Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Halcyon Days

I considered naming this post "Things I'm Not Proud Of" and then I'd chuckle because ending sentences with prepositions is one of them. But really it's just Thing. One thing right now.

Several weeks ago I wrote and photographed glowingly the mountain-scaling prowess of my 5-year-old daughter. I carried the pictures around in my bag to show people in case the first few times I told them about it and then sent them the online photos they didn't quite get the scale and magnificence of her feat. I was so full of myself I kept purging my pride like a bulimic after a wedding buffet.

And just as I thought, things I dream and fantasize about Do Not Come True. After four or five subsequent visits to the climbing gym in town, Madeleine is now paralyzed with fear when reaching the height of, say, a handicapped toilet seat. Every visit got worse and worse, until finally I found myself climbing up next to her (approximately 3 or 4 inches off the ground) and talking down to her in a way that had the climbing gym aide, a 19-year-old with nothing better to do than tape and re-tape his thumbs for hours on end, worried and disapproving. Yes, I achieved an all-time lowpoint in five years of parenting. I garnered the disdain of a teenage stoner gym rat.

I have caused this. I have, with each boast and every hoist of the climbing rope, grounded her. Now we go to the climbing gym as a family and she gives me worried looks and speaks brightly of how wonderful it is to play in the gravel with her little brother. She offers to chaperone him around the cavernous gym and help him climb in the bouldering cave. Where there are no ropes and no heights greater than 7 feet. She's so afraid to disappoint me she'll do anything but get on that wall again. She's like a dog licking the hand of Michael Vick.

I'm trying to reform - believe me. We talked and talked about how Mommy was not fair, Mommy was just so excited from her earlier success, Mommy just wants her to be her best. But really, Mommy just sucks. Go ahead and say it. I do, and in doing so, hopefully we'll avoid this again in a couple weeks when fall soccer starts. Mommy just sucks. Mommy just sucks. Mommy just sucks. Mommy will not

[Edited to add: Apparently Mommy will not finish a complete thought in her apoplectic condition. Also Quinn was eating Floam.]


Blogger Orange said...

You're just a jock. Me, I'm an unathletic klutz, so I don't have big expectations for my kid's athletic success. He nailed the dunk tank target on his second throw, and that may well have been his sporting peak thus far.

Remind yourself of the things Madeleine loves to do and focus some bits of praise on areas related to that, ease off the climbing idea for a while, and (1) you will feel much better, (2) she'll quit thinking about how important the climbing thing was to you, and (3) maybe someday, when she's 45 or so, she'll be in the mood to try climbing again.

8/08/2007 2:05 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

Repeat after me....

No big deal.....No big deal.....

They find their way despite us, my love.

8/08/2007 3:00 PM  
Anonymous Ortizzle said...

Mignon, I hate to see you beat yourself up like that. Stop it, woman! You are a SUPERB MOM! It's impossible to know how kids will react to praise. For every one who finds it difficult to live up to a certain standard, there have to be a gazillion who are starving for praise and would climb Mr. Everest if it killed them and they were scared sh*tless, just to get a few kind words.

Anyway... I think Orange pretty much nailed it. Next time you go to that gym, make it clear that you are going for yourself, and would be so glad if she could babysit her brother and play in the gravel. And then forget about it and let the chips fall where they may.

There. I feel better. I hope you do too, dear. ((( )))

8/08/2007 3:10 PM  
Anonymous Nancy said...

Parenting is the hardest job, ever.

But it's like horseback riding: gotta get right back in the saddle after the fall. I think the others above provide some great advice.

p.s., you do not suck at all. So there.

8/09/2007 6:25 AM  
Blogger Nance said...

The thing is--and of course you know this--we never know what they'll do.

Or when.

We just have to keep remembering that.

8/09/2007 7:44 AM  
Blogger Bob said...

how were you to know? 99% of kids would've basked in this praise and got a case of the big-head.

you certainly didn't do this on purpose, so you shouldn't beat yourself up over it. try to learn the lesson and move on.

8/09/2007 9:57 AM  
Blogger lu said...

Mommy was simply human.

8/09/2007 2:21 PM  
Blogger Mamalujo said...

