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Déjà Vu All-Over Again: Parenting and Childhood Memories

March 14, 2013

One of the hardest parts of parenthood is how your child’s problems can so often cause your own childhood emotions and memories to float to the surface. I experienced this myself a few weeks ago when Sophie came home after a particularly challenging day at her gymnastics class.

After a challenging gymnastics session, Sophie ultimately broke down in tears, crying over the fact that no matter how hard she tries, she can never earn the much-desired “gold star sticker” that is bestowed upon one of 15 5-year-olds in the class. Apparently this Survivor-esque contest has taken it’s toll on Sophie, leading to this massive break down in frustration. She further confessed – through tears and sobs – that she tries so hard to concentrate and listen and sit still, yet one particular little girl (who happens to be a friend of hers) constantly distracts her. And as a result, the sticker is never within Sophie’s grasp and she just doesn’t know what to do.

Hearing Sophie tell me this story made my heart sink and tears immediately welled up in my eyes. Of course I felt badly for Sophie because I felt her frustration and pain. But the sadness I felt were not just for Sophie. They were for a little 2nd grade girl who was chastised by her teacher and forced to stay after school because a classmate got her into trouble for no reason. Yes, that little 8-year-old girl was me. Listening to Sophie’s story, I was suddenly in 2nd grade again — feeling scared, frustrated, and helpless. Choking on my words and tears, I shared this story with Sophie who said that girl didn’t seem like a very nice friend.

After the crying subsided (both Sophie and mine), she seemed to get over the gymnastics episode fairly quickly. Me on the other hand? Not as much. For the entire day following this emotional conversation, I still felt so badly for Sophie. Every time I replied the episode and heard her words, I started to cry all over again. I couldn’t understand why I was still so upset when clearly she had moved on.

But that’s just it. She did move on. But I was still experiencing the pain I felt when I was 8-years-old. Sophie’s pain felt so real and raw to me because of that same injustice I felt when I was only two years older than her.

I’m realizing this is will be the tough part of parenthood for me. Not knowing what old wounds and memories will be reopened by Sophie’s experiences, and the encounters she has with the mean kids or the friendships she makes as she grows. Suddenly the days of worrying about her watching too much Nick Jr. seem trivial.

I do worry about the emotional toll this new stage of our lives will take (for me mostly). But I also know that Sophie is incredibly strong, and so was I as a kid. She will make her mistakes and I know she’ll get her feelings hurt countless times. Which means my feelings will also be put through the ringer. I guess we can only do so much for our children. So as I wait for the next emotional debacle, I will start stocking up on Kleenex.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. March 14, 2013 1:12 am

    Oh my there is so much to look forward to. I know what you mean though. As moms, we cry twice, once for us and once for our children. This makes us stronger even when we think it’s too much. Thanks for sharing this story. Hope Sophie gets that Gold Star soon.

  2. March 14, 2013 4:17 am

    You have perfectly expressed one of the hardest challenges of parenthood: watching our kids learn from their own lessons and feeling their (and our) pain when they do. Agonizing! Hang in there, Mom.


  3. March 14, 2013 4:39 am

    Aw, tough. Sorry about Sophie’s gym class experience. It is so hard to not want to pick up the phone or just march in there and give whomever’s in charge a big piece of your mind. And sorry about how you remembered your own experiences. I hate to tell you, this is just the beginning. Good luck! The most important thing is to be there to listen as she sorts through it.

  4. March 14, 2013 7:14 am

    I feel you. I’ve already started getting way too worked up about things N experiences at school. Raising a girl brings its own challenges, for sure.

  5. March 14, 2013 9:48 am

    Thanks for sharing, I think all us mother’s can relate. Reading this took me back to 1st grade. As a mother of two young men, their disappointments, frustrations and challenges still affect me as though I am the one going through it. Never ends no matter how old they are, that’s a mother’s love.

  6. March 14, 2013 10:18 am

    I feel these events are actually blessings allowing us to release those old wounds we didn’t realize were still hanging around. You helped her to get through it and now you can let it go and feel lighter and more free because of it. Keep up the good work Mom!

  7. March 14, 2013 12:00 pm

    Poor Sophie! I’m sorry to hear she had such a hard time in class. But, it seems like she’s pretty resilient — something that I’m sure she got from her mom. 😉

  8. March 14, 2013 4:17 pm

    I was just thinking the same thing! I was talking with the teacher who runs the summer camp where Ben and Zoe will go this year. I was thinking of starting Zoe mid-session so she could spend some extra time with her preschool friends before they all go off to Kindergarten. The teacher reminded me that she should start at the beginning when all the girls start forming “friendships” (read: cliques), otherwise she’ll be intentionally left out by the girls who are there from the beginning. I felt like I had been punched in the stomach, because I know the teacher is right and I remember how horrible girls are to each other at that age… The pain of elementary school girl drama washed over me like it happened yesterday. Then I pulled myself together and registered her to start the FIRST DAY of camp!

  9. Jess permalink
    March 14, 2013 5:49 pm

    Think this is painful? – and of course it is – middle school will simply crush you!

  10. Emily Jennewein permalink
    March 14, 2013 10:15 pm

    Leah, thank you for sharing these beautifully honest sentiments. Their challenges bring up so much pent up and unresolved issues for us! I really empathize with you.

  11. March 15, 2013 1:03 am

    Bless Sophie’s little heart. It’s tough sometimes, but it’s great Sophie has a Mom who remembers how it is to be a child and comforts her through the disappointments and issues of life. I think sharing your story with her helps makes Sophie stronger because she don’t feel so alone.

  12. Mom permalink
    March 18, 2013 10:48 pm

    Yes, you’re so right! Going thru all those emotionally filled moments with YOUR child is heart wrenching! I, too, felt so many of those flash backs when you daughters were growing up and striving “to be your own person” during all your school years. As they say, “Life’s a bitch” but when you have a loving mother like you, it helps Sophie navigate those bumpy roads into softer curves 🙂

  13. March 19, 2013 6:55 am

    I’m not a mom, but reading your post makes me understand my mom better, and that moms will be moms no matter how old their child may be. Thank you so much for sharing this. <3

  14. March 29, 2013 2:55 pm

    Sophie is blessed to have a mom she can talk things through with. P.S. I was the girl who would have been distracting her and getting her in trouble. On behalf of the trouble makers, I apologize!


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