Not A Bother

I’ve noticed something lately about my middle child, Gal Smiley. She is 11 years old and she is my right-hand-woman around here. Not only can she do a lot of the things I do – prepare snacks, or change the laundry, or talk her younger sister down from a wardrobe-related meltdown – she’s also really sensitive to other people’s feelings and helps keep the whole family on an even keel. She often knows how I’m feeling before I know it myself, and makes sure everyone is on board with working around that as best as possible.

It sounds great – and don’t get me wrong, it IS great, I don’t know what I’d do without her – but lately I’ve noticed that her desire to help out has extended to this new frame of mind where she doesn’t want to be a bother. It’s like she doesn’t want to add to the chaos and busy-ness, so she puts down her own wants and needs for the sake of the group.

For example, lately she’s taken to not letting me heat up leftover food that she is having for lunch, because that’s “too much trouble” for me and I’m “already so busy.”

Or, recently she got a new glasses prescription, and she was all like, “These ones I have are FINE, I don’t need new ones as it’s so much trouble, and so expensive, and I can live with these, they are FINE.” Which is nonsense, she should absolutely have new glasses, but convincing her that she DESERVES new glasses has actually been tough.

I have to say, I think this whole thing is sadly a pretty common thing among women. Our desire to please, to not rock the boat, to not cause anyone any difficulty. I’m the worst offender, myself, and I’m afraid I have led by example here, not wanting anyone to fight about anything ever, and never worrying about myself above anyone else in the family. And I fear I’ve been taking advantage of her caring ways by being a little too perimenopausal around here, sighing GREATLY over how UNAPPRECIATED I am and how I do EVERYTHING, which only makes her feel even more like she shouldn’t add to my great family burden. I mean, it’s partly who she is, but my own issues combined with society pressures aren’t helping the situation.

I suppose being aware of the problem is half the battle, and now I know I need to work on her – emphasizing her own self-worth, making sure she’s taking care of herself along with everyone else, making sure she speaks up when she needs or wants something. Telling her that what she needs is important and she should expect to get it.

It’s like the absolute reverse of dealing with a three-year-old. Funny how parenting changes.

5 thoughts on “Not A Bother

  1. I wonder if it would help not to make it about deserve / don’t deserve, but more about …I’m not sure what, I’m thinking off the cuff here. But I’m wondering if arguing with her about whether she deserves something or not may be clouding the issue, and could be a separate topic. She’s not getting new glasses because the Universe has judged her and found her a deserving person, she’s getting new glasses because it’s time to replace them, or because it’s fun to get new ones each time her prescription changes, or because the old frames are worn out, or whatever the reasons are.

  2. bibliomama2

    Aww. Very insightful on your part, and what a sweetheart. Both my kids are very attuned to my mood, and I try not to let it impact them too. Although it’s nice that Angus has suddenly taken to carrying up the laundry WITHOUT me sighing and grabbing my lower back. 🙂

  3. Zhu

    Indeed, that’s very insightful to notice. I think I was a bit like that as a kid, although probably not as young as 11. I’m the oldest and I remember a time where my mum was just… busy. My brother and my sister (who only have a three-year difference) were at these tricky stages, I was more independent (we have a seven- and ten-year difference) so I would just… try to take care of myself? It’s also a stage of growing up I guess, you want to show you have it all under control (even if it’s not that easy!).

  4. Partly nature, yes, but partly nature. I support making the efforts you suggest, but don’t get too hard on yourself because of it.

    Have her spend more time with me and LittleSis, who are no doubt too far the other end of the empathy spectrum. 🙂 That’ll balance her out, or at least show her it’s okay to put yourself first sometimes. (Or, well, perhaps alottatimes.)

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