Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Happy 12th birthday!

Wow. Twelve years have gone by.
Twelve long years have just vanished.
Whenever my daughter's birthday rolls around it makes me feel a little reflective. It forces me to take a moment to really consider the last several years. I try to remember what it was like before I was someone's mom. The more time that passes the less I remember about that time.
Now that she is getting older and is at an age where she is closer to being an independent adult than she is to being an infant I have noticed I've been experiencing a new and different fear than I did before. Before I would worry about making sure that I am being a good influence, that I am teaching her to walk, talk, use the bathroom, to dress herself, get along with kids at school, to share, to basically do all of the things we as adults do every day and take for granted that someone at some point taught us.
Now my worries have shifted. Now I worry about preparing her for life on a deeper level. I am always aware of the fact that every move I make is watched and recorded by her to draw on as an example of what to do or not to do when she is and adult. I have to ask her to speak up when ordering in restaurants to prepare her for being assertive in future office situations. I have her handle the debit machine in the store so she understands the basics of shopping. I teach her to look at labels of everything we purchase so she understands serving sizes and nutritious content. I have her look up her fast food meals on online menus so she really understands what she is putting in her body when she wants a second taco. I have to make sure to tell her "No." every once in a while, even if I know she will be mad at me, so she understands that in life we don't always get what we want.
And the hardest thing, the thing that a person could lose sleep over if they think too long and hard about it: I have to try really hard to be the kind of adult that I want her to be better than someday.

Live by example. Never be a "do as I say, not as I do" kind of parent. Those are the types that wonder why their kids never call after all they did for them as a child, they wonder where they went so wrong when their kids end up in bad situations married to abusers, or addicted to drugs.
The man who is holding his third beer after work waving his arm in his son's face saying, "I don't ever want to catch you drinking!"
The kind of mom who is lecturing her daughter on being promiscuous when her daughter has seen a revolving door of men come through the house.
The father who won't cry in front of his son or the mother who won't let go of a man even if he is hitting her in fear of being alone.

Kids can overcome difficult childhoods. We are not destined to become our parents, but it isn't the norm. My biggest fear is that my daughter will become a young mom just like I was, like my mother was and my grandmother before her. The last thing I want for my daughter is to give up on her youth so early. I want her to have it in her to chase her dreams with the freedom to make mistakes, and choices and to enjoy everything that youth has to offer. I want her to be secure in the fact that she is really loved for who she is and that she has a family who would do anything for her and support her in any way. I don't want her to be so lonely for a real family that she decides to throw her youth away to create one by having a child of her own.

I don't regret having a daughter when I did, I would not change it now because she is the love of my life. I only wish I would have waited until I had an identity of my own before I had a baby. Now I wonder what kind of adult I will be when she leaves me.
Will I regress and be a pathetic forty-something trying to pretend I am a twenty-something? I know women like that, and it is just sad. Old ladies hanging out at the rock clubs with the young kids trying to dress like them and hang with them and even -ugh- date them.
Will I try to be her friend more than her mother?
Will I fall into a deep depression when it hits me that being a mother has been the greatest thing I have ever done and it is over, and just look forward to maybe being a grandmother?
Or will I freak out and have another baby because that is all I know how to do? (Meaning I would be a mother for my entire adult life.)

I don't think people need to have a lot of money, live in a big house or drive a nice car to be good parents or to want to have children. But I think it should be a requirement that they know themselves, love themselves and know what they want/expect/deserve from life before they decide to become parents. I think where things get really bogged up in the parent/child relationship is when the child is looking for an example and the parent has no idea how to be one.


Earl said...

I know the statistics are duanting, but exceptions are always possible. My mother-in-law was 15 when she got pregnant w/ my wife. Now my wife is 30 and still hasn't been pregnant! Sure, her mom made mistakes along the way but love, communication, and a strong compulsion to always better their lives pulled them through it all and helped develop the strong, independent woman that my wife is. It sounds like you're doing things right, too. :-)

Deb Hardman said...

You are the BEST! & So is Darian! She's growing into a wonderful young woman, all thanks to you.


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