I've got a major case of mommy guilt.
Guilt is nothing new, as all moms can relate to. We go to bed each night, and think about all the ways we'll do better. Not as much inter-netting. Not as much yelling. Active listening and playing and educating. That guilt is basic to even the very best mothers. The "tomorrow, I'll do better" guilt.
But tonight's guilt needs more than just a vow to play ponies with my girl tomorrow (something she begs me to do almost hourly- but I've actually done only a handful of times).
This guilt needs a vow to change almost every aspect of me, as a mom and as an individual.
The pivotal scene, as it replays in my mind:
My daughter is riding in a boat, at a boardwalk amusement park. She is ringing this little bell and laughing. She keeps ringing the bell- harder and harder and faster and faster and her laughing turns maniacal. She honestly looks like a crazy person. She is drawing stares, and I hear people...laughing. At her. I begin to try to get her attention, to get her to tone it down. And Mr. stops me, asking, "what's she hurting?"
The inner dialogue goes something like this: "She looks insane! But who cares? People are laughing at her! So what? I don't want her to be made fun of! She doesn't know anyone is making fun of her. But someday she will! So she can deal with it then... But I want to PROTECT her!"
I realized that for the past few years, so much of what I rationalized as "protecting" my little girl was in fact hindering her spirit. My daughter has a huge personality. Everything about her is....well...a little intense. She talks constantly. To me. To herself. To strangers. She makes 'best friends' instantly. But she doesn't always realize when those friendships aren't mutual. She tells people she loves them, after knowing them for less than an hour. She hugs strangers, and gives them gifts. She is endearing and loud and frenetic. She gets really really really excited and squeals and gushes and sometimes cries with happiness. She gets really really really mad and stomps her feet and growls and breaks down in sobs. She is truly smart and needs almost constant attention. She tells the people she meets on the street whatever it is that she's learned that day. In great detail and with fierce conviction that everyone would want to know what she learned that day.
She is draining....and amazing. And perfectly her.
In elementary school, this previous paragraph could have easily described me. I danced and sang in public. I yelled out answers and was loud and really really really excited about just about everything.
And in middle school, I got made fun of, relentlessly.
By high school, I was sitting in the back of the room, and never raised my hand. I still can't speak in public. And I care far too much about societal conventions, and what is "appropriate behavior".
Society is going to pick my little girl apart. It's already starting. She comes on so strong, and the little girls at the playground are intimidated by her. She is having a hard time adjusting to the move, and it's heartbreaking. And I had been trying to help, by coaching her to "tone it down".
What an ass, huh?
Society is going to pick my little girl apart. And I've gotta be there, to keep her together. To keep her HER. To support her and encourage her and not let her slip into the back row, quieted by idiotic notions of normalcy.
I need to be a better mother to HER.
And to just let her be.