|Robert Bevan [Public domain] |
via Wikimedia Commons
My beautiful baby girl was born August 15, a numerical mirror of my birthday May 18, which I took as a symbol of how tight we'd be. I began daydreaming of all the things we'd do together...wear matching outfits, host tea parties for the teddy bears, read books under the covers. Later on, we'd have conversations with our foreheads touching and shop for her prom dress. I even built a blog around my great expectations.
Then my daughter turned 1, and she became a little person complete with her own developing identity and individual personality. Imagine my shock (and horror) that she was the opposite of me in almost every way. I'm introverted, she's extroverted. I'm low energy, she's high energy. I'm a neat freak, she likes to get messy. I'm a homebody, she's a social butterfly. I'm a people-pleaser, she does what she pleases. You get the point.
Our divergent personalities became more pronounced as she got older. I would want to snuggle on the couch reading books and she would get fidgety after two minutes because she can't stand to sit still. Things came to a head when she was about 2.5 years old. Our personalities were constantly clashing and I inwardly lamented that we'd never be close. Then her preschool teacher recommended a book that changed my outlook and changed the course our relationship. How to Raise Your Spirited Child opened my eyes to a new world of parental engagement. I learned how to work with my daughter's personality type and our interactions have improved.
But our differences still cause problems sometimes. Marlie is a button-pusher, sassy, and possesses a self-confidence that borders on obnoxious. I find myself being unnerved by these qualities because they are so not me. After one particular exhausting day of butting heads, I put my psychology hat on and came up with two solutions:
- Find common ground: Even "odd couples" have things in common. Luckily for me and my daughter, I didn't have to dig deep to find our shared interests. We both like reading, creating art, and running. I make sure we bond over these activities. When we engage in activities that we both enjoy there is no tension or resentment and everyone is fulfilled.
- Find a surrogate: When the gap between you and your child seems so wide that you cannot imagine a way to bridge it, find someone or something to fill in. For me that person is my daughter's father. They are very much alike so he can relate to her better on many levels. Am I jealous? I used to be, but now I am relieved that she has someone in her life who understands her. I also enrolled her in preschool and extracurricular activities so that she is getting her social needs met because I'd spend all day curled up on the couch with a book if it were up to me.