Fix You

I would never choose to run.  If I could be skinny and never exercise, I’d pick that, which is just ridiculous, because NOTHING focuses me and calms me down and takes the edge off my stress like a run in the morning.  I just feel like I leave a little something out there, and I am better for it, for the rest of the day.

And often I have my best ideas and my most clear thoughts as I am slogging along that same three mile loop, or when I am walking Eli back and forth to preschool.  Somehow this is when everything else backs away and at this point those 45 minutes are the closest thing I have to therapy, so I am not sure why I don’t appreciate them more. I am not sure why I don’t want to run, when it’s so obvious how much I need to.

Often as I am walking a to pick up Eli from preschool, I feel a pervasive sense of dread, especially on high pressure days where I know he won’t want to do something they have planned.  I wonder if I am doing the right thing, and of course I think of my own childhood, all the times I made my brother pay for something at the grocery store because I was too shy to speak to a cashier, of how I hated to talk on the phone, of how it often felt as though my mother just couldn’t stand this intensely shy part of me, how she demanded I shake hands with adults and look people in the eye and how we somehow ended up with a relationship where I couldn’t tell her that I didn’t/couldn’t/wouldn’t wear pink elastic waisted cords to Outdoor School in the Sixth grade.  And then I wonder what books I should be reading, if it’s wrong to try to fix a shy child, if Eli is having fun at preschool, if he hates every minute of it, if he’s just the way he is or if I should be demanding he shake hands and look people in the eye, and I hope he doesn’t remember hating school, because I hated day care and after school baby sitters so much that I can still remember intensely how awful those hours were as if it happened yesterday.

I don’t want that for my son, I really don’t, and I will do the  best I can to make sure that doesn’t happen.  He does need to do some things he doesn’t want to do.  And I am very glad that I am now able to look other people in the eye and stick out my hand and introduce myself.  I am grateful for my mom’s voice in my head every time I meet a new person, for that instinctual reaction she drilled into me.  But the other day as I was walking to preschool to pick him up for the Halloween Party, as I relived my childhood and cycled through all that dread all over again in that thirty minute walk, I realized something.

I cannot use my son’s childhood to fix my own.

I can try and try and try, but it will not work.  My childhood is done, and what will be will be.  I can learn some things from it, but nothing I can do now can change what was.  And I think it might be time for me to move on, and to figure out how to not be a mom and also at the same time a miserable five year old stuck at day care.

I cannot use my son’s childhood to fix my own.  Wow.  Mind blowing.



12 Responses

  1. I could write you a novel about this, about all the ways I’ve felt this from my own mom, but all I’ll say is this: I think you’re a great mom. This is a big realization, yo.

  2. yeah. just — yeah.

  3. Oh! I thought you were going somewhere else with this. I thought you were going to talk about using your childhood to help your son. The thing you can give him that your mother couldn’t give you is that you can say, “I know how that feels. Here’s a story from my childhood that applies. And now let me help you learn some of the things non-shy people do automatically, so that you’ll be able to shake hands even though you feel shy.”

  4. I’m not sure if I’ve commented here before (maybe once?), but wanted to let you know that I love reading your blog posts. For many reasons, not the least of which is that you are a very engaging writer.

    So, re: this post – it really resonates with me. I was a shy child, and I am a shy adult. I do best in situations where I know people well already. Many, many aspects of childhood and school and life in general seemed terrorizing and insurmountable to me (less so now, but it’s still there to a degree).

    I think I project those fears, and my personality, onto my son. And I need to remember not to do that – not to assume he is feeling the exact same thing that I did as a child. I hope he has more confidence than me, but my first gut reaction is to assume that he doesn’t. So thanks for this post – helps me remember that I need a little more objectivity, in a way, as I help my kids navigate all the social stuff.

  5. I relate to this post so much. Your relationship with your mother sounds so much like my own. I don’t have kids but when I do I am going to repeat these words to myself- I can’t use their childhood to fix my own. Love this. Thanks for sharing.

  6. I don’t have any insights or anything to add… But I wanted to say that this post moved me, as so many of your posts do.

  7. I don’t think I’ve ever posted here–although I’ve been reading for years (the fear!). But I just wanted to say what a beautiful post this is, and how much I could relate to every. Single. Word. Except–I have to agree with a previous poster: I think that what you CAN fix about your own childhood is the sense of abandonment you felt by being unheard. By giving Eli the opportunity to voice his fears, and by sharing how you relate to them from your own past, you give both of you permission to get it right this time. This time around, it’s all going to be good.

  8. Wow…just wow.

    I didn’t expect you to go that direction- but it hit home. I feel my own mother tried to do this with me- and I’m constantly on guard against the same thing with my own daughter…

    Great post.

  9. One of my biggest fears as a mom is the possibility that any of my kids might someday feel that I don’t LIKE something about them, in the way that you felt your mom’s dislike re: your shyness. I know that I’m a good enough mom that they’ll always trust my love for them, but feeling dislIKED by your parent is just as as big, if not a bigger, deal than feeling unloved, imo. And of course all of us have our issues that are not likeable, but you know what I mean… I never want to give off that general sense of just being disgusted by a certain aspect of my kid’s personality, and I know as a parent that is easier to do than we would like to think. It’s a sobering thing to be reminded of, that even now as an adult your memory of those feelings is crystal clear.

  10. Oh, Elizabeth, I am SO with you on this. My issues aren’t with my parents trying to “fix” me. Rather, mine stem from growing up with parents who divorced when I was very young, each got remarried (and, in my mom’s case, divorced my step-dad and then married him again). Mine stem from step-siblings and being shuffled around on holidays and hearing my parents badmouth each other. It’s why I want so very, very much for things to be perfect for Nate; but nothing’s ever really perfect, is it?

  11. Thank you for writing this. I find it so hard to know when to push my daughter into something and when to just let her be. I don’t want her to be afraid of new things, but I want her to be herself. How can I reconcile that?

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