Last century, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. Before she was 10 minutes old, she uttered her first word. No! That has been the theme of our relationship ever since. She has been a very strong-willed child her whole life. She knows what she wants, and she doesn’t let little things like reality get in the way.
Protection v. Control
Parenting this child has been a challenge, to say the least. I strive and strive to protect her from what I see as her bad choices, and she strives to prove that she knows better. As a small child, she was comparatively easy to reign in, simply because I was so much bigger and older than she. But where I thought protection, she thought arbitrary control.
I used to complain to my best friend about how difficult it was to raise her. She was the polar opposite of her easy-going, laid back sister. I held in my mind a vision of who I wanted her to be when she grew up. I wanted her to be confident, courageous. She would take on the world, and the world would bow to her. It was my job to make sure that she learned to use those skills to build a better world. The Book of Proverbs says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Everyone has their own path to tread, and it is our job as parents to get a glimpse of that road and prepare them for it, even if it looks different from our own.
She has always insisted on doing things her own way, whether that way made sense to me or not. She has always been deeply loyal. I would say to a fault, defending even those who did not deserve her. She also is an expert at holding grudges. (She might have learned that from me.) At just 11 years old, she had such a passion for justice that she became outraged at our neighbors. They were logging their land, and she decided that was not right because it destroyed the homes of birds and squirrels. She even wanted to hold a rally in the center of town to protest.
When she was 16, we clashed so badly that she moved to her dad’s house. Five months later, she asked to move back in with me. Things were good for us for a month, maybe a month and a half. She showed me affection for the first time in a very long time. Then things started to deteriorate again, and six months after she moved back home, she left again.
We argued long and hard over this move. I saw it as a very foolish move. She saw it as a step to independence. Honestly, my biggest concern was the fact that she was not yet 18, and therefore not yet legal to make her own decisions. I was still legally responsible for everything she needed or did, and yet I had no control over it. She was asking me to have a tremendous amount of faith in her, and I was afraid. I knew very little about the young man she wanted to move in with, only that he loved her and was loyal to her. He had never done anything to turn me against him, and I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. Still, I was frightened.
Coming into her own
Now, my beloved child has been slighted. And I don’t mean a gentle slight, like someone forgot to invite her to a party or something. This has been an attack on her character and her worth. When I learned about it, I was livid. I like to declare that the first rule of the jungle is to never come between a mama and her babies. Only once before have I ever felt like this has been violated. I almost provoked my own arrest in my attempt to protect her that time.
Usually, I do see folly in her altercations with people, and I try to help her sort them out, and show her how reasonable adults solve conflicts. This time, though, it was a blatant, unnecessary attack. She showed me the text conversation that they had. Although she can be a little dramatic at times, this time, I felt she was 95% reasonable. I told my daughter that I was going to give the offender a piece of my mind. In writing. A long piece of it. I declared that I would do unnatural things to this pathetic excuse of a human being for the way they treated her.
She begged me not to do any such thing. She said it would only make matters worse. I raged. My husband advised me to sleep on it before I sent it. I sat down to type up my angry letter and she called me, begging me not to write it. No one would treat her like that and get away with it, and I told her so. I did agree to run it past my trusted people first. Shortly thereafter, her sister and her godmother both contacted me about it, advising me against stirring up further trouble. I offered to send it around to all interested parties first for revision and agreed to abide by majority vote on whether or not to send it. Writing it was very cathartic (I signed off with “No love,”), but in the end I honored her wishes and I will not send it.
So what does this have to do with being thankful?
I am deeply thankful that my daughter has a support system she can fall back on if anything were to happen to me. Her sister and her godmother both care deeply about her and will take care of her emotional needs if I am ever unavailable. They even were willing to stand up against me when I was being foolish in my ire. I am thankful my daughter is loved so deeply.
I am also thankful that my daughter has gained some maturity. Even just a year ago, I am sure she would have gone as far off the deep end as I did, if not farther. Living on her own seems to have been really beneficial for her.
Last but not least, I am grateful that our relationship has improved so dramatically. She now calls me when she needs me, and we have had great times together. For a very long time, I was afraid this day would never come.