Every parent watches the development of their child, the first few years of life, with hawk-eye attention, working tirelessly to encourage him on to the next stage. He must sit up by this date, crawl by this one, sit, stand, and then walk. There is also the gurlging which coos into “mama” or “dada” and the child is gushed over as if he is a gold medal winner. Sounds turn into words, words into statements and then questions. All of these developmental accomplishments warrant cheers, smiles, photo opportunities, and maybe even a call to more people who will repeat the accolades. For the parents, it is pretty easy at this point to know what to do. Granted, education, environment, genetics, nutrition, and opportunity play a part, but unless there is retardation in growth, these stages are typical.
But then, more often than not, “Stop running!” is shouted. “Stop talking,” “You ask too many questions,” and then unfortunately, “Because I said so!” become the far-too-often-heard responses given, once those adorable little creatures begin to develop into more than just animated dolls. It all works well to ensure the child will mold tightly into a box, never questioning, and equating blind obedience to respect which is what garners affection from the authority figure who had previously rejoiced at any new development.
How does that happen? When learning to eat, messes are made. When learning to control gross motor skills, things get broken. When learning to verbally communicate, the wrong thing is said, and the adults often laugh. So why do we laugh when a little kid says “Shit!” when they are simply mimicking someone else, but we take great offense when the same child says, “Fuck you!” as a teenager? They are still trying to learn how to communicate, so what really is the difference?
Trust me; I am not immune. But what I do that is different than my parents is that I am conscious of my hypocrisy, so I work to be consistent; I am devoted to growth; I am committed to trying, no matter how many times I fail, because I love my children and do not see them merely as “the next step” but rather valuable and unique human beings who were entrusted in my care and for whom I would give my life, whether that means taking a bullet, or swallowing my pride. Although, sometimes I think the former would be easier.
I was known by them as Honey Mommy. I was perfect. I adored them and they adored me. Everything I did was magical and their lit-up faces filled me with pride and a sense of accomplishment. But I knew that it was my job to equip them to leave the nest. So at age two when they first asserted their independence, I cheered. However, it got harder, especially when I ceased to appear perfect to them and they found the words and courage to criticize me. It was devastating. But as difficult and painful as it is to me, I would not change their characters. They are critical thinkers, compassionate human beings, passion-driven participants in life, and fair. They are also loyal- loyal to me, but now, first loyal to themselves. I did my job.
I only hope that there are other courageous parents out there doing the same and that their children will meet up with mine and they will soon give me grandchildren so that I can go back to being perfect and as is the gift that goes with being a grandparent, my perfection will remain. Until then, tissue, exercise, prayer, chocolate, and the camaraderie of a few good friends for whom I am eternally grateful and inspired. So keep on keepin’ on with those beauties of yours! Be courageous, thoughtful, fiercely committed to the task, and love with abandon those little acorns who are growing into their mightiness. They are our legacy and proof we lived.