I started worrying about my daughter when she was still just a thought in the very, very far recesses of my mind. I feared that I would never be a good enough person to raise someone to be an exceptional human being. I felt that my singular goal in life, if I chose to have a child, would be to make certain they made the world a better place than they found it because why else would (dare I say, “should”) we procreate. I was scared and awestruck at the responsibility. I avoided becoming a mother, because I didn’t think I was up to it. Fate apparently had other plans because seventeen years ago I brought this perfect little being into the world and the world witnessed the birth of an imperfect mother.
The wonderful thing about accepting that you are an imperfect mother is that you are fully aware that you can and probably should be doing things better, but you don’t beat yourself up over it. I love my daughter with my entire heart, body and soul and conceptually there is nothing that I wouldn’t do for her. That’s in “concept”; realistically, there are plenty of things I haven’t done. I remember when she was 11 and said to me, mom I have a splinter in my finger and it hurts. She “ouched” and hollered the entire time I tried to remove what was a microscopic sliver of wood. I was tired and had to work in the morning. Eventually I handed her the tweezers and sat a computer in front of her with a YouTube video on how to remove a splinter and said – “go for it, I’m going to bed”. Yes, Bad Mother award; but hey she got the splinter out and learned a valuable lesson about the importance of the internet and the fact that your mother places a high priority on her sleep!
Despite what I hope wasn’t too disturbing a story for you the readers, I’ve done things as a mother that are 180 degrees in the opposite direction. When my daughter started Kindergarten, I was a wreck about her taking the bus. Let me paint the scene, we lived in a lovely raised, ranch in a suburban town that was roughly 98.7899999% Caucasian with a median income of 100,000 — and this was fifteen years ago. We were the only minorities on our street and she was one of only 3 in the entire school. Yet when it came time to send her to kindergarten I seriously thought that if I put her on the bus something bad could happen. Perhaps the older kids would be mean to my little peanut, maybe they would bully her, maybe they would try to sell her drugs! In hindsight I realize I was out of my mind, but back then, I was torn between sheltering her and letting her experience the world. I came to a compromise those early days, and as I put her on the school bus that very first day, I waved and smiled as the bus rolled down the street. As soon as she was gone, I began to cry and behind my tear stained glasses, I ran in the house, threw on my sneakers and jumped in the car to follow the bus and ensure my child’s safety. I don’t know what I thought I would see, I just needed to feel that she was okay. I followed that big yellow bus through six more stops following a safe distance behind in case the bus driver “made” me – (yup, too much Law & Order). As the bus pulled up to the school, I parked across the street and strained my eyes so I could see if that little piece of my heart was smiling or crying when she descended. I never did see, I tried but I couldn’t tell. I saw her get off the bus and walk into the school and I thought, unless you plan to go inside and start hiding in the hallways, you probably should go home.
Her first day was fine, and in fact, to my knowledge no fourth graders ever tried to convince my daughter to snort cocaine on the elementary school bus. It would be years later before I told her about following her that first day of school. From that day of admission to this day, she thinks I am a freak for doing it.
As the years passed, I stopped following busses but I never stopped crying on the first day of school. Each first day of school my mind would fast forward to the fact that we were a step closer to her becoming more independent and to the day when she would eventually be on her own. A day when there would be no more busses I could follow.
This year, my ‘heart’ graduates high school and in the fall she will go to a college that is a five hour drive from our home. We both will be in college at the same time – kind of crazy! I am 10,000 times more scared and in awe then when I was considering whether I would be a worthy mother over seventeen years ago. I am both terrified and thrilled at the unknown. I’ve done a few decent things in my life that I am slightly proud of, but this kid, this daughter that I was blessed to be chosen to mother is the absolute best part of me and of my world. I now know that she will do amazing things and make the world a better place than she found it, because she’s already done it, just by being in my life.
This March, my daughter got her driver’s license. Her car (a birthday gift from dad) combined with hours of hair-graying -practice drives and paying what amounted to a small fortune in registration, insurance and drivers training fees, made her official. Her first day driving to school alone, I stood at the kitchen door as she came downstairs. She was beautiful…full of confidence and excitement, keys in hand, smile beaming on her face. She was 20 minutes earlier than when she needed to leave. I gave her a hug, told her to be safe and when the door closed, I promptly started crying.
And yes, you guessed it, I grabbed my sneakers, jumped in my car and followed her with tear stained glasses to the high school.
Unlike the elementary school bus driver, my daughter “made” me as she got out of the car. She looked over at me, shook her head, smiled that smile that melts my heart and mouthed the words, “you’re a freak.” Later that night she would tell me, I knew you would follow me. I don’t think she or I would have had it any other way.
I will always be an imperfect mother and I will never get any Mother of the Year awards but I am positive I was wrong in thinking I wasn’t good enough to raise someone who would be better than my best dreams. If there’s an award for daughter of the decade, well then, as the kids say, “I have it on lock”.
“I love you for reading”.