My child recently spent spring break away, from me, again.
I am used to her being gone sometimes, and yet it never gets easier.
Oh that life didn’t have to become so complicated. But it does. And we do the best we can.
Everybody’s parenting and what they take from it, get out of it, put into it, looks different.
Being a mother has profoundly changed the way I view the world, and myself, and children in general.
I’ve often wished I had waited until I was a little older to become a parent, because I think I might do a better job with some additional years of experience and wisdom under my belt.
But on the flip side, so much of what I’ve learned the last 13+ years has been because I’m a parent. So here’s a few of the big lessons:
1. When to be Selfish
I’d like to tell you that selfishness becomes eliminated altogether when one becomes a parent. But it doesn’t. One doesn’t cease being a human just because you’ve given birth or adopted a child.
There are things that I’ve had to do, decisions I’ve had to make, that had some basis of self-preservation within them. But in addition to that, I am always looking beyond how even my most personal decisions can better my daughter.
Weighing those choices always keeps me grounded in what’s ultimately important.
I know that there are certain things I must do, for myself, that make me a better mother. So I have done and continue to do them.
Despite popular opinion, it is okay, as a mom, to do some things just for you sometimes. People are going to judge you anyway. Give them good subject matter.
2. Humor is an Absolute Necessity
I would have absolutely lost my mind by now if I didn’t have a sense of humor. Being able to laugh with my child and at myself has preserved my sanity.
Reagan shares the same twisted sense of humor as her mother, father, and stepparents. It helps us all survive and thrive, together.
3. To Let Go
Oy vey. I’m still learning this lesson. Every day.
It’s not just about learning how to let Reagan make her own decisions, suffer natural consequences without intervention. It’s about learning when to let her dreams be her dreams, even when they’re not my dreams.
There are things I want for her, but if they’re not what she wants, forcing them on her will only cause resentment, a feeling that she never measures up to my expectations, and distance.
I want none of these to become realities in our relationship.
As she gets older, I no longer have the ability to stand over her and “redirect” her from things that attract her attention. Not always.
Of course I always have the responsibility to keep her safe, but there is also a balance that has to be struck between helicopter parenting and letting her choose her path in life.
The word “feminist” has generally been used in a negative sense by other people throughout my life.
As I began raising my daughter and continued my own life and career path, I realized just how much it is still needed in an world where so much has been gained for women’s equality. We still have glass ceilings to shatter.
I think a lot about what I want my daughter to know, as a woman. Something I notice is just how often women apologize, even if they haven’t done anything wrong. For some reason, women are taught from an early age that they should apologize for their feelings, their opinions. As if just by having those thoughts and opinions, they are somehow inconveniencing others.
I don’t know that I would have noticed some of the things I have noticed about being a woman in a man’s world if I wasn’t raising a daughter.
I think we become numb to experiences sometimes and while I’ve been on the receiving end of sexism, after a while, you can start basically becoming tolerant of it.
And then I had Reagan. And suddenly, that status quo just wasn’t good enough. There is absolutely no WAY I would want my daughter to be treated like I have in certain personal and professional situations. I still see inequalities, all the time.
I want better for my daughter. I want better for me.
5. Faith is More than a Belief System
I returned to the church about 3 years after Reagan was born. I had been absent for close to a decade.
But even in my absence, my faith has always been important to me, and I wanted to give Reagan the same foundation.
I learned pretty quickly that she didn’t approach faith and religion like I did. And she’s always been a more argumentative, questioning person than I am (if you can even imagine).
When I decided to change denominations, I was first and foremost concerned with the repercussions it would have on my daughter. She was 9 years old when we went from Baptists to Episcopalians and the transition was certainly a process.
We both feel at home now, more than we ever have before. This denomination, I believe, gives us both a lot of peace and freedom to question and learn in ways we didn’t have before.
As I grow in my own faith, I become better able to guide Reagan in hers or point her to people and resources that she can use in her own journey.
6. Transparency and Authenticity
So, you read this blog very often, these subjects are going to come up. I harp on them a lot.
Part of the reason is because there is, pardon the expression, no bullshitting my child.
She has been, since she first laid eyes on me at the hospital, a distrustful soul at times.
She is developing strong intuitions and can sense when people are fake, trouble, and liars.
This keep me on my toes as a mother and as a human being.
Her questioning nature has not often allowed me to keep a veil over anything I may have tried to shield her from.
I too have strong intuitions and am trying to teach her how to use these qualities to better understand people, their motivations, and how to use the commonalities she finds to connect with and encourage others.
She has no problem being herself, and has taught me that being authentically me is both acceptable and preferable to whatever might be more popular or appreciated.
She has taught me to embrace and appreciate my differences.
Kids are always growing, changing, evolving. What works for one stage of their life doesn’t necessarily work for another.
Parenting is a continual adaptation to the needs of your child.
If you think there’s a “one size fits all” philosophy that works for every child, excuse me while I sit back and wait for that to work out for you. (P.S. It won’t.)
8. They’re Gonna Copy You
I’ve learned this as a parent, and I’ve learned this from aging.
The older I get, the more I see my parents in me.
It’s a sobering thought when you realize that your own child will likely do the same. Good or bad. They’re going to carry some of you inside them. Forever.
9. One Day, She’s Going to Realize my Fallible Nature
Even though she’s 13, I still have some rock star status with Reagan.
I said something last about how everybody will disappoint you at some point, that I would let her down in one way or another one day. She said that I absolutely would not, that I was perfect.
Oh that it was true. But I know better. One day she will too. I just have to hope I taught her enough about forgiveness, grace, and love, to steady her when she realizes just how very flawed I am.
10. I Never Stop Learning
There is no end in sight to the lessons I have yet to learn through being a parent. I have no doubt that they will continue until I draw my last breath.
Making a list of 10 wasn’t hard. I could go on, go deeper, go lighter. And they have all changed me.
One thing that remains true, no matter what I’m currently learning throughout the journey of being a mom: I cherish it.
It is, without question, the journey of a lifetime, in more ways than one.