Am I Doing This Right?

When you are becoming a mom/are a mom, there are a lot of people that are more than happy to give you advice. Some you take, some you don’t. My mom gave me two valuable pieces of advice that I clung to: 1. Nap when she naps. 2. Just when you can’t take a certain phase any longer, the phase ends and another will begin. So try to enjoy each phase, no matter how difficult it seems. Truer words were never spoken!

In the beginning there was pure exhaustion and a lot of fear. Feedings, not sleeping through the night, crying and you don’t know why, fevers, teething. A lot of questioning- Is this normal?, Am I doing this right?. They move on to toddlerhood, becoming mobile in ways you didn’t even think about (for example: climbing EVERYTHING). Falling, tripping, cuts, bruises, even a broken collar bone. Hitting her head- More questioning (Does she have a concussion? How do you know if a two year old has a concussion? Am I doing this right?).

School starts and things change again. A clear personality has emerged. There is now structure that she has never experienced, a ton of kids and their personalities to adapt to, learning, exploring, rules, sight words. I loved her elementary school years. I felt I was a good teacher for her, as well as good support for her teachers. I remember it as a fun time. Challenges didn’t really hit until third grade, and even those were minor in my eyes. I was a steady presence on campus, volunteering when I could, even holding PTA board positions. The questions were still there, though a little different (Does she know what she needs to know? Have I prepared her enough for the state testing? Am I doing this right?).

Middle school was a completely different story. It was difficult because my daughter was changing. Changing in ways she didn’t even understand, let alone myself. Learning who she was in the midst of many voices. Even as she was always very much her own person, I watched her stumble and fall in a few ways that first year. We had many tough discussions: Internet behavior, sexual harassment, sex, school violence, mass shootings, terrorism, self-harm, sexual identities, labels, etc. I felt like I was also learning from her, even as I was trying to teach her. My questions lingered (Did I explain that right? Did I inform her enough? Should I have told her that? Am I doing this right?).

High school began on solid footing. These years are interesting because there is a shift that happens. While she was still a child, she was also becoming a young adult. Some people love to say “Be a parent, not a friend.”. But these years, the boundaries become a bit blurred. My daughter needed me to be real. I needed to prepare her to become a woman- not play a power role. The subjects we discussed remained the same, but became more detailed and in-depth. At this age I share a lot of my life experiences as I feel I need to. Truthfully, raw, no bullshit, life I have lived. She has her first love, she learns to drive, she starts her first job, she continues to learn and grow as a young woman through her own life experiences. My questions continue (Am I teaching her enough? Am I sheltering her too much? Am I doing this right?).

I think about my mom’s words about phases. I’ve thought about them a lot through the years. It is true- just when you think you can’t take it, it changes. When she was a baby, I was so ready for her to fall asleep on her own, to sleep through the night, to not bite me as I breast fed, to stop crying, for her to not be gassy. As a toddler I wanted her to not fight going to bed, to stay in her bed, to eat all of her food. As she got older, I wanted her to be obedient, disciplined in her learning, stop talking back. As an adolescent, I wanted her to remember who she was, stop trying to be like other people, value herself, stop talking back. As a young adult I want her to love herself, honor herself, follow her curiosity as she grows. Every phase had it’s own difficulties. During every phase, I questioned myself as a parent. There are things that I loved in each phase, and things I didn’t.

This week my daughter received her drivers license. I remembered the excitement I felt when I received mine. Watching her as a woman, I was excited for her, too. Watching her as a mom was a whole different feeling. When I was pregnant with her, there was a comfort knowing she was safe within my belly. When she was growing up, there was a comfort knowing she was in my care. Even as a young adult, I was still driving her from location to location and there was a comfort knowing I could get her places safely.

It was difficult to be so tired in her youth. It was difficult- even painful- to nurse her. It was inconvenient to continuously clean up food on the floor. It was stressful to work and still be present for her as a parent. It was difficult to have discussions about tough subject matter. It was difficult to embrace her every step of the way, whoever she was in each phase. But the day she drove off in the car alone with her brand new license was the most difficult mommy moment for me personally. As I watched her drive down the street, I began to cry. Through my tears, the thoughts came: Have I taught her enough? Have I prepared her enough? Have I done this right?



What I Didn’t Know About Being a Mother

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!