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?