• Wed, Jan 16 2013

I Just Gave My 9-Year-Old Her First Guilt Trip

shutterstock_107812748Many of us, when we become mothers, make the promise to ourselves the second we give birth that we are not going to turn into OUR own mothers. For example, I was expected to have a clean room at all times. So I don’t force my daughter to keep her room tidy, I just shut her door. I was forced to get straight A’s, so I’m more laid-back when it comes to my daughter’s homework and just tell her to do her best. But, a couple of weeks ago, for a moment, I did turn into my mother and I have never felt so bad in my life. I pulled a guilt trip on my daughter.

I couldn’t believe it — not as I was doing it, not after I had done it, even today, weeks later, it still traumatizes me.

This is what happened: My daughter was spending time with her father in Aspen and she not only promised to e-mail me but she “pinky promised” to e-mail me (we ALL know “pinky promises” are way more important than just a “promise.”) The e-mail never arrived. So when we talked on the phone the next day, she could hear in my voice that I wasn’t happy. I told her why, how she “pinky promised” to e-mail and that she didn’t, and it hurt my feelings. I couldn’t believe what I was doing or saying. It was like my own MOTHER had infiltrated my body and she was speaking for me.

First, I KNOW my daughter was probably just tired from skiing all day, or she was busy with her dad and grandparents. I knew she didn’t e-mail me on purpose, or to make me feel bad. She just totally forgot. But there I was, pulling a guilt trip on her, making her feel awful. And awful she did feel. She almost started crying when I told her why I was upset, and then I almost started crying for being the one to make her cry.

I had always promised myself that I would NOT turn into my mother, especially when it came to Guilt Trips, which my parents have always been very good at, even to this day. If I get out of a family dinner with them, I’ll get a phone call the next day telling me, “We all had such a great time. You really missed out,” while I roll my eyes, knowing that I’m getting a guilt trip, but also still feeling guilty (their guilt trips still work on me.)

Perhaps, to make a sweeping generalization, it’s because we’re Jewish. Trust me, if you are Jewish and you don’t eat all the food on your plate, you get a guilt trip. If you don’t call your parents at the VERY least, twice a week, you get a guilt trip. And now here I was pulling a guilt trip on my daughter. I questioned myself: Who and what have I turned into? And all over not sending an e-mail? Trust me, the night I pulled the guilt trip on my daughter I could barely sleep I felt so bad.

My daughter and I, of course, made up in the sense that while I was on the phone with her I told her to stop worrying about it and let’s move on and to tell me about her amazing day. It turns out you really have to work on NOT turning into your mother.

I’ve been telling myself that it’s NOT going to happen again. I’m never going to guilt trip her again, and I swear to god, it BETTER not be in my genes. As someone who feels guilty a lot of the time, thanks to my parents, I do not want my daughter to ever feel the way I do. But from this experience, I’ve learned that while I may have made my daughter feel guilty, no one felt guiltier than me.

(photo: Andrea Slatter / Shutterstock)

You can reach this post's author, Rebecca Eckler, on twitter.
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  • Kate

    Actually, I think you’re being a little hard on yourself. Nine years old is plenty old to teach kids to do what they say they are going to do. It would be one thing if she hadn’t pinky promised… but she should learn that if she promises to do something, she needs to follow through. I’d give yourself a pass on this one.

  • PerfectPro(crastinator)

    It sounds like you used the right language. “When you did {action} , I felt {emotion}.” Also I think a true guilt trip might start at that “station,” but then it picks up steam and ends somewhere around “what if I had died last night–how would you have felt about breaking your promise then?”

    • http://www.facebook.com/paul.white.3532507 Paul White

      If the author thought *that* was a guilt trip she needs to meet my mom.

  • http://www.facebook.com/courtney.wooten Courtney Lynn

    I don’t see a problem with teaching a child to follow through with their word. Teach them early!

  • Justme

    I wouldn’t call it a guilt trip – I think it’s just calling attention to the fact that sometimes our actions (whether intentional or not) can affect how someone else feels. I do that with my two-year-old when she hits me or the dog….I get down on her level, hold her hands and look directly into her eyes – “Hitting people hurts. When you hit me, that hurt. We do not want to hurt people.” It’s not a guilt trip if you express your feelings in response to their actions…it’s showing them that they aren’t the center of the universe and must take other people’s feelings into account.

  • AP

    I think your reaction was fair. I can remember being in college and getting way worse, even if they called when I was in class! Apparently, not answering one’s cell phone during a 90 minute lecture means one is dead and scaring one’s parents.

  • Sarah

    Would it kill you to proofread?

    • Charles4man

      Couldn’t agree more.

  • Faya

    The way you addressed it was actually showing good communication. That wasn’t guilt tripping. Just because something makes someone feel guilty does not make it a guilt trip.