My oldest has packed up her room and is moving her things to San Jose today. In the Fall she’ll be attending San Jose State University. Go Spartans! And in the meantime, she’ll be working and having adventures in places like Texas, and Vancouver, B.C. and I’m feeling pretty good as I remind myself isn’t this what I raised her for? To make the most of life.
Years before I had kids, I came to the conclusion that I wanted to have kids so I could start a sane branch of my family. Seriously. I know that sounds harsh, but my mom had some awful parental role models, and my dads family were by and large, not around after he died. Back then, no one in the older generation questioned the way they did things, much less tried to figure out how to do them differently. Patterns got repeated consciously as well as unconsciously, and I wanted to change 98% of them. When I was 23, I got the chance to start implementing them.
Three things I wanted to be sure to instill in my daughter were, to listen to her intuition and act on it, and to use her voice for herself as well as others. Technically that’s more than three, but let’s not split hairs. I was taught to ignore my gut feelings, much like the throw away characters in horror movies do. You know, those friends of the hero, who walk into dark basements first, or ignore the chainsaw noise until it’s too late. Are they stupid? No, A. they’re ignoring their inner voice that is screaming, “DON’T OPEN THE DOOR!” and, B. it’s scripted. My kid would only take a step outside of the script if I did. Damn, this wasn’t going to be easy.
When the time came to encourage my daughter to speak up for herself, I hit a speed bump. Huge understatement. Again, it wasn’t something encouraged when I was a kid. My mom thought her first granddaughter saying “I don’t want that.” was charming … for a minute, while the father of said toddler demanded I teach our kid otherwise. I put on neck-high waders, to hide my jello like spine as well as deflect what I considered sexist baloney, and went out to meet them for peace talks. Explaining my point was easy to think about, harder to form into words. Birthdays zoomed by when I noticed her outspoken way had been muzzled despite my best intentions. It was becoming all too clear my kid was watching for my example. I had to live the changes I wanted to see in her. Gandhi, your quote reads deceptively simple, hats off to your genius.
To my daughter, I’d explain that adults are human too, and if your spidey sense tingles, by all means listen to it. In Junior high, there was a teacher who she felt picked on one student constantly. For months she’d discuss the latest wrongs, unsure of how to right the situation. I offered to speak to the teacher but she nixed that idea. I was more than willing to charge at her dragons, but my own, em, not so much. Is it any surprise we began taking the same baby steps together? Eventually, she wrote the teacher a letter, and showed me that we all have to start somewhere.
Now, she’s off meeting new people, and making all her own choices, even what to eat for dinner. I can’t wait to hear her humorous take on all of it. And in reviewing what I wanted for her, I see that I learned more from her. ‘Do as I say, not as I do,’ never works with kids. At least not for long. Now my gut says, get out there and fly. Should I get cold feet, I’ve got one heck of an example to look to. Oh yeah, and, Go Spartans!