Jennifer's essay was very difficult for me to read. As much as I try to withhold judgment of other moms and their feelings -- because if we're honest, most of us have had a feeling or two that we're not proud of, even if momentarily -- I was brimming with thoughts by the time I finished reading.
Perhaps it's because we adopted both of our children internationally. I had no expectations of them. None. I had expectations of their situations -- that they'd need a lot of emotional care and physical care and love and kindness and patience. But expectations of my children? No, I didn't have any. In fact, I recall writing a blog post about that just a few months after my son came into our family.
Repeatedly, Jennifer talks about her expectations: "My husband accused me of searching for a diagnosis that didn't exist, but I needed to know why my daughter wasn't meeting her developmental milestones, let alone my expectations."
She talks about what a failure Sophie was to her, how her lack of being "normal" was just too much to handle: "It got to the point where I viewed Sophie's every move through a lens of failure. To me, she was...hopelessly incapable of being normal."
I can't wrap my mind around being disgusted by either of my children for not being who I want them to be. Parents don't sign up for the job because they're guaranteed an opportunity to create perfect little mini-me's. At least, I hope they don't. If Jennifer had the mistaken belief that parenthood was about molding smaller versions of herself, she was sadly misinformed.
Parenting is hard. Really hard. It's wonderful and amazing and full of blessings. And it's also difficult. There were a handful of occasions after our second adoption when I found myself on the hallway floor, crying, wondering when it would stop being so hard.
But that was the situation -- a baby that was sick and didn't sleep, a barely-two-year-old child that needed me as well, being sick and overwhelmed myself -- and not the child. And furthermore, it was a situation I committed to when I decided to become a parent.
And finally, I was disturbed by Jennifer's reaction to Sophie's diagnosis. Because, as with everything else in Sophie's life, it was all about Jennifer. She was relieved that Sophie could finally be "normal." Once she had that hope, she felt motherly toward her daughter.
I shudder to think of how Sophie's life would have turned out had the doctors determined that her abnormalities that upset Jennifer so much were no more than personality quirks and that she was simply "different." So I suppose it was a blessing that Sophie had a treatable medical condition. Based on the first seven years of Sophie's life, I think it's safe to say that Jennifer wouldn't have ever sought the extensive personal therapy she needed.
While I believe it's very important to write about the difficult parts of motherhood to support each other, there are some things that probably shouldn't ever be committed to the Internet. Like a deep, strong dislike for your child. The article includes the following:
Why did the author change all the names? "I don't want my daughter to ever know how I struggled with her."
I'm not a psychologist, but I would guess that Jennifer's daughter will, at some point, just have a feeling something isn't right. And if Sophie ever goes looking for answers, especially if Jennifer is a writer and publishes regularly, she might come across this essay with circumstances and family members that look awfully similar to her own. And I cannot even imagine that kind of devastation.
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