I don't think Jim would appreciate your discussing your fellating skills so openly, but I digress.

I also thought that you gave up boxing some time ago. So quit beating yourself up.

Save your energy for your next fuckup. Or for that hug.

Do you really really really believe that you push like that, or have these expectations that serve only to turn your children into wimpering dogs? If you are that way, then you've at least acheived the knowledge required to change. So work on it. But I'm willing to bet you really aren't like that, you just have healthy pride in them.

8/09/2007 2:27 PM  
Blogger LetterB said...

Agree completely with Bob and Nance. How could you know that she would react that way to completely justified pride? Mother-daughter dynamics are totally impossible to navigate (although I say this only from my experience as a daughter). Please don't blame yourself.

Floam does look so yummy. Even I am tempted.

8/09/2007 10:48 PM  
Blogger spellconjurer said...

I totally get your post. I don't think it's possible to love too much. As teenagers they won't want you to express it as much though. I'm there now with it. However, the devious side of me is wondering,,could this be used to your advantage? Think of all the things you do NOT want her comfortable doing. Speeding while driving, boys, drugs or drinking,,,bad grades? Shoplifting, anything resulting in a felony charge,,jay walking,,embezzlement,,cheating on tests,,getting fired from the gift wrap department at your local family owned department store because she's been warned 3 times to stop using double decorations on the baby shower gift wrap selection and yet she STILL puts two fake baby rattles on the bow,,oh uhh wait never mind that's me. Duh. Anywhooooooo. If you can use this technique to get her to shun the behaviours you are not proud of,,,wait. I've confused myself. What is the topic again? (a bazillion hugs and lots of internet stalker love)

8/10/2007 6:30 AM  
Blogger meno said...

You do not suck and i'll fight anyone who says otherwise, including you.

So you learned something and so did your child. Such is life. Playing in the gravel is cool too.

8/10/2007 7:56 PM  
Blogger lildb said...

tell Quinn I'll send him his check for adequately distracting you in a timely fashion immediately. for chrissake, M, take it easy. you are not evil incarnate. so you made a mistake. gosh! no one else ever has, as a parent, made a mistake, so I can totally see how you would want to self-flagellate and maybe wear a wardrobe made entirely of horse hair and feathers and maybe a dash or two of tar for the rest of your days.

or, you could, you know, forgive yourself? and show your daughter that it's okay to blow it sometimes.

love you sweetie.

you really are a blazing hot good mom. I've seen you in action. I can tell. I'm wise and wrinkled. I know all. (really. despite having dipped my ass in water that day, I was wise and all-knowing.)


8/11/2007 9:14 PM  
Blogger LazyLazyMe said...

There are photos of me as a child smiling on a plane.

It has not happened since.

Photos lie, children forget, if not for things like this what would therapists do?

8/12/2007 6:13 PM  
Blogger Esereth said...

Comfort yourself with this. You still pretty much write the best blog ever, and I really like you.

And everyone else's advice about you being a great mom, Jocko, and your daughter being awesome and fully recovering, that's all true, too.

8/15/2007 11:10 AM  
Blogger Arabella said...

It's not your fault! I'll bet the no-heights thing is just a phase, sort of like when my children began sleeping through the night (lasted approximately four days). She'll be back up there in no time. She's a good kid, and you're a good mom.

What's Floam?

8/16/2007 11:20 AM  
Anonymous TB said...

Dude, you don't suck. I do this already and my kid barely does anything other than drool. "Oh look! Did you see that? He can put his hands together! He's clearly a genious!"
But thanks for pointing out that at some point, the kids pay attention to what we say and do. It's easy to forget that.

8/20/2007 7:49 AM  
Blogger spellconjurer said...

p l e a s e p o s t a m f a d i n g w i t h o u t m i g n o n ,,,,,,,,,

8/25/2007 8:28 PM  
Anonymous wordgirl said...

You were trying to get her realize potential and you were proud that she embraced adventure. Fear is a temporary setback. The good thing is you're not one of those parents who bullies their kid out of fear. You respect her feelings and once she begins to trust herself again, she just might try it. Go easy on yourself.

8/29/2007 10:38 AM  

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