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The Ghost Of Mother’s Day Past

As they used to say in OA (Overeaters Anonymous) when I was recovering from an eating disorder in my early 20’s, “you’re only as sick as your secrets.” It’s just one of the horrible mottos that I believe make 12 step programs unsufferable but it is one that stuck with me and makes me try my best to stay honest with myself. Not honest as in “that purple shirt couldn’t be a more hideous color on you.” No, I mean honest about myself. Open about what goes on with me, in my head, in my heart and in my life. I try to stop short if it might hurt other people in my life whether they deserve it or not. But, if it’s something about me, I’ll try to be an open book. It’s therapeutic for me and if you relate in someway – great. If not, hey, we all have our craziness.

I love my daughter fiercly but I’m finding that as she reaches an age where she is more prone to tantrums and not just a new baby who hangs out and is open to anything (which was hard and a big adjustment too), things are coming up. Feelings that are not so pleasant. I’m starting to connect it to the fact that toddlers are difficult. But that’s not the point. We mothers all know that. But as long as I can remember I was told I was “difficult” apparently a special brand of difficult in my mother’s opinion. “You were always a difficult child, lots of attitude.” This has been told to me in a “jokey” way and a harsh way but it’s been said at least a billion times. In every story about me as a child a comment invariably comes up about what a handful I was. My husband’s heard a million of them.

So here’s the anxiety that’s coming up now. I’m actually realizing I wasn’t difficult. I’ve lived with the label so long that’s it’s become imprinted in my self image – as much a part of me as having brown hair, being a dog person and not looking great in hats. I treated the knowlege of my difficultness as a handicap. Knowing I was a handful and hard to tolerate made me extra careful in dealing with bosses, teachers, friends and especially men. “I’m difficult” I’d tell myself which translated to not worthy.

So now I have a toddler and guess what – huge fucking surprise – like every toddler, she’s difficult at times. THEY ALL ARE. And, I’m losing my identity because if she’s just a toddler and has tantrums and opinions and is sometimes so frustrating I want to strangle her or have a glass of wine (99% of the time I choose the latter) then maybe I wasn’t a special case after all. Maybe, probably, I had a very young mother in a bad marriage who was unfulfilled and frustrated and had very very little patience for a small child who rightfully felt the world revolved around her.

So, maybe every comment about me being “selfish” “thinking I’m the queen of the house.” “thinking of no one but myself”, maybe it was true. True but not special. True when I was a teenager and a toddler. Two times it’s to be expected. And, usually we grow out of it. Because that certainly isn’t me now. I’m a mother who is loving and patient with her child, husband, friends etc. I do my very best. I’m also better equipt because I’m much older and more secure in my life at this point. But I’m finding out how hard it is to outgrow a label.

These realizations don’t free you right away, first they depress you, then they anger you, then they send you back into therapy to make tripily sure you don’t pass on any shit to your beautiful and yes, difficult in a typical way child. And that’s why I have to go buy myself a new orange shirt today. It’s therapy.

Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on May 16, 2006 6:22 pmUncategorized19 comments  

19 Comments

  1. Irreverent Antisocial Intellectual said,

    Get out of my life, dammit! No one should have to be there!
    Congrats on the new shirt purchase. For me, it’s shoes.
    Chin up, we will not the next generation of Joan, I promise!

    | May 16, 2006 @ 7:14 pm

  2. Fidget said,

    It’s terrifying and relieving all at teh same time when you suddenly realize you can be reffered to as normal. Take a deep breath and let it come, it’s liberating once the waves receed

    | May 16, 2006 @ 7:56 pm

  3. Antique Mommy said,

    It’s amazing how much damage we can do to kids with off-handed convenient cutesy labels. My label was “impetuous”. I think you should buy two shirts.

    | May 16, 2006 @ 8:26 pm

  4. Amy said,

    Well said. My label was “average”. Not meant to be a slam, but was. That’s the one I can’t seem to let go of. You did a beautiful job of capturing how that impacts you and how we don’t want to pass that along to our kids. You are really on to something here.

    | May 16, 2006 @ 8:46 pm

  5. Neil said,

    That was so insightful. Usually we only focus on a child’s growing self-awareness, but I think you’re discovering that motherhood changes the mother’s self-awareness as well.

    | May 16, 2006 @ 10:14 pm

  6. sarcastic journalist said,

    I was the “special/crazy/wild” one. And woah, guess how I always describe my kid?

