I have been a mom for my entire adult life. My daughter Danielle, born just a few months past my eighteenth birthday, was the fundamental instigator in shaping the woman that I would become.
Today, on her 23rd birthday, I want to share with everyone how much she has meant to me. How much motherhood has affected the evolution of me, and how important her presence has been in my life.
Best Mama in the World? Yeah, Right.
My little Emily, almost five now, often says, “Mama, you are the best mama in the world!”
I was telling this to my friend Victoria this past Saturday. She laughed and said, “But Aliyah (her daughter) says I’m the best mom in the world!” And really, what child doesn’t love their mom with that kind of intensity?
For some reason, perhaps because I’ve already ‘done that’ with one child and remember my endless stream of mistakes and inconsistencies, I am uncomfortable with being told I am the best mama in the world. So I usually say, “Well Emily, I try to be.”
And this has become a common refrain now with her. “Mama, you are the best mama in the world…well…you try to be the best mama. But I think you are the best mama.”
When you have a child at eighteen – you are going to make mistakes. Lots of them. After all, you are barely more than a kid yourself.
However, just for the record…this goes for age 20, 25, 30, on up to 40, and beyond. Having had my second child at the age of 36, I can attest to this. I had one raised and gone, and was starting all over again. And I’m here to tell you, there is no such thing as doing it right, all of the time.
I know that Dee often thinks of herself as my test baby, the one that I made all of the mistakes on. I don’t know if it would be reassuring to her or not to realize that I probably will make just as many mistakes the second time around. They’re just different ones!
Kids Change Us
Suddenly the future seems so much more important. Not just our future, but their future – the world in which they will live in, the neighborhood they grow up in, and the friends that they will find and connect with.
I think that having a child, or being a parent figure to another child, makes us better human beings. It is quite suddenly more than ‘just me’. There is this other vulnerable life, depending on us, trusting us, and looking to us for a model of how to live, how to behave and act.
To be parents, to be good parents, we must suddenly please more than just ourselves. It is a heady responsibility.
I was an only child. With no sibling and zero experience around babies, Danielle and I were learning together every step of the way. Burp babies? You really have to do that? When will this child learn to go potty on her own? When will she speak coherently? When will she read? How long should I let her cry? How long should I breastfeed?
So many questions…and so few resources at the time.
And yet, here she is twenty-three years later. An accomplished artist, a writer, and a college student. She is in a steady relationship with a widowed dad of a four year old boy, who is just a few months younger than her baby sister. And while life is never perfect, and struggles with money are a reality for her (heck, they are still that way for me too!), she has carved a decent life for herself. She survived and thrived – and even lets me know from time to time that she appreciates some aspect of how I parented her. So I guess it wasn’t all bad!
I will always look at Dee as the first person who absolutely, irrevocably, changed my life. She made me strive to be MORE, to be a better person and mother. Because she deserved better. She was the beginning of the self-evolution that still continues, to this day, with her baby sister.
Echoes of the Past
Having raised one child before starting on another is unusual. It is hard not to compare one to the other, especially in terms of remembering where I was eighteen years before. Constantly I think of, “Where was I eighteen years ago? What was Danielle like at this age? What was she going through? What were her interests?”
It isn’t so much a comparison of personalities, or of individual quirks, but of day to day lives. My girls are very different. Emily is much more like her father, Danielle reminds me more of me at times. But both share inquisitive personalities, full of life and love of learning. They are both incredibly intelligent, thoughtful and kind human beings.
There are no ‘do overs’ in child rearing…there are only ‘go forwards’…at least, I try and remember that and not let the past dictate my actions in the present or future.
Belief in the Future
Above all, what excites me the most is the question of what will happen in the future. What will the next 23 years bring? Where will my beautiful girls be in two more decades? Will they be mothers…grandmothers?
Will they be in college? Have doctorates?
Will they be running successful careers? Be entrepreneurs?
But most of all, will they be happy? Will they be excited about their lives and enjoying the living of it? Will they be proud of their accomplishments? Striving for more? Will their own lives have been changed by children and kind, decent partners by their sides?
Until You Are a Parent
Elizabeth Stone once wrote, “Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”
This is true for non-biological parents as well. I say this, because of the child now in my daughter’s life. If the relationship goes forward, and she becomes a permanent part of his life, she will be his mother. And she will feel this way…heck, she probably already does. Parenthood will shape her in ways no other life experience ever can. It will wake her up at night with worry, with fear of what dangers lurk in every day life.
That never goes away, by the way.
Recently, Dee went on a trip to Yosemite. Her phone was already cutting out when she called me and after we hung up I realized I didn’t know WHERE she would be or WHO to call if she didn’t show up. I didn’t even know that she was part of a larger group. Most of the week she was gone I spent worrying intermittently about whether she had fallen off a cliff or been eaten by bears.
Danielle laughed when I told her my fears after she had returned, “Mom, they don’t have grizzlies here, only black bears.”
Somehow, that really didn’t make me feel any better.
I will end this post by saying…
Danielle, you are everything I ever hoped for and more. I love you more than you can possibly imagine. For all that you are, and all that you will become, I have such pride and love. You and your baby sister are the best things that ever happened to me.
Happy birthday, Pookie! I love you!
Homeschool Log for 9/1/11
Language Arts – We hauled out a couple of games today…Zingo and Short Vowel Fun…both by Discovery Toys. Zingo is basically picture and word matching bingo. It’s easy and Emily enjoys it. I imagine along the way, if we play it enough, she will begin to recognize the words, not just the pictures.
Short Vowel Fun is a card game with three letter words. The object of the game is to match either the first letter sound or to choose a card that rhymes with the one on top of the discard pile. This is helping two-fold – she is having to read the three letter words and find their match rhyme-wise. It is good practice overall.
The rest of the day was spent in creative play. I’m still down, fighting the effects of a bad case of poison ivy and the Benadryl leaves me in a tired haze. But it is either that or scratch my skin off. I figure I’m better off taking the Benadryl!