I stumbled across an announcement from our local theatre about a winter conservatory for children Javi's age. Immediately, I was bumrushed with memories of wanting so badly as a child to be up on stage singing and dancing and accepting flowers from an adoring crowd. When Javi got home, I raced to show him the information and raved about how fun it would be for him to be in one of the plays we love attending so much.
He had zero interest. And by zero interest, I mean barely even looked at me as he muttered No, thanks and went back to playing his video game.
A few months back when I found out about low-cost ballet classes, I spent half a day driving around my town piecing together the perfect ballerina-pink tights, shoes, and leotard for Bella. I took photos of her purchasing her own shoes and twirling through the tights aisle. I daydreamed about sitting in a dark auditorium as she pranced through The Nutcracker as either Clara or the Sugar Plum Fairy (naturally), her arms a flurry of grace and precision, her legs long and purposeful as she effortlessly sailed across the stage. I looked down at my plump, graceless body and grinned with delight that my daughter's future would hold a drastically different shape.
She lasted two sessions before she let me know she no longer held any desire to "'ticipate" in ballet.
Notice a trend?
There are a string of moments going all the way back to the first moment I held my big kid so many years ago and whispered to him, "I will always protect you. You are safe, here." In that moment, I wasn't thinking about my child -- I was thinking about my childhood, about how slippery the feeling of loved can become, about how at some point I became a child who no longer felt safe and protected and loved unconditionally. That red, smoosh-faced newborn was a second chance at the perfect childhood.
Amplify that urge times a thousand when I birthed an eerily quiet and observant little girl six years later. Where my son was a child, my daughter was a clone. Dark hair and brown eyes and a nose just like mine. A daughter with a father who'd die for her ... unlike mine. Looking at our actions without the emotion of here's my chance, I can see that every move I've made -- including the mate I chose -- has been motivated by bone-deep grief over a childhood no one could've predicted or controlled.
I am parenting my children to heal my childhood. And it's wrong.
Sure, ballet classes and youth theatre are harmless ... but I also fail to encourage intense relationships between my children and the trusted adults in their lives in favor of proving to them that their father and I are the adults who love them most, fiercely and reliably -- no matter what. I cater to their perceived sensitivities and treat them like fragile works of art that could shatter at any time.
I overanalyze and judge and choose paths that I wish my original family had traveled, not the ones that make sense for the family I have now. I make choices based on unhealed hurts and anger from my childhood, not based on the needs and quirks of my children.
I've been thinking about this for awhile. And then ck's comment on my previous post pushed those thoughts further. "Every mama needs a little blonde warrior. How else would we be able to let go of who we once were and live in the present?" she wrote -- cutting straight to the heart of me and shining a clarifying light on the murky thoughts that were already swirling toward epiphany.
On this week's Parenthood, Sarah poured her mothering heart out to her daughter and I found myself rewinding over and over again: When you have kids -- if you have kids -- there's something you should know. It's a very confusing thing they don't tell you. You see so much of yourself in them. You see your ironic take on the world, you see your smile, your walk, your sense of humor ... whatever ... and you think they're you. But they're not you. And they shouldn't have all of your baggage -- your fear and your insecurity and your life experience -- because that's not fair. They have their own. I'm so in awe of you. I want you to go out there and fly. You can fly.
My children aren't me and they don't need protection from the things that hurt me -- an absentee and drug-addicted father, one abusive sister and one chronically sick one, a mother who was stretched too thin despite possessing a love for her daughters that continues to amaze me. My children don't need me to push them in the directions I would've loved to explore. They are strong, resilient creatures with their own songs to sing and their own wings to test.
"We don't deserve these kids, that's for certain. I'm sure I'll mess mine up, and they were so perfect when I got them," Amy observed. Wouldn't that be the greatest hurt of them all?
I can create limitations and false boundaries for my children or I can recognize and respect the perfection and trajectory of two lives that will (hopefully) be dramatically different than mine. I can stay mired in the mess that was my foundation, or I can let go and enjoy the fresh truth of my children's reality.
I am choosing to step away from the baggage I've dragged around for too long. I am choosing to acknowledge my children's gorgeous, unique wings and let them fly.
This feels like healing.