I started writing this blog in the shower this morning, knowing that all the wonderfully put together thoughts I had while washing my hair wouldn't last the body wash. It's OK because as I was driving to this lovely coffee shop of mine, I think my thoughts took a better turn. This last weekend my kid did some pretty amazing things that I didn't even know she was interested in doing. Sometimes I look at her and I shake my head. I see so much of myself in her but there is also this other person that she's figuring out that I get to know along the way. I know that I have done blogs about my kid a million times. As parents, we think that our kids are the (pardon my french) the shit. Everything they do is golden. Everyone should pay attention because every word they utter is genius. And she is a genius but she's also a young, teenage girl who has lot of learning to go. That's OK. I want her to take her time, to stand up and fall down, to get back up even if it just to fall down all over again though my heart is scarred with every skinned knee she's ever had. As children, they need to stretch and push and go beyond so as adults they understand their possibilities. She spoke at a huge public event this last weekend. This tiny little thing that used to kick me in the ribs stood in front of millions of people and spoke about something she believed in. She could have been talking about bowel movements and I would have been proud. The bravery that this kid of mine pulled out of her once shy tiny bones blew me away. I didn't get to be there and it broke my heart that I couldn't be in that crowd cheering her on but I saw the video and I wasn't any less proud than if I had been standing there. I was with her in spirit like I always am and she knew that. I'm never far away really. She stood tall. She smiled her brilliant smile and spoke her strong words and I saw for the first time the kind of woman I knew she was on her way to becoming.
I think there is a perspective on her kids that we have to hold onto. When she was born, I really had no idea what I was doing. All I knew was that I loved her and that everything I did from the moment she was conceived was about her. The decisions that I would make as a woman were effected by the kind of mother I wanted to be. They say we raise our kids but when I look back at those years with my kid, there was so much about me that I learned from her. In the way she looked at me, I understood what it meant to look up to someone unconditionally. In the way she snuggled with me at night, I understood the importance of letting other people into your life. And in her love, I learned to love back, not just her but other people in my life. She was the reason I was strong when I felt like I had nothing left to give. She has always been the reason I push myself as hard as I do even now in these teenage years. When she was little, it was easy. I felt like I could tell her something and she would just listen. I knew everything, right? The older she got, the harder it became for me to speak. And I know that it is natural. I'm sorry to my own mother for being as rotten as I was (though she has told me I wasn't the worst out of the four). I get it. She's just figuring out who she is, who she wants to be. She'll land somewhere in the middle and it's all completely normal. But, yeah, it was easy to show her the way when she was small. Now, I fumble, not knowing how much of my help she really wants or doesn't. It's almost like I have a third cat. She wants my attention when I'm preoccupied doing something else but very clearly wants me to go away when all my attention is aimed at her. Hey, it's cool. I think somewhere along the way I've learned to stay in my own lane unless she gives me the signal to come on over (Christina Aguilera) and my feelings don't get as hurt as they used to. I realized recently that when she really needs me, my little girl comes back home and puts her head in the little crook under my neck like she did before. And I get that she will continue to push me away for the next few years but I also know that one day she'll realize that I've never budged from being right where she left me either. I'm never far away.
This morning she was on the radio standing up for the same thing she took a stand for at the rally. Again, I am bursting with pride for this kid! I posted all of this on social media. One, I wanted her word to be spread because what she says, what all these kids are saying matter. As adults, we need to listen. But, also, because I want everyone to know around me how freaking awesome my kid is! Because as a parent, that's what we do. We brag about our children and we parade our children and we want the whole world to stop and look at our children. The reality? I know my kid is just another great kid in the great big ocean of great kids and it's all good that the world doesn't stop.... (but really she's the greatest kid in the world). I've been getting all these beautiful, supportive comments about what a wonderful kid I raised and how it was me. I appreciate every single one of them, love them in fact. As a parent, you always doubt every decision you ever made. Should I have cut her peanut butter and jelly sandwiches diagonal like that? Should I have maybe put a chastity belt on her young? (That's a joke, guys). Did I do enough to make her strong? I decided from the start that she was not an idiot. I looked at her and said, "OK, kiddo, you're just a small person and that's how we're going to do this." Never once did I imply that she wasn't capable of doing exactly what she intended... but I made plenty of mistakes along the way, too. You just never know which mistake you make as a parent is the one to really mess them up. You cross your fingers and hope for a smooth recovery. I was reading these comments full of love for my kid, for me and I was touched but what I realized is that who she is becoming has very little to do with me. I gave her a foundation like my parents gave to me and their parents gave to them. Everything after that is all her. I will never be as brave as her, at least not in that way. I will never be as poised or as put together as this child of mine. I look at her and see so much of me, yes. She got my stubborn nature and my ability to hide her feelings and my unfortunate battles with anxiety but the kid is something beyond me. We want out kids to be better than us. We want them to have better opportunities and to thrive and to succeed and to not have to face the same struggles that we had to go through. And we sacrifice everything sometimes to make that happen for them but it doesn't feel like you've sacrificed anything when they look at you with those smiles. Every struggle, every fight, every tear, every break down on the kitchen floor, every slammed door and "I hate yous" were all worth what they will become. I gave her a foundation but that young lady standing at the podium? Well, that was all her. She's just getting started.
