I find it salutary to read my journals when Anne and Michelle were toddlers. Looking back 30 years, I might come across as a much better, saner mother than I really was. I owe it to younger mothers to be honest about my inadequacies. When I rejoice that my daughter is mothering my grandson the way I mothered her two younger sisters, I am really celebrating that she doesn’t seem to be making the mistakes I made with her.
When I wrote this, Anne was 2 years and 5 months; Michelle was 3 months. I have not changed a word, much as I am tempted to.
Anne is going through a difficult time. She seems to cry more in a day than she cried in a month at Michelle’s age. The price of autonomy is discontent. The world is not your oyster. There are many things you can’t have when you want them. It’s impossible to tell how much is her age and how much is jealousy over Michelle. No use agonizing over the question, either. This is a resolution often made, seldom kept. If we weren’t tired by the additional work Michelle involves, perhaps we would have more patience with Anne. I can only try. I have to guard against the tendency to prefer Michelle’s sunny responsiveness to Anne’s unpredictable moods. Michelle makes me feel like a good mother; with Anne I am not so sure. Perhaps I resent her a little because of that.
Tonight I was thinking that both she and I would probably benefit if I had more time away from her. Part-time jobs for mothers of young children are probably the ideal solution. It’s impossible to be freshly responsive to a 2 1/2 year old all day long, particularly if she’s your own.
I should keep these journals. If all mothers kept journals when their children were young, there would be less need for psychiatrists. I would love to see a journal my mom might has kept when I was Anne’s age. There would be real continuity from generation to generation. Otherwise you forget about almost everything. Michelle makes me realize how little I remember of Anne at that age.
Once I got pregnant with my third, I stopped keeping the journals, and I have always regretted it. Rose, my third daughter, was both the most like me and the most challenging. I would love to be able to capture how I had to change to be the kind of mother she needed.