I watch my daughters play outside in the snow - the cold air piercing my face. Even though my hat is pulled down far onto my forehead and my scarf is wrapped three times around my cheeks and chin, the persistent frigid wind still creeps in. I’m sure my nose is blazing red and I can’t keep my eyes from tearing. But the girls don’t seem to notice. As they run and throw themselves down in the snow - my oldest making a snow angel, while my youngest kicks her feet and arms, mimicking her sister but not quite achieving the same results.
As I watch my oldest carefully and purposely form snowballs in her tiny hands, I see a lot of myself in her. She likes organization and thrives on routine. She’s particular about her room, the way her stuffed animals are arranged on her bed, and where her coat and shoes go after school. She excels in school. Reading and math come easy to her. I thank God every day for this, because I see what it’s like for a child to struggle academically and its heartbreaking. She calls my name and breaks my train of thought.
“Look, mommy! I made a pyramid with the snowballs!” Her face is beaming. Her cheeks are the shade of red I imagine my nose is. I wave back and give her a thumbs up. My throat can’t muster words - it’s protesting the outside temperature.
Meanwhile, my youngest is wandering around our yard, with no real direction or purpose. She is her father. She finds a large stick buried beneath the snow, at the base of the large cherry blossom tree. I watch her tug on it with one hand - it doesn’t budge. She grabs it tightly with both her mittened hands and pulls. I know she’s putting all her weight into it, because her purple snow boots are sliding on the ground as she yanks and tugs feverishly. When nothing happens, she promptly drops the stick and walks away. I can’t help but giggle as she looks back over her shoulder and sticks her tongue out at the stick. She is my spitfire. But she’s also my little question mark. Nothing about her behavior indicates to me what her future will hold. She doesn’t lack confidence, nor bravery, which worries me at times. She’ll run right into a situation without thinking twice or assessing it first. I envy her willingness to take risks but it also concerns me.
I find that as parents, we sometimes live vicariously through our children. I know my mother was guilty of this. An extremely successful business woman, she helped companies acquire equipment financing. She was a numbers person. I was the opposite. I could live at the library - digesting one book after another. Art fascinated me. I’ll never forget my high school trip to the Museum of Modern Art. I was completely captivated. My mother couldn’t understand why. I actually recall inviting her to join me and she refused - she had to work.
My mother is a great woman. She is strong-willed and self-sufficient. But this is sometimes mistaken as cold and heartless. As I child, I often wondered why my mother wasn’t like the other mothers I knew. She never baked chocolate chip cookies for my class or made my Halloween costume. She kissed my forehead before bed each night, but never read me books or told me bedtime stories. She wanted to raise a strong, independent woman and she took the authoritarian approach. What she didn’t realize is that I would still grow to be an intelligent, accomplished, and strong woman, but that her upbringing left a void in my life. A space in my heart for a more nurturing mother figure. Doesn’t she know she could have done both? Raised me as a self-confident young lady without the tough exterior?
I often wonder if I disappointed my mother. I went away to college, but not the school of her choosing. I didn’t major in finance, which crushed her. I wondered then, why was my dream not good enough? Just because it was different didn’t make it bad or wrong. Back then, I harbored a lot of resent for my mother. Her lack of support and encouragement was devastating. I thought I had done something wrong. The feeling of disappointment was suffocating. But I stayed the course and now, as a mother and successful teacher, I have learned to forgive my mother. I can see now why she did what she did. I don’t agree with it but that’s okay because I’ve forgiven her. I've forgiven her so that I can be a better, more encouraging mother to my daughters.
I wish for my girls to dream big, work hard, and go forward with confidence in life. I want them to know I support them, even if I don’t fully agree with their decisions. I vow to motivate and nurture them every step of the way. I will not live vicariously through them. I will not try to rediscover my lost opportunities through them. I can’t promise I’ll be quiet through every poor decision, but I will not put them down or make them feel bad. I want them to know I love them no matter what.
And those decisions start here and now.
Now, as I sit outside in single-digit temperatures to support their youthful desire to frolic in the snow. Here, sitting on these cold wooden steps, slowly losing feeling in my lower extremities. But the sounds of their laughter and the smiles on their faces warm my heart and body. These moments are ones I will always remember, and I can only hope my daughters will too.