Live your life in such a way that when your feet hit the floor in the morning, Satan shudders and says "Oh shit, she's awake."

Thursday, July 14, 2011

They should be babies for five years and teenagers for a year…

Instead of the other way around.

I can remember every moment of the day my daughter was born. That day is deliciously etched into my memory. Then...I blinked. I flinched. My ADD kicked in and I was momentarily distracted. When I turned around, she was on the verge of being a teenager, and the world’s most naturally talented drama queen. I want those first years back, but they’re gone except in my mind's eye and in the million photos of her childhood, stored on a hard drive. Thank God for digital photography. Tricia’s life is well documented. National Geographic could not have done a finer job.

I’ve never been a doting mom, a fact my daughter will attest to without any hesitation. I was the mom who would brush off her little girl’s knee and wipe away tears after a spill at the playground, saying “There’s no blood, I think you’ll live.” It wasn’t always what my daughter wanted to hear, but today she is pretty tough kiddo who has learned that in life, just like on the jungle gym, falling down and getting hurt is part of the experience. It’s ok to feel bad, but it’s more important to pick yourself up and continue on your merry way.

The one thing most people will tell you about my parenting skills is that I am a tough mom. I don’t see it, but I’ve been told that enough times to think that it is at least a possibility, not that I care. Am I strict? You betcha (in my best Minnesota accent.) But what else can you do as a parent? There is so much "stuff" out there-really scary stuff-that can not just hurt your child, but take his or her life, and in an absolute instant. I am constantly trying to educate Tricia about such things, and help her to understand that while someday she will be an adult, and she will make her own choices, those choices will have consequences. There will be responsibility, and even more importantly, accountability. You can’t screw up and blame it on the rest of the world because, ultimately, you have to own the decisions that you make for yourself. And while it’s true that life can offer second and even third chances, other choices we make affect us forever. You don’t always get a do-over. She knows that while she will certainly make mistakes, the important thing is that she learns from those mistakes and moves in a positive direction. Our experiences make us who we are, even the bad ones. What you take away from those experiences will hopefully make you stronger, and that is the true lesson in all of it.

Watching another human being suffer is a very difficult thing, at least for those of us who are compassionate and caring individuals. Watching your child suffer is gutwrenching, often in ways that cannot even be put into words. I am fortunate in that my daughter is young and her experiences and mistakes are still pretty mild on the crap scale of life. I am also aware that, more than likely, this will not always be the case. I am constantly trying to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. We do not know what cards will be dealt to us as a parent, until they are on the table.

Being a parent is, by far, the hardest and most rewarding job I have ever had. Yes, some days it is frustrating, and some days it is heartbreaking, but every day it is so very rewarding. I see a lot of myself in Tricia – that can be a good and a bad thing. But what really counts is that I give her all the ammunition she needs to make solid responsible decisions for herself. It would be lovely if we could keep our kids under our wing forever, but it’s just not realistic. Better to make sure they are sufficiently armed to protect themselves, since we never really know how long we will be around to do the protecting.

Sorry for the seriousness today, it’s been a tough week, but one that has reminded me of how lucky I am to be Patricia’s mom.

Now go hug your kids.

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