From the time she was born, I have had moments of feeling like I don’t know how to be a good mother to my daughter. Those moments seem to be happening more and more often these days.
The irony of the situation is not lost on me: that she is so much like me, yet at times I seem incapable of parenting her in a way that doesn’t end up with frustration and tears across the board. I should know her better. I should know myself better.
Or maybe that is precisely the problem. Maybe I know all too well what her reaction will be to the request/consequence/suggestion/encouragement I have in my arsenal, because it is exactly the same as mine would be. I know the magnitude of stubborn I am up against. I know how hard it will be for her to give in or admit she is wrong. I know I am facing the same challenges with her that others face with me. So I know the likely outcome before the battle of wills even begins. And I feel defeated before I ever try.
Except for those times when she surprises me, and I realize that maybe I’m doing okay. Maybe she won’t turn out like me after all. Or maybe she will, and that’s not such a bad thing.
Last week, my daughter needed to have some blood drawn. As with most kids, the mere thought of it terrified her. I tried to ease her fears by telling her I’ve had blood drawn many times, and it really just feels like a little pinch. However, I knew before I even spoke that my words would do nothing. Sure enough, she answered me with the logic that I ALSO said getting her ears pierced would only feel like a pinch, but it was basically the worst pain she had ever felt in her life. And that made me a liar whose pain gauges could never again be trusted. She had also decided that she did not care about the doctor’s orders, and she was going to cover her arms and not let the needles anywhere near her veins.
Sigh. Another battle of wills. And the worst kind: where she doesn’t really have a choice in the matter, even though she thinks she does. This might not end well.
As we sat in the waiting room, I could tell she was getting more and more nervous, and more obstinate. So I tried again.
“You know, you’ve had blood drawn before. When you were four.”
“I did? Was I scared then?”
“Yep. And you thought they were going to take ALL of your blood. When I told you they were only going to take a little, you still didn’t like it. You told me, ‘But I just know they’re going to take my favorite blood.'”
She giggled a little. This was going in the right direction.
“And you know what? You didn’t even cry when they took the blood. So it couldn’t have hurt that bad. And do you remember when you freaked out for, like, two years before your five-year-old booster shots?”
“Yeah. I did NOT want to get those.”
“I know. You were going to a birthday party right afterwards, and I told you to think about cake to get your mind off of it. So when the nurse came in to give you the shots, you closed your eyes and started whispering, cake…cake…cake.“
More giggles. And louder than the last.
“Then when the nurse was finished, you opened your eyes and said, ‘It’s over? That didn’t hurt at all. It only felt like a little tiger bite.'”
“A tiger bite? I didn’t think a tiger bite would hurt? I was weird.”
“You were adorable and hilarious. And hey, since we’re going to Lion’s Choice for lunch after this, maybe when the lady takes your blood, you could just whisper, Lion’s Choice…Lion’s Choice…Lion’s Choice.”
“I am NOT doing that. That’s so embarrassing. But maybe you could just hold my hand.”
Thankfully, those stories helped to relax her. And reminiscing about the funny little girl afraid of shots she used to be reminded me that the funny big girl she is now is still gets afraid, and really isn’t as big as we both think she is. And sometimes her mom does know exactly what to say. I didn’t need to convince her that I knew it wasn’t going to hurt; I needed to assure her that she already knew it didn’t. Not that I had already survived this, but that she already had. We may be very similar, but I can not offer my own experiences as substitutes for hers. She is like me, but she is not me.
When needle time came, she motioned me over to hold her hand, and just for old time’s sake, I whispered Lion’s Choice…Lion’s Choice…Lion’s Choice. She smiled. When all was said and done, she declared the ordeal pretty painless. She even admitted I was right; it had only felt like a pinch. I had earned back the trust lost during the great ear-piercing lie. And just in case you glossed over it, she admitted I was right. She is one step closer to being a better woman than her mom.
And I escaped another moment of feeling like I don’t know how to be a good mother to my daughter. Not because I was right. Not even because she admitted I was right. But because somehow along the way, I made us both forget it was a battle of wills.