This year I spent Thanksgiving with my daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren in their new-to-them apartment on the outskirts of Toledo. It was great at first. After I’d worked through the anxiety of leaving “Him” I relished the semblance of family and attempted to plan stability. I got to spend time with my grandchildren, my son was with two of his siblings, and aside from a handful of wine soaked pity parties everything was going pretty good. And then… The holiday happened.
Thanksgiving has always been my favourite holiday because it represented family gathering without the pretense attached to most other holidays. But this particular Thanksgiving brought about a sense of inadequacy when confronted with seeing my daughter struggle as a young mother in pretty much the same fashion I had eighteen years ago. Twenty-three with three small children, attempting to acquaint ends that seem to have a Hatfield and McCoy vengeance towards one another… Robbing from Peter with the promise to pay Paul just to procure the bare necessities… Working two jobs while the majority of her peers are commencing from the stages of “higher learning” and building foundations most of the women from my era never felt they had a chance to attain. As a teen mother of a teen mother (who of course didn’t heed the warnings herself), I wanted more for my daughter’s life, and the fact that I didn’t get it angered me.
I think the hope of every parent rests on seeing their child(ren) avoid the pitfalls they fell prey to. The expectation is that the children will learn from example of the parent’s setback or failure and strive for better alternatives. To see your child suffer through the same struggles is a heart wrenching experience, especially if you’ve done all you can to steer them in the opposite direction of that fate. My daughter could have been anything she wanted! She could be well on her way to a BS in nursing. She could be finishing up her undergrad in Early Education and preparing to inspire young minds. She could be one of those power women Terry McMillan and Tina McElroy Ansa write about and not just a statistic. She could be better than me in the eyes of society. That is what I wanted.
After the dust settled down from my maternal tantrum, I had an opportunity to realize just how selfish and unreasonable I was being. My biggest complaint, in all honesty, was how my daughter not “succeeding” in the way I thought she should made me feel and look to outside observers. I projected on her my fears and expectations that people would see us as apples that didn’t fall too far from the uneducated, lower class, baby spitting Negress tree. While she has indeed reach further than I did in securing career certification she still struggles, and I saw that as a reflection on me and failing to teach her she could have more. What a crock of self serving bullshit! As parents we guide and counsel, we don’t clone. So while my daughter very well could have met and exceeded every great expectation I had for her, she was raised to think and create a life for herself. Just like I did, and am doing, she alone has to choose her course, and just like my mother, I have to stand back and let her do it.
Realistically, my daughter is creating an excellent life for herself. She’s building a career in the growing medical field, she loves and provides for her children, she loves and honours her husband. She has a sweet and compassionate spirit and she is selflessly forgiving. Of all the expectations I could have ever had for her it’s those qualities that make me proud of her without reservation and assure me I have nothing to fear about the direction of her life.