Nostalgia has completely taken over as we celebrated my daughter’s birthday over the weekend. I don’t know what it is about birthdays, but without fail, each year I sift through old pregnancy photos, photos from the day the kids were born, and all the birthdays that came before. I recall the story of the day they were born, which is usually met with giggles, followed by silly questions like, “but how did I poop when I was in your belly?”
It sounds so cliché’ but the time really has gone by so fast. And as I made my best attempt at creating a mermaid cake (as requested) I realized just how fast.
Looking through all the photos, I was reminded of so many moments, memories we have made through the years. As life got busy and we found ourselves navigating through tough times, the memories faded a bit. It was a good reminder to be thankful for where life has taken us. The journey instead of the struggles to get there.
A lot of life has been lived in the 6 years since she was born. And not only has a lot of life been lived, I think of just how much all of us have changed. 6 years ago, I had a newborn baby and a one-year old. I was trying to figure out how to manage two little ones born 17 months apart, how to get back into the swing of life after spending months on bedrest, leading a team at work, and dealing with struggles in my marriage all at the same time.
I remember one of my dearest friends said to me, “we mother our sons, but we raise our daughters.”
At the time, with two in diapers who were completely dependent on me, I didn’t really understand what she meant. But now, I think about that a lot.
When the kids were little, they were so alike: feeding times, potty training, nap time. Granted, they have always had their own identities, but the closeness in age meant going through certain milestones either together or back to back.
And as the years have gone by, their individuality has become more and more apparent.
I once heard someone liken parenting to being a flight attendant: if the plane is crashing and the flight attendant remains calm, it is likely those around will also remain calm. We take our cues from those entrusted to guide us. And, when you are the one standing in front of the proverbial plane, asking those on board to trust you, it is imperative that you have the capacity to do so.
With my daughter, I find myself having to take a completely different approach to guiding the plane. For a long time, I tried to parent her the same way I did my son. Until one day I realized, she is simply a small, unfiltered version of me. It forced me to take a step back and think about what I needed when I was her age. What did it mean to love well?
While being a mother to my son has softened me and changed my heart, my daughter changed my perspective. Being her mom forced me to open my eyes. She allowed me to see the world through a new lens – hers.
We talk so much about raising girls to know their worth, to be strong, that they can do anything. And while I teach my son those same things, what I have found with my daughter is that she doesn’t learn by me telling her – she learns by me showing her.
My mom often jokes that ‘paybacks are a bitch’ and I am certain, she sits back from halfway across the world and has a chuckle to herself after I have called and told her something the kids have done. It should come as no surprise to me that I have a daughter who is independent. I raised her to be that way. And she is only 6!!!
Being her mom has meant allowing her to fall and find the strength to get back up, but being close enough to pick her up and dust her off when she simply needs her mommy.
We raise our daughters because we know exactly what they need. We know the challenges they will face in life and the things they will learn to overcome. We depend on our own experiences, the things that have shaped us. Our hearts allow us to mother our sons (and teach them about respect and equality) while our experience guides us in teaching our daughters.
If there is one thing in this world I know I am doing right – it is being their mom. I don’t do it perfectly and I have my moments just as we all do, but at the end of the day, they are amazing little humans (and yes – they have their moments too, just as all kids do) and I know its because I am simply doing the best I can to be their mom. I don’t have to be perfect. I just need to be present.
I have a son who wants to heal the world and a daughter who wants to change it. And I have no doubt that if that is what they set out to do, they will both accomplish just that. Her with fire in her belly and him with a gentle confidence. And as I always say, as long as they aren’t assholes, I have done something right!
Sarcasm aside, being their mom has taught me so much more than I ever expected, and not just about parenting, but about myself.
So, whether you are mothering a son or raising a daughter, take a step back and give yourself some credit. Lead that plane with confidence! You are doing amazing! None of us have all the answers, we are all just doing the best we know how.
Cheers to a new week and giving credit where credit is due.