Today is a good day to stop old habits. You see I am a writer and I am continually `writing in my head`, sometimes I even manage to commit to paper! But today as I stood looking out my kitchen window, reviewing the recent conversation with my thirteen, going on 20 something daughter, I realized how much the conversation might assist others in this strange and very powerful place that I find myself, called parenting, or in my particular case mothering. I cannot speak for my partner. I can only share that this marvelous journey that I have been on for the past 21 years has been both harrowing and heart expanding in ways that I had never imagined; the gifts far greater than any challenges. At times, I have been overwhelmed by the sheer courage it requires to love another so unconditionally with all that I have and then some and still at other times, doubting my ability to be the mother that they need to move forward, the fearful obstacles to life seeming to surmount all hope. Yet I keep stumbling forward and today was no different, only that I heard the conversation in my head and decided to listen, really listen and commit to this new dialogue with my self and my thirteen year old daughter. You see I also have another old habit, this one perhaps not as detrimental and yet it has been extremely annoying to those I have chosen to live with and share my life. You see I have this strange determination to share, almost everything, in my desire to help others clear their past and move forward on the path of conscious choice. To this end, I am unstoppable and a constant irritation to many, including my daughter.
She came of her own volition when I was in my 40th year, almost expired, according to her highness and there are days, many, when I have almost agreed! At that time the second of our two sons had just entered kindergarten and I was so close to having what at that time, I considered to be a life, back. So close and yet so far, as I found myself reading the pregnancy test and knowing full well what it meant….she was indeed on her way. A few weeks earlier I had dreamt very vividly of a Doctor handing me a swaddled baby, with the song :Jillian, Jillian Jillian Jiggs”, playing softly in the background. I can still remember the feeling as I reached for the daughter that I had always longed for. Now don’t get me wrong, the reason for the long delay between our second and third child was that I was full to bursting with the happiness and busyness of raising two beautiful boys. The second one, Daniel, had always felt more like a middle child to me, as I read descriptions of their personality profiles based on birth order. Still I was full and at 39 had pretty much given up on the desire to experience a daughter. The signs when looking back were always there. It was as my maternal grandmother lay dying at 97, after hearing her say so often, “a son is yours until he takes a wife, a daughter is yours for the rest of her life” that I knew without doubt that I was ready. By then she was well on her way, having named herself and everything. Perhaps I had been brainwashed after all! I clearly remember telling her Dad that we were having another, crying with the mixture of excitement and fear that any parent feels as the daunting miracle of birth announces itself and knowing with every fiber of my being that this child would be the greatest joy and the greatest challenge of them all: no small feat considering the intensity of my feelings about her brothers. And so it has been, pretty accurate so far, though each one of her bros has given his fair share of love, joy, heart ache and concern.
So there I was, standing at the kitchen sink, staring out the window, eating squares, did I mention the squares yet? Yummy! Wondering where we would be going from here, after promising her that we would continue the conversation about her wanting a belly button ring next year and no undoubtedly every year until she turns 18 and can successfully make this decision on her own. How can I convince her that I am only protecting her youth, her innocence until she no longer needs me to, how can I convince her how lucky she is to have a mother who cares when all she feels is the frustration of not being heard or understood; of being held back somehow. I think back to her stance, with lip quivering, as she takes that breath after my dismissal, to dare to express how much it matters to her and how long she has been making this plan for herself and how unfair it feels to think that she must wait until 18 to exert this measure of control over her own body. “Don’t I remember what it was like when my own mother forbade me to have my ears pierced? Am I unfairly looking after her or me after all?” she asks. And it was here that I softened to receive her message; her request that I listen long enough to hear her desire for control over something that she has obviously given a lot of thought to and I realized, almost with a pain, of the enormity of the moment. For in that moment I held the power to squash somehow or empower my daughter, this daughter of mine who I want to grow to be independent and able to respect and look after herself. Slowly I breathed into the moment, praying that I would not damage this most fragile of human conditions, the desire for respect and independence and I maneuvered my way through the rest of the conversation with deliberate awareness. It seemed to work, as she turned to go asking only that I promise the conversation comes before her birthday so that she might have the appointment on that date exactly. “Did we settle on one year from now”, I wondered as she left, “or three?” Does it even matter. She feels that her Mom listened and that she can still hope for her desired outcome long before her 18th birthday. I, on the other hand, feel only respect….for us both, for her ability to remain so focused and eloquent through out and for me, for staying grounded and with her even though I wanted to flee and “turn her off” many times in the course of the conversation. I did not and for this I am eternally grateful, almost as much as I am for her.