I am probably messing up my little girl.
I think this probably several times a week, maybe more.
Particularly when I read about the emotional impact that enduring depression can have on your children, or when I read an article about the long-term consequences of not being able to fulfil a child's cries for attention each time we're needed, or when I open a book about healthy eating and it tells me that my bad habits have probably already rubbed off on my little one. No hope for her relationship with food then? No hope for her mental health? And no hope for her self-esteem?
I've pretty much screwed her up already.
And then I sit here thinking about real life.
A new sibling; moving house; a bereavement; a new job; redundancy; a disability; financial worries; a long term mental health issue; health worries; a job to go to; a friend to help; a phone call you need to make; a meal to cook; a marriage to save; morning sickness; a letter to write; a computer to mend; tiredness; fear; hair to dry; a dress to buy; a new hobby to try...
The list goes on...
My point is that, no matter how much we endeavour to meet all our children's needs, we are actually probably never going to, although we can perhaps exhaust ourselves trying. We can not shield our children from every negative emotion and at times, we ourselves are going to be the evil instigators of the negative emotions our children end up feeling.
I know that I can not shield my daughter from every mis-hap that life throws at us, or even at me; I am sure she has endured the consequences of my turbulent emotions over recent months and I've felt accountable for that. I know that she struggled with a recent bereavement, primarily because of the huge impact it had on me and I was probably verging on depression for a duration of that time; I could not have met her emotional needs when I was feeling so low in myself.
This makes me feel terrible. But, it's the truth.
And then reading articles telling me that my child has been yearning for my love and attention whilst I've been absorbed in my own selfish grief isn't going to change anything; it just induces self-loathing and I'm sure there are plenty of articles on the impact of that too!
I even feel terrible each morning I get myself ready for work and take myself into another room whilst she entertains herself, or that Daddy tends to get her dressed, because it takes me much longer to get ready than him. I question if I'm damaging her because I choose to spend time applying make-up for work, rather than spending an extra 10 minutes in her company each morning. And then, when I'm cooking dinner and she's begging me to play hide and seek, I remember the book I read which charted the consequences of ignoring a child's desire for play on long-term self esteem.
"Work can wait; children are the important work."
Words of this nature in bold on the page opposite, surrounded by colourful rainbows, flowers and flying pigs.
I am terrified of messing up. Terrified that she will one day (soon after turning 13) tell me that she has never forgotten my emotional volatility in her early years, or the time I told her I was too busy to help her with her homework when she was 7, resulting in a detention and a long term phobia of maths, or that I just didn't give her enough love and attention.
Or maybe worse, whatever worse may be.
I'm not condoning messing up my daughter in anyway, but I guess this is my confession, that I know it's inevitable that something I will do will not help her in the long-run. That one day, maybe stuffing my face with chocolate cake because I'm due on my period didn't seem like a lesson in gluttony to me, but to her, it was a free pass to bad eating habits and subsequent low self esteem.
If my lovely little girl ever does read this blog, I really hope she can tell me that regardless of how I've messed up, amongst the chaos of daily life, she knows she's always been loved, which really is the very best I can offer.