On the day my mother turned 40, she wrote in her journal, and a fair bit of it had to do with me (which is actually unusual in her journals). I have left out what was personal for her alone. I wish she had not felt so frustrated with my 8 1/2-year-old self, but I find it interesting, even reassuring, to read what she was feeling. And, as a mother, I totally understand:
"My fortieth birthday, and I’ve just had a quarrel with Caity, the same old thing, a contest of wills, with each of us knowing we were in the right. Our first fight since Friday lunch on the train, when I made her throw out the apricot yogurt she had ordered for lunch and then not wanted. We have both made new year resolutions. Caity first, and she wrote 'no to much fiting with my mom,' and then I wrote 'not too much fighting with my daughter.'
Caity troubles me. She isn’t how I would want her to be. She seems to bully and cheat and cry and sound like a brat. On the other hand she is sweet, too, and innocent, not crafty, and she is responsible and trustworthy. I have messed up rearing her. She thinks I am terrible—mean, angry. And yet I hear these other kids on the train and they sound obnoxious, some of them. The children at the Hilton with older brothers, or any siblings, seemed to be able to cope in the world more gently and amiably that Caity. Everything terrible I have caused her."
I may still not be gentle and amiable deep down inside, but I hope I am not a bully or a brat anymore on this day, my own 40th birthday.