Parenting is a very difficult job. Parenting well is often simply a dream; something we parents know we did a time or two at least in our children’s lives…we hope. And in all but the worst of cases, our children grow up into adulthood as fairly functional people, despite our perceived failings, insecurities, and the teen angst hurled at us during that period of “Gosh my parents are stupid.”
Where do we learn to parent? Usually by how we were raised, or close friends and family relationships that we are privy to. My childhood was chaotic and unstable. Dysfunctional wasn’t a popular by-word back then as it is now; had it been, our family portrait may have been the illustration in the picture dictionary beside the word. Despite that, my brother and I grew up into adulthood with minor scarring and only some occasional visits to therapy. We are both very strong people, but very self-preservation oriented. When we commit, we’re loyal like a rescued dog. I’ve been divorced once and widowed once. And I’ve spent quite a long time alone since being widowed. It has been a time of intense personal growth, slaying of mythical faults, and repairing some valid ones. I suspect I’ll always be growing while I am above ground; at least that is my hope.
So when my adult daughter came to me with a request for assistance in getting a handle on her own life, for a hand up, I found myself torn. No one, anywhere, ever helped me. I’ve suffered, I’ve grown, I’ve lived and I’ve learned, with very little assistance from anyone. Since the death of my husband, my two close and supportive friends in my life for some time prior, literally were my lifeline; people without whom I may not have made it through that terrible and awful period in my life. At that same crucial juncture, my oldest daughter stepped up and stood by me as well for the first week of my loss. I doubt I can ever repay these three people if I live to be two hundred years old, for their strength, patience and love that they poured into my life. These things came to mind when my daughter approached me. She’s still young, and she has a son, my beautiful grandson. But she is trying to remedy some mistakes she has made, and make a better life for herself and him. I have built a small modicum of safety net for me where I am now, and going on this joint venture will mean yet another risk in my life. But hey, we know I am a risk taker already. This weekend, previously earmarked for solitude and restoration that we introverts so terribly need and crave in order to be able to function, was instead spent as a counselor, a consoler, an encourager and a mother. I do not advocate abandoning a relationship, legally defined or not, on a whim of discontent. I have watched her struggle for two years after rejecting my offer of assistance at that time. However, do we not all see better in hindsight? When we are young, we think we are so brilliant and that our situation is unique, therefore advice sometimes gets little ear time. And off she went. Now, the evidence of the wrong choice has become very clear and she seeks to change it. Once before, I put my life on hold to help another daughter. I have never regretted it. And while I have what might loosely be defined as a relationship currently, it is long-distance and he is off grid for a while with little expected contact for several months while he tackles his own goals, set long before we ever met. And who knows if that will grow and mature into something in real life? Even if so, my choice to leave the micro-haus and help my daughter will not impact that in any way that I can see at this time. Therefore she and I will embark on an adventure in living. I will flesh out her cooking skills. I will teach her to garden. I will help with child-rearing. But most of all what I wish to help with is the strengthening of her belief in herself; to help her learn to find her own value from within, not requiring the affection or attention of someone else to give her value. At that point, when she is self-defined, she will have more to offer to a potential partner, and to her son. I have been a strong woman because my life experiences have left me no other choice. I was once described as satin-wrapped titanium; the jury is still out on whether that was a wonderful compliment, or a bitter complaint 🙂 Titanium, while flexible under extremely high heat, is a very hard and tough non-scratchable, non-porous metal. It can be re-rounded if bent under extreme pressure, but only with special tools. I prefer to think of myself as a willow branch, bending very far without breaking. Willow can be beautifully interwoven and has a long lifespan; can be made into hard corners or rounded corners and has been used as containers to hold valuables for thousands of years. I have tried to teach my daughters strength and graciousness, but mostly what they saw of my life was the strength, the toughness, the git ‘er done mentality; fierce independence when single, complete interdependence when partnered. Breaking down is done in private, although they have seen me cry a time or two – maybe. Now that they are adults, and know the full extent of my life story, they have a little more understanding. And it is a privilege and an honor each time they come to me for advice and guidance. So I will help her for one year. Then, she is on her own as a single mom.
Which brings me to patience. Patience is the least of my virtues, trust me. It is one of those faults previously mentioned above that I continue to work on. I move quickly once a course of action is determined; some may label it more as impulsively. I would rather try, than sit and ponder the possibility for failure. And really, what IS failure? Can you fail by not trying? I think so. Of course, each risk must be measured and examined from all sides, and both the positive and negative potential outcomes envisioned. But for me, sometimes simply the moving towards something is worth the activity itself, regardless of the outcome. The doing carries the import, not the result. And so, I will continue to move, stretch, challenge myself. Sometime physically, sometimes mentally, sometimes emotionally.
“Sometimes life knocks you on your ass… get up, get up, get up!!! Happiness is not the absence of problems, it’s the ability to deal with them.”
GET UP! Make a choice. Move towards something that makes you smile. And live.