On Raising Daughters – October 30, 2015

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When I first became a mom, all I wanted was a healthy child.  I wasn’t set on one particular gender.  Whatever God gave me was fine by me.

So when I held my firstborn daughter, I was in love.  With each additional daughter (three daughters, then my son), I grew a heart for each of them.

Now, I look at my three daughters and my young son and I wonder, “How did I get through those early years?” The bottles, the diapers, the earaches at two in the morning.  I remember the endless anxiety of my children being sick or being properly cared for by their caregivers. It was a rough time.  I was like any other mom who loves their children and wanted to be reassured that they would be okay.

With a full time job, the anxiety increased tenfold as I questioned, “Am I giving them enough of my time?”  or “Am I being the mom that I’m supposed to be?” Balancing work and motherhood was always the struggle and there was never enough time to be the mom I wanted to be.

It’s not like you’re given an owner’s manual at the end of your hospital stay that reads, “Follow directions 1,2, 3, then proceed on with life.” No one prepares you for what is coming each day and most moms do the best we can as experiences emerge in our daily lives.  Eventually, I relaxed and started to feel comfortable in this role of mother to my children.  However, it was never easy.

I can say this — raising daughters can be a tumultuous, mind boggling experience when you consider the emotional and sensitive nature of our lovely daughters.

I say this in a loving yet reflective way since I can say that I’ve been through the teenage years with them (I’m still going through this stage with my youngest daughter) and I’m heading toward the early adulthood age with my eldest (she’ll be twenty-one soon).  And as I look at each daughter, in the fine complexity of each being, I have always tried to remember that although they come from me and are definitely part of my heart, each one is still their own person with different traits and strengths that I attempt to reach in their own time and way.

When I say “in their own time and way,” I’m referring to the cues I get when addressing each daughter based on their temperament and feelings.  Gauging this aspect of a daughter can be daunting in itself, because most of the time, I’m trying to see what I need to be for her and hope I’m correct.

I realize now that it is by the grace of my experience as a teacher that I have learned how to let them be their own person and have tried to let go of the fact that they are not expected to be “me.” I have seen many mothers try to be their daughter’s “friend” and then have it backfire when the mother didn’t like what the daughter was doing.  And I’ve also seen the opposite, the die hard mom, who insisted that her way was always right, and that was the end of it. Neither scenario seemed effective to me as I have viewed these examples over and over again in my years as a teacher. I think this has been a great lesson to learn early on as a mother, because it has released such arguments and anxiety to the question, “Why can’t you just do as I do?” “Why can’t you be me?”

There are still struggles that I have with each daughter, such as how to dress appropriately for each age level and how to speak respectfully to us in tone and manner, some of which, girls, especially, don’t realize they are coming across in a certain way. Again, this is part of all girls and their emotional characters.  Other struggles include what to put on social media in a world where every emotion, word, (and picture that goes along with it) is expressed for everyone to see.  With each daughter, there has been a unique struggle which I have encountered and had to embrace.

Since I have already been through these years, I now see myself very differently than them in many ways.  In my generation as a Hispanic teenager, there were certain things or expressions I never would have been allowed to express in any way. Like the question, “But how come?” or “That’s not fair.” These expressions alone would have been enough for a lecture in my household. I had no say so in my home at times, because my parents were my parents.  That was it. It was mainly out of respect that certain questions weren’t warranted.

However, I can accept that my daughters see things in their unique ways and still love them for their views.  And although I may not always agree, it is with my heart that I see them opening up to me  in our discussions and expressing how they see the world, in their own time and with the consideration of their generation.

As a mother and educator, I want my daughters to question and examine the choices made around them and wonder why things are being handled in certain ways. I really want them to think situations through and analyze their choices before acting on them.  And I want to be able to talk openly about marriage, relationships, expectations which we have of each other, and a multitude of other topics that they want to explore. Realizing this wish, it does come with many challenges.

We are vast worlds apart in our experiences.  The issues that they face and see everyday are concepts I couldn’t even begin to fathom at their age.  In trying to guide them in a world where I don’t have much experience with these issues, it makes these experiences very challenging to give advice and I hope it is correct for their situation. Everything in their world comes quicker and faster in their generation of technology and social media. I want them to question and then question again what is happening in their world. Their thoughts and opinions should still reflect integrity and respect in the ever changing world of individuals choosing to do whatever feels good at the present moment.

Also, the people and groups surrounding them are vast and unique. However, I want them to be tolerant of differences and love those around them in a way that they would wish to be loved themselves.  I find that now with the emergence of gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals coming forth in many facets of our lives, my daughters are the first to accept those different than themselves and see them with eyes of compassion, and possibly more so than I could have at their age, due to my generation and the stigma associated with issues which weren’t even discussed in my teenage years.

And so, when I see each daughter, I remember her as the baby I once held long ago, with hopes and dreams of her future endeavors. Eventually, I am brought back to the reality that as I watch each daughter emerge into the beautiful young woman she was meant to be, she is taking pieces of what I say and do every day of my life, and shaping her own view of the woman she hopes to become. She is merging her idea of the present world with the world of letting me go as her mother, while still holding onto the pieces she dearly needs for security.

All I can do is be present for her, model what traits I hope she’ll take from me, and tell her that I love her along the way. I’m a mother who will always be by her side in her triumphs and failures. I will constantly be watching, guiding, and molding her, when she so wishes this action from me, and even in times when maybe she doesn’t. I will love her in times when she can’t love herself.

This is what mothers of daughters always do.

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