Friday, July 16, 2010

the perfect father

Lately, Liv and I have been struggling. We have been fighting arguing about everything from whether she should brush her extremely knot-filled hair before departing for the day to whether older sisters are 'allowed' to speak to their younger brothers in a hatred filled voice to whether it is her job to clean up her mess. She claims that my requests for daily self-care (teeth brushing, semi-clean clothes wearing, etc.) are demands upon her body which I have no right whatsoever to impose....and that this is exactly why nature has so much trouble supplying humans with their 'needs' because society has created an unreal ideal of human hygiene (If you are confused, don't worry - I don't totally get the rationale either).
I am holding my breath wondering what Liv is going to find issue with far too often for my liking. I am emotionally exhausted and communication/NVC/positive parenting deficient.

Recently, Liv has started to not just fly off the handle with anger over the injustice of expectations upon her body, the needs of others in the household or my desire to have a calm and communicative homelife....but at the idealized image she holds of her father and my perceived shortcomings.
She regales me with reasons that I am less of a favourable parent to her father. I don't play with her enough. I yell more than he did. I don't love her as much as her daddy did.
The ironic and most painful part of this is that although Jeff was a kind, funny and loving father, he was not always hands-on. He would wrestle with Liv. Or snuggle on the couch watching a movie. He'd occasionally make something with her in the garage. He loved to listen to her read or hear her tales of daily life on the phone weekly while he was fishing.
But I was the one who cuddled her to sleep and got up with her in the middle of the night. I wasn't holed up in the garage drinking beer and watching WWF. I was mixing the homemade playdough and kissing away 'owies'. I knew what size of shoes she wore and how far up she liked her coat zipped.
He was a fabulous daddy. But the image she has of him is just not accurate. And I am being compared to a 'saint'.
One evening of overly expressed dislike of my inadequencies as a parent I (remarkably) calmly told Liv of her father. I explained that he was a fabulous guy and my very best friend whom I loved with all my heart and wished with every part of my being that he would be back with us. BUT that he was a real person. He made mistakes and lost his temper and sometimes stunk like B.O. He didn't like how I loaded the dishwasher and ate pickles straight out of the jar. It doesn't mean he was 'bad' or 'mean' or 'unkind'....just that he was like the rest of us. 'Real'.
With horror on her little angry face, she told me that I was never to talk 'mean' about her daddy ever again. That he was 'perfect'.
And really, he was. He was perfectly him....But I hope that one day, and not TOO far away, she can see that I am perfectly me....and I am trying the best I can to do the job that he and I used to do together.

I do not want to take Liv's love or admiration for her daddy. I don't want her to ever stop thinking that he was wonderful and hilarious. But why does it have to come at the cost of her love and devotion to me?


Mama_Bear_Sarah said...

this isn't going to make you feel any better but maybe a little relieved 9-year-old has taken to telling me that i suck the fun out of life, that it's his body and i can't demand that he brush his teeth or take a bath and that it's his life and therefore i have no say in just about everything.

Eileen said...

I'm not sure how old Liv is... but have you heard of the 9 Year Change in Waldorf? Sounds like your little girl is just developing her own sense of self. Hang in there mama... deep down they 'know' and they come back around. xoxo

Ashley Tinius said...

My 4-year-old is the same way. Even though I've been home with her since day one, seeing to her every need/want, playing with her, loving her, if someone else comes into the picture (grandmother, daddy, uncle's girlfriend for God's sake), I cease to exist to her. She is constantly telling me I'm not fun and I'm mean. We, too, battle over clothing and cleaning up messes she made and the such. Aughhhh...I only hope when she becomes a teenager, this has passed and she'll be a perfectly rational, pleasant person:)

Kristen said...

My daughter went through similar changes when she was younger. EVERYONE else was perfect and I just plain sucked as a parent, a person. I could do NOTHING right. Kids seem to give the person they trust to be there for them, or love the most, the hardest time. Hang in there. She'll come back around and see you for who you are...a wonderful mother.

Cadi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cadi said...

It does sound a bit like 9-years-change & you're in your 9th year once you've turned eight anyhow. It'll wear off, then you'll get a break & the 12-years-change is right around the corner. :-)

I've had to hear, too that it's not fair society demands we "smell good" & shower. Just imagine the positive influence on the planet if soap didn't have to be made. Ehmmm. Yeah.

