Today is my daughter’s 22nd birthday. I find it fitting that I feel like writing about her and our relationship. I do not really feel inspired to write about anything else, and this is after reflecting about my week, the events and none of it seems to matter, except her. That is saying a lot because I am finding that work takes up a lot of my mind space and even when I am not physically there, I think about it. I find myself often feeling like I am not good enough there. It has come to the surface recently and I have allowed it to instead of pushing it away or deny my feelings. After some reflection on this, I find myself thinking about her, my daughter, Jade. I guess this could be called things I have learned about parenting, or lessons learned from my child. Ironic because as parents we are supposed to teach our children. This is what parenting has taught me about the following aspects, that I am starting to realize are really keys to life.
Doing what you feel is right
When I look at her, I see a young woman, who at a very young age, decided, to have a child and this, after evaluating all the options. I am very aware that at the time, nobody would have thought she was ready, or capable of doing this. People would have assumed she was promiscuous and was irresponsible. No, it was a case of a first serious boyfriend and a surprise, for which they both took responsibility. She was quite honest and frank with me and after a while, I saw that she had decided based on what she felt was the right thing to do not what others thought. This is a quality I admire. Doing what feels right in your heart, despite what everyone else might say. It is courage, it is respect for oneself and it is self-awareness.
My daughter is strong, she has two children now and is absolutely devoted to both of them. I know she does the best she can. I try to help out to the best of my ability. She and her partner are together and despite all of the challenges, remain together raising their two boys. This is perseverance, this is also a quality I admire.
She even finds time to write and draw, when she can. She understands the power of creativity and she is very creative and talented. She did not always see herself as talented in that realm, but today, I hope she does. I love that about her. She inspires me.
Have I always followed my heart? In my decision to have Jade, I did. In my decision to go back to school, become a professional accountant, I followed my head. But in many aspects in my life, not 100%. In the past I tried to fit in, and when I realised that sometimes I did not I was self-destructive with my coping mechanisms. I learned from that and have evolved. My daughter was there to witness that. I, in turn, have the opportunity to watch my daughter follow her heart and not compromise too much on what really matters to her. I am still figuring out how to silence the noise from what others think versus what I believe. I am a work in progress. My daughter taught me that.
Self confidence, self-esteem and self-worth
I think highly of Jade. She is beautiful, funny, and has a big loving heart if you are lucky enough to get close to her. She is loyal and intelligent, sensitive and so kind and compassionate. I had no idea my daughter enjoyed cooking until she had her sons. She is really good at it too. But I also know that my daughter is not perfect, nobody is. She has a lot of insecurity. However, I do not see that when she is with her children. On that front, she seems to know what she is doing. Is she a perfect mom? No, because there is no such thing, but to me, she is a good mom, who has decided this is what she wants.
If there is one thing I regret, and yes, I know that regret is useless and futile, but despite that knowledge, I feel regret and that is just what it is. I wish I could have instilled self-confidence, self-esteem and self-worth in my child. It is the one thing I feel I did not do correctly. I failed her in that aspect.
It is no wonder that I did. It is so important to do and to achieve what the “world” says we should be, that I forgot to stay true to myself. It is something I have come to realize. I was 26 when I had Jade, but quite immature and I had no career, no money and on paper I was not ready. Being responsible for this gift, I turned my life around. I went back to school, got a professional degree and have been working for the same accounting firm for the last 12 years. I wanted to provide for her, a stable home, a mom who was a professional with a stable career. The whole time, I wanted to provide the stability from elements outside, that in appearance looked good on paper. What I forgot to provide was a self-assured, self-confident mom who knew how to instill confidence and self-esteem based on intrinsic self-worth, not based on appearances or what the self could do out there.
I was so worried about how she would do in school and how she would compare to others that I found myself always trying to get her to fit into some mold or box. I wanted a normal child, whatever the fuck that means, and I could be very critical at times. I know parents do this to help their child, but looking back and reflecting on my experiences today, I think I should evaluate the power criticism has. Perhaps instead of criticising, it is better to acknowledge someone’s efforts and provide guidance using terms like lessons learned?
All I can do today is try, as best as I can, to instill that in her today. I guess we both have that to work on. Perhaps as two adults I can better support her in working through her insecurities because she has so many wonderful qualities as an individual and a mom.
Maybe I should also take note and not allow work and others to determine my self-worth?
It takes time to go to school, work and raise a child. Guess where most of the time went? Not to her. I tried my best to ensure we had quality time. On Sundays we would go to movies and dinners out at her favorite restaurant. I still remember this huge ice cream brownie dessert for two, (more like four) which we shared at Mike’s. The bowl was bigger than her face. We laughed and laughed. I always tried to be home for dinner when I was not working at the restaurant. But if I am honest, I did not provide enough time for her so she would know she was the most important person in my life. Jade provides time with her children. She is giving and that is another quality I admire.
I often find myself feeling disconnected with her because we no longer live together. Of course she lives with her partner and two children, but I find myself missing having her in my daily life. Perhaps it is just melancholy over her 22nd birthday. But as they say, hindsight is 20/20 and I think we underestimate the value of time with family. Perhaps I should reassess my priorities.
Another lesson learned, and I am lucky it is not too late. She actually lets me go over to her place and spend time with them. I love that. Just hanging out with her and my two grandsons. I also get to babysit. What a gift. There are no words.
I know today, without a doubt, that I have received unconditional love from my parents. I know that they would love me no matter what. Yes in the past I may have believed I needed to prove myself to deserve their approval, or anyone else’s for that matter, but today, I understand that all my parents wanted was the best for me. So yes, they may have been critical of some decisions I made. I get that. I grew from that. I see clearly that they did the best they could too.
I believe that Jade has forgiven me my past actions. We have had some pretty honest talks together. I appreciate these talks so very much. I think she knows that while parents can be blamed, it is so much more self-affirming to take responsibility for our actions today, instead of blaming them on someone else. I believe that and I think she does too. There are two things that were consistent: I was a constant in her life and I loved her.
I hope Jade knows that I love her unconditionally. I think she does. I think as parents, if there is one thing that surpasses all the others, it is that children feel loved unconditionally. No matter what. It does not mean agreeing with all they do, but it means loving them no matter what. You do not punish or teach by taking away love.
I also see that despite their issues, Jade and her partner work through them. That is also unconditional love. They could split up because people do that today – if something is not perfect, why bother, just toss it away and get something newer, or better. No relationship is perfect, and unless abuse is involved, I admire people who work through their issues rather than recycle relationship after relationship. My long-term relationships have not always worked out, so when I see it in others, I admire it.
They say people you meet are a reflection, to teach you about of some part of yourself. If that is the case, maybe Jade is a teacher in the sense that, while I need to learn what I want to teach her about self-esteem, I am capable of unconditional love. As a result, anything is possible. It means that I still have time to help Jade. I can also become a better mom and nana to my boys. I can apply unconditional love to myself and to others.
On that note, maybe the events of the past week do not matter so much, because they are the past and jade is very much my present (pun aboslutely intended). The feeling of not being good enough is subdued now. Maybe what I have learned is that I need to take my own advice to my daughter about self-esteem and self-worth and apply it to myself first. If I can do that, then I will be a good example for her.
So if you have read this far, take time to appreciate yourself, do something that feels right in your heart, take time to spend with loved ones and practice unconditional love, especially with children. I am no expert, but in my limited experiences, these are lessons I have learned thanks to my daughter. Happy Birthday Jade. I love you.