Somehow–mixed up with my headache and my fever and my general discontent with the entire world–I feel like the issue Where The Kids Rank has been striking me a lot, recently.
Jay just wrote an interesting musing on the issue of kids vs. spouse, and a parenting community I belong to recently had a discussion about what it means to prioritize your kids and your marriage appropriately. Granted, I have no spouse to worry about in this equation, but it’s still an issue about which I have an intense curiosity (due in part to the fact that my own marriage started unravelling as soon as the kids hit the scene).
I know someone who often refers to one of their (young) kids as their “best friend.” It horrifies me. We’re supposed to raise our kids. We’re supposed to guide them. We’re supposed to model appropriate adult relationships. We’re supposed to provide for them and accept that the relationship is unequal by nature. The disservice visited upon a child who is imbued with such misplaced importance at such a young age… well, I’d not want to be bankrolling that therapy fund. (I know, I know; it’s too bad I can’t tell you how I really feel about that….)
But I do worry that I’m too far afield, myself.
I’m a complicated person, with a complicated daughter… and we have a complicated relationship. I will fully admit to jealousy of others who seem to glide through the parent/child space with no bigger issue than the occasional “You’re a mean mama!” But I also have a… hmmm, I don’t want to call him simple… less complicated child with whom I have a pretty idyllic relationship. So it’s not as if I don’t get to experience that sort of ease, too.
I don’t love one of them more than the other. I love them differently because they are different; and then I agonize over how they may perceive that. Because guilt is my middle name.
Anyway, what I sometimes get concerned about (you know, when I’m not beating myself up about anything else, at that moment), is that I am so often laying down the law and saying no and making her tow the line, that she knows I love her, but she doesn’t feel it. Our “tender” moments (for lack of a better descriptor) are not as numerous as I’d like.
Today, I brought a pale and listless Chickadee back home. I offered comfort and toast and ginger ale, and let her crawl into my bed. We took a nap together. When she woke up, she threw her arm around my neck and thanked me for taking good care of her when I’m not feeling so good myself. (I didn’t tell her; she knew.) I kissed her sweaty forehead and smiled a little at her uncomplicated trust. Moments like those, it feels worth it. She knows. And it means I’m doing something right, even when I so often wonder if I’m not doing enough.
It’s a nice counterbalance to the times when I offer, “Small girl for sale!” and I’m only mostly kidding.
On the other hand, it’s not a substitute for the more adult, more equal relationships in my life. I’m grateful I can take care of her when she needs me to. I also wish I had someone to help take care of me. I don’t know if I’ll ever have that, again. And I’m not sure how I’ll fit in all the pieces together in the proper order.
All I know for sure is that love is complicated.