When my daughter was nine years old I gave up on her. Okay, I didn’t really give up on her, but I wanted to. She was a tough cookie, that kid. I didn’t know how to handle such a strong-willed, stubborn creature like her. She constantly questioned me and my motives, and she tenaciously held her ground whenever she thought she was right and I wasn’t, which was often.
Growing up I was a strong-willed kid, too, and I did the same thing to my mother. But my mother was different. She believed in yelling, spanking and punishments. I spent a lot of time locked in my room as a kid, crying into my pillow, feeling powerless, abandoned, and not heard. The relationship I had with my mother wasn’t what I would call ideal.
I didn’t want that for my daughter and I. So, after nine years of trying to “wing it” with her , I sought help. I went to a family counselor, by myself that first time. I thought I would bring Sam with me after my initial visit, but I learned that most of the issues I was having were because of the way I grew up. I was parenting Sam the way I had been parented, minus any physical discipline.
It wasn’t Sam who needed to change. It was me. She never even came to one therapy session with me. I had to un-learn everything I had been taught growing up, and learn how to parent in a way that left my child feeling safe, heard, and free to grow up to be an adult who trusted and respected herself. Not only did my relationship with Sam improve significantly in a very short amount of time, the relationship I had with myself improved too, as did all my other relationships.
Sam is 23 years old today. She is an incredible, loving, confident adult with opinions and ideas all her own. And she is my best friend.