Individuality is a good thing, right? It’s what keeps life interesting and this world colorful, never dull. My second big surprise as a Mom, although I’m sure there were many smaller surprises that didn’t stick in my memory, since repetition makes a surprise routine, anyway – there I go being scattered again – the second surprise that stuck out to me was how early a child becomes no longer an extension of Mom, but an individual.
I suppose it should not have surprised me, the independence and stubbornness that marked the end of babyhood in both my children, but it caught me off guard. Now, I love my Mom, and I know she did the best she could for her children, but I remember from a young age being so desperate for her approval and affection that I adopted her beliefs, her likes and dislikes. I suppose there had to have been a time when I was a toddler when I began to assert my independence, but frankly, by the time I started school, I was only a reflection of Mommy. I know there were times as I got older when I battled a bit more to be my own person, but these were pretty short-lived until I left home at age eighteen and started seeing a therapist in my early twenties.
Again, I digress. I had read parenting books, talked to others who had kids, and believed I was fairly prepared. I know there are times when I revert to parenting behaviors I learned as a child (most notably yelling, but unfortunately I’ve also been known to resort to sarcasm, which children really don’t understand… I have to stop and remind myself that my words and actions toward them must be loving even when firm, or I risk hurting them). I have tried to be a good mom, even if I don’t always succeed. I want my children to have a better start than I had.
So, while I made and continue to make mistakes, my kids both hit that time of putting out feelers for independence (my youngest, at two, still likes to be babied, but it has to be on her terms: “Daddy do it,” or “Mommy do it,” and she has mastered keeping herself entertained; my oldest, at ten, has been a little defiant for awhile now, asserting herself, dressing in vividly colored clothing and speaking up when her opinion is different from mine). I have to admit, at those first early signs of independence in both of my children, I experienced some separation anxiety. I know they will continue to grow and learn and change and I look forward to knowing these two when they are grown, maybe it’s only because I’m their mother, but I think they are going to be remarkable people (of course, I think they are already remarkable). What they may or may not know is that whatever they do in their lives, however far away from me their individuality takes each of them, they will always be my babies and a part of me will always be in awe that at one time, each of them lived and developed right under my heartbeat, literally a part of me. I pray that the role I’m playing in their life will have done more good than harm and they will know that they always have been, always will be, loved.