This past weekend I had the opportunity to do a little shopping with my daughter. Since teachers get paid on the last school day of each month, we did a bit more shopping than we probably should have! But, for us, these precious moments that we get when it is just the two of us with no other influences, goals, or agendas provide opportunities to get to know each other a little better. For me, it's a chance to look at her in a different light: a young woman. I love just walking around a mall with her doing what women all over the country do on a lazy Saturday. I get to take a step back (figuratively, of course) and observe from a different viewpoint. On these rare occasions the only "mom" role I have to fill is at the register when we're done. Even then she more often than not steps up and offers to cover her own purchases. The "mom" in me, though, rarely can let her do that. Those times when she has to fend for herself, when neither her father nor I am around, will come all too soon. For now, I'll gladly buy the occasional pair of shoes or jeans. While the shopping is fun, it's the conversation I'm there for. I'm forever amazed by her outlook and opinions. I have to admit that there are times when I hold my breath - afraid of what she is going to say. While what she says isn't always what I want to hear, I can tell that she has put thought into her opinions and is generally just using me as a sounding board. I don't know how successful I am, but I do try to restrain any emotionally charged reaction I may have and just listen not only to what she is saying, but her reasoning behind it.
I hope that for her, these days out serve a similar purpose. I hope she is getting a chance to get to know me on a different level. As I have grown older I have come to know my own mother less as a parent and more as a person. I hope that my daughter is getting to do the same. I know that for her the going must be tough. It is a whole new frontier for her. I can tell that sometimes in our conversations she is filtering what she is saying through the, "I must remember this is my MOM!" filter. That's okay. For her, as for me, that will probably never really go away. But, I hope that she is gaining a better understanding of who I am other than her mother.
This past Saturday we enjoyed a unique experience. She has finished her first semester of college away from home (quite successfully I'm happy to report), and has returned to campus after a nice long Christmas break. First semester of college is such a time of excitement and adjustment. Second semester is when reality sets in...that this is really what life is going to be for a few years. She had been back in Tuscaloosa for a little over a week and was meeting her dad in Birmingham on Saturday to go to a concert. I went along for the ride...not the concert. She met us at our friend Brian's on Friday night to spend a little time with her parents. During our little shopping trip on Saturday, I got to talk to her about something that has really been on my mind lately. She has a new person in her life who has really swept her off her feet. On the surface he seems a bit too good to be true. After having met him, though, it is good to be able to say that he seems just as good a person - in person -- as he does on the computer. She had told us quite a bit about him, so her dad and I were anxious to get to actually sit down and talk with him. He seems to be completely taken with her and she with him. This young man really seems to have his life planned out and is working very hard on building his future. He has a close relationship with his family and values those things that we have always taught her were the important things in life. This past Saturday morning seemed like a good time to talk to her about not losing sight of her own goals.
If our daughter should ultimately end up with this young man, I don't believe her father or I would have anything to complain about. He treats her with the respect we have always taught her to believe she deserves. What I tried to express to her was to be very careful not to allow herself to get carried away to the point where she loses sight of what she wants for herself. Too often I have seen young women adjust their dreams to fit those of the special person in their lives. I told her that in order for a relationship to work, and work really well, each person has to have something to offer the other. That when one person is living out his or her dream and the other is along for the ride after having put his or her own dreams on hold, generally what occurs in the long run is resentment. Also, this young man has the means to offer her all the things she wants, and can do so when he chooses. He works very hard and has learned the value of hard work. As a result, he can enjoy the benefits of that hard work. He has scheduled trips to Tuscaloosa to see her as well as providing for her to go out to visit with him and his family. The type of life he leads as a result of his hard work, is the kind of life that can really sweep a girl off her feet. It would me! The point of my conversation with her was to focus on the little things. I reminded her of the crystal heart that sits in the office of my bedroom. If you just looked at it you wouldn't see anything special in it. It isn't very large, nor is it very impressive looking. It is, however, one of the most precious gifts my husband has ever given me. With that small gift my husband expressed his feelings for and commitment to me for the very first time. I have probably told her that story a hundred times over the course of her life, but I think she really sees the value of that story for the first time. Maybe she understood. I hope so. I'm not so sure I was very eloquent in my conversation with her. I wasn't even really sure what I was trying to say. I think that in some strange way, though, she understood. Again, I hope so.
She and I are at a very strange, unfamiliar, strangely difficult stage in our lives. I'm trying to gracefully let go. She is trying to step out on her own without cutting all ties with home. It is a delicate balance for the both of us. I knew that when we decided to make our home here; that there was very little possibility that our daughter would return to Kinston to make her life. That's okay. It really is. When the time comes, I"m sure I'll feel as if some part of me has been torn away. I won't be alone in that feeling. Her father will feel the same. But we also won't be alone. Millions of parents have gone through what we are facing and survived. Many have even survived it without ruining their relationships with their children. Hopefully I can find the grace to do so, too. It is rather surreal to sit and listen to her tell us what her plans for spring break are without telling her that she forgot to ask us. But isn't this what we've been teaching her...preparing her to do? We can't spend the first eighteen, almost nineteen, years of her life insisting she learn to stand on her own and then refuse to allow her to do so when the time comes. My difficulty in letting her go shouldn't affect her actually doing so.
So, what do I really want her to know? Stand tall. Be strong. Take a deep breath and step out on faith. While you are finding your way, we are here to help. Once you do, you'll know we will do all we can to help you be happy in the life you have chosen. Believe in yourself. Follow your heart but remember to listen to that little voice in your head. If you can achieve that balance you will find all you have ever hoped for. No matter where you roam or the paths you choose to get there, you will always be loved. You will never be more than a phone call - or a short plane ride away. Should you ever need us, we will put our lives on hold to be with you. When things get tough and you need to know that we are on your side, just close your eyes and listen to the calls of "Gidget" from the sidelines. We'll always be on your side, cheering you on.