I have no idea what I’m doing.
And since you’re only six years old, I imagine I will continue not knowing what I’m doing for several years to come.
Don’t get me wrong, I had no clue what I was doing when we brought you home from the hospital, either.
Honestly, babies 100% freaked me out. I've never been one to get all goo-goo over those tiny little foreign things that can't communicate. But, it is honestly so different when you have a baby of your own (mom instincts are legit).
And just so you know ... I was all goo-goo over you. I never knew such a little person could hold so much of my heart.
But I still had no clue what I was doing.
I didn't know how to use that snot sucker bulb thingy until your baby brother came along; I immediately wondered how the hell I managed to not suck your brains out of your tiny little head.
Every minor fever and little cough were cause for level 5 panic (and self-diagnosing via google).
I had no idea that someone else’s bowel movements would be so significant to me.
I never knew how completely useless (and irrational) all complicated baby clothes were. I'd take a gown with easy diaper-changing access ANY day of the week.
I didn’t know how to be a mom and a wife and work full time and survive on such little sleep and be a good friend and be healthy.
It's a wonder I survived those early years, my sweet girl. I remember sitting in our living room, maybe a week into my new reality, crying. Crying because of all the things I didn’t know, of all the things I never thought I’d do again (like sleep), and the sheer gravity of being responsible for another human. That’s something they don’t warn you about in baby class…
The only thing I knew how to do was love you. Your tiny little fingers wrapped around my finger and your sweet smile were truly my fuel. And also the fact that your dad didn’t divorce me along the way for being an absolute monster most of the time.
Then your brother came along. You were nearly 2 when he was born. Before we left for the hospital to be induced, I waddled into your room, made my way down to the floor, placed your little hand in mine, and watched you sleep. I cried. Pregnancy was very hard on me. I had spent the majority of my pregnancy feeling completely miserable. I would literally come home from work and go to bed nearly every night. And when I did feel OK, I felt like I spent that time preparing for your brother.
I felt this sickening sense of guilt. I felt I hadn’t truly enjoyed the last 8 months of my time with you. And then I felt hopeless because we were about to bring another baby into the world who would require so much of my attention for the next few months. Had I loved you enough? Did you know how much I cared? Would I be able to spend enough time with you over the next several months? Would you feel neglected?
Yet again, I had no clue what I was doing.
The first few years were tough, but for whatever reason, screwing up right now seems like it would be so much more detrimental to your future self … to your relationships, habits, career, character ... you know all the really important things necessary to living a full life.
Here’s an example …
I remember a parent/teacher conference with your preschool teacher a couple years ago. I had been concerned about your bossy tendencies from the behavior I'd seen with your friends and little brother. I did not want you to be the kid all the other kids didn’t want to play with. No one likes a bossy person, right? And no one wants to be the kid no one else wants to play with! I brought up the bossy thing to your teacher, asking her if she noticed. She agreed that you liked to be in charge. But then she told me not to worry too much because it’s really OK (and arguably good!) for young girls to develop a sense of assertiveness.
Wow. This was a learning moment for my mom-self. I guess I never thought about it that way, but she was right!
I was pushing MY personality on you instead of nurturing YOUR strengths.
You see, I was raised to be a “good" girl, a “kind" girl, and I manifested this as - "Don't make waves and don't ruffle feathers." This mentality has followed me (haunted me, actually) through adulthood. It's my Achilles heel. I never learned to balance kindness with assertiveness. I never knew it was even possible. My parents always encouraged me to stand up for myself and my mom was the epitome of a strong and assertive woman. But nonetheless I've spent the majority of my life as a people-pleaser. Learning to stand up for myself has been a challenge (still is).
There is NO WAY you will suffer the same lessons I have. You’ll have your own issues, but you will have no problem standing up for yourself and having an opinion ... if only boneheads like me don't stifle that spirit.
And it is such a lovely spirit…
This is exactly why they say "it takes a village." I'm learning that this saying means so much more than needing multiple people to physically help with a baby or child. It means the influences on your life, outside of your immediate family, are incredibly important. INCREDIBLY important.
Your life will be (and should be) influenced by many people. That’s how we grow. It’s impossible and naive to believe that as parents we can teach you everything you’ll need to know in life. Thank God for teachers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, coaches, cousins, pastors, neighbors, bosses, coworkers, friends, and even complete strangers.
It's our job as parents to expose you to the world (and various influences), always steering you toward the moral high-ground. But it is up to you to absorb those experiences, process what you learn, and ascertain who you are.
The truth is that I will never know exactly what I’m doing, but …
I promise to let you be assertive and to nurture your leadership skills.
I also promise to help you understand the importance of kindness and empathy.
I promise to not get frustrated or push you when you don’t want to “do" crazy hair day at school.
I promise to carefully pick my battles.
I will, however, insist you wear “button" pants (AKA jeans) periodically because it’s not realistic to always wear leggings as an adult. Although it would be awesome.
I promise to respect you. And have the patience to answer ALL of your questions.
I promise I won’t let you quit anything without sufficient effort. You have to learn persistence and commitment.
I promise I’ll always make sure you have the tools and support you need for success, but it is up to you to make it happen.
And I also promise to be there for you when you fail. Because you will.
I promise you don’t have to be friends with everyone, but I expect you to be polite and respectful.
I promise to always help you understand my point of view. And I promise to always try to understand yours.
And I promise I will never know exactly what I’m doing. But I’ll always try my best. And I hope you will always do the same.
I love you, LG.
P.S. Keep that fiery spirit alive.