“When you parent, it’s crucial you realize you aren’t raising a “mini me,” but a spirit throbbing with its own signature. For this reason, it’s important to separate who you are from who each of your children is. Children aren’t ours to possess or own in any way. When we know this in the depths of our soul, we tailor our raising of them to their needs, rather than molding them to fit our needs.”
11 years ago today, a baby girl entered my world. As I stared down at her sweet little face, I felt an immediate kinship. My first son had arrived 2 years earlier and as much as I adored him, I felt incredibly happy that I had a daughter. A fellow female that I could share my wisdom and life experiences with. “Don’t make the same mistakes I did!” I would tell her and “these are the things that I’ve found work best.” And she would look up at me with adoring eyes and would drink in my stellar advice. She would be kind and sweet and polite and wise……well, basically exactly her mother ; )
Except it didn’t quite turn out that way. Right from the get-go she was feisty and strong-willed. She wanted to be cuddled all the time and would throw a temper tantrum if she was put down (the horror!) And as she grew, it became apparent that she had VERY strong opinions about things like what she wore (seriously – red t-shirt, orange shorts and white knee socks with neon pink gloves?! what about that lovely pink dress I bought you??) and even her name (she announced in grade 1 that she was going shorten her lovely name into a nickname that she prefers to this day).
I’ll admit that I was often frustrated with this very strong-willed child. Of course I loved her with all of my heart, but still I felt certain that she would soon transform into a calmer and gentler version of herself. And then there was an incident that changed my perspective. Shortly after she started junior kindergarten, she found herself in a confrontation with a classmate. The mother of the other child contacted me and of course I was mortified. I quickly went in to talk to the teacher and her words literally changed the trajectory of my relationship with my daughter. She said “Lori – your daughter is a gift. She is strong, she is bold, she is confident and she isn’t afraid to stand up for herself. All of these traits will serve her well throughout her lifetime and you should cherish them.”
Those words really hit home. My daughter was never going to be a smaller version of me or some perfect fantasy daughter that I had made up in my mind. She was and is simply herself- a feisty and wild and wonderful girl who needs no modification.
As the years have gone by, I have learned to embrace my strong-willed daughter. Sure we still have our conflicts but I have come to realize that those incidents are generally more about me than about her. And truth be told – I am the one who has begun to look at her with adoring eyes and to drink in her wisdom. So in honour of her birthday, here are some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from my daughter so far:
1. A Messy Room isn’t the end of the World: I like things neat and she likes to pretend that her bedroom floor is just one big laundry hamper. “Mom, sometimes it’s more important to practice your aerial cartwheels than to pick up your clothes.” Truth.
2. Let your Emotions Flow through you: My daughter came home on the last day of the school last year in tears over some harsh words from a good friend. She flung herself on her bed and sobbed uncontrollably as she told me about the hurtful incident. After 10 minutes, she wiped her tears, hopped up off of her bed and announced “whew – I feel better now!” and she skipped off to have a swim with her brothers. I’ve learned so much by watching her deal with difficult emotions – be it sadness or anger or frustration – she lets them rip through her, deals with them and they pass right on by. Remarkable.
3. Don’t try to Fix me: This one has taken me a while to latch onto but instead of trying to offer up sage advice or suggestions at every turn, she’s taught me that sometimes it’s best to just be there to listen and to offer up a hug. She is quite capable of fixing her own problems thank you very much.
4. Embrace Change: I have always struggled with change. Instead of flowing with life’s inevitable ups and downs, I more often push and shove and brace myself against any shifts. My daughter on the other hand (for the most part) seems to bounce along with the changing tides of life. She is much more easy-going and faces life’s changes with ease and humour.
5: I’m Not You Mom: Although I may have worn lots of pretty dresses and dreamed of being a famous singer and loved reading and writing – that doesn’t necessarily mean that my daughter will love any of those things. She is not here to live out all of my unfulfilled goals and dreams and she has made it abundantly clear that she has her own ideas about her path in life. No she doesn’t want to wear that glittery dress and no she won’t be belting out a tune on Broadway any time soon. And that’s as it should be.
6.Being Nice Isn’t All it’s Cracked Up to Be: I’ll admit that I certainly felt pressure to “fit in” as a child. I wanted to be liked by the “popular” kids and I tried hard to be extra nice to make people like me – and I still find myself working extra hard to be a pleaser. My daughter on the other hand seems to be much more comfortable in her own skin and she isn’t afraid to speak her mind or offer up a different take on things. Although it sometimes really pisses me off, often times I watch her with amazement and marvel at her bravery.
Of course our relationship is constantly changing and evolving and I’m sure there will be many more lessons as she matures. I look forward to learning from my daughter as she continues to make brave choices, to throw her clothes on her floor and to stubbornly dance to the beat of her own drummer. Happy birthday my beautiful and unique little girl! I love you just as you are.
“We want what we consider to be “best” for our children, but in seeking to bring this about, we forget that the most important issue is their right to be their own person and lead their life in accord to their own spirit.”