The first time I got pregnant, I had a miscarriage at ten weeks. While I was ecstatic when I got pregnant almost a year later, I was also scared to death that I could have another miscarriage. I kept thinking that if I could just get past the eleven-week milestone, everything would be okay and I could relax a little. Once I made it past eleven weeks, I relaxed and focused on getting through the 2nd trimester. I had a few challenges along the way, but gave birth to a healthy baby girl in 2006.
As a new mom, I had many concerns, but my biggest was Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. So I got a baby monitor that detects movement. I quickly learned that if the motion pad was not placed correctly in the crib, it would sound an alarm that will scare the holy hell out of you. And of course, that always managed to happen in the middle of the night. Thank god, they were all false alarms. Needless to say, I faithfully turned it on every night for 4 years until my husband finally convinced me that my daughter would be fine without it.
Now that she has started school, I worry about what’s to come—bullying, mean girls, friendships that fade, boys that disappoint. Will she stand up for herself? Will she be a follower? Will she be a mean girl? Will she know better than to sext, drink or smoke? Will she choose her friends wisely? Will she know that a broken heart won’t last forever? Will she love herself? Will she understand that it does get better? Then I think to myself—if I can just get her off to college successfully, my job will be done.
But wait. Now that she’s away from home, is she going to take good care of herself? Is she going to eat enough? Is she going to class? Does she know the difference between a nice guy and a bad boy? Oh god, is she into bad boys? Will she use protection? Will she get a tattoo? Will she know not to get in a car with someone who’s been drinking? Will she drink? Then, I think to myself—once she graduates college, my job will be done.
Now she’s an adult. Her life is her own and she doesn’t have to consult with me about anything. Wait…she doesn’t have to consult with me about anything?! Will she know what to wear to that interview? Is she walking around with chipped red nail polish? Will she call me? Is she moisturizing and wearing sunblock? Is she working too much? Is she getting enough rest? Does she think about how her decisions affect others? Is she dating someone who is worthy and appreciates her as she is? Is she saving enough for her future? Is she aware of her surroundings at all times? Is she recycling? Does she truly know how amazing she is?
As each day passes, I realize that no matter how old my daughter gets, there will never be a time when I stop worrying about her. Rather than parent from the beginning to end, I decided to try it backwards and parent from the end to the beginning. What does that mean? It means looking forward to the person that I want my daughter to be as an adult and realizing how the decisions I make today affect her tomorrow (kind of like those Direct TV commercials about what the future looks like when you make bad decisions). I started by creating a vision statement. It simply reads:
I want my daughter to give to the world as much as she takes from it.
So basically, I’m consciously trying not to send another lazy, spoiled, entitled, dependent, apathetic jerk out into the world for the rest of you to deal with. While I’m sure that’s the goal of every parent, the decisions we make along the way determine how successful we are. Every parenting decision I make goes back to the vision statement. If it’s not in line with the statement, it ain’t happening! From the food she eats, to the way she is disciplined, to the toys and games she plays, to the television shows she watches (note: an open letter to the Disney Channel is forthcoming)—everything goes back to the statement.
It requires me to look in the mirror quite often and remember that she is watching me and how I live my life. I spend quite a bit of time thinking about how what I say and do will “show up” in her future—for better or for worse. Am I underestimating her ability to understand my adult conversations? Did I tell her to be quiet when she mentioned that the cashier forgot to ring up an item? Did she hear me tell my mother-in-law that I had to get off the phone because I was giving her a bath when I was not? The way I treat my husband, how I handle disappointment, what responsibilities I have as a mom, how I give to others—all of these seemingly little things make a big difference in how she sees me and how she views the world. I’m sure I’ll make some mistakes along the way (see Disney Channel note above) but that little face watching my every move has definitely made me a better person.
The truth is that once you become a parent, you really never get another peaceful night’s sleep. But the vision of my future daughter helps me sleep pretty darn good.
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