When my son was born I was overjoyed, neigh, positively ecstatic. Was it because he was perfect in every way? Not a chance - He had severe prenatal issues that rendered him anything but the "perfect" newborn. Was it because I had always dreamed of having a child to call my own? Not quite – Being a mother hadn't even been a blip on my teenage aspiration radar.
The reason the sight of my son's tiny member filled me with joy was because he wasn't a girl. Boys I can do. Feed them, water them, play some tag, tell them how much you love them and POOF! Before you know it you have a well-adjusted man on your hands. Raising my son to adulthood was as easy as this parenting gig gets. He was raised in love, encouraged to be independent, showed to respect woman. These lessons (along with proper grooming techniques a la uncle Tim) and some uncomfortable conversations about sex produced a stand-up citizen and all-around good guy. Easy-peezy and more gratifying than I ever could have thought.
Then when my son was 23, I found myself married to a wonderful guy in an actually “better than just surviving” financial situation. Suddenly, visions of sweet little sugar plum fairies danced in my head and POW!, I wanted a girl to call my own.
The husband and I ditched the condoms and screwed like rabbits with rabid zeal. We weren't just getting it on, we were getting it on with a purpose. Within 2 months I was knocked up at the age of 41 and, when I tell you I knew before I started this process I would have a daughter, it's the truth.
When my daughter was born (we'll call her "E") I was in a panic. Actually, the last trimester of my pregnancy all I could think was "WHAT HAVE I DONE?!". I'm no girl's mom! Girls are complicated and emotional and needy. What if I screw her up? What if I'm my mother?
My mother. Sometimes people have the best intentions, but they don't know what the hell they're doing. Sometimes they belittle the ones they love to teach them about how they can be better. My mom was one of these people. My hair was never right, my clothes were in bad taste, my interests were too masculine. I could never get anything right, and I know this because she was fond of saying, “Terry, you never get anything right!” She was shrill and judgmental and downright mean. All in the name of love. I grew up feeling like a failure in every sense and that is how I ended up knocked up as a teenager, terrified, lost, and completely alone.
This is not the best foundation for raising a daughter.
We're taking this mother/daughter thing slowly. E is now 4 and I think I'm doing pretty damn well, all things considered. When E comes to me with a tutu and 2 different socks and a lop-sided pony tail with glittery lip gloss speared all her sweet face, I don't just tell her how beautiful she looks and twirl her around like a ballerina to buck the things my own mother would have done. I say and do those things because I mean it. I really and truly mean it.
When I take her in my arms and smell her strawberry hair and squeeze my eyes shut to keep this moment for as long as I can, I sometimes wonder if my own mother did this. I don't know.
What I do know is that in my pursuit of parenting without judgment, something unexpected has begun to happen. My judgment of my mother has slowly started to wane. So I'll end this with a note to my mom.
I forgive you. Thank you for helping me to be the parent I am today.
I Love You,