I felt her eyes burn a hole right through my soul. That glare was ever so piercing. Daggers aimed straight for my heart. My precious, sweet five year old had turned against me. I was begging her, for what seemed like the fourth straight hour, to please finish her dinner.
“I don’t like it,” she hissed through her tiny baby teeth. She crossed her arms. Pouted. Kicked the table. Glared some more through what remained of her soft, bouncy baby curls.
“Wherever could she have learned this from?” I asked myself in exasperation. I crossed my arms. I glared back at her. And then I laughed. There I was, losing a battle to a tiny version of myself. I sighed and walked over to the table and kissed the top of her still pouting little face. She had learned her stubbornness from the best.
We all hear the warning from our parents: Just you wait until you have kids. But I had no idea that my beautiful little pink bundle of joy would turn out to be this sassy little diva just five years later. I thought children morphed into their parents somewhere in their thirties?
I noticed an uncanny parent-child resemblance very early on with both of mine. Most days, I love it, because it’s like having a little built-in friend. But fighting your reflection is also as maddening as it sounds.
I wasn’t even sure I wanted children until I met my husband. After meeting him, I told myself I would love to have a miniature version of him running around. Well, lo’ and behold, that’s precisely what happened when we had our son.
My son is a walking, talking, scaled-down version of my husband: kind, compassionate, intelligent, but he can be pessimistic and hard on himself. My daughter is loving, sweet, dramatic, and willful. They are both stubborn. They are naturally funny and sometimes use humor to deflect tension — a trait they got from both of their parents. It’s not hard to laugh (with them) when they are trying to get out of trouble.
Parenting is difficult enough in itself; and it’s even more challenging when you are battling against strong personalities. It’s even worse when they point out that you are behaving the same way.
For instance, I am guilty of raising my voice when my stress level is high. I will ask my kids not to raise their voices. And then they will point out that I was yelling at them. But then, oddly enough, there is quiet at that moment.
It hasn’t been easy for me, but I have learned to slow down in these moments and ask myself two questions: What is this child upset about? And if I were them, what would I want? Because the flip side of staring at a pint-size version of your own stubborn self is that, if you are self-aware, you know what to do.
I have learned that my son needs calm and quiet, like my husband. He prefers a soft voice and to be reassured.
As a child, I craved physical reassurance. I needed a hug or a warm blanket when I was upset. If my daughter is mid-tantrum, I will wait until she is quiet and then hold out my arms to her. It’s almost comical how much she shares this same desire and runs to me for a hug.
Of course, just as I have them figured out, the formula will change by their next birthdays. My friends are also kindly warning me about the pre-teen years that my son will soon be entering. They laugh as they remember thinking they had it hard before. “Bigger kids, bigger problems,” they repeat. “Oh, awesome,” I reply and think that I need to make sure the world never runs out of its coffee supply.
Chandi Kelsey is a wife and a mother of two. She and her family live in the metro Detroit area. She works as a physical therapist and in her spare time enjoys reading, baking and writing. Read her blog: mommingonfumes.com.