    I can’t wait till she gets a blog.

    | May 17, 2006 @ 4:15 am

  7. Jess Riley said,

    I was “space cadet.”

    This was a touching post, Stef.

    | May 17, 2006 @ 4:58 am

  8. Anonymous said,

    Thank you for saying it. My son is 4 1/2 and gets lots of attention from everyone including me.Sometimes it feels like I get forgotten because I am the “mother”. My parents called me bubble butt when I was little, so you know I have a complex about my butt now.

    | May 17, 2006 @ 2:06 pm

  9. Ruth Dynamite said,

    I always had “a lot of potential” (for what I don’t know).

    The real beauty (and pain) of motherhood is that you grow, change, and adapt right along with your child. It gets better. Hang tight.

    | May 17, 2006 @ 8:23 pm

  10. surcie said,

    I was labeled “very well behaved.” I was and I still am the good daughter. My mother has only ever described me in the most positive of terms. But the thing is, I too have those feelings of unworthiness. Go figure.

    | May 17, 2006 @ 8:32 pm

  11. sweatpantsmom said,

    What a great post. It’s going to remind me to watch what I say around my girls, even if I’m joking.

    One of my daughter’s classmates told me recently, “My dad always tells me I’m stupid.” It just broke my heart.

    | May 18, 2006 @ 12:28 am

  12. scarbie doll said,

    Oh girl, I totally feel ya. And I’d much rather write it out in the blog and pay myself in shirts, than some rich shrink who’s just going to tell me what I already know.

    PS: I also had an eating disorder. I think these horrible experiences made us into the funny girls we are today. :)

    | May 18, 2006 @ 1:47 am

  13. Lena said,

    I totally understand. I remember this transition with my daughter a couple years ago. And guess what? It doesn’t get better! Ha!

    I too was told by my father that I was “selfish” “difficult” “thankless”.

    I too internalized this and accepted it as my identity. Only as a mother, I too have started to unravel that my father was the selfish one.

    You’re not alone! Especially with the mid-day drinking 😉

    | May 18, 2006 @ 3:01 am

  14. mommy on the verge said,

    Fabulous post. Right on sister. Those labels get slapped on you and you become ‘the sickly child, ‘the hard to handle child..’ etc., etc..
    tough to shake these off, but it seems like you are doing it.

    | May 18, 2006 @ 6:59 am

  15. kassi said,

    Boy did you ever lay it out. I too have been “labeled”, and it is so strange that people still treat me as though I am a small difficult child, or a teenager, because that is all they remember of me.

    Yeah for self realization. It’s their problem not mine.

    | May 18, 2006 @ 1:05 pm

  16. sunshine scribe said,

    What a realization – definately a new orange shirt worthy. And a tequila :)

    Thanks for introducing me to your great blog! Love it.

    | May 18, 2006 @ 7:54 pm

  17. KTP said,

    I was the one with potential too. While it buoyed me through a challenging childhood, sometimes now I wonder if I disappointed anyone. It’s hard to live down the prophecy.

    | May 18, 2006 @ 11:17 pm

  18. Teacher lady said,

    Sigh. This was painful to read but so open and honest. I’m glad you wrote it. I, too, heard stories for YEARS about what a “difficult child” I was. And a teenager? Oh heavens – I didn’t drink, smoke, drive recklessly, have sex, skip school or fail any classes. But boy was I sarcastic! My mother – she was such a saint! Now that I think about it, I was a colicky baby, so Mom and I got off on the wrong foot and I’ve been “difficult” for the past 35+ years. Except when I realized that calling a colicky baby “difficult” is the same as when Samantha Jones of Sex & the City fame calls Miranda’s new baby “a real asshole.” Ridiculous. And impossible. Your daughter can best be described as a toddler. With the best and worst of all that entails. Hang in there and please keep being so honest with your posts. Talk about “keepin’ it real!”

    | May 19, 2006 @ 9:53 pm

  19. willowfae said,

    That “potential”! My mom always expected me to get straight A’s. Not A minuses, but A’s. Becuase I was a genius and I had potential!!! Well, guess what? I was so scared of not being able to do that, I ended up dropping out of college and being the only one in my family to not graduate. I am back in school now (10 years later) but I still blame my Mom for labeling me like that.

    | May 21, 2006 @ 12:14 am

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