May 25th, 2018:
Today was long, and draining, and defeating. Each day, my daughter grows older and smarter and more fiercely independent. I’ve raised her to own her body, to speak her mind, and to question everything. I love that she does these things. I hate that she does these things. I try to avoid power struggles with her. If she doesn’t want to do something, I think about why I want her to do it, why she doesn’t want to do it, and if it’s necessary/how necessary it is that she do it. If she does something that I don’t approve of, I consider it from her perspective and work to understand her reasoning. However, some days, when I’m tired and drained and defeated, I find myself wishing momentarily that she’d wasn’t so independent. Sometimes, in these moments, I snap at her. I did that today.
I was driving her to my mom’s house to spend the night and simultaneously talking to my mom on the phone. She was calling to me from the backseat that she wanted to put her blanket on her “babies” but couldn’t reach them with her seatbelt on. I halfway heard and didn’t fully process this while I was engrossed in my phone call with my mom. She continued to call out to me for help, then started calling my name over and over, louder and louder, and finally let out a frustrated scream/screech and unbuckled the chest piece of her carseat. I turned around and snapped at her to put her seatbelt back on and she immediately began to cry.
After taking several deep breaths to calm down, I asked her why she was crying, not because I couldn’t guess but because I think it’s important to let her communicate how she feels about things. She said that she was crying because I told her to put her seatbelt on “and that makes me sad”. I asked why that makes her sad and she said, “because you yelled at me”. I then told her that I was sorry for yelling at her, that I was tired and frustrated but that being tired and frustrated doesn’t make it okay to be mean to her. I reminded her why it’s important that she keep her seatbelt on in the car and never remove it without asking, and did my best to explain to her that I can’t always get things for her when I’m driving because I have to pay attention to where I’m going.
And, as I’m wondering to myself if it’s unrealistic to expect a 3-year-old to understand anything I’m saying, she said to me, “okay Mama. I’m sorry I screamed at you too” and I was so proud and awed by this amazing, brilliant, compassionate, loving, and yes fiercely independent child and also ashamed and afraid of how easily my words and actions can devastate this little girl who looks at me with all the love in the world in her eyes, like I hung the stars.