We have certain goals as parents. Keep our children safe, healthy, and happy usually take top priority. We are also responsible for shaping them as individuals. This means teaching them manners, kindness, humility, and empathy.
I remember the first time my oldest daughter actually spoke the words, “thank you”, after I had done something for her. I used to say it to her as an infant any chance I got. Whether we were at the park, the dinner table, in the bathtub or at bedtime. I was constantly using words like “please”, “thank you”, and “you’re welcome”. The three key phrases that you drill into your child’s brain only to hope and pray they remember to actually use them when they’re outside of the house.
She was around two-years-old and I was handing her her favorite sippy cup. She looked up at me with that pale, round face and big blue eyes and said, ‘’tank yoo mama”. My heart instantly melted and I realized that there is some truth to consistency, repetition, and instilling basic values and decency in your children.
Of course, I want my daughters to do will in the future. I want them to be successful and well-rounded young ladies.I still battle both my girls to keep their legs closed while wearing dresses and skirts! Thank goodness they’re still young and thank goodness for bike shorts underneath. I know they’ll get the hang of it eventually. But in all seriousness, I do want them to do well in school. I want them to love learning as much as I did. I want them to read for pleasure, volunteer, and join Girl Scouts. I’d love for them to attend college, maybe even secure a scholarship or take advantage of the opportunity to study abroad. I want my girls to live life.
But I also want them to be kind to others. To respect themselves and their classmates. I want them to make friends, kiss boys (not for a long time), and create bonds that last a lifetime. Some of my closest girlfriends are ones that I met in grade school. We’ve been through so much together and now that we’re married with children, our kids are friends. It’s amazing to watch your friendships grow and change. Some of my friends had children right away, while others waited until later in life. I laugh at the thought of becoming a grandmother because I’m so young, but I do want my daughter to get married and start a family. They’re already captivated by any infant we come across. They ask to touch their toes, sing to them, and play Peek-a-Boo. They play pretend house with their baby dolls and stuffed animals. I remember doing the same thing as a young girl.
But if my daughters came to me and said they didn’t want to get married or have children, but instead focus on their career or travel the world, I would have to respect their decision. As much as it would pain me, this is their life, not mine. I can’t constantly project my own fears and desires onto them. They are their own individuals with the ability to make their own, individual choices. I must also remind myself that I can’t protect them forever from all the bad in the world. And trying to shelter them from reality, thought appropriate at times, can also be a hindrance. They need to experience the bad to appreciate the good. They need to fall in order to get back up. And they need to make mistakes to learn from.
As mothers, we feel responsible for the good, the bad, and the ugly that our children encounter. Even when they get sick or hurt, which is completely out of our control, we still, somehow internalize that as our own fault. We didn’t protect them. We forgot to wash their hands. We sneezed near them four days ago. It sounds silly, but it’s true. Mothers identify as mothers no matter what. There’s no time clock that we punch in and out. There’s no “off” switch for our worry button. So we have to work hard every day at finding a balance between shielding our children from hurt and pain and allowing them to experience life, navigate the world, and discover what it’s all about. And one day, long before we’re ready, it’ll be our job to let them soar.