Did you ever feel guilty for not liking your kids? I know some of you are appalled I would even ask such a question. But others of you get it. For some, liking our kids, or at least one in particular, does not come easily.
Now, keep in mind, I'm not talking about loving your kids. That's a given. And, for the most part, love is just there. But like? Not so much. If you're really lucky, you have kids that are simply delightful... they're easy to like. But sometimes there's just that one who defies you at every turn or rubs you the wrong way. Perhaps they are too much like your own unlikable side (we all have one).
When I was growing up, I believed my dad hated me, particularly during my pre-teen and teenage years. It was a heavy burden to carry... this supposed hatred from a father... and it molded me in many ways, most of which were not good. When you believe that even your own father hates you, it's hard to find anything lovable about yourself. Bad behavior ensued. I became a bully, so much so that at one of my class reunions, a classmate came up to me and told me I was his second least-favorite person in school. Wow. What an honor. I think I redeemed myself in his eyes, but it was bothersome knowing that for years he had despised me.
As a young adult, I started seeing my dad in a different way. He was a proud man who, at only 45, was struck down by not one, but two, major heart attacks. Doctors gave him five years at most to live. My mother was only 37. Of course, back then, there were many more restrictions for heart patients -- no physical activity of any kind. No dancing. No mowing lawns. No sex.
I was seven at the time and lost the daddy I knew. His medications (there were many) changed his personality. At least that's what my mom said. I often wonder if it was more the loss of dreams, the loss of self, the loss of what was and what would be/should be. Death peeked around every corner. We never knew when the "big one" would strike. As it turned out, he survived 11 more heart attacks in 18 years. My childhood and early adult years were overshadowed by ambulances, CPR, and ICUs. Even after I moved 250 miles away from home, whenever I'd hear a siren, I'd think Dad was heading to the hospital again.
As I look back on his life, I have a hard time grasping what he went through. I sometimes wonder how different my life would have been had his heart not been so damaged. I wonder what kind of dad I would have had. One thing I know for sure, however, is that my dad never hated me. I'm pretty sure he didn't like me much (I was a loud, demonstrative, dramatic little girl and he was a heart patient), but I know he loved me. He loved me like every daddy loves his daughters. He loved me like only a parent can.
And I've come to terms with the idea that my father might not have liked me. I don't know that I would have liked me if I was my own daughter. When we have children, we get what we get. And they're not always the kids we'd dreamt of having, are they? So mamas (and papas) -- it's okay if you're not liking one of yours. What's not okay, however, is making them feel that they're unlovable. That's never, ever okay. Even if you have to pretend to like them, DO IT. And stop beating yourself up for how you're feeling.
Love them, pretend to like them (if you must), and before long they just might grow into people you genuinely do like. I know that's what happened with Dad and me. And I'll be grateful forever that it did.
Sharing a bit of my story,
P.S. Just so you know, I happen to really, really like my kids. I've been blessed.