Today is my anniversary of motherhood, otherwise known as my older child’s birthday. I’ve been thinking a lot about parenthood recently.
The following warning has already been delivered to the relevant people:
You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.
About twenty years ago, I vented to my parents about my toddler’s picky eating habits. My dad gave this advice on the topic, which I think he intended to be reassuring:
It’s not that hard to break a child’s will.
Indeed. But my goodness, WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO?
I understand that a parent needs to get her/his way sometimes, maybe often, for everyone’s sake. Children may not want to write thank-you notes, follow the rules at school, or eat vegetables. We are not doing a good job if we cannot get them to do these things. We love our children, so we embrace the thankless task of getting them to act in their own interest. But what is the right verb for this job? Force them to write? Convince them to follow? Teach them to eat? I don’t think we have a single verb in our language that is a combination of all three of those.
I don’t like the idea that my father broke my will. I am not even sure that he did, or maybe he did only in ways that were small enough to heal. In any case, I am not sore about it anymore.
But I do not agree that breaking a child’s will is something we should try to do. And I cannot be forced, convinced, or taught to agree, which has a certain poetic justice.
“[I] own everything that happened to [me].”
The child who wouldn’t eat vegetables is an adult. His will is unbroken, and sometimes he chooses the salad. That’s an excellent anniversary gift.