One look at a picture of my daughter at just about any age and there is no question she is mine. She has the fortune of having inherited her big, round eyes from her daddy, but the rest is nearly a carbon copy of myself.
The older she gets, the more I recognize my own behaviors and character quirks in her as well and that, it turns out, is much harder to look at than her familiar face.
I find I’m in a constant state of questioning my reaction to her nearly every move. It’s as if I can see my young self repeating mistakes or heading off the same rails and I want to stop her/me before things get worse. Because, I know they get worse and isn’t it my job as a parent to protect her from that? Or am I failing her by not letting her learn life lessons on her own? Worse, am I alienating her by lecturing the crap out of her for sins she’s not even fully committed yet or teaching her she’s not capable of good decisions on her own?
It’s not like I want a life do over. I own all my past crap and actually embrace it for making me the person I am today. Looking back on my 39 years, I wouldn’t change a thing-even the mistakes. But when I see my kids heading down a similar road of heartbreak or disappointment, I just want to save them from themselves because I can remember how awful they’re about to feel. Then I worry that I’m supposed to be the one building them up, not preparing them for the worst. I know what happens when someone constantly prepares you for the worst, you grow up to expect only that.
That would be the biggest crime I could commit, teaching my children that life is only full of misery or that stumbling once means you can never get up and try again. If that’s the lesson I risk teaching when I try to keep her from harm, then I know I can’t ever do it again.
So, I will watch her make my same mistakes. I will watch her learn through a little heartache and some pain. And then I will lift her up and remind her that she is good and strong and capable and kind. I will be be there after the falls to remind her she can get back up and choose whatever path suits her-whether I tread before her or not.
This post was inspired by Raising Cubby: A Father and Son’s Adventures with Asperger’s, Trains, Tractors, and High Explosivesby John Elder Robison. Parenting is a challenging job, but what challenges does a parent with Asperger’s face? Join From Left to Write on March 12 as we discuss Raising Cubby. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.
P.S. Looking for more parenting guidance and tips for self-care? Check out From Chaos to Calm a guided training to help you feel better in this tough season.