raising girls part 4

December 17, 2013 |  Category:   life parenting









Had the best walk around the neighborhood this weekend. Every street corner smelled of Christmas trees. Houses decked with ribbons and wreaths. Twinkling lights wrapped around brownstone doorways and stoops. The freshly falling snow dusting everything like powdered sugar. It’s magic what the first few hours of snowfall can do. For that hour on my walk with one of the girls, life felt perfect.


But the truth? There are many days lately where I’ve wanted the day to end so that I can “start fresh”. Parenting is damn hard. Some days are filled with regrets. More than ever, parenting is like holding up a mirror to yourself and facing your demons head on. I try to draw on my memories of when I was their age, when I was coming into my own opinions and starting to defend what I think is right if only to myself (couldn’t talk back..that isn’t “acceptable behavior” in the culture I was raised). Remarkably, I can still sort of remember what it was like to be 10. I try to remember how my mom handled things, but honestly, we were not a family of talkers which is part cultural and part personality, so I often come up blank. There is so much baggage that we bring along with us from our own childhoods. Clashes happen when you have 2 stubborn and strong personalities and I realize that my kid, who I always thought was completely different from me, is perhaps not as different as I thought. So there is arguing and this is new because it didn’t really exist on this level before. And you know what? I’m not always right…the parents are not always right.
Lately I think about the fact that their time at home with us is half over. In as many years as they are alive, they will be off to college. It immediately makes me want to hug them tight and hope I’m not screwing them up with my own issues. This is often the moment when I realize that getting angry for yet another lost glove or a hat, for example, is stupid. Frustrating, yes, but in the scheme of things, not worth the battle in the end. Ironically, it’s seeing and sharing the frustration on other parents’ faces while rummaging through the lost and found at school that often makes me realize this.
On the flip side of things, as a daughter I think about how my relationship has evolved with my own mother and wonder what kind of relationship I’ll have with the girls when we’re all older. The foundation starts here, early, at this age and sometimes that scares me because everything feels like it counts. I know 8 years is still a lot of time, but it also isn’t. I look forward to all the major life changes that we’re heading towards in those 8 years, but in the back of my mind I can’t ignore that there is a clock ticking. I don’t want them filled with regrets wishing I would have done things differently, but life wouldn’t be life if there weren’t challenging days as well as good ones. When the good kind of days happen, everything else melts away.

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  • Katrina December 17, 2013 at 11:51 am

    I have a one year old daughter and I think about this stuff all the time.
    My mom was much more of a laid back “easy” mom when I was a kid and because of this we got to do most anything we wanted in terms of decision making. It seemed amazing at the time but now I feel so behind in life compared to my peers.
    I am 28, have a daughter, and am still in school working towards a career- I sometimes wish more had been pushed upon me… and so it goes.
    Great post.

  • CC December 17, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    For me, the difficulty has come in accepting the child I do have (strong-willed, stubborn) versus the child I always imagined having (not even sure if I know who she is but I suspect she doesn’t talk back!). It’s tougher that one might think!

  • Desiree December 17, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    I think you are a much better mother and parent than you realize. Just having the ability to reflect upon this issues and be aware of them is one of the most important things. I think so many parents never realize what you already have been able to conclude. Yes, every moment counts and I think you are doing really well. Also being close to each other means that there will be clashes and fights and arguments, that is inevitable. I wish my parents had discussed things more with me. So many times it all ended with my mother saying she was the parent so I just had to obey just because of that single reason. I think it is important to discuss and explain things. A no may be a no but at the age your girls are at now they probably want a good reason, which I myself wanted but never got.
    It is tough and no one is perfect but as long as we do our best that is what counts and matters.

    • Jenna December 18, 2013 at 9:53 pm

      Thanks Desiree. Many good points in your comment.

  • Stephanie December 18, 2013 at 12:05 am

    I’ve never commented on your blog before, but this topic- raising girls, is of primary importance to me, so out of the shadows I come. I have three daughters, the oldest now 18 and a senior in high school. Each of my girls is so different from each other, so our relationships are different too. The closeness and distance ebbs and flows with their stages of childhood and with my wisdom as a mother. I love parenting these girls. It is the best and hardest thing I’ve ever done. As they are all now in the throws of the teenage years, I am amazed to see that we, as a collective group of females in our home, are not only surviving, but thriving.

  • Darcy Troutman December 18, 2013 at 11:49 am

    wow, you are so right about the mirror. i think it’s hard for me because i don’t really like my mom. we both try, but we’re just two people who would never be friends if we weren’t related. plus, i’m absolutely terrified of having the relationship with my own daughters one day that i have with my mother right now. terrified.

