My baby girl turned 20 last week. I have absolutely no idea how this happened.
It feels like only yesterday I was bringing a little pink bundle home from the hospital and now here she is, a grown up woman. This move from having the word "teen" in her age to no longer having it there has made me think about what kind of mother I have been.
My daughter and I are best friends-we talk several times a day and see each other pretty often. My son and I don't see each other very often now, but we were extremely close when he was a kid and I miss him a lot. As I think about them growing up and moving on with their own lives, I also think about all the things I wish I had done and the things I wish I hadn't done while raising them.
For example, I always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. Don't get me wrong, I love my work life a lot, but from the time I was a little girl I wanted to be a mom more than anything. But circumstances made it necessary that I work to support my children, so I did sometimes more than one job.
I regret that I was not always there after school and I sometimes worry that I shortchanged them when making the choices I had to make, but there is not much I can do about it now. I think I have been a good role model to both of them for taking responsibility for their own lives and for working hard to get what you want and need.
I think I was a pretty good mom overall, balancing work and being there for my kids most of the time. Still, I worry the choices and decisions I made somehow affected my children. I tried to teach them the life lessons they would need, but I sometimes wonder if I had done this or that differently, if I had been more firm, if I had forced more issues, would things be different for them?
For years I put on a happy face in a very unhappy marriage and while I thought at the time it was the right thing to do for them, in retrospect, I think I should have just been honest and made the difficult decisions that needed to be made. Would they have learned better lessons about love and relationships?
I tried to let them be who they are but perhaps I should have intervened a little more. Would they feel more comfortable in their own skin if I had led a bit more? These are the questions that I think about now as the mom of two grown children and I suspect I am not alone.
As moms we want to do the best for our children and we sometime over-think our choices and decisions, wondering if we are really doing the best for our children. And sometimes doing the best for them is painful; we have to let them go off and make their own decisions and their own mistakes. We have to watch them hurt and learn. We are left wondering if we could have done something to make it different for them. The answer is most often "no."
We have a sign hanging on our bathroom mirror that has "It is what it is" printed in red five times. It hangs there to remind us that there are just some things we can't control and we have to accept them and move on. It is not an excuse to give up, but simply a reminder that not everything is ours to control.
While this is a good mantra for life, it is also a good mantra for parenting, especially as your kids start to grow up. Children are people people with their own minds, their own personalities, and their own ability to make choices. You can only do the best you can as a parent and you don't have complete control. Your children need to try out their own stuff, make their own mistakes, learn their own lessons, and ultimately become the people they feel comfortable being and all you can really do in the end is be there and love them.
In the parenting class that I teach at OSU every quarter I teach the 65-70 undergrads a lot of theory and research, but the major lesson I hope they get out of the class is that all you can do as a parent is your very best. Love them, make the best decisions you can at the time, support them when they need it, and know when the best choice is to walk away to let them learn on their own.
As parents, we can shape our children but we can't control them. I've long said that the "me do it" stage of 2-year-olds is there to help us start to understand that we can influence them but ultimately they are in charge of their own bodies, their own lives.
As moms, I don't think we will ever stop asking ourselves if we did the right thing, if we did enough, but it would probably do us all good to remember that it is what it is.