Tough Love

I am not certain, but quite sure that Sophia has entered the terrible twos at 16 months. She is all of a sudden a different child. My attempts to reason and explain why something cannot be done are so far in vein. Topping off our newly mutinous Sophia’s less than stellar behavior is her newly found regression in sleep topped with an only Mama can comfort me at night cherry.

While operating (not living, just operating) on 6 hrs of sleep broken up in four increments, I called to whine and complain to my mother. Why is it that MY child was the ONLY one I know who is sleeping so poorly?! Instead of attempting to calm me down and reassure that this too shall pass, I was greeted with a heaping serving of tough love. No “it will pass”, no “i love you, this is hard, and you’ll get through it”. Instead I heard “you are not the only one, but you complain as if you were”, “deal with it and if it doesn’t break you, you’ll be stronger”.

For those who know my mother, and my parents in general, this is par for the course. This is nothing new, just how it always was. I don’t recall my mother every praising my sister and I — EVER. Never about our looks, grades, accomplishments or achievements. Yearning for that, we always worked hard to try and somehow reach what seemed like the unattainable — validation. And reach it (self-validation) we did, of course. We both have graduate degrees, both work and manage our own households with children and spouses.

I am not saying that my parents are not supportive. They worry and care just like every other insane parent. They bring chicken soup and call. In fact, there hasn’t been a single morning that my mom hasn’t called to see how Sophia slept.

Even though they obviously care, they have never worked to solve our problems for us. I did my own homework, packed my own backpack and lunch since the second week of first grade. I bought my first car with my own money – from my own parents – because I wanted to own it. It was mine, not theirs, mine and they couldn’t take it away. I wrote my own college essays (as it should be for everyone but is far from reality). I applied to be a research assistant in college and didn’t use any of my parents’ connections (and there were none to be used). Similarly, I searched for jobs on my own and then hubby and I planned our own wedding, he found his job, we moved to Maryland ourselves and found our own home.

Actually, I am not being honest. There was one time when my mom praised me. After my graduation ceremony (I was awarded a Bachelor and a Master of Sciences in Computer Science simultaneously), she told me that she was proud because she didn’t know if I could do it. It was a compliment, presented the only way my mom knows how.

No matter how sleep deprived I am as I write this, I cannot help but wonder if this is the type of parent I will or even want to be. Will I be this tough on my daughter? Will it work? If I am softer, will she grow up to be less independent and call me to get help with the most inane decisions? Here is what I do know: no matter our situation, Sophia will not grow up with an attitude of entitlement. She will be self sufficient and self-reliant by the time she graduates from college and enters the workforce. I am about to sound just like my mother when I say that “I am not working this hard so that she can grow up to be a disappointment. Children are supposed to be more successful than their parents”.


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