Do you ever think back to a specific moment in time that defined who you are today? I used to think about that when my children were small.
Did I say something to impact who they would become as adults? Were they influenced by my actions to the point they tried to emulate them? Did I voice my opinions and in the process mold their beliefs? Would they think otherwise if I had kept my mouth shut? Did they really decide on a spiritual or career path because it was their choosing or did I steer them in those directions without realizing it?
At what point does parenting end and allowing your children to choose their own path begin?
I was a late bloomer. I divorced at 30 from the man who took my virginity. My knowledge of life and men was severly limited. When my daughter began to date, so did I. We were dealing with sexual awareness at the same time. That can be difficult. The blind leading the blind, so to speak. People thought we were sisters and in a sense, we were.
My philosophy on parenting evolved more out of necessity than what was deemed proper. I was a single parent. I told my son and daughter we were in this together…the three musketeers’. One for all and all for one. It required maturity and teamwork to survive. From all of us.
Thankfully…luckily…because I’m not sure good parenting skills were involved…my son and daughter are smart, savvy, well balanced individuals. They are both great parents. They love. They share. They are everything I wanted them to be.
As a family, we like to say we put the “fun” in dysfunctional. My children are my life’s best accomplishment. We managed to transcend the parent-child relationship as they grew into adulthood with a wonderful friendship based on respect, love and mutual agreement that life is not this pre-designed, mass produced idea of who you should be. Being an individual and marching to your own tune (within reason) is not only acceptable but can set you apart in a good way. Just like honesty, ethics, moral values and compassion can define that internal barometer callled a conscience.
My kids didn’t have the breaks that two parent, wealthy, secure families enjoyed. I falsified my son’s birth certificate when he was 15 so he could get a job with a company who insisted they could not hire anyone under 16. But on the flip side, when most of their friends were partying all night, my high school children had curfews that were strictly enforced. When their friends were sitting in front of Nintendos playing games all day, mine were hiking in the Arizona desert. Wilderness camping with a single mom who knew how to live off the land and could shoot any predator that threatened her young…two legged or four legged. While the father of my son’s friend went golfing, I took the boys fishing and camping. Another time, I sat cross legged on a blanket in the living room having a “carpet picnic” with my children because it was too cold outside to go anywhere. We went to museums. We attended festivals and celebrated diversity. We pondered various topics, researching what we didn’t understand until we each formulated an opinion and could share it (but not necessarily agree with the others). We debated instead of argued. Okay, we argued a little but it forced us to adopt compromise.
I cannot say my parenting skills mirrored what was appropriate for that time period. I refused to be this disciplinarian who enforced rules based upon the fact that I was the parent and that was reason enough. I allowed my children to plead their case. Sometimes I relented and agreed with them. Sometimes not. Sometimes they respected and accepted my decision. Sometimes not.
Along the way, however, a miraculous thing occurred. They evolved into adults I liked and respected, not just because they were my children but because of who they strived to be.
They are better than me. I don’t know if it has anything to do with how they were raised or just good genes. I had incredibly wonderful parents so I’m sure bloodline helps.
Today, however, I’m just proud they call me Mom and still enjoy my company. Guess that makes me one of the lucky ones.