I was barely eighteen when my daughter Danielle was born. And I was double that age when her little sister came along. Eighteen years is a long time to parent, and plan, but I don’t think anyone is every really ready for parenthood. There are moments that catch us off guard, boodoggle us with challenges we never imagined, and fill us with excitement, curiosity and pride.
One of the things I thought of, soon after my divorce to Danielle’s dad, probably even a little before that, was What kind of a person, what kind of an adult, do I want to see?
She was three or four, and I was busy worrying about the kind of adult she would become.
Would she be kind?
I set out to prepare her for the world. I didn’t always hit the mark, but the “car talks” we had discussed my reasons behind why I wanted her to learn how to tie her shoes, do well in school, make friends and keep them.
And now, with her here in my life again, living in my house where I am lucky enough to see her every day, I am struck by something else.
Whether I voiced it or not, I wanted something else from her as an adult, which I have been lucky enough to get. A relationship based on respect, love, and companionship. A relationship of equals. I like spending time with her. I find her input/ideas/thoughts to be (usually) on target, and well thought out.
Having kids is wonderful. Having your children grow up to be adults that you genuinely like and want to spend time with is even better.
I wish I had that relationship with my parents. I wish that they saw me in any other light than that impetuous 15-year-old that seems stuck in their brains. I wish I could tell them that person hasn’t existed for 30 years.
Part of child-rearing, a huge part, is one of letting go. We start at it slow. They take their first steps and we are there, ready to catch them. We remember the first time they poured their own cereal, handled a knife, or cooked on the hot stovetop.
We hold our breaths the first time they walk down the street on their own, or learn to parallel park, and we tell ourselves they will be okay, that they will make it, and so will we.
And when they leave home, we grieve and celebrate, for the child that we have lost, and the budding adult that has taken their place. But no matter what, we have to let go.
That which does not kill us makes us stronger.
Danielle, as she was growing up, speculated on how I would react to her leaving home. And when it happened, in the middle of a fight, it was absolutely traumatic. We both grieved, me for years, and a thousand times I wished I had handled things differently.
In the end, I was holding back the tide. She had to leave. She had to go to California and become the adult she was meant to become. It took years, and plenty of talks and tears on both our parts to come to where we are now and for her to return to Missouri.
I realize now, as I am in the middle of raising Emily, now eight (almost 9, eek!) that my goals for raising her are slightly expanded from the goals I had raising Danielle.
I want to raise Emily to be…
- Self-sufficient and capable
- Strong and smart
- Respectful and kind
- A lifelong learner
- A friend and peer
We all have our goals, and priorities. Those are mine.
What are yours?