be enveloped in your mother’s love – Harry Potter-style – ain’t no dark lord messing with my baby girl.

I love you. Now, that’s something I do know. That’s something that doesn’t make me sad, or confuse me. And it’s a start.


About the Author

Marina is a freelance writer living in Melbourne. She splits her days between the written word and marvelling at the stubbornness of her toddler. She has been published on Scary Mommy, Sammiches and Psych Meds, and Mamalode to name a few. Visit her website, Slay-at-Home-Mum, to read more of her work.