Parenting Wildling is, as anyone who has read more than one post on this blog can guess, very difficult. She is a high needs highly sensitive yet utterly brilliant individual, with a stubborn argumentative streak. On good days (or really, good moments, we don’t have full days) we are overjoyed and impressed with our amazing child. On the not-so-good moments and days and weeks, we are overwhelmed.
We put so much of our effort into her, because we want to do this right. We want our brilliant amazing daughter to grow into a brilliant amazing adult. And I think I know what will happen if we screw this up. I think I have met her potential future.
Anyone who has ever looked at Wildling can tell I made zero genetic contribution to her. If I hadn’t known (and had photographic proof) that she came out of my body, I may have assumed she was some female clone of Will that was somehow lab-produced and dropped into our lives. So it is no surprise that some (most) of her personality traits were handed down from that side of the family as well.
Will’s father has a younger sister named Mona. Based on every story I have ever heard about Mona as a child, I think she had a temperament identical to Wildling. Mona was headstrong. Mona made startlingly witty observations about the world around her, even as a toddler. Mona refused to sleep as a baby. Mona threw massive tantrums. Mona could scream for hours. Mona talked early and could argue semantics when most children her age could barely form sentences. Mona was sensitive to everything Wildling is sensitive to.
And where is Mona now? Where is this woman who came from a child with so much fragility and brilliant potential? She’s a dysfunctional alcoholic that does nothing but chain-smoke. She has made nothing out of her life. Nothing. I look at her and I see Wildling’s future if we screw up. I feel that burden weighing me down. Will and I have an opportunity to set the course for Wildling, to guide her into a healthy and productive life.
Raymond (Will’s dad) was over for Thanksgiving, and at some point the talk turned to spanking kids. Will and I do not spank our children. Studies have shown that it is an ineffective method of discipline (full disclosure: I spanked Wildling twice, both times because she bit two-month old Mellow hard enough to leave long term bruises. It did not work, and I did not like doing it. Making her bite soap did work. But that’s a story for another time). I never wanted to be a spanking parent, and neither did Will. Raymond didn’t agree with our parenting choices and told us that with Mona, spanking was the only thing that worked. Except, not actually spanking. Hitting. Hitting was the only thing that worked.
“Mother learned really quickly that when Mona was having a fit, you couldn’t calm her down. You had to beat her first, because that was the only way to make her calm down and listen to you.”
“Mona would never back down from an argument, even if she knew she was wrong. The only way to win an argument with her was to hit her. You just had to pop her a good one first, and then she’d stop arguing.”
There were other comments as well, other quotes that I’m not including here that all came down to the same thing: the only way to control Mona was through physical violence. This is why I am not surprised that she grew up to be a dysfunctional alcoholic, nor that her first marriage was to someone who beat her as well.
I know I can do better than that for my child. I know that with patience and understanding and a great deal of tolerance for screaming, Will and I can do better than his grandmother. If we work hard, Will and I can guide and shape Wildling’s future and give her the happy and healthy life she deserves.