Amelia is growing physically, psychologically and emotionally everyday. Her imagination is blossoming to include stories about “crocodiles going up in the sky in an airplane”. It is answers like these that I receive when asking her what she did at the park or if she would like more milk. At least we’ve moved on from the simple and yet forceful “No!” to every inquiry from a few months ago.
She has also reached the ripe old age of “Why?” which appeared completely overnight. Last Monday, I asked her to get dressed and she replied “Nooooooo!” On Tuesday, her reply to the same request was “Why?” Because it is time to go outside. “Why?” Because you are going to the park. “Why?” Because I’m your mother and I said so! And so, my metamorphosis of turning into my own mother is complete.
I see myself in Amelia, as every parent is destined to do, and I wonder how much she will be like me. Nature or nurture. Children are obviously a combination of so many things; personality traits they view in their parents, interactions with others, and their own people. I think back to my relationship with my own mother and how difficult it was from age 4 to 24. It seemed she was always on me. Rules, regulations, expectations, do this, be quiet, don’t talk back, give that back to your brother, don’t roll your eyes at me…..
I often wonder if it was because I was first-born, a daughter, or simply difficult. Perhaps a combination of those mixed with her own zero tolerance policy for any shenanigans real or imagined. She was not affectionate in any recognizable fashion, but certainly showed her abundance of love and caring by taking care of every detail, anticipating every need, cooking every meal, checking the homework, and tucking me in. I see myself in my mother as well, but I recognize that I would like to be a bit more forgiving. A bit more generous with hugs and encouraging words for a job well done.
It is me, not Amelia, which makes it a hope that I must work at achieving. She has no issue with challenging us at every turn as a 3 year-old is apt to do and likes to see how far she can go with not doing what she is being asked to do. She is bossy, stubborn and opinionated. The sky’s the limit unless put in time-out to prove otherwise.
She also tries very hard at new tasks and revels in making us proud; wanting to hear that she has done a good job, that she has been well-behaved. She is generous, sweet and very funny, not to mention a great dancer. Every day I try to find even a few minutes of quiet time with her to teach her some new thing, to talk about her day, to give a few extra kisses on her forehead. Some of those times she is bored with me and goes running off in her own direction. Other days she sits with me and I look at her face and swear she might be 12 already. Her eyes are older, her understanding is deeper, she is already on her own path to becoming who she will be, who she already is.
I remember being punished in school as early as kindergarten. Mrs. MacDonald used to sit me at a table by myself occasionally during Circle Time for refusing to be quiet, for not listening, for being a general blabber-mouth. In 1st grade, Sister Celestine called me Lady Jane! on a daily basis and put me in the cloak closet next to a threateningly enormous wooden paddle for talking and passing notes. She even sat me up at the front of the class and put a wooden box around my desk so I couldn’t see or talk to anyone. She’d also sneak up on me and smack me in the back of the head with her ruler. After all of this, I did very well in school and upon reflection I am not sorry that I gave Sister Celestine a hard time. She was mean, but my mother loved her because she felt I was getting discipline. I didn’t go home crying to my mother that the nuns were nasty to me because the child’s side of the story is no side at all. It certainly wasn’t the end of the world. It didn’t scar me for life. However, I remember what it’s like to be a 6 year-old that only gets spoken to because I was getting yelled at and punished for some minor offense.
I wonder about Amelia and what her experiences will be like. I already know she is stubborn in class and will do as requested but only when given the time to make up her mind on her own. I want her to receive discipline at home and away. I want her to fight her own battles, to fight for her the ones she cannot, to be able to tell the difference between when she should stand up and when she should do what she is supposed to be doing. I want her to respect authority, but also to develop the ability to discern its merit when called for, to do the right thing on her own, and to not jump off of the bridge just because her friends jump off the bridge.
I try not to project my preconceived expectations of what she will do and who she will be onto her curly little head. I want to pass on all the great things about me and let her decide if any of those are things she wants for herself. I want to keep the not-so-great things carefully tucked away. But it isn’t possible. I am me and she is she and we will tread our paths together, intertwined yet distinctly our own, branching out little by little the closer we reach the top.