Quiet in the car the other day, I heard that my daughter doesn’t want to have kids
(because they would make her care about something other than her writing and her art),
and she probably won’t get married
(because she can’t imagine finding the one person she would want to be married to for her whole life),
and she plans to live in a very small apartment. forever.
(because she doesn’t want to have a job she hates just to pay for a house).
I say, “that sounds awfully safe.” She says, “safe is good.”
I do my best to keep quiet, but then panic sets in at the thought that my life has somehow been a bad example for her, and she will limit herself, and before I can stop myself, I practically vomit advice all over her.
I tell her she can do whatever she wants to do.
I tell her she will make her own compromises and handle her own life just fine.
I tell her that the story of a woman’s life can be filled with many different chapters.
I tell her that she won’t know what those chapters are until she lives them.
Then I tell her that she should definitely work for herself.
Which sounds a little too bossy, but really is the best way I know for a woman to maintain the freedom to choose how she lives her life and get all of the reward she deserves for her hard work.
And I think I know everything. So, of course, I have to say it.
Then I am quiet again, because I know the more I say, the less she will talk. I want to hold onto her tightly and make her safe so she will be brave enough to try new things, but I know that a loose grip will work better.
Teenagers can only see the grown-up life ahead of them through a child’s lens. They want so much to feel the freedom they think comes with adult choices, but as pre-adults, they need the safety of at least one person who will help them tolerate discomfort, learn from disappointment, and see the best in them as they awkwardly tinker themselves into the fully-formed people they will become.
Giving my daughter acceptance seems to make her feel safe enough to draw closer to me. This makes me feel safe enough to let go of her. I see that if she feels free, she will not need to disconnect from me the way I did with my mother, in order to feel free and safe.
Being quietly confident in my daughter’s ability to find her own way does not always come naturally. I make mistakes, I talk too much, I mess up – all the time – but I keep at it, because I can’t think of anything I want more than to be the place my kids know they can go to anytime they want to feel free and safe.
What is the most important thing you want to give your kids?
Do you find yourself doing the same things your parents did or have you made an effort to do things differently for your kids?