Saturday, February 24, 2007


My daughter’s going through a personal crisis and I can’t help but feel guilty. It’s time for my dark little secret to be exposed. I let her down. Bike riding in the park. Many years ago. She was about ten years old and we were having a mother-daughter outing on the local bike trail. It was a sunny cheerful day but lots of muddy puddles from the previous day’s showers. Jenn was riding ahead and I warned her to be careful. Her tire caught a rut and she skidded and fell. I pulled alongside her and, instead of being caring and concerned, I got all huffy and angry.

She needed me to say “Ouch, I feel your pain” but my tone and look conveyed “How dare you fall off your bike? Not acceptable. Just pick yourself up.”

Her fall from the bike was my fall from grace.

After my initial anger and impatience, I saw that the kid really did bang her knee up and it was bleeding. Jenn was in tears and let me know that I wasn’t giving her what she needed, compassion not anger. To her credit, she called me on my shoddy behavior. I softened and promptly fell into mother mode, rummaging through my jeans for a tissue to wipe away some of the dirt and blood. We didn’t have any water bottles with us, but I did have a thermos of iced tea. Trying my best, I poured the iced tea on her scraped knee. She yelped and the tea probably stung but it let me clean the wound. Hey, you do what you gotta do.

That was then; this is now.

My daughter is falling. There is no room for my own agenda. She needs kindness and compassion. Her tears do not upset me. I feel her pain. I am there to lift her up.

I think this time I got it right.


My MoMtra said...

We have all made decisions, in hindsight, we aren't thrilled with. You're definitly getting it right this time as I'm sure you have many other times. Thanks for your many of us are stumbling through this whole parenting thing and it's so nice to get a second generations perspective. You too are brave.

s@bd said...

I think you get it right an awful lot more than you give yourself credit for.

slouching mom said...

Oh, oh, oh. I need a tissue. If you kick yourself for every parental misstep you made, you will be bruised all over, and for what? But if you instead imagine all those times when you triumped as a parent, you will shortly come to understand the the truth of your parenting lies in the ratio of those triumphs to the missteps. And you won't feel so black-and-blue anymore.

slouching mom said...

Oh my, I apparently need some coffee. That's 'triumphed,' not 'triumped,' though I kind of like 'triump' too.

And 'come to understand THAT,' not 'the.'


The Mater said...

Thanks, guys.

sm, I like "triumped" too ... sounds like winning out over whumping. Kind of a triumphant trump. Don't worry, I know I played my cards better than many but this one instance when she was little always sticks in my mind because I did have a lesson to learn. My family tapes were playing and I didn't allow the real truth of the moment to reach me at first. I was uncomfortable with "weakness".

kelly said...

so good we get so many chances to do better, all the while doing the best we can. You're a good mother. Jenn's a good mother. What a gift that you're sharing this.

Ann said...

YOU MADE ME CRY!! For many reasons.... but those are my issues not yours.

I have to tell you.. you absolutely have it right this time. absolutely!!!! There is NO doubt in my mind.

Wow.. I think I wish you were my mater.. :)

anna said...

I hear - from way outside - something different. So long ago, when she fell off her bike, she let you know that what you gave her initially wasn't what she needed. To me, that is a triumph in parenting. It's not that we get it right all the time, not that we always say the perfect thing, but that we raise children who can express their needs and who expect us to want to take care of them in a way that feels like caretaking to them.

You did great back then. You made a mistake, she let you know, you heard her and you shifted your approach. In my books, that's about as good as it gets because, rather than the moment when we are the perfect parent and say the perfect thing and our child is the passive recipient of perfectly attuned parenting, in that case she needed to stand up for herself, figure out what she needed and let you know about it.

So my vote is for all of us to abandon the fantasy that the perfect parent always gets it right. My vote is for the good enough parent who gets it right enough that when she makes a mistake, her child calls her on her shoddy behavior.

Take good care.