I Hate That My Parents Think My Daughter Is The Greatest Thing Iâ€™ve Ever Done
I sat on the floor with my mom and dad, watching my daughter tinker with her toys. I was telling my parents about a new and exciting ghostwriting opportunity, a milestone in my writing career. As I spoke, they occasionally nodded as they grinned at my crawling baby. When I reached the peak of my story, my daughter did something cute and they both cheered wildly for her, followed by a lackluster, â€œthatâ€™s good,â€ about me. To test their loyalties, I started telling a story about the latest solid food my baby had tried.
And wouldnâ€™t you know it: two pairs of eyes were on me, eager to find out more.
I read somewhere (maybe it was embroidered on a pillow), â€œIf I knew grandchildren were this much fun, I wouldâ€™ve had them first.â€ Though the humor is the obvious irony: thereâ€™s a deeper truth in it. For many new grandparents, I think having a grandchild is a chance at redemption from their mistakes as parents. For my parents in particular, I have an anecdote that describes this well.
When I was a baby, my dad and his father were riding with me in a car. When I supposedly let out a massive fart, my dad wrinkled his nose in disgust but my grandpa looked at him with a smile and said, â€œMy granddaughter can do no wrong.â€ My dad told me this story recently, and in homage of the circle of life he now says this same thing of my daughter, that she can â€œdo no wrong.â€
The story itself is sweet, but Iâ€™ve only figured out recently why it upsets me. In saying defensively that my daughter can â€œdo no wrong,â€ my dad presumes that Iâ€™m judging her the same way he judged me when I was a child. And hereâ€™s the thing, Iâ€™m not. Both of my parents have commented how wonderful it is to simply adore my daughter, to adore her without judgment. And I agree, because this is exactly how I feel toward her.
I have no expectations for her, nor do I have criticisms. She is goofy and quirky like all children are, and when I comment on her quirks, Iâ€™m merely stating the truth, not wishing she behaved differently. Iâ€™m no Tiger Mom: Iâ€™d call myself an Otter Mom. Chill and carefree or perhaps even a Sloth Mom. My baby has both rolled over late and crawled late, and this didnâ€™t bother me. She will probably walk late, tooâ€”and to this I say, great! Sheâ€™s not a Baby Einstein, but she is perfect because she is my baby. And in my eyes, she can truly do no wrong.
But when I watch my parents celebrate my daughter with such unhindered joy, I think Iâ€™m mourning my childhood. Or, rather, what my childhood couldâ€™ve been, if my parents had loved me without judgment or expectation. Iâ€™m the firstborn, a long-awaited arrival after my mom struggled with infertility for nearly eight years. I hit all my milestones ahead of time, earning myself the nickname â€œAmazing Amanda.â€ The bar was set very, very high. My parents expected me to grow up a conservative Christian woman with a business degree, and to go on to be a CEO, supermom, and superwife to a rich and successful husband. How could I not? I was quite a perfect baby, after all.
Instead, it took me five years, a long struggle with depression and two college transfers to earn my degree, and I still donâ€™t have a â€œgrown-upâ€ job with benefits. Instead Iâ€™m doing what I love, writing and painting for a living. Iâ€™m also an atheist and a liberal. I had sex before marriage, and Iâ€™m absolutely glad I did. None of these things I would change. I am absolutely who I wanted to be. But I am absolutely not who they wanted me to be. Theyâ€™ve grown used to me now, but in their eyes (and theyâ€™ve said this), they think my greatest accomplishment may be my role as a mother.
How can I possibly take this as a compliment? I think Iâ€™m doing a good job as a mother, but there are so many other things Iâ€™ve accomplished that I wish they would recognize. And the horrible thing is, their attitude actually makes me resent my daughter a bit when Iâ€™m around them. Will she grow up to be the girl, woman, they wanted me to be? Will she, in an act of rebellion, become my oppositeâ€”a straight-laced, religious young woman, exactly the person Iâ€™m not?
As I watch my parentsâ€™ love for my daughter grow daily, I feel a wedge being driven between me and them. I worry that the older and more wonderful my daughter becomes, the more Iâ€™m going to resent them for their relationship. What pains me the most is that I always thought having a child would bring me closer to my parents. I assumed that coming full-circle and becoming a parent would only improve our relationship. And while there have been a few transcendental moments, the moments where I fade into the background are becoming the standard.