This time of year, I’m forced to confront something quite unpleasant: my teenage self.
Here’s something you may or may not yet know about parenting. You are constantly coming head to head with yourself and all your emotional crap. We writers tend to feel like we’ve got a pretty good grasp on our emotionally issues. We have to tap into our deepest issues to create compelling characters. I wrote for more than a decade before I had my daughter, so I felt like I was pretty in touch with my issues. Mommy issues, daddy issues, self-confidence issues, acceptance issues. I dealt with them all. I should have been set when it came to this parenting thing.
By the way, here’s something you should know about me as a writer: I always far short of my own standards. I constantly struggle to overcome my own perfectionism. None of my books is as good as I want them to be. I am not proud to call myself a perfectionist. It’s not a gift, it’s a demon to wrestle to the ground, only to be fought again the next day.
But, like I said, I was a writer for ten years before I had my first kid. I was used to fighting that demon when it came to my books. A couple of years into parenting, I had one of those big ah ha moments. All my crazy perfectionism? I bring that to parenting, too.
My daughter was about two when I realized this. Once again, being a writer served me well. I’ve worked to accept that my books will never match the ideal in my head. I can make peace with that. I continue to struggle with my perfectionism as a parent. But I’ve got this inside track, right? I have more than a decade of making peace with my own limitations. Surely I should be able to accept that I’ll never be the perfect parent. I still wouldn’t say I’m great at letting go of the perfectionism, but I’m making progress.
There is, however, one element of parenting that has me running scared. One mystery that I am no closer to unraveling: how to deal with my inner angsty teenager.
This is the girl who was shy and awkward in high school. The introvert who had no idea how to function in a world of extroverts. The unpopular girl. The girl was just a little overweight and whose parents were on the undernourished side of the local pay-scale. Think of every pathetic, teenage cliche and that was me.
That girl friggin’ hates it when I have to go to school events. Like a Tinkerbell who doesn’t get enough applause, she dies a little every time she has to rub elbows with the other parents at a school event. It is agony. It makes me want to drive straight home, dye my hair emo black and listen to The Smiths too loud on my ipod.
I have not yet figured out how to broker a peace between my inner whiney teenager and my daughter’s Booster Club. I’m hoping like hell that I will figure out a way to deal with it though. My daughter is only in the second grade. I have a lot of booster club meetings to live through between now and graduation.
For now, I’m doing the best I can. I go to my daughter’s school and grit my teeth and smile. It’s what we all do when it comes to our kids, right? We put them first. No matter what. Besides, I’m sure that just as soon I figure out how to deal with my inner angsty teenager, parenting will throw some new deep seated issue my way. Some new horror I haven’t yet conceived. It’ll happen. Just wait.
Until then, I’ll be the one at the back of the Booster Club meeting that looks like she wants to swallow her tongue. And maybe actually has.
So what personal issues has parenting brought up for you? Any tips on how to deal?
Emily McKay loves to cook, bake and play with her kids. When she’s not on deadline, she also gardens, composts, follows celebrity gossip, and practices yoga. When she is on deadline, she … well, she panics, and does all of those things with more nervous energy. She lives in central Texas with her husband, two kids, zen cat, and two dogs.