I have a terrible guilt complex. I always assume I’ve done something wrong. If I haven’t done something wrong I create things in my head, or take responsibility for the wrong doings of others. Such is my narcissism that I actually believe myself to be far more significant than I am, that I have had a far more significant impact on the lives of those around me, even though it’s in a negative way I am claiming, than I actually do.
This evening I put Baby B on Miss Rose’s bed, as I always do, before we went into the bathroom for her to have her last wee and brush her teeth. I put B sideways on, as she is able to roll, so that she could only roll towards the foot or head of the bed, then I left the room.
As we came back in, she launched herself off the bed onto the floor. Fortunately we have carpet so it wasn’t too damaging, but it was a bump and she howled.
I scooped her into my arms and held her close whilst Rose wept and stroked her sister’s face, fetching her toys of hers to cuddle, and then shouting at the floor for daring to hurt her.
“I’m so sorry,” she said after a minute.
“Why as you sorry?” I asked her.
She looked up at me, grey eyes wet with tears, as she stroked her sister’s face (who had long since stopped crying). “It was my fault.” she said, in a miserable whisper.
My daughter has inherited my guilt complex. Inherited, or possibly learned?
I insisted, of course, that it wasn’t her fault. And not just because I was claiming responsibility I hadn’t earned. I’m the adult, I’m the mother, it was my choice to leave B on her own on the bed. I hadn’t realised she had progressed from rolling to actually maneuvering, and because of that my baby girl got hurt, albeit mildy.
So why did she claim responsibility?
“I should have been watching her,” she explained. “She’s my baby sister. I look after my baby sister. I should have been watching her. It’s my fault.”
Oh my little girl.
I tell her all the time to watch her baby sister. I put her in her Jumperoo and go to make a coffee, “Watch your sister for me.” When she’s in the back of the car in car seat, “Watch your sister for me.”
If B’s hat falls over her eyes, she pushes it back up. If she pulls her blanket over her face, Rose pulls it back down. If she gets upset in her Jumperoo, chair or on her blanket, Rose appears at my side to alert me so I can go and fetch her. She fetches me nappies and wipes when I need them, wipes B’s nose when it needs it. Sings to her when she’s crying, cuddles her when she’s sad.
At four years old I have infused Miss Rose with an alarming sense of responsibility for her six month old baby sister. So much so that when I make a mistake and let her roll onto the floor, Miss Rose assumes it is her responsibility.
It’s my fault. I put too much on my daughter. I infused her with guilt when things go wrong. It’s my fault.
I feel incredibly guilty about this… obviously.
Will I be able to course correct her? I love how much she loves her baby sister. She cares for her, adores her. Practically worships her. I don’t want to step in the way of that. I love that I can trust her to care for her and want that desire to look after her to continue as they grow. I am a big sister and I wanted to kill anyone who hurt my baby brother, even though the person who hurt him the most was actually me.
Can I leave her sense of care and love, but take away the guilt and unnecessary responsibility? Can they grow up in a way that Miss Rose feels protective of Baby B, but not like it’s all her fault if harm befalls her?
She’s my daughter. She shares so many of my emotional tendencies. I don’t know if I can ever take it away entirely, but I sure want to try. I want her to know when she’s not in the wrong and to embrace it, be proud of it, be certain of it. To stand her ground when she’s done nothing wrong and fight for her innocence when she knows it to be true.
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Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!