No one told me that when I had children, I would have to squarely face all those parts of myself that I have attempted to sweep under the rug.
Jennifer Ginsberg: If I was faced with Sophie's choice today, there would be no question what
I would do. As politically incorrect as
this sentiment is, I am certain that most mothers of more than one
child can relate to it. Simply put, while I love my children equally, I
generally tend to like one better than the other. Navigating through
these feelings can be a tricky dance, especially as I am committed to
not letting them seep into my interactions with my children.
My relationship with my 4 1/2-year-old son Shane is pretty contentious these days. In a nutshell, my goal is to get him to behave in accordance with the rules of our house and the laws of the world, which I don't think is too much to ask. He responds to my attempts at control with irrational resistance and rejection. While he is able to keep it together at school and in other people's homes, when he is with me, he seems to just fall apart. He wants to do things his way and in his order (eat dessert before breakfast, watch TV before getting dressed, and take a bath in a salad bowl with all of my expensive bath salts!). Trying to reason with him is like trying to negotiate with terrorists.
One of the hardest parts of our relationship is that I am often forced to face all the things I hate about myself. When he is behaving the most egregiously, it is like looking in a f%$#ing mirror that shines on all of my dark and shadowy parts which I have spent years alternately trying to correct and deny. His incessant tenacity -- how he won't give up until he gets his way -- vintage Jen. His obsessiveness -- whether it's about candy or a specific toy that he covets -- was inherited from Yours Truly. The list goes on and on -- his stubborn nature, his need for power and control, the way he never forgets a single thing -- all I have to do is look at my reflection.
I always struggled with the biblical verse, "The sins of the fathers shall be visited upon the sons," because I felt it was profoundly unfair that children were condemned to bear the shortcomings of their parents. Now that I am a mom, I understand this passage on a whole different level. I feel sadness and shame that after putting forth my greatest effort to not pass my worst qualities onto my son, it still has happened.
My friends tell me I am being too hard on myself -- that all this is simply a result of him being my firstborn and a reflection of his developmental phase. I, for one, find the "f%$#ing fours" much more challenging than the "terrible twos"! But on some level, I know that I hold the power to change our relationship. I am the adult -- the one who is forced to rise to the task of being the wiser, kinder, stronger, and more patient person. When I get down on his level and engage with him like I am another rage-full 4-year-old child, all hell breaks loose.
No one told me that when I had children, I would have to squarely face all those parts of myself that I have attempted to sweep under the rug. By some miracle, this layer of angst has not permeated my relationship with my 2-year-old daughter (yet). For now, things with her are sweet and easy and light. Living with the glaring contrast without allowing it to inform my behavior is a tough line to walk.
I force myself to work through my feelings of anxiety and dig deep when I am with Shane -- I want him to understand the rules and boundaries while feeling safe and loved. The truth be told, I love him so very much it often hurts -- even when he is acting the most unlovable. Perhaps I can learn to love those parts of myself, as well.
|Jennifer Ginsberg is a Los Angeles writer and mother to three, surprisingly angst-free children. As a former actress/waitress, turned clinical social worker specializing in addiction, turned full-time mother/part-time psychotherapist/writer, Jennifer is particularly well-versed on the topic of angst.|
Find out more about her life at angstmom.com