I know you’ve heard it a lot. People say it around Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, but this is January and I’m still gonna say it.
The greatest thing I ever did was have a daughter and name her, Emma.
Last night Emma and her two best friends (besides me) came over for dinner. This has become our family tradition, Tuesdays With The ‘Rents. Sometimes it is just Emma and other times we get all three.
Last week two of us almost died. Like seriously. There were unrevealed coconut allergies and inhaled water during a laugh/swallowing debacle.
This week had a deeper theme with the loss of their mutual friend. Yet, there was still laughter. Around the table we had one with both parents living, one whose father died before he was born and mother now gone, one whose father died when she was three and mother now gone, one who was 16 when her father died, mother living and one who was 22 when her dad died, mother living.
Exploring grief is not considered normal dinner conversation. Yet, that is how we roll. It’s how I’ve always rolled. Whatever my daughter brought to the table I allowed, pun intended. No question was ever put off in hopes she would forget, no matter how uncomfortable. No topic was off limits, because you can’t get to comfortable bypassing discomfort.
As her friends reveal more of themselves I realize how much thought I really put into being a mother.
It started when I was a teenager. I always knew I wanted to be a mother, but my relationship with my own was…well…strained. Somewhere around 14 I began making notes in my head, of the things my mother did that caused me to feel badly about myself. I promised my future children that I would do things differently. I harbor no ill will against my mother, she absolutely did the best she was able to do. Though I didn’t understand that then, I do now. In that she provided me an experience of what I did not want, I am so grateful. My relationship with my mother fueled me to have a most incredible relationship with my daughter.
In doing that, my relationship with my mother shifted and she grabbed the opportunity to have a different relationship with my daughter than she had with me. And she was really good at it, too. The memories they made together formed a vital part of Emma’s foundation.
Last night it came up, in conversation, that I make a conscious choice to not manipulate Emma as she was growing up. I never said I was disappointed in her, I made sure to state I was disappointed in her choice. It was her choice and I supported her even when I disagreed with her. There was a time she was making choices that I couldn’t support, but I did make sure she knew that I would always supported her, just not her choices.
That may sound like a difference without a distinction or ‘just semantics’ to some, but last night I understood completely that there is indeed a distinction and the power of semantics is mighty. Because I did not set her up to want to please me -the authority figure- that is not in her wheelhouse today. Today she is free of the need to please others over herself or to require validation of her own experience. In short, what others think of her is none of her business. This left her free to question authority figures and not blindly trust them; thus she has never been an easy mark for predators of any sort.
Sometimes sharing this style of communication and thinking is new to Emma’s friends. In the past, it has even made her the odd person out. I know it did me as a parent. I had been criticized, mocked and judged by it. I’m sure she had similar experiences as she felt comfortable speaking about subjects that made others giggle and joke in discomfort. As she grows more in her confidence of who she is, she is attracting people to her that appreciate her. Thus, while these things may be foreign to them, they are not put off by it. Actually, they seem to be drawn in, if I may be so bold.
My husband and I met 6 years ago and aside from Emma he is the best thing to happen to me. He was the first guy to really understand how precious my relationship with Emma is. In fact, I often overheard him tell others that he had never seen a mother/daughter relationship like ours and how impressed he was with it. And that’s saying something because he came along when ‘I support you but not your choices’ was a weekly mantra in the house.
When I had Emma I was a shadow of the woman I am today.
I denied my needs to meet the needs of others. I worried what people thought of me. I cried often and for unknown reasons. I had an unsettled unhappiness within me. I had irrational fears. I worried all the time. I had a constant knot in my stomach. And worst of all I thought all of that was normal.
When I looked at her though something clicked in me. Something that said I needed to up my game. That living in worry, anxiety and fear were no way to actually live; and in fact, that life was not about surviving it, but blossoming in it.
So began my journey creating both the women we are today.
The way I see it now, being a mother is one rock I threw into a still pond. For that one rock (Emma) my energy ripples out through her and changes more lives – my husband, her roommate, her boyfriend. And hopefully they keep that going by sharing with others what we’ve shared with them.
But being a mother was not an altruistic task. I got out of it as much as I put into it. Being a mother changed who I became and made me a better person.
Truly the greatest thing I’ve ever done.
I love you.