When I decided to have kids – though, really, I don’t remember any decision other than when – I had no idea the depths of love I’d feel. And feel again and again as they got older. It’s the kind of thing you can’t really prepare yourself for, unlike (maybe) a zombie apocalypse. You can’t prepare for things you’ve never experienced before. And even books don’t do it justice, this love, this sudden wave of emotion you feel that is so NOT what you might feel for a lover, a spouse, a parent. It isn’t. It’s different. And better, to be honest.
Part of it is that you create this….person that has never existed before (unless you believe in past lives which I happen to but that’s another conversation) and you have the distinct pleasure, the unbelievable privilege, of watching them grow up. Of being key to the process. Of BEING the process (to a certain degree).
I’ve spent a good amount of time this evening scraping old decals off Dusty’s walls – swirls and planets and glow in the dark stars. I’ve removed screws and shelving and pulled dozens of anchors out of the walls in preparation for a new coat of paint. For the teenager she is now. She wants a grown up room. She’s wanted something different every year of her life, just about, and I’ve made it happen to the best of my ability. I’ve spackled probably a hundred pinpricks where she’s hung pictures and posters – first animals, now rock stars – over the years.
When I was a kid, my mother would throw a fit when I used tape or pushpins to put up a poster. I was ruining the walls! Walls that were hers! I was only borrowing that room! Oh, the work she’d have to do – theoretically – to remove all traces of my life there! God forbid.
I’ve taken a different tact as a parent. This is your space. Live in it. Be who you are and find out who you are in these walls. Don’t like something? Let’s figure out how we can change it, within our budget.
As I worked I found little messages she’d written to herself. In her closet, she’d written “Dusty’s Hideout” and a chart with “Lonely, Mad, Sad, Fine.” Lonely had no check marks. Sad and Mad each had one. Underneath them, she’d written an arrow with “Same thing” under them. There were 10 check marks under “fine” which pretty much sums up her childhood.
Feeling wistful (though I don’t think that’s the right word), I wrote her an email,
“Hey. I have been in your room tonight scraping and spackling and removing screws and anchors and star stickers from your walls and thinking about all the different changes we’ve made to your room over the years. And all the ages you’ve been in that room. Sappy, I know.
“I just wanted you to know that I love you and think you are one of the most amazing, intelligent, beautiful, creative, unique people I’ve ever known and I’m so proud to be your mom. Don’t ever let anyone make you think you’re less than that. Don’t ever stay with a friend or a boy who makes you feel less than what you really are. Everyone I know who meets you comments on how nice you are and how caring and beautiful and special you are. I can’t believe I was so lucky to have you as my daughter.
“Please remember this when you’re feeling sad or down. You really are one-of-a-kind.
“I love you. Mom”
Everything I do for them, I do with love. And then I have to remember to stand back and let them be who they are. And it is more than enough. It really is.