Life lessons

When my daughter was an infant I used to be terrified.  Terrified that she would be hurt somehow, that there may be a second I was away from her that she needed me, that she would have a life full of pain and there was nothing I could do.  I would hold her constantly, look at her paler-than-cream skin and her clear blue eyes, and I would be terrified.  Just terrified.

All I wanted in the world was for her to be happy.  I felt so woefully insufficient.  So many girls I knew had been abused, I wondered if my daughter would be.  If there were any way for me to protect her, always.  I knew there wasn’t.

As I’ve already said: I was terrified.

One day, I had a revelation.  I was talking with a friend, and she said, “all you can do is try every day to prepare them for the moments they are on their own, and then trust them.”

The best protection I could give my daughter was not my constant presence, but the preparation to be without me.  The most I could do for her was not to guard her but to teach her to guard herself.  Sure, she’s still a little thing, and too young to ever be without supervision, but already I find myself teaching her the life lessons that will get her through.  When she says she is hungry I don’t jump up and run for food.  I help her into the kitchen and help her pick out the food herself.  When she can’t find a toy, I don’t tear apart the house for her, we do it together.  And every day we come closer to the moment where I will realize that I am no longer so constantly needed.  Soon the day will come where she looks on her own without asking me first, where she refills her own cup of water and doesn’t need me to take her into the bathroom to do her business.

Soon, my role will change, and I await it eagerly.  Soon her lessons will be less about managing in daily life and more about how to treat other people, how to tell when someone is cruel and not a good friend, how to behave when out in public.  And one day I will no longer be needed for those lessons, and instead I will be teaching her how to take care of younger kids and then babies, how to plan and cook meals, how to care for a house.

God help me, one of these days the lessons will start to be about sex and how to choose a life partner.

And all of these things, all of these lessons, these are how I protect her.  I am not a pit bull or a black bear or a gun-toting mercenary, I am her mother.  I protect her not with my strength but with my knowledge.

I look at her, at her supple spirit and tenacity, and I think that maybe I’m not even the one teaching her.  Maybe by her accepting these lessons, she’s actually the one teaching me.  Teaching me to trust, to let go of worry, to have faith, to wait for the seeds to sprout and the blossoms to show.

I have a lot to learn.

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5 thoughts on “Life lessons

  1. I like this. I think I retained most of my knowledge of raising kids from back when I was in high-school. (When I still knew everything.) However it seems some of this knowledge is leaving me too, which worries me because I haven’t had kids yet… But anyhow I found your perspective very informative… I think these guidelines don’t just apply to raising children but running a business or training coworkers.

  2. I think this is very insightful. I am the mother of a 29-month old toddler, a protective one at that, and learning to trust myself and my child are lessons I need to learn and relearn everyday.

  3. Shush, my mother did many things wrong when raising me. But she did one thing very right.

    You see she understood that I was bright, and that I knew right from wrong. She had taught me that to the best of her abilities.

    She screwed my whole world with these next words when I was about oh… 11 or 12. She said “You know the difference between right and wrong. It is YOU who will live with your mistakes. Everything that you do in your life you will have to be responsible for from this point on. If you get pregnant – you will care for the child. I will not. If you do bad things, you will go to jail. I will not bail you out. Do not look to me to fix it for you. Do not seek the easy way out. It is all about the choices YOU make and the consequences YOU will then live with.

    You know what…? Those words absolutely haunted me. I never ever allowed myself to make poor choices. When I was in school and all of my friends were rebelling and drinking and doing drugs, I just didn’t feel that it was worth it. I was smart about sex… because I didn’t want to live with the results. I studied hard at school because I knew it was up to me to do it for myself. My mother would not support me. She did not have money for college. She did not have money for a car. It was down to me. Period.

    That was the best way my mother could ever protect me. By letting me go. I never had a curfew. I was allowed to pretty much come and go as I pleased. I hung with a much older crowd. But……….I had the trust of my mother and the belief that I knew right from wrong. And guess what? I did.

  4. Pingback: Sometimes letting go is the best way to keep something you love… « Amberfireinus’s Weblog

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