My oldest daughter is going to graduate from high school next week. Which means that I get to graduate too...from being an every day mom to a "when she feels like calling me" mom.
There are days when I am looking forward to her beginning her new "adult" life and days when I wish I could make her stay a teenager.
There is no preparation for parenting or mothering someone. I have a degree in Psychology and Human Development and an AA in Early Childhood Education and none of that prepared me for being a parent. Nothing prepared me for how fiercely I would love this person. How I would give anything for her to be happy and have every opportunity that life has to offer. Nothing prepared me for the ache of wanting to keep her from making mistakes and the sadness of watching her make them anyway. Nothing prepared me for how hard it will be to let go...
Being a parent makes you live in this "in-between" state of seeing clearly what it was like for your parents and seeing clearly how you reacted to your parents. It's frustrating and humbling.
Finally understanding that although my mother went about it in a way that wasn't the approach I would have used, she really did want the best for me.
These are some things I have learned about parenting:
- You will never know true heartbreak until you are a parent, and your child does something that you know, that they know is wrong. Especially when they get caught by someone other than you.
- You delude yourself into thinking that you have some control over this person, that by sheer will and determination that you will mould them..but they are already their own person and though you have influence over them, it will not change who they are fundamentally.
- You repeat yourself - ALL THE TIME - and wonder why it is that you sound just like your parents.
- You will be manipulated into nagging your children (by them) because you can't stand to see them fail and they refuse to do what they know they are supposed to because they know you will nag them.
- At times you will defend them, even when you know they are wrong because you can't help yourself.
- You will cry - a lot - because they do something wonderful or because they do something stupid and you wonder if you should have done more to prevent it from happening.
- You will be judged by other adults for your childs success and failures and you will feel guilty about it and question your own parenting skills.
So, graduation marks a significant event. My daughter has accomplished the first real recognizable adult milestone. Which means I graduate too. But while my daughter graduates with a life full of promise, not aware of the bumps, hills and obstacles she will face; I graduate knowing that this is only the beginning for her and my job will get harder as the choices she makes become more serious and more life-altering.
So I will cry on graduation day for happiness and for fear. Because I know from this moment on I will be a spectator in my daughters life and I can only hope that I've done a good job of preparing her for what lies ahead.