Friday, July 17, 2015

Raising and Only - The Land of Independence

When I gave birth to my daughter sixteen years ago, I knew she was not mine to keep.  My job was to raise her into a productive member of society.  I know there is more to it then that: Christ follower, happy, healthy, prosperous - all that jazz.

But she was not mine to keep forever, until I die of old age.

I came to this conclusion long before she was even a gleam in my eye.  I had been married a couple years and working retail.  The woman I worked with had eleven children (yes, you read that right - eleven) and she was lamenting how her youngest was starting kindergarten in September and she didn't have a baby in the house any more.  I thought to myself, self, you can have a hundred children and still, someday, you won't have a baby in the house anymore.

I am no genius at math, but even I can figure this out.

Hence the thought process when that little seven pounder shot out of my body.

She was going to grow up and move out of my house (please, God) and it was my job to prepare her.

I just might have pushed this whole preparing/independence thing a bit too far.

I thought, in my little plan book, that a second child would follow a couple years after her birth, so I started prepping her early.  At age two, we went to the park with a group of moms and toddlers the same age.  It started out cool, and quickly got warm.  The coats started to get peeled off.  And handed to moms.

Um, no, not this mom.  You either carry it, or put it in the stroller, but I am not a coat rack.

And that was that.  I've never carried her backpack, her coat, her music instrument(s), her library books (you can check out only as many as you can carry) or her luggage (you can only bring it if you are going to lug it through international airports).

When she was seven she ordered a cheeseburger while dining at a fancy restaurant.  No big deal, right?  Except it had mayonnaise on it even though she requested it without.  It would have been very parental of me to tap the waiter on the shoulder and say, ummm, and solve the problem for her.  Instead, I had her do it.  I prompted her what to say (and how to say it) and she did.  Because she was seven and not full of self-conscience, she had no qualm about making the request.  It maintained this independence path.  

She wanted a puppy at nine.  Fine, you do all the research.  You may check ads, make inquiries, email breeders, but you may not talk to anyone on the phone.  She found our schnauzer, and when it came time to do the meet-and-greet the breeder was impressed that it was a kid doing all the talking (again, there was a lot of prompting and conversations about what to say and not say).  She also learned how to recognize a scam, since she got caught up in a doozy.  Again, because she was only allowed to go so far with her search, no harm, no foul, but now she can spot those suckers a mile away.

Since then, she's brought home a cockatiel, six chickens and two geese.  She might have gotten a little too good at this whole thing.

At fifteen she went on a mission trip - without us.  She wanted to go to Haiti; it was not my "bent" to go (but I could come up with ways to raise the funds) and her dad couldn't get time off work.  So we talked with the coordinator, signed a waiver, and she boarded a plane.  Some of those were the longest days of my life (no phone conversations and very minimal updates for nine days).  Considering, by this time in her life, she had been on so many week-long overnight camps that it totaled at least three months of her life, this was a shock to both of us.

Recently she joined a concert band - an adult concert band.  Knowing nobody.  (Well, one gentleman who prompted her to join them, but he wasn't in the band right then due to an injury.)  But just drove herself there, grabbed her instrument, and walked through the doors.

Scares the crap out of me and I'm pushing 29 (well, pushed , shoved, ran the hell over. Anyway.)

The downfall of all this is that, now, at sixteen, she is starting to gently shove us away.  Half the time I feel like we are roommates instead of parents.  One day she even told my husband that she needed him to sign a paper for school, since he was her guardian.  Heck, she's gone vegan and buys her own food (yes, I've tried to get a list from her, but she's pretty steadfast about doing it herself).  She tries not to tell us when the school has awards ceremonies, concerts and sports games, so we're not seen with her (God forbid you try to get a picture!).  Luckily I am still smarter than her and I can find them on a website and we show up anyway.  I also have, in my back pocket, two very helpful and understanding parents that text me when they know about an event that I won't get told about.  This is a small town - nothing is much of a secret around here.  

The other day a school mate of my teenager was lamenting that parents today don't make their kids get jobs, pay for their own stuff, cook dinner once a week, do their own laundry.  Well, I'm hear to tell you that my kid has been doing her own laundry since age nine (I refused to do the sniff test and that was the compromise - it's either in the basket or I don't do it).  Independence is a great thing.

Just remember to be a kid once in a while to emotionally help an old lady out.




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