There was a commercial from the 1980’s – “I learned it from watching you,” it was when Say No to Drugs became America’s anthem. The commercial featured an angry father discovering his teenaged son was getting high, and the kid’s response was, well, “I learned it from watching you.” Dad gets high, kid gets high. Do as I say, not as I do.
Kid Rock wants long, brown hair like her Mama. She always has. She loves to wear my heels in the dining room, so she clicks on the hardwood floor. She prefers her lipgloss very, very dark. Make it noticeable! She pleads. She sets her alarm extra early so during the week, she can lay on the bathroom rug near my feet as I get ready for my day. It’s here with her at my feet I realized the opportunity I have to teach her well. After I’ve busted my ass at the gym pre-dawn and just before coffee, it’s there in those moments she trusts me and loves me most. She taught me that in order to teach her, I have to trust myself and love myself most. So instead of studying my profile in those awful bathroom lights, looking for the things – and there are always things – I despise, abhor, and possibly hate, I love, accept, and appreciate. She’s learning it from watching me.
Mothering a girl is by far my greatest gift and absolute privilege. Each day over the past seven-and-a-half years, I’ve rejoiced in that fact. It’s scary as hell. The future is terrifying. I was talking to a friend a few weeks ago who has younger siblings, and she asked if mothering is like that, going into freak-out Mama Bear mode at their defense. I said well, yes. Kind of. What the Dad and I agreed to do somewhere along the line is empower her. To teach her well, and then let her do it on her own. Because that’s the way this is built. Parenthood. We’ve never been helicopter parents, or rescue parents. When pushed on the subject matter, I’ll admit I might baby her too much, whereas the Dad admits he holds her to too high of a standard. After all, she’s only seven. After all, she IS seven and she’s empowered. We can’t be on the bus with her, the hallways, art class, or the playground. She has to know how to navigate that on her own. I love her stories, her indignations. What she deems unfair. How she defends her people. She’s a storm trooper already and I suppose I’m waiting for the principal to call. If you empower them, realize all that might encompass. She might throw a punch. Throw a can of paint. Throw a party.
One of my favorite quotes (and I am a word junkie) is, “We must be our own before we can be another’s”, by Ralph Waldo Emerson. In motherhood, I’ve taken that to mean – I have to take care of myself first, before I can successfully do that for my daughter. It was a hard transition, almost fighting against nature, when I realized I had to be my own before I could be hers. Because childhood is fleeting. 18 years is not a lot of time. Yes, I’ll be her Mama forever, but 18 is sort of the expiration. What would happen to me after that? What if I spent two decades not being my own? What would the shell of me look like? Teach them well.
Since she was born, I’ve traveled. I spent the first 7 years of her life kissing her goodbye more often sometimes, than I felt I was kissing her hello. I joined clubs and boards and teams – all obligations that while taking me away from her, in a sense, would make me my own. I maintained precious friendships and date nights and girls’ weekends and road trips and projects. I choose my freedoms and expressions of fashion including green extensions, a roadmap of tattoos, a nose ring more than a decade old. But you’re someone’s mom. But I’m this girl, first. I showed Kid Rock it’s impossible to physically be in two places at once – like a conference in Miami Beach and parent-teacher conferences, but spiritually and soulfully, it’s not impossible. I worked two jobs for years, missing more bedtimes and the sweet, sleepy routines than I made. I missed practices, presentations, celebrations, milestones. In reality, I missed nothing. I began a new career I’m incredibly passionate about, but removed the flexibility I had to favor her. I skip a lot of early weekend wake-ups with a warm, heat-seeking missile of kid so I can train for things that are important to me, to make her proud and inspire her to never be too afraid to try anything. The better I am, the better she is.
Together in the bathroom each morning, we love, we highlight, and we celebrate.
Teach them well.