I had my daughter in 2001. She will soon be a legal adult, and make her way in the world at a completely different level. Here are some observations I am reflecting on lately, specifically the things I didn’t know:
I didn’t know how an invisible force would take over my body. Seriously. Obviously, I knew there would be changes and reading “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” helped me. But I didn’t realize the amazing ways your body knows what it needs and doesn’t need. My aversion to red meat and eggs, my hankering for refried beans and Hawaiian punch. The discomfort in my tailbone while my spine adapted to carrying her. The headaches because of my changing hormones. The way my belly button felt as it began to protrude. The nausea, the exhaustion, the ankles swelling, the NOSE swelling! I also didn’t know the seriousness of a C-Section. I didn’t know I would have internal body parts taken out of me, and then put back in (never to be the same again, by the way). Or staples, stiches, scar tissue. I also didn’t know the amazing feeling of your child kick within your belly. It starts as a flutter, then one day she’s stepping on my bladder with a vengeance.
I didn’t know the fear I would feel. Here is this tiny human that I had to keep safe- keep ALIVE! I was sitting in the hospital room waiting to be discharged. All I could think was, “How am I going to do this?”. I found myself in fear like I had never experienced before. The fear of being in charge of someone else’s life experience. Everything from what she ate to what I taught her. From what detergent to use to how tight should she be swaddled. My whole world changed instantly. Every choice, every decision- revolved around her. The biggest fear was (and still is): Did I do the right thing?
I didn’t know she would become part acrobat and stunt woman at two years old. As she approached the toddler years, I knew about crawling and walking. Nobody warned me about climbing! Dresser drawers become stairs. Shelves become a ladder. A basket of stuffed animals becomes her way of escaping her crib. She slipped, she tripped, she fell, she hit the back of her head, she broke her collar bone. She got bruises and scrapes and cuts.
I didn’t know what a joy Kindergarten would be. I knew it was a big deal, but I didn’t know how much fun it would be for her- and me! She had a fantastic teacher and made friends quickly. She learned basic information and tough topics, too. Kindergarten was the kick off to a pretty successful elementary education. She stayed at the same school through fifth grade. She was smart, excelled and stood out. Although it was a uniform school, you could count on my kid being the one wearing wacky socks or bright yellow boots. She was a bright light, bold, funny and practically fearless.
I didn’t know middle school would be a difficult transition. My daughter was strong- a leader, not a follower. I thought she would be exempt from the difficulties middle school presented. I underestimated the pressure of so many teachers, so many classes, so many expectations. I underestimated the need to figure out who she was and how she fit in with her peers. She learned tough lessons and moved through her experiences. I braced myself for high school.
I didn’t know how fast her time in high school would go. She will graduate in 2020 and I am in awe. Everyone tells you raising kids will go quickly- and they didn’t lie! High school has been a pretty good experience over all. She lives in a different world than I did, though. She has concerns and pressures that I didn’t have. While some issues are the same, a lot has changed. She already lost a friend to suicide and her school repeatedly has “active shooter drills”. Her spare time is filled with acting and singing and watching her on stage has become my ultimate pleasure as a parent!
I didn’t know my daughter would serve as the biggest mirror in my life. I would have to re-visit painful times in my life in order help her with hers. I would have to go back to difficult ages and ask myself what I needed then in order to give her what she needed. I would have to move through my personal traumas in order to help her through hers.
I didn’t know that raising her would test every ounce of my maturity. Anybody can be a controlling mother. But it takes the utmost patience and maturity to be a conscious one. In the world we live in today, spanking or “Because I said so.” doesn’t cut it. It takes a level of vulnerability I wasn’t prepared for.
I didn’t know that she would be such a cool human. She is a beautiful young adult that will make her own mark on this complex world. I love her world view and I’m impressed by her passion. I look forward to watching her grow into a beautiful woman.
With so much information available to us now, there is always so much that we won’t know until we experience it ourselves. Being a mother has been a challenging, difficult, uncertain, painful, exhausting, amazing, beautiful, rewarding, healing, nurturing, loving experience for me. What I DO know: I wouldn’t change any of it!