Today my youngest (birth) child is 18. By our cultural standards she is now considered an adult. This is a strange thing for me and I feel reflective. What kind of world is she entering? Did I do enough? Is she going to be ok? The world is remarkably different place from when I was 18 in University and starting my life. I mean its different for every generation – but we are at a turning point ecologically, environmentally and culturally. I thought the cold war was scary – but really that was a cake walk compared to the world she will inherit.
Time moves along quickly, and with step children older than my bio kids – I find myself a happy grandmother. I started when I was 25, and here I am on the edge of 48…and its over? Not that parenting ends when your kids are “all grown up”, but today feels like a milestone and I am sitting still in wonder…
“I am NEVER going to say the world “No’ to her because it is “negative”. I will find alternatives”. Seriously…I said this.
Then at 6 months old I recall looking at her and thinking…
“This is easy. I haven’t screwed anything up yet!” wow.
That was very last time I ever had such a thought.
My sister Danie and I used to joke that in the instant you gave birth, a large grey cloud called “guilt” emerged over your head and just sort of followed you around like your own personal little rain cloud for the rest of your life. Sad but true – parenting seems to be a constant process of questioning yourself and questioning your own parents. If you aren’t careful you can develop chronic “not-enough-itis”
Not-enough me to go around….
We try and improve on what we think our parents did wrong. We all intend to do better and inevitably we all end up repeating some of the same mistakes and improving on others. It’s a slow adaptation one generation to the next. But one generation at a time we improve because we become conscious of what we do and do not want for the world and our children. And frankly, what the world is demanding of my kids is very different than what it needed from me at that age.
Personally, my only real goal with my kids was to guide them to be confident loving individuals who would make healthy loving choices for themselves and become a beneficial part of this planet. I have never believed that how they accomplish this is any of my business.
“Your children are not your children…” says Khalil Gibran. They belong to life itself.
I am not a parent who pushed my kids to achieve in school. I also didn’t berate them for what the system would consider “failure” – I don’t believe in failure if you take everything that doesn’t work out for you the way you think it should have and learn something from it. Everything “bad” can be made into something “good’ and useful if you look hard enough. But then, admittedly, you get better at parenting one child after another.
My eldest daughter, a patient and creative soul, was my “tester” child. She was my textbook. My second child, my son, was my tester boy. They taught me everything – and we grew up together. After these “birth” experiences – the universe decided that my prophecies as a five year old declaring to my mother that “when i grow up I will have seven children and live on a farm”, came true…and here we are. My four beautiful step-children, and three biological kids. Time FLIES when your running like a mad-woman.
In two weeks my youngest step son will be 18 and that’s it. I have accomplished what my grandmother said was my job – “get them to 18 alive”. Phewf and what a ride it was. And I loved every part of it. Even the hard parts – if you can call them that.
For the past two days have been spent with my eldest granddaughter who is seven years old and curious about every leaf, every tree,..and most especially the faeries which seem to leave her gifts all over the farm. And get this… She calls me grandma! It took a full day of her being here for me to respond without delay to this new name. And as happy curious seven year olds go – she calls me grandma allot.
“Grandma come push my swing! grandma can I go sit on big mac? Grandma can we make cupcakes? Grandma can I have one more sleep here? – grandma can I have three candies instead of two? Grandma do you love me…?”
My own mother used to say her heart was big enough to love everyone as much as she loved me. I didn’t really think that was possible… I get it now.
And grandmotherhood holds special priveleges that are “stress free options” for having fun with kids. OK don’t tell anyone but for breakfast yesterday I gave her a banana and a cupcake.
Why? My hard work is done. Let her mom teach her nutrition…I’m GRANDMA!
My own mom – my biological mom – was the most awesome grandparent ever and an epic spoiler. I called her my “parenting partner” because there is simply NO WAY I would have gotten through raising seven kids- soccer games, graduation ceremonies, broken arms, hospital visits, exhaustion…
The difference is I never thought to be “unlike” my mom in my own parenting. I was so well loved by her that I strive hard to repeat the kind of adoration and extreme acceptance she showered over me. I want my kids to feel the same “I love you no matter what” feeling I had and will always carry me. That awesome unconditional love that is simply present when needed but also the confidence that says
This starts young – showing them that you are there, you believe in them, but you don’t need to figure it all out for them because you have faith in them. Sometimes its really hard not to control and to let go…really really hard. We say dumb things to our kids sometimes…
One of my favourites being “don’t cut yourself with that knife…”
Duh. Kids know that already.
Or “put your coat on its cold”
Relax. When a kid is cold, they will find their jacket.
My youngest daughter has taught me so much about how to love without controlling. When she was 12 or 13 and entering the tumultuous teen years, she and I being so very similar butting heads repeatedly. One day she declared to me that she was going to “trade school” to become a hair dresser. I did everything I could to change her mind. Lets face it, in my generation “trade school” is what people who couldn’t read properly or were coming out of jail did. MY KIDS would go to university – and have a “real” education.
Ah how things have changed.
Now we are learning that UNIVERSITY degrees are a dime a dozen. A kid with a Master’s degree is now more likely to go home and play videogames after their brains have become “overeducated” and they cant think for themselves.
I love my kids brains’. They are amazing thinkers. And I REALLY love that when I completely opposed her going to “trade school” she ignored me entirely instead having a strong enough disposition to follow her heart.
I watch her now, doing what she loves, making people happy and ambitiously following her own heart and I really like that about her – and all my children.
They know themselves, and are true to their desires and commitments.
Remember when I said I don’t take credit for my kids wins or losses?
Maybe that was a little bit of a white lie because I have to secretly admit to you now that at the “end of my parenting”, here where I sit on the precipice of a whole new experience (grandma!) – I feel very proud.
My kids will be ok. They certainly wont be pushed around by this sometimes harsh world and its your funeral if you try to relegate them to a box manner of thinking. There is NO box in their world – and those are the kinds of people we need more of on the planet. They think for themselves, they do their best and they follow their hearts. And they are kind.
That’s it…my job here is done.
I Love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be (and even after…)
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.