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Secrets of the Motherworld

Mar 3, 2020

“I screwed up when raising my first child. I am still not quite sure what has been going wrong. I do a lot to figure out how to be a good parent and work hard to understand her. I read tons of books, listen to podcasts, took child development classes at the community college, and do personal work. But I have not been able to get things right with this super bright, stubborn, independent and strong willed child with a highly sensitive nervous system.

Adults who meet her are thoroughly impressed by her self possession and sophistication. But she came out of the womb scowling at me like she knew I was going to do it wrong. When she first began to read, she picked up my parenting book, read through it and declared that I did it all wrong. She also told me around age 7, that I want people to think I am a good parent but I am just faking it. There was a lot of yelling at her at an early age as she seemed a lot older than she actually was--she had complex sentences before 16 mths old. And as she grew, there was more yelling as I didn't know what to do with this very powerful, mercurial, very demanding, and spacey child. In addition, I was more stressed and probably depressed as an early parent and my partner wasn't a very good help. I realize I lacked warmth, playfulness and the relaxed affect she probably needed. I tried to foster closeness and do mother-daughter activities, but she was fairly withering and dismissive of my attempts.

She is a teenager now but her personality and attitude now is as much as it was as young child. She has resented me since she was little and she is now 15 and oozes disgust for me from every crevice. She has also developed anxiety and has some neurotic tendencies which seem due as much to her wiring as to my misattuned parenting. Furthermore, she is easily distracted and has problems with follow through (ADHD or willful disobedience?) so I feel I have to be very rigid and have firm boundaries or else things go awry.

Her younger brother has a very different, more resilient personality. He is happy go lucky, easy to connect with, playful and much less emotionally intense but no less curious, independent and bright. He also has a big personality and is by no means trying to be the "good child," but I figured out how to meet his needs early on so there is far less conflict. I don't have to be as restrictive with him as he is more cooperative, self regulating emotionally vulnerable, and has good follow through. The difference in their relationships with me is very obvious. She has played the role of the "problem" child all this time, even though I try to attend to her (maybe even more) as much as I attend to him. She sees the differences and believes it to be an issue of us liking him better, rather then him just being easier. She loves her brother but I am the lightening rod for both her pain and unreasonable demands. How do I change this dynamic? I am terrified that once she leaves home, she won't ever want to see us (me) again. But I am still challenged by her mix of personality traits.”