I often try to figure out what really triggers me. What are these things that make me get so riled up? And why these particular things? Being a human is strange sometimes because often we don't make any sense, what triggers us versus what we let go. I think back to my young child days and nothing seemed to bother me. Well, everything except not being able to watch Kids Incorporated and Mickey Mouse Club. I threw a royal fit about those. Other than that? I was a pretty chill little kid, just kept to myself, played with my toys, and wrote books about cats. "Kittens are like cats. Just smaller." That is a direct quote. Then my teenage years came and I thought everything was an injustice. I can't smoke at that coffee shop? Strike! That bully is picking on that kid? Get him! I fought the fight for the underdogs everywhere. The way my blood boiled looking back in retrospect was comical though I do think there is something lovely about that fire that once burned... not that I want to burn that brightly any more. It was exhausting. And then came my twenties, on my own with a kid, and I was just angry at everything even the good stuff. You would look at me funny and I would imagine your head exploding. I felt as if the entire world was repulsive and owed me something. It was dumb. The world owes me nothing but it took me years to figure that out.
So, now here I am, almost forty. I'm beyond the childish games, past the teenage angst, left behind the confusing twenties, and almost done with probably the easiest emotional decade I have ever experienced. What boils my blood now? It's funny to look back and compare. Some of the things that made me so mad seem so ridiculous now. I think as we get older we're able to pick and choose what fights are important. I think that's a really important lesson to learn, probably one of the most important lessons I've absorbed. Maybe it's because I have a teenage daughter and in her journey, I have found my clarity. Sometimes even the outcome isn't worth the battle. I know that sounds strange because isn't every battle worth it if it does something good? It's relative in the end. That being said there is one thing that still sparks my older self much like it would the younger version of me. I encounter all types of different people during my day. With the industry that I make my living with, the spectrum of kind and rude is large. If you work or have ever worked in the service industry, you will understand this statement. You start to become numb to the disrespectful way you can be treated. It still makes you mad but it's almost as if you expect it. And when you have someone treat with you kindness? It makes you cry a little. The sad thing is that kindness should be the norm, not entitlement. That's not just for this particular job. It's for everyone everywhere. There is no reason we have to treat each other so harshly. There is no reason we need to yell at each other to get our point across. Sometimes people will listen and sometimes they won't but knocking them down doesn't win anything. It just starts another war.
Maybe there is still that young little kid in me that believes that we can make this world a better place simply by being better people to each other. Perhaps I am still a bit of fool and my kindness makes me see the world in blur. I just don't think yelling at each other, hurting each other in any fashion solves problems. If you have an issue, talk about it. Find a solution that doesn't involve tearing each other apart. Sometimes at work we get weeded so badly that we lose sight that we are there to help each other. Sometimes in the heat of the moment we say ugly things to each other because all we see is the twelve tables waiting on their food and the three new ones that just sat down and everything needs ice and we have no cups and that kid just spilled their milk all over the back of the booth. We get caught in these truly horrific, chaotic moments and we snap at each other. We're human. It's going to happen regardless. So what do we do? My younger self would have said suck it up. Deal with it. Stop being such a pansy. But me today? Talk about it. Deal with it, yes, but in a way that dissolves the tension in a healthy manner. Last week I had a moment and I snapped at a coworker. I felt horrible about it and a few days afterward I apologized to her. I was caught in a moment and unfortunately she was the one to catch my frustration. We talked about it and moved on from it. I don't want to leave that bad blood between me and her not just because we have to work together but because I adore her as a person. And as a person, she deserves my respect.
No one is perfect in this world. How boring would we all be if we were truly flawless? I realize in my older years that I tolerate so much more but in the same breath I tolerate so very little as well. I don't care about the dumb stuff but if I had to say what makes me red now? Well, it would have to be respect or the lack there of. We can all have our opinions. We can all lead our lives whichever way we choose. We can like the music we like and play the games we play. We can like and date and love and marry whomever we choose. That stuff is yours, not mine. I'm cool with it. But what I'm not cool with is when we start treating each other with disrespect whatever the reason. We all carry our hypothetical baggage. We're all just figuring out how to unpack it. Why make each other's lives that much harder? If I say something ugly to you, that's on me. And if I don't apologize for it, that's completely on me. I try to treat everyone the way I want to be treated. Admittedly, sometimes I am better at it than others. If I mess up, I try to fix it. And I guess what gets me is when people don't. I think about how they would feel if it was done to them like that and I realize that some people just don't think like that. It's disappointing. I don't want a world where we're all perfect. I just want a world where our imperfections make us that much better. Maybe I get so upset because I can see that we can be great. We all have this amazing potential that we just don't use because of this or that. It's all so simple. Love each other. Be kind to each other. Respect each other. It's just that simple.