A person does not get to age 50 without a few regrets. Looking at my life, I probably have more than some people and less than others. From questionable fashion choices in the 80s to even more questionable career choices. In retrospect I could have made my life both easier and more enjoyable (not to mention more stylist) if I knew then what I know now. But that is not how life works. I believe we are here to learn and to grow; to make mistakes and to learn from them. In all seriousness, there is only one thing in my life about which I have never had second thoughts, even for a moment. That is becoming a Mother.
I did not come easily or lightly to motherhood. Growing up in a culture and community where motherhood was revered above all other possible choices for a woman, I did the sensible thing and rebelled. While my childhood friends were busy choosing baby names for their future offspring, I was planning not only my escape from my hometown, but my wild and crazy life full of excitement that did not include the mundane task of rearing offspring.
When my now former husband and I married, I was honest in saying I did not know if I would ever want to have children. My future had 'career woman' written all over it in large New Times Roman letters as I studied law and planned how I would change the future of the world. Renfrew, having come from what could be described as a challenging family background, was nominally okay with my position -- at least I never remember him making parenthood a deal breaker. My dear Mother-in-Law did frequently inquire as to our 'family' plans, since he was the only one of his siblings (including his 16 year old sister) who was childless.
If I had to pick a moment when I realized that I wanted the honour of becoming a mother, it would be August 14, 1994. That was the day that we lost a pet -- Jennie, a sweet energetic bundle of terrier who had escaped our backyard and was struck by a pick up truck. We rushed her to the Vet, but there was nothing they could do for her but end her pain. In the aftermath of that loss, something in me clicked and I realized that while 'parenting' pets was rewarding, I did not want to live my life without experiencing motherhood.
Although it took almost four years, the Pumpkin was more than worth the wait. Now, I cannot imagine my life without her.
She makes me laugh at least daily. Her way of seeing the world has opened up new adventures and experiences that I would never have encountered without her. She has introduced me to music called 'alternative' but what I would simply call excellent. I have found myself surrounded by people in costumes of all kinds having fun. How often does an adult get to play dress up?
She has an insight into human nature that is beyond her years . . . or maybe we all have that understanding when we are young and lose it as we age. The empathetic child her father and I watched on the playground, has grown into a young woman who has the ability to see beyond the obvious in situations.
I was just reminded of the 'joy' of age three by a blog I follow http://dooce.com/2012/05/10/dreaded-year and, yes, age three was a challenge. Other times, as well, have tested both my patience and my faith in my ability to parent. But all in all, so far the ride has been an adventure and I have made the following observations about my philosophy of parenting:
First, our job as parents is NOT to mould, train or educate our children into the adult they will be. Our job is to give them a safe place to figure that out for themselves. It isn't OUR life and when we remember that fact and do not give into a need to preach to our children what WE believe to be the Truth, our kids will grow beyond any limited idea we may have for them. I specifically remember my own mother NEVER telling me that couldn't do something -- even if she knew I couldn't. She let me figure it out on my own and I am glad I recognized that 'gift' and was able to thank her for it while she was still on this earth.
Second, if you don't have your child's back, who will? When I was in college, I remember going home for a weekend and telling Mom how one of my classmates had been afraid of going home for the break because she had gained a few pounds and she just knew "my Mom is going give me a hard time". My Mom, without looking up from her coffee said: "I don't get that. The world gives kids so much negative and criticism, parents shouldn't add to it." Criticism, even 'well meaning' criticism, eats away at person's confidence and joy.
Third, get to know your child's friends, classmates, teachers -- basically their 'world'. I've heard many parents of teens say that they can't connect with their kids. While this breaks my heart, I want to ask what steps they have taken to nuture and build the connections they are missing. I work overtime or take vacation days so I can go on school field trips and participate in my daughter's activities.
I still remember the first time I had to make a 'choice' between career and the Pumpkin. She was in preschool and I was still working as a lawyer in the North. I had taken a Legal Aid file with a custody trial set for November 1. About 2 or so weeks before the trial date, the Clerk called to ask if I would be okay moving the trial to October 31, since the matter for that date had settled. My answer was no, I had other plans. Those plans (as you may have guessed) were the Hallowe'en party at the Pumpkin's school. My reality check was that in 10 years no one would remember what day the trial was held, but I would remember if I missed the Pumpkin's party -- and so would she.
In sum, the parenting philosophy I learned from my Mom is simply that we are here to support, love and cheer on our children. If we do our job right, our children will become all they are meant to be.
Today I am blessed with a confident, funny, smart, loving and beautiful child. Whether I get a bouquet of dandelions or breakfast in bed for Mothers' Day, I already have the BEST gift: A Daughter who is beyond Amazing. LOVE YOU PUMPKIN and thank you for letting me be your Mom!