One of the toughest things I had to reconcile with after having my one and only child is that things would never, ever go my way anymore. My ego took the blow, and I dealt with it in my own ways. I was in need of it anyway. Since the price I paid was a being a mom to a vivacious and beautiful girl, my ego could just suck it.
Now, almost five years later, I sit helpless and defenseless because it feels like my daughter is sucking more than the ego out of me. We’re in a stage that feels permanent now. A stage that feels like it is leaving too many battle wounds and marks.
I just don’t know how to parent her anymore.
There — with what feels like a deep stab to my gut — I said it.
How does one react to constant defiance that becomes ferocious, loud, and physical? How does one remain calm and unafflicted when the one you love the most tells you to “go away, forever” and gives it emphasis with a slap to your body? Not once, or twice, but so many times that you’re even embarrassed to confront the number.
She’s about to turn five and is a feisty, energetic, lovable and oh-so beautiful girl. She loves to dance and sing and be the Leo that makes her crave to be the utmost center of attention. All the time. Yet, she’s an only child and thus strives to get the most attention from her mami and papi.
We’re really all she has right now in terms of family since her beloved cousins, abuelas y abuelos, aunts and uncles are all scattered in different states, Mexico and El Salvador. This means we’re also all she has to pour her frustrations over with a regretful fierceness that can only be had upon those you know love you…and forgive you.
Take one of today’s scenes as a taste of what’s been happening around here, and keep in mind it had been building up all morning. I was getting ready to make breakfast and offered up what always makes her happy to make together on a lazy morning: pancakes. She naggingly turned it down, saying she wanted nothing to do with those, and instead wanted frozen waffles. I tried convincing her we could make pancakes or crepes and eat them with this fabulous caramel spread we’d brought back from France. Still a no, and a go for waffles. I stopped insisting and gave in to peace.
While I’m making her waffles, I open up the jar with the caramel spread I had been dying to try. I grabbed a spoon and tasted it in front of her. It was insanely delicious, so I offered her some, to which I got a nasty no. I grabbed the spoon and walked into the next room to have my husband taste it. He also loved it and asked for it on toast. I turn to walk back into the kitchen to catch my girl spitting into the caramel she knew we wanted to eat! Of course, I lost it, she lost it, we all lost it.
I understand that if she’s acting up so passionately it’s because there’s something deeper within the surface that she needs to break through. I also understand that most likely we — mami and papi — are the source of that frustration. Why? Because we work too much in our quest to “have it all” for us and for her. We work so damn much that for the past year and a half she’s been gone from the house during work days longer than she’s with us. My constant travel has her being shuffled between friends and sitters. My husband’s commute makes it difficult for him to help, but he still tries. Our family quality time isn’t as “quality” as it could be and she doesn’t have anyone else that she trusts and loves to take it out on.
None of the parenting books I’ve read, even those on how to raise a spirited child like mine, have given me the insight on how to be a truly successful mom, wife and professional. The mom guilt-o-meter is raised high right now and I detest that, but I know that her nasty attitude these months is a reflection of my own nasty, non-stop busy-ness.
We could call it a “phase,” but I’d hate to dismiss it just as that and then always be stuck on a “phase” stage. I need to first come clean with myself and admit that I need parenting help in the form that only I can give to myself. More than a technique or a good and tested parenting method that tries to solve the immediate problem, I need to go to the root: me.
She’s clearly begging for attention and as much as I hate to admit it, she’s right. My reactiveness to her, my impatience, my lack of truly “being” is not to be tolerated anymore. My girl, I hear you loud and clear. Something’s gotta give and it will.
I’d love to know if I’m alone at feeling like this or not. Please do share in the comments below and let’s have a conversation about this. It’s healing.
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Check out the forthcoming book I co-authored, Bilingual is Better: Two Latina Moms on How the Bilingual Parenting Revolution is Changing the Face of America.
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