It’s our daughter’s birthday today, Bryna is 24 years old. Her birthday has me thinking about parenting and particularly, how stressed and freaked out I was as a young parent. Let’s just say I was a little high strung when I was in my twenties and raising Bryna.
I wish I knew then what I know now, that everything would work out. The truth is, I had no idea what I was doing. When it was time to leave Brooks Memorial with her as an infant, I remember quite clearly thinking, “why are they letting us take her home? Do they realize we have no clue how to do this?” Then as we went through the earliest years with her and into elementary school age, I thank God that her father was in her life too because I was so hard on her. I’m not sure what I was thinking as I reflect on pictures of that young girl and I remember the expectations I had for her. Expectations which she always managed to meet or surpass. But why didn’t I just let her be?
And when I’m not being so hard on myself, it’s good that we had those expectations, right? She couldn’t have turned out any better. She’s a loving daughter, a wonderful friend, a dedicated, caring teacher, a protective sister and a loyal, loving wife. Our conversations around education that we have are the highlight of my day. She exhausts me often and I realize it’s in the same way I probably exhaust others–with her endless questions and analysis of everyone and everything.
So what’s the right balance as a parent? How do we know how much to push and how much to just love and let them be? Maybe that’s where we got lucky that we’re a two parent family—I always said that Derek was the better parent than me. But what would have happened if our kids were raised by only him? Or only me? It’s got to be an even harder job for a single parent.
Maybe the solution is in paying attention and some serious self reflection as we go along. Loving them enough to set those expectations and then to support them when they fall short. If I had to identify what helped us to succeed as parents, I’d truly quote all of the things my own mother taught me. The best of all of them? My mom taught me to teach Bryna that she is strong and capable, that she’s not the center of the universe, that she needs to conduct herself with class, straighten her feet, love her brother unconditionally even when it’s hard, respect her elders, wash her face before going to bed, work hard every single day, be loyal to those you love, let the small stuff go, when you’re angry with your husband–just go give him a kiss and forget about it, wash your hands continually, and don’t judge others because you’re far from perfect.
Maybe all of those lessons, with high expectations that gave a little more wiggle room, and loving her with all of my heart would have been the key. We came close. That’s as much as we can do as parents. Love you Kid!