“Motherhood is a choice you make everyday, to put someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing even when you’re not sure what the right thing is…and to forgive yourself, over and over again, for doing everything wrong.” ~ Donna Ball, At Home on Ladybug Farm
G and I have been having some tough days. She turned nine three weeks ago, but she’s already been exhibiting signs of spoiled teenager-itis. My patience is thin when it comes to juvenile tantrums, and so she and I have been flexing our respective guns. I was raised in a very strict Asian upbringing, and so I refuse to let her “win.” She, by my parent’s definition, is completely American and lacks all the submissive qualities that are typical in Asian children. In one sense, I am happy that she is headstrong and determined, but in other ways, I am disappointed that she has elected to direct her rebellious ways towards me.
Yesterday morning, she and I had a heated argument. I feel weird calling it an argument since she is only nine years old, but there it is. We were in the car on the way to her school, and she was upset that I had bothered her about eating breakfast. “You are soooo strict,” she whined. “All the other kids don’t have their mothers bothering them about breakfast.”
“I would consider myself so lucky if I had even one person bothering me to eat something,” I answered. “I could starve and no one would care to even ask me if I wanted anything to eat. I feel sorry for those kids whose parents don’t bother them to eat. I am sure they would be happy for a mother like me who will feed them all the time.”
In typical tweeny fashion, she just rolled her eyes in response. I would have let it go at that, but unfortunately, she continued. “You are soooo annoying,” she said. “None of the other kids eat breakfast either and their parents don’t care.”
Because she continued, and because her attitude was crass and disrespectful, I got angry. Furious, even. I ripped into her by telling her how ungrateful and disrespectful she was to speak to me in that way, and that maybe if she was so unhappy with me, that she could go live with her drunk of a biological father as he would with all certainty not care if she ate breakfast or not. Perhaps, in retrospect, I should not have said that, but what can I say – I was angry. She, of course, started crying as she got out of the car to go into the school, but not before slamming the car door with all her strength. I drove away, seething, but forgot about everything as I boarded the train to head into work. A little while later, my mobile phone rings. It is the school psychologist. “Your daughter was very upset this morning and she was crying. When the teacher asked her what was wrong, she said ‘my mom told me not to tell.’ Did something happen this morning?” His tone is questioning. Accusatory. I felt insulted. It may not have been, but I felt as though he was judging me on my parenting skills. “Did something happen?” “What happened was that my daughter was being a disrespectful brat, and I verbally put her in her place. She got upset and started crying.”
He paused before replying. “Well, when kids come to the school visibly upset, we have to ask, in case of….” I stopped him before he could finish. “My daughter and I had a mother-daughter talk, and unfortunately, she got upset. Nothing happened. Thank you for your concern.”
While my parents used to smack us on the back of our heads whenever we were being bad, I cannot even talk harshly to my kid now lest I be investigated for child abuse. I am afraid for our future. I feel as though we are raising our future generations to be wimpy, disrespectful and unafraid of authority.