As for looking at Daddy as a saint... My children do that, too, in regards to their father whom they see just once or twice a year. And by no means am I trying to compare an "absent due to divorce & choice father" to an "absent due to death father." The phenomenon is somewhat similar in ways, though... I hope you know, though that I'm not trying to make it sound like it's the same thing...

My children still get to see all the imperfections of their father, but it seems that they give him a "pass" on thinks they write me a ticket for. It's perfectly fine for their Dad not to call them for six weeks, but vice versa I'm in trouble if I skip one day of not calling when they are with him.

A few years back I did something similar. In my head Germany was the "perfect place" to live. I had to go back & live there & learn "the hard way" that I had idealized something that wasn't so perfect (for us) afterall.

Sounds like you are handling the situation well, though. What you said to Liv sounds wise to me.

Blessings to you!

Lori T. said...

My oldest daughter's father was absent from her life for the first 12 years, just a few months after he returned and began seeing her regularly, she began telling me things like "My dad never makes me clean up after myself, my dad never says things that make me cry..." etc. I was so frustrated, I was the one who cared for her when she was sick, who attended EVERY school function, who paid for everything she had consumed in her entire life, yet he was some sort of angel... I came to understand later that she felt safe and secure with me and she knew I would never leave her, so she felt free to unload her emotional baggage on me. She knew I could take it and I would still love her when her tantrum was over.
I guess what I am saying is that the reason Liv feels she can say these things to you is that she knows you are safe, you won't ever leave her and you will still love her in the end. So, try to look on the bright side, she will eventually begin to realize how devoted you are to her, and she will find something else to do or say that will make you crazy. Just speaking from experience.

Carla said...

It's quite possible that she's angry at Jeff. Really angry, but she can't express that to him, so she takes it out on you.

When my daughter was very small and she would get angry about something, she'd yell at me. If I asked her why she was yelling at me, she'd say, "because you're in front of me."

Your poor baby is going through emotional upheaval that many older people can't handle. I know it's hard on you, but you're handling it with a lot of grace.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Liv needs to think that Jeff was perfect to get over her feelings surrounding his death. He's gone, he left her, and that can't be easy for her (or any of you, of course). By idealizing his memory, she can assuage some of the sadness, anger and maybe even misplaced guilt.

Not that I know, of course. And either way, I know that her perspective will change as she gets older. She will see what you've done, and have more appreciation for it.

Jen said...

Oh, ouch. As others have said, I think it's a very natural stage in children's development, exacerbated by his absence and her grieving, but that doesn't make it any easier. Heck, lots of adults idolize their lost loved ones, so it's no surprise Liv idolizes her Daddy. I hope the stage passes quickly, and you can find peaceful times to snuggle with her, appreciate each other, and relax together even amidst the upheaval.

Anonymous said...

Liv's behavior sounds an awful lot like the behavior of my niece when my sister and her husband (my niece's father) divorced. Not the same situation - I know. BUT. Hear me out.

My niece had a lot of hurt and frustration and difficulty in understanding (she was only 5) built up over her parents' separation and divorce. And she let it all "hang out", so to speak, with her mother (my sister) because she could. She felt safe in doing so. She knew that even at her ugliest, her mom would still love her and be there for her.

I know a nasty divorce is nowhere near what you and your kids have gone through in losing your much loved husband and their much loved father at such a young age.

But maybe Liv is acting out her hurt and frustration at losing her father with you..... because she can.

You are her safe place, and she knows that she can kick and scream at you all she wants, and you will still be there for her.

Because. You are an awesome mom. And your husband was a loving father. And together you created a safe environment for your kids to express themselves.

kathy said...

Wow! This is fabulous drawing!

Jenn said...

I think it's just another step in her grieving process (not that I'm any expert) but it sounds normal to me. Plus, she's growing up and horror-of-horrors (this may have never occurred to you) she may start her period soon. My daughter started at ten, way before I ever expected and the mood swings and hormonal surges that accompanied it blew me away!!In fact, they started a good year before her period even came and we weren't sure what was "wrong" with our child! But try really hard not to take it personal (easier said than done, I know) She loves you, she does...she is hurt, angry, maybe hormonal and she is not sure how to express it all. Those feelings are over-whelming for anyone, especially a young girl. Hang in there, you are a wonderful are handling it the right'll get easier, it just takes time.