ON PARENTING: TODDLERS AND TEENS
I’m looking back, way back to when my children were small and life seemed uncomplicated and I felt deeply loved. Our two children, twenty-one months apart, were in grade school, only one school year apart and we were busy all the time.We had just acquired two goldfish that my son and daughter won at a school carnival, aptly named “Ball One” and “Ball Two.” Hard to forget those names. There was also a time when my son named his snail TJ for his and his sister’s initials with the sworn promise (including a pinky swear) from her that the next year she would return the favor and name the snail JT. She ended up naming the snail Sarah Allie after her teacher and I don’t things were ever quite the same after that. That innocent little snail became a reference for many years to come.
When my daughter, the baby of the family, now seventeen, was little, she was terribly shy. No one but I existed for her. “Up” she whispered to me, her arms outstretched for me to pick her up. I always did with great pleasure and pride. The feeling of being loved is a rare gift. At 17, she barely nods in my direction now. I admit that I mourned that loss of affection. Once in a while we will have an easy, fun, conversation, most often I feel like I’m walking on egg shells getting icy death stares from her.
I know it’s the teenage years but ask any mom how she feels about this stage, with sons and daughters, and if she is honest she will tell you that sometimes it really stings. Sometimes one’s child is so intentionally mean that you need to escape behind the locked bathroom door, run the water quickly and sob. You get over it, you have to, there is no choice. You are the parent, not a friend, you need to set the example. Bold, provocative taunts are so direct, they bore into me like lasers. Ouch, yes, they do hurt. We are parents, not robots. We have feelings too.
When our older son was little he was everyone’s friend. Outgoing, verbal, a politician. In restaurants he would wave to strangers and if they didn’t wave back, he was sad and confused. When he was two and a half he used the word “compromise” to one of the members of our baby birth- class reunion. This other dad refused to believe him and asked him on the spot, interrogating him like a lawyer; without skipping a beat our son said “if Mommy and Daddy say I have to go to bed at seven and I want to go to bed at nine, we compromise so I go to bed at 8 in the middle.” Suck on that disbeliever. There were no more follow-up questions from the parent as he headed sheepishly back to his own drooling toddler.
The introduction of a baby sister to our son when he was only twenty-one months old was fairly easy for him, after all, she bought him a “cozy coupe.” There were a few occasions when he asked when “we would be returning her?” or “giving that baby back?” but that’s understandable. His position as first and only child had been usurped after a very short time.
I vowed that if I ever had a son, it was my calling to make him a loving and kind young man. He is everything I hoped he would be and more. We can read each others emotions in a blink of an eye or laugh at something no one else understands. It is different but equal with my daughter as we look to each other with “girl power” over the boys. My daughter has a close relationship with her father which makes me proud, I too was extremely close to my dad when he was alive. A daughter’s first relationship should reflect the one she had with her dad, and I couldn’t be happier.
I love both my children the same amount. It’s like saying do you prefer your left arm or your right? They are both part of me. But, connecting with them on an emotional level is different; it has to be, each child has their own, unique personality!
They are children no longer, they are adults, making their own decisions and know that we are here for them, always. Whenever they want to come “home” to ask for advice or to be a child again during college breaks, we look forward to seeing them. I usually get so excited the night before seeing them that I can’t sleep. We will miss you both next year. We love you and we like you and we are so proud of both of you. Truly and of course, Equally.