I wasn't the kind of kid who fought with her parents constantly, but we did have a good selection of arguments over the years that helped prepare me for parenthood. I didn't have an embattled childhood, constantly screaming at my parents or moping with angst in my room, but some arguments are rites of passage and teaching children acceptable behavior isn't always the most peaceful process. It turns out, not only did I learn what was acceptable behavior, the fights I had with my own parents actually prepared me for motherhood in a lot of ways.
My mom used to hate when I would mope and she used to admonish me, saying on more than one occasion, "Stop acting like a prima donna." I don't know where she got that phrase because, to this day, I've never heard anyone else use it. But use it she did, and it used to drive me bananas. She meant, "Stop acting like a brat," but the English teacher in her must have needed a better way of describing my overall mood. A quick 25 years later I still don't think she knows how much that phrase made my skin crawl, probably with pre-teen angst.
But whenever I think about ways my parents prepared me for motherhood, that's one of them. I know I'm probably going to have to tell my daughter to stop acting like a brat at some point in our lives, but you can bet by the time we get to that point I'm going to come up with another word to use than "prima donna." You're welcome, my dear (and thanks, mom).
The "You Don't Understand Me" Fight
I remember feeling so frustrated that my parents couldn't understand where I was coming from when we had certain arguments and, well, now I get it. They didn't understand because they simply couldn't understand every last little thing about me, including my thought process or decisions. They could get pretty close, and did very often, but they could never understand me 100 percent.
Same goes for my daughter. I can see, already and even though she's only a toddler, that there are going to be times when I just totally don't understand her. Right now that usually centers around not understanding why she needs to eat only fresh blueberries (not frozen!) for every meal, but that's only the tip of the iceberg.
The "Curfew" Fight
I thought I understood curfews and why my parents were so strict about them. I thought they just wanted to go to bed and couldn't really figure out why they couldn't just go to bed and set an alarm for later to see if I had shown up. Little did I know that having your child out and away from you — with no one else in charge — isn't something that's all that easy to sleep through. Heck, I can barely sleep when I know my daughter is with her grandparents, let alone out with her friends and responsible for herself.
The "Leave Me Alone" Fight
There were times when the only solution to an argument that I could see was to say to my parents, "Just leave me alone!"
News flash to childhood me from my parenthood me: you can't always leave them alone. Sometimes it's more important to hash out the why's and how's of what the inappropriate behavior was instead of just "leaving it alone." I don't love explaining to my daughter why she has to stay still for a diaper change every single time, but it's what she's got to hear until she gets it.
The "No Dessert Until After Dinner" Fight
My mom would bake often, but dessert was something that typically followed a meal. There was the odd ice cream cone on a sunny afternoon but, for the most part, you ate the vegetables and whatever else was for dinner (or at least made a reasonable effort) before dessert. My mouth full of sweet teeth didn't always agree with that rule, but boy do I understand it now as a parent. At barely 18 months, we've already learned that once the treats are introduced, veggies and other wholesome food are considered chopped liver.
The "Stop Moping" Fight
I think this was our most frequent argument when I was a kid. Apparently there was a long "mopey phase," but I just remember thinking, "Why on earth can't I just mope? It's what I want to do!"
Now that I'm a mom, it's become crystal clear that just because we want to act a certain way, doesn't mean we get to. Just because my daughter wants to throw a whiny tantrum when she has to leave the playground doesn't mean that's the appropriate reaction. That's not to say I can always get her to stop, but there I am reminding her she can't behave that way just because she hasn't gotten what she wants.
The "Treat Your Siblings Like You Would Your Friends" Fight
Whenever I would bicker with my siblings, my dad used to say, "You don't treat your friends this way, do you?" Honestly, his point didn't always completely sink in.
Now that I have a daughter, I completely understand and want my daughter to treat her future siblings just as well as she would treat her friends. I can already see how having your children not getting along would be so stressful and saddening, and I hope my daughter is able to better get it when I use my dad's old saying with her.
The "Clean Your Room" Fight
I now understand that my parents insistence on cleaning our rooms or picking up after ourselves was directly caused by years of picking up legos and Cheerios and every other darn thing we ever played with. "Clean your room" is payback for years of bending over to wipe banana goo off the floor or the walls.