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 and spanking, and there’s only so much of that a little kid can take before they retreat in defeat. I spent a lot of time locked in my room as a kid, crying into my pillow, feeling powerless and abandoned.
I didn’t want that for Sam and I. Sigmund Freud could take his Oedipus Complex to some other family because that was not going to fly in mine. So, after nine years of trying to “wing it” with Sam, I sought help. I went to a family counselor, by myself that first time, and I learned that most of the issues I was having with Sam 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. 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 short amount of time, the relationship I had with myself improved too, as well as all my other relationships.
Sam is almost 22 years old today. She is an incredible, loving, confident adult with opinions and ideas all her own. And she is my best friend.