For ten years I have heard how my Girl is exactly like me. For ten years, it’s been uncomfortable for a couple of reasons. The first is that I have never been good at taking compliments. Even when they may be inadvertent, I back away from them. Second, when I notice traits in her that are familiar, I want to squash anything that I know has caused me problems, like the procrastination or the deep-seeded need for people to feel good around me, often to the detriment of the way I feel.
So, for ten years I have been extra critical of her faults and not a big enough cheerleader for all she does right. And I’m pretty sure I’m repeating a pattern.
It all changed yesterday. Yesterday, She went in for a routine tooth extraction (teeth actually) and from minute one she was cool as a cucumber. She wanted to bring her favorite stuffed toy for comfort. No big deal. She asked a bunch of questions. Totally normal, as she’s been a planner since day one, always fine with any new situation as long as she got a heads up and could work through it in her head. (Familiar.)
When we got into the room, and I got to go with her she was thrilled. I wasn’t sure I would be allowed so she was prepared to go it alone. She was her normal charming self with the staff until they put the mask on her face which she promptly sat up and tried to rip off. She said it made her sick but I recognized that look of panic. The mask is what made her scared, made her feel like a patient and that is unacceptable, for patients are often not in control. (Also familiar.)
When we told her getting out of the chair and leaving wasn’t an option, she decided to go through with the procedure gas-less. She asked for an explanation of every step of the procedure from needle to extraction. Even having tubes and a bite guard in her mouth didn’t stop her from asking about each new instrument or action. Thankfully, our wonderful doctor obliged her at every turn. She squeezed my hand and squeaked a little when the needle went into her gums, but that was it. She handled the procedure beautifully and took all the compliments from the doctors and his staff in stride.
My first reaction was pride, quickly followed by disappointment in myself when I could feel the urge to downplay her behavior because I recognized it as something I would do (and have done). I was my cool, calm self with her, shooing her away from the nurses who were all over her with praise, because I didn’t want to acknowledge something I thought would somehow mean I was complimenting myself. I almost let my own self-esteem bull get in the way of championing my kid…again.
Luckily I recognized my crazy pretty quickly and started not just praising her, but treating her with a softness she doesn’t always get from me. We had a nice afternoon on the couch watching a movie her brothers aren’t allowed to see. I fed her ice cream and allowed as many tangerine pops as she wanted. I served her like an indulgent mommy should. I told her how great she was. I told her how proud I was of not just surgery but of her knowing herself enough to speak up and ask for what she needed. That is what I want most for her-to never question her worth and to always advocate for herself.
And now I’m sharing her story with you because she is just that good-like me or not.
When I texted her dad about her toughness and spirit throughout the day, he responded that she gets it from me.
This time I agreed.
P.S. Looking for more parenting guidance and tips for self-care? Check out From Chaos to Calm a guided training to help you feel better in this tough season.