    • Jenna December 18, 2013 at 9:57 pm

      I can understand why you might be frightened and worried about your relationship with your daughters, after all it is the experience that we can’t help but compare and draw upon, but as Desiree comments above, the fact that you can recognize this might give you what you need to shape your path differently than the one that you have with your mother.

  • Kay December 18, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    beautiful post. i also come from an asian immigrant family (taiwan) and have 3 kids–2 are step-children (boy and girl) ages 8 & 5 and i have a little boy who just turned 3. i grew up with very stoic parents who wanted to “raise us right” and ran a household where the children were often just seen but not heard. i was always introverted so keeping my opinions to myself was seemingly second nature. now with three kids with very different personalities (and being in a blended family) conflicts often arise with parenting as a “step” parent since there are disciplinary boundaries that are not crossed. it is trying and there are times i lose perspective due to frustration over trivial matters as well. but when the good times are good, they are *good* and i savor them :) thanks for sharing your post. i hate sounding trite but parenting really brings out the best and worst in ourselves.

  • amy December 18, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    beautiful post.

  • Gina Namkung December 18, 2013 at 9:23 pm

    One piece of advice: try not to over think this stuff. It’s too much to hold yourself accountable for “every moment” because hard you as may try, it’s impossible to get it right with everyone, everyday, and all of the time. If your girls respect you and value your opinion, they in turn will want your approval and all will be fine. I should know because I’ve raised four, very different kids but what they have in common is love of family. And yes, they are all coming home for Christmas. It doesn’t get much better than enjoying the company of your grown children.

    • Jenna December 18, 2013 at 9:57 pm

      Yes, that is good advice. Enjoy your full house for the holidays! Sounds lovely!

  • Cristina December 19, 2013 at 5:10 am

    These reflections ring a bell on me too. I often find myself in the same spot as you do. it’s not easy to judge things right, in the moment where our kids are because sometimes it seems to me that we are a step behind (or relate to our family history, which doesn’t help because they were born in totally different times). One has to have principles yet be flexible, be understanding even when you are tired, love them even when they reject you because they need to put some distance between you – to come back later on. It is confusing and stressing. But, as others have pointed out, as long as you are true to yourself and really try to listen to them, I think in time things will turn out right. They will have learned that they can express themselves and be listened too, that they can fail and be loved because their parents are not perfect either. One thing that works well with my son is…humor; trying not to over-dramatize his scenes and joke a bit about them with him. At first, he was puzzled and not happy at all, but then some sort of new complicity started, one where we laugh about things together, ourselves included, instead of quarreling together. What I’m beginning to realize is that he just wanted to “play” with me, in a different, grown-up way, so he’s quite happy that do now and is way more tolerant when we tell him no…Cheers girls, we’re on the same boat, it’s not always fun, but I think it’s gonna be ok, right?

  • Lulu December 19, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    Gorgeous pictures. I specially love the Christmas balls one.

  • Sora December 20, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    Relating to this post on many levels. I too found myself rummaging through the Lost and Found while the school Holiday program went on. I knew it wouldn’t be the last time I’d be here looking for a jacket, a hat, or a lunch box item. Thanks to you, I realize a lot of moms go through the same exact things. Life seems so much more hectic than when we were kids, but maybe because the tables are turned. This generation definitely seems closer to their kids and more involved in their lives — so I don’t think we are destined to have the same relationship we had with our parents. For me, I have to be mindful that they are children. They have delicate hearts, dreams, and of course temperaments. It seems you are doing a great job — making time for them and introducing them to the value of “experiences and not things.” I always have that in the back of my mind now when we do get an opportunity to travel with our girls and see how that time together is of such value. Happy Holidays to your family and thanks again for sharing your experiences (esp in working motherhood) with us.

  • Tim McMurdo December 25, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    I never had the privilege of raising a daughter. My son, now 23, was very much a boy that seemed to be a smaller mirror of myself.

    I know I made mistakes at times and sometimes failed to recognize teaching moments as they were presented to us. However, I persevered to be the father he deserved. In the process, I made peace with my own father. I learned to let my son grow and practice the lessons he’d been taught. Sometimes I was surprised at the results. Sometimes he found paths that I would not have chosen and sometimes I saw that his decisions were better than mine.

    In the end, he proved to be a fine young man. This while coming from a broken marriage and a father that like all of us, had to learn his parenting skills on the fly. I no longer think of him as the little me. He is now his own person. Yes, he often reminds me of myself at times. However, he turned out far better of a man than I can take full credit for. In spite of our efforts, good or bad, our children will grow up to be their own individual selves. We can only guide them as they stumble and stand up again. They can only teach us as we ourselves stumble as parents to learn not to fall in that same place again.

    • Jenna December 26, 2013 at 6:57 pm

      Tim, thank you for your thoughtful comment, as always! Sounds like you raised your son right and you impart some very wise words here. Happy holidays Tim, and thanks for stopping by.