The Meanest Thing I’ve Said to My Daughter, So Far

Sunday night, just before bath time, my last nerve ran out into the street and threw itself under a car. About 45 seconds after that, I made a simple request of my daughter. About a minute after that, I said the meanest thing I’ve said to her….so far.

Image courtesy

Image courtesy

Vivi was supposed to be getting ready for her bath. I looked over and saw a stack of orange peels and other snack detritus on the coffee table in the den. From the couch, I hollered down the hall, “Come get your dishes and put them in the sink!”

She thundered down the hall, running wide open through the den and straight into the kitchen, right past me. Then she wandered back into the den.

“What are you DOING?” I asked.

“Seeing if I could outrun the cat.”


She meandered over to the coffee table, picked up a book that had been left open there earlier in the afternoon, and started to read. I gave it a few seconds then said, “DISHES.”

“Oh, right!” She came very very very close to the dishes, but then the cat walked by again and she pounced on him.

“Leave the cat alone and just take the dishes to the sink!” By now, she had the cat draped across her left arm like a dish towel and ignored me when I repeated, “Put the cat down!” With the cat wiggling to get free, she stacked her water cup on top of her plate. Teeter totter sway and wobble…y’all can see where this is going, right? I’m not sure if the cat knocked the cup over or the cup fell over and the water landed on the cat, but all of that happened at once and now we had a bigger mess and water all over everywhere.

And that’s when I blurted: “Why can’t you just……BE NORMAL….for one minute?”

I meant to say, “Why can’t you focus on this? Why will you not listen to me? Why can you not leave the goddam cat alone? Why can you not remember to clean up after yourself? When will you learn to respect the laws of physics? Especially where cats and water are concerned???”

Instead, I said “Why can’t you be normal?” And I’m still beating myself up for that.

She paused for a moment but didn’t answer me. I hope she was too busy dealing with the mess to register what I had said,

After the mess was sopped up and thrown away and Rufus had escaped to the backyard to recover his dignity, I should have apologized to Vivi for that word. She was already giggling in the tub. “Normal” is the last thing I want her to be. I want her to be clever and kind and free and confident and courageous and content. I want her to be herself, authentically and unapologetically. I also want her to put her own damn orange peels in the kitchen trash can. Not the wastebasket under the desk that only gets emptied every few weeks–the KITCHEN trashcan. And I want her to do that the first time she is asked, while bearing in mind that cats and water and gravity are all fickle fellows. I want her to be a centered individual who knows how to live in the world with other people.

Normal. Ugh. My daughter isn’t normal. But I didn’t need to remind her of that.

I’m beating myself up about this slip of the tongue. Worrying that this one thing will become the inner voice that she hears. Wondering if this was the straw that broke the daughter’s back.

The mom guilt is strong on this one. Was this my big mistake that wipes out every positive thing I’ve ever done for my girl? That’s what I worry about with EVERY mothering decision. I guess that’s….oh what’s the word?


18 thoughts on “The Meanest Thing I’ve Said to My Daughter, So Far

  1. Fran Tunno

    There are far worse things you could have said. I think she’ll be OK and, as long as you keep guiding her, there’s a pretty good chance she’ll never have to grow up and be…normal.

  2. mariner2mother

    If she was giggling in the tub so easily, your comment might have bounced right off her. I can’t tell you the number of times I’m talking to my husband and to my son and they don’t hear a word I say (ADD). I also can’t tell you the number of times I wish my son could eat a meal without leaving half of it on the floor and his chair (he’s 13). And I wish he could pick up his headphones in his room off the floor so he doesn’t go through a pair every 3 months. I hear ya.

  3. Kris

    I don’t think you have anything to worry about unless it becomes a constant thing. I also know that the rest of the time you are not that way and allow Vivi free to be…Vivi. One word my mother used did that put a kink in armor of our beloved mother daughter relationship was but…..I probably could have survived that unscathed but it was the other things she said and did knock every bit of self esteem and self respect that I possessed. It’s the constant chip, chip, chip that does it. Vivi is safe, but do sit down and talk about it.

  4. DeeAnn Cox

    The fact of the matter is that at times we all must “act normal”. Putting orange peels in the kitchen garbage is a”normal” act. I think as parents it is our job to encourage both the normal and the not-so-normal behaviors of our children.

  5. Jessica

    Don’t be too hard on yourself, Ashley. Everybody has bad days and says things she regrets–even a mom! I think as long as it doesn’t become a “habit” you shouldn’t worry. And you are not expecting too much to want your children to clean up after themselves, just as it is entirely “normal” for kids not to listen sometimes. I often say that if the worst thing I can say about my child is that he sometimes leaves his dirty socks on the living room floor, I must be doing something right! 🙂

  6. Cynthia Queen

    What’s so great about being normal anyway? Sir Isaac Newton normal? Nope. Pope Francis normal? Huh-uh. What about Bill Gates (college drop-out) or Stephen Hawking, Big nope. Whose goal is it to be normal? If normal is all that our children aspire to become, then they are doomed to a life of mediocrity, and we have failed them. Normalcy is highly overrated.

  7. shdt

    What makes it okay to think that “Normal” isn’t all those things listed… clever, smart, sweet, gentle…. in my experience “normal” people are all those things. Being unique is NORMAL!

  8. Tommy

    At times like this it almost seems that Vivi & Mary are twins, not cousins!
    My personal slip-up was telling Mary I was disappointed in her. I’ve got to be very careful using that phrase – I could definitely tell that got to her.

  9. Chris

    I want to say “Oh, my.” The whole scene was normal. Vivi knows that, because it’s the normal she lives in everyday. All those wonderful things like books and cats and oranges. She was trying to experience them all at once, and you were Charlie Brown’s adult sounds interfering. I doubt if she even heard the word. Her ‘normal’ will change and grow as she takes more interest in the state of her surroundings–but probably not until she wants to invite a boy to her house!!!.

    It reminds me of my teenage son driving out of the driveway while his dad mowed the front yard. He called out, “Yard looks great, Dad.” He was sincere. It didn’t occur to him that he could (should?) be mowing it for his dad.

    You’re a good mom, Ashley.


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