It made me laugh.
It makes her teachers love her.
I feel a strong sense of trust in her because, though she's younger than her sister, she follows through on her responsibilities.
These are all good things, yes?
Lately, however, I am noticing how she crumbles when she can't figure something out. I watch her berate herself when something is difficult for her. She is dying to maintain her straight A average and please her teachers, outshine her classmates. I don't ask for any of this.
I heard her hitting herself and saying how stupid she was because she couldn't understand her homework question.
That's just TOO much.
Even worse, when she does make a mistake or gets frustrated, she gets furious and either hits or throws something. Then, because she feels bad, she refuses to apologize. Instead she plays a victim and accepts none of the blame. When I've forced her to apologize to her sister lately, it's been a slow process. She says she's afraid that her sister won't forgive her...that her sister hates her.
And even worse... she will preempt the hate she believes is coming by shouting, "I hate you!" at her very heart sensitive sister, who only wants to nurture and be a good big sister.
Then I have two very upset little girls.
I am a self-professed recovering perfectionist.
I gave up many of my perfectionist and type-A tendencies when I became a single mother. I had no choice. She was only a year old. Surely she doesn't recall my difficulties saying, "I'm sorry" when I've done nothing but model that behavior to my girls. She was too young to remember the fits I would throw because I couldn't keep a perfect house and take care of two children on my own, freshly out of a 15 year marriage.
I'm better now. I am!
But when I try to help her...when I offer words of encouragement...or, in my less than stellar moments when I try to predict the stressful path she's creating for herself....she internalizes it. She feels doomed. She's convinced hers will be a life of misery or, at the very least, miserably trying to be better than who she is now.
I'm at a loss. She went to bed tonight in tears, with me begging her to understand that she doesn't need to be so perfect. That we all make mistakes. That it's okay to screw up and say I'm sorry.
She turned away from me, eyes red and filled with tears, and asked me to leave her alone.
My snuggly baby girl...and right when I felt like I was breaking her heart, I realized she just broke mine.