Saturday, August 06, 2011
As we approach the end of the second to last Summer of your childhood, I've had a lot of time to reflect on the last 17 years.
The Summer I was pregnant with you there was record heat in Seattle. It was miserably hot. I was working two jobs at two fast food chains, from 7AM to 9PM every day and only making $6.75 per hour. I remember days where my feet were so swollen after being on them all day, and it being so hot and me being so pregnant, that I could barely get my shoes off.
I remember turning 20 that August before you were born and being grateful I was no longer a pregnant teenager. I remember thinking that 20 sounded so much older and more grown up that 19, and for whatever reason, this small change gave me comfort that I was going to be OK. That WE were going to be OK.
And we were...
Now I have the advantage of reflection. You are nearly an adult, I've raised you the best that I can, and now I am reaping the rewards of a job well done.
No, I don't think I didn't make mistakes. Those are things that are most glaringly obvious to me in my reflections. If I were to go back and change anything, it would be the following:
I would have given you chores. I just wanted to enjoy you so much, and for so long I was just a child myself, so it seemed somehow "mean" to make you work. But now I think I did you a disservice by not making you clean your room or making you do the dishes, because I didn't make these things second nature to you. Now you will have to learn to do these things, just like I did, when you have your own household someday. (My other option being that I can buy you a lifetime of maid service. I guess we will see how that one pans out.)
I would have let you experiment with your clothes and hair more as a child. When other kids were showing up mismatched and with bed head to the 3rd grade, I made sure you always had a perfectly matched outfit and pretty hair. I was trying to give you what I didn't have growing up. When I was a child, I was always envious of those girls who came to school every day looking all pulled together. After a childhood full of brothers and ill fitted little boy hand-me-downs, I just wanted you to be the pretty little princess that the little girl in me had always wished she could be. By doing all of this for you, I feel I didn't give you a chance to experiment with your own sense of style, and now you prefer to keep it as simple as possible. Which, I guess in a way is your style, but I still feel like I should have given you that opportunity.
But those are simple things. Those are things that if you had been raised by two parents in a house, with a yard, and a white picket fence, you might have learned. But if those are the only things that I look back on and think that I have somehow failed you, then I feel like I've succeeded, and I have faith that those struggles will be simple things for you to deal with in the coming years. (Worst case scenario, when your house is a mess and you feel overwhelmed, you may feel free to blame mom for always doing everything for you, or call her and she will come take care of it for you!)
We have succeeded in more ways than I can count. You, my sweet, wonderful, most brilliant little girl, are the best daughter a mom could ever ask for. You, who still holds my hand in public, who has never told me you hated me, who tells people I am your best friend, who never went through a boy crazy phase, or a "mom knows nothing" phase, or an experimental drinking/drugs/sex phase, who isn't embarrassed to introduce me to her friends, and who never had a public temper tantrum and needed to be carried out of a store kicking and screaming. You, my beautiful little girl, have been a pleasure to both raise and to grow up with.
You have this amazing and strong mind that surprises me a little every day. You are stronger and smarter when it comes to matters of the heart than I ever was. It took me nearly 35 years to get that wisdom that seems to come so effortlessly to you. I'm certain you have taught me as much as I have taught you.
You don't put up with BS, you speak your mind in a way that is strong and concise but not mean. You know how to be empathetic without getting overly involved.
You have the most amazing ability to never let drama stick to you and to walk away from bad situations and make good choices. You have never battled with addiction or drug abuse or peer pressure.
You have never given in to the cast system that seems to plague so many high schools. Cliques and popularity have never meant anything to you and you have a healthy group of smart and interesting friends.
You can walk up on a stage and let your freak flag fly unapologetically in a way that I could never and still cannot do.
You are your own person, who knows your own mind, and who carries herself with a lot of grace and maturity that most teenagers (and most adults) do not possess.
My sweet little girl, I am so happy I am your mother. I am so proud of who you have become. I have loved every minute of watching you grow up and I love and respect the adult person you are becoming.
I have only the following wishes/advice for you:
1- Be strong, but don't be jaded.
2- Love someone with your whole heart at least once. If he breaks your heart, don't let it break you. If/when the time comes to walk away, do it with grace and don't be afraid to love again.
3- Choose your friends carefully, they become your family when you are older.
4- Don't ever be petty.
5- Choose very carefully what you want to do for the rest of your life. Take your time, don't rush into anything.
6- Don't grow up too fast. Enjoy every phase of life, they all fly by and you will miss them when they are gone.
7- Always know that you are loved more than anything else in this whole wide world.
and the most important rule of them all,
8- Always listen to your mother. (Or at least pretend that you are.)