|My Little Girl|
"You don't have to dumb her down."The best parenting advice I ever received was to take the time to love and cuddle my kids. And, even though I thought this would be the easy part – the part where I would overlook a tantrum, a child’s artwork on the living room furniture or a lie – following this simple instruction has been the driving force behind my love affair with them.
I naively followed those who came before me into the insane world of Mommy, like a lemming to a cliff. I jumped with both feet onto that hallowed ground, prepared to embrace parenthood with a bear hug, where some fell into it with an ambivalent nod. But, somewhere along the way, I found my own footing and set out with my husband on a road less traveled . It is with few regrets that I confess I have followed that advice to the best of my ability – most days.
As the mother of three, I watch now as our oldest child balances precariously on the edge of manhood, while our youngest is determined to squeeze a lifetime of fun into his dwindling childhood. Then there is our little girl, the very center of my universe. Sandwiched between one brother who keeps a watchful eye out for her honor and the other who keeps a disapproving eye on his missing wardrobe, she lives and breathes with an abandon most envy. Unfortunately, for her, I think, this free spirit is a bittersweet reflection of me in my eyes.
This brings me to the second best parenting advice I ever received. If I have absorbed anything in my years of raising kids, it is that wisdom is often found in the most unconventional and unlikeliest of sources – and so it was with a smile and a wink, that my nephew, still a kid himself in his mid-twenties, leaned in to me, nodding toward our daughter and said, “That one there, she’s somethin’ special!”
In my failings as a mother to my daughter, and honestly as a woman in my own right, I dismissed his thoughtful praise before, even I was aware that the words had come out of my mouth.
“Yeah, she can be a real handful,” I confessed. (Maybe he’ll see that I’m embarrassed by the compliment, I harbored silently. Quick – say something, anything. You know he thinks you believe, she is the most perfect child on the planet. If she is perfect, then you are perfect – and you, my dear, are not perfect!)
“She’s a hard headed little thing, that’s for sure,” I offered as an apology.
He grinned then and nudged me, his shoulder against mine. My nephew is a strapping six foot, five inches, give or take – with a smile so genuine that one does not have to look twice to feel it land on their heart with a thud. The youngest of three boys, big brother only to their younger sister, I would say he knows plenty about wild and free.
“You don’t have to dumb her down,” he offered with that smile. “She is awesome, just the way she is!” There it was – the moment I had been waiting for, since I first recognized myself in my daughter.
The bond, born between mothers and their daughters, is like no other. Often plagued with hostility and mutual discontent, the two cannot help but see themselves in one another. Mothers, still little girls themselves, in heart, search for their own fulfillment through impossibly difficult and unrealistic expectations they place on their daughters – as their daughters spend a lifetime trying to be something other than their mothers.
“If you’re looking for me I’m in the closet.” ( A note from my daughter ~ 8 years old)
Through my sons, I am reminded of how right it feels to be strong in character, to seek the courage of my convictions and to accept who I am with honesty, a few tears and a good, hardy sense of humor. And, though my daughter is equally strong, courageous, independent and positively sparkling with wit, it is she, who I am eternally grateful – for unlocking my wounded heart, healing my jaundiced eye and indulging my love of self.
Through my little girl, I've learned that forgiveness waits within.
She is me, as I was once as she.
Now, if I can only convince her to clean her room.
(By Colleen, age 10)
I am from the soft warm covers
And dressers cluttered with toys
This is my safety from my brothers, or the boys
From the turtle tank to the messy floor
And my brothers knocking on the door.
I am from Home ~ where privacy is hard to find.
I am from the sweet smell of honeysuckle in the summer
And chickens scratching in the dirt
While watchin’ butterflies flit and flirt
From dogs barking, to watching ponies run and play
And watching my sweet kitty lie in the sun all day.
I am from Home ~ where wildflowers grow.
I am from fiddle tunes and Cardinal games
And down the highway a bluebird sings
From the home of The Arch to Jefferson City.
I am from Home ~ Home-Sweet-Home.
I am from the country of Freedom
From the Statue of Liberty to the Liberty Bell
And freedom rings, can’t you tell
From the American flag to the White House
And the Mississippi River runs swell.
I am from Home ~ Freedom.
I am from German, French, Scottish and Irish
Don’t forget, I do speak English
From Kentucky to Missouri, my family is all here
And to me they are all very dear.
I am from cars, bikes, airplanes and rafts
To flying cars and hovercrafts
From love and happiness, the future is true
And the best part is it’s up to you.