My mother used to tell me that she would always love me, but that she didn’t like me very much right then. As a kid, this was a fairly upsetting thing to hear, so I swore, with childlike passion, that I would never utter the same sentiment. I have kept that promise. I have never told my eldest that I didn’t like her. However, I really understand what my mother meant.
I will always love my children, more deeply than I could ever imagine. Parental love in my world, is mandatory. It turns out that liking them all the time is optional.
My daughter is very stubborn. She refuses to give an inch when she is sure she is in the right. I know this character trait is admirable, and it will hold her in good stead down the road. However, it comes with a lot of behaviors I don’t like. I don’t like it when she refuses to clean her room, or put her dishes in the sink, or do her homework before the morning it is due. These behaviors I don’t like.
There is a difference between not liking someone and not liking their actions. My husband constantly reminds me of this, and I believe him. However, it’s hard to remind myself of that fine line when my daughter’s back is sullenly turned to me when I am trying to explain my feelings about her behavior. She doesn’t always treat me with respect, and it’s hard to like someone who clearly feels nothing you have to say is important.
I am discovering that love, even the boundless love I feel for my children, doesn’t equal admiration, or liking. My hardest parenting moment was the moment I realized I was feeling actual dislike for my child, the child I love so fiercely. It just never occurred to me that I could not like my kids, even for a moment.
It doesn’t seem to fit in the AP ideal, the reality that this person you grew and birthed will act in ways that make you dislike them. It certainly isn’t in the guidelines anywhere. I believe it is one of the things no one wants to talk about, because how could good parents not like their kids? I think it should be talked about, and I think AP principles will help me reach out to my children and let them know I love them, even when I don’t like them.
For example, I try to treat my daughter with respect, even when she doesn’t treat me respectfully. I try to listen to her arguments, and explain that I heard them, but have to proceed with the plan despite them. I try to explain my parenting actions, and not rely too much on “because I said so.” If I fail in remaining calm and rational, I try to apologize for losing my cool and yelling, because it’s the respectful thing to do.
I try to make sure that I tell my daughter I love her, even when her actions are making it hard for me to like her. I try my best to hug her after we have argued, and after a consequence has been given, even if all I want to do is go into the other room and bang my head against the wall until I pass out.
I try to let her know, even when her behavior is such that I have trouble liking her, that my love for her is boundless and eternal.
Misty Ewegen writes about motherhood, the environment, politics, law, and photography at Law and Motherhood.