Last year, at what I now know was the mid-point of this journey not the start as I thought, someone asked me this about motherhood: “What will you do when your daughter is healthy and she doesn't need you anymore?”
I was a little taken aback by the question. When you're in the middle of a crisis, you can't really see the end because it's so far out there in the mist that it's not even real. However, I was quick to answer her because I knew immediately how I'd feel.
“I'll be happy,” I said. “The whole point of parenting is to get your children to the point that they don't need you, whether they're healthy or not.”
She looked a little surprised. As a child, she had health challenges and she explained that her mother had a little trouble letting go once she began to live her own life. I told her that I understood because you spend so much time with one person that it has to be hard but it also has to happen.
Motherhood is not about me
I've said that often the past fifteen years (almost sixteen now- EEK). The minute that I took on the important job of bringing a life into the world, mine changed. Not because it had to, because I wanted it to. After trying so hard to have a baby, I wanted to spend what I knew would be a very short time of her life until she was grown, doing a darn good job of being a mother. It was very important to me and as I see other moms shame each other for personal choices all over the internet, I've come to realize that motherhood is a very personal journey and the way you choose to approach it is no one's business except in one regard; it's not about you. It's really about your child.
This is the first year in twelve years, that Rosie hasn't been able to dance. Being away from that world for the first time has given me a completely different perspective on lots of things. When you spend hours with other families over the course of years, they become your friends, your world. Once you're not around, you discover that not only was it not real, you get the chance to look at that world as a whole objectively. And there's one thing that I just haven't been able to wrap my brain around (and this isn't directed at one studio or set of people and the phenomenon happens in sports as well): why can't parents realize that dance isn't about them? It's about the kids. It's your child's activity, their social life and their world. Not yours. Let them enjoy it and stop creating drama.
I had this discussion with my child this week as we were trying to figure out where she was going to go back and dance over the summer. She has lots of studio options. We discussed them in-depth and then she made the decision that she felt was in her best interest. The key part of that sentence? Her best interest. It's her life, not mine and she needs to feel empowered to make choices and decisions based on her own personal happiness and it's my role as a mom to support.
I firmly believe that the most difficult part of parenting is not the letting go and growing up stage, it's all the parts that lead up to it. Our kids watch everything we do and hear everything we say, so we really don't get a chance to mess it up. We don't have time to make it about us. We have to fill their minds with all the wisdom and life lessons we have before they ever actually need to use them. When I listen to the things my daughter says, I am comforted to know that I've made some good decisions myself. It's a win win.
Will I be sad when my daughter goes to college and starts a life of her own? Of course. I'm sure I'll be lonely too. But, having a sick kid has changed my perspective on on so many things because she hasn't really been able to enjoy everything her friends have. Now that she's starting to feel a bit better, I can see a glimmer of normal teenage life coming back and the first step is back to the dance studio. And, that means spending time away from home which she needs. This makes me happy.
Thank you to Center Stage Photography for this gorgeous image of my child. If you're in the Kansas City area, book your portrait session now by calling 913-271-0703