Today is my birthday and, so far, it sucks.

Like most parents, I spent the weekend smothering my kids with hugs and kisses and being thankful that I can. I am still processing all of my conflicting emotions about the recent events in Connecticut – anger, fear, denial, depression.

Last night I stood at the foot of my 7 year old first grader’s bed and watched her sleep.  She was so peaceful.  There was none of the anxiety, contrariness or defiance that my husband and I deal with on a daily basis.  I thought of all of her special qualities and her beautiful and contagious laugh.   I thought about her constant raiding of the recycling bin to make 3 dimensional art projects, her sweet fairy drawings, writing in her new diary, practicing keyboards, singing and dancing, telling jokes, and my favorite – snuggling and reading to her at bedtime.

This morning I woke up and said to myself, “It’s my birthday.  I’m not going to worry about whether she drinks her juice (she has a medical condition that requires medicine delivered daily via juice), does her chores, etc.  There will be no fighting.”

I had a sinking feeling it wouldn’t work out that way.  See, my daughter has a habit of ruining birthdays.  One year she destroyed my husband’s cake before we even sang happy birthday.  Another year (her own birthday this time) she threw a plate of spaghetti at a wall.  We can’t go back to the Spaghetti Factory.  Today she was just plain defiant.  Would not do anything that was asked of her.  At times like this, it is hard to keep my cool.  Hard to love and not be resentful.  We just had a wonderful week of Hanukkah.  Fun times with the family, new toys and clothes.  But that is all quickly forgotten.  As parents, we get used to feeling beat up and unappreciated.  It can be a thankless job.

And there in lays the conflict:   How can you love and cherish someone so much yet feel so unappreciated and unloved by them?

It is our job as parents to love our children no matter what.  I am sometimes at a loss as to how to deal with the incredibly strong feelings my children have.  (Hell, I have a hard enough time dealing with the incredibly strong feeling that I have).  Impulse control is a constant struggle for everyone in my family.  I don’t know if it’s innate, inherited, or learned, but none of that really matters.  The fact is that it’s just plain hard.

In response to the recent events, Liza Long wrote a very insightful blog post about what it’s like to fear your own child and the horrible state of mental health care in this country.

When I read posts such as Lisa’s, I’m reminded that my struggles with my kids are fairly tame.  Yes, my 4 year old son’s idea of conflict resolution is to hit or kick the other person, but I’m hopeful that with time and a little more guidance he’ll move past that.

Today when I dropped my daughter off at school, I tried to give her a hug and tell her that I loved her.  She shrugged it off and started to walk to class.  But if I know her as I do, she’ll apologize when she sees me tonight.  Because the truth is, she loves me, too.


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