IT’S. NOT. ABOUT. YOU.
Of all the wisdom I’ve gathered from the International Library of Self-Help (aka my bookcase) THAT has been the most difficult concept for me to understand. I’m a parent for God sakes. And an imperfect one at that. I think EVERYTHING is about me.
I have from the time my daughters were young.
I thought it was about me when a teacher called to say that one of my daughters was dressed inappropriately. “Oh no! The teacher’s gonna think Katie’s being raised by a stripper.”
I thought it was about me when my other daughter elected to eat Munchkins on the sidelines rather than play basketball with the other munchkins on the court. “WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU THINK BASKETBALL IS BORING? It’s my best sport!”
And now that my girls are older, I still think everything is about me, as my 17-year-old, high-school senior recently reminded me.
“Emmy, why don’t you want to get your driver’s license? When I was your age, I couldn’t wait to drive around with my friends. We had so much fun!”
“Mom, I’m just not ready right now.”
“I was scared at first, but you’ll be fine.”
“Mom, you’re not listening.”
Our views also differed when it came to her post-graduation plans.
“Can I sign you up for this college readiness camp at Boston College?” I excitedly requested.
“Mom, I don’t want to go to college. I want to be a hairdresser,” she professed.
“You say that now, but when you see how amazing college life is you’ll change your mind. I loved college. It was the best time of my life. Your sister loves it, too.” I responded.
“Whatever Mom. Sign me up,” she said, rolling her eyes.
When she completed the program months later, I could barely contain my excitement to learn about her experience.
“Did you love it, Honey? Isn’t college the best thing?”
“It was really fun. But Mom, I want to go to beauty school. I just don’t think college is for me.”
“You say that now, but you’re young. When I was your age, I didn’t want to go either, but I’m so glad I did. You’ll change your mind.”
Months later, when I noticed she shared make-up and hair tips on Facebook while her friends shared photos of college visits, I realized she was serious about her dream.
So I did the only thing I could do: I caved.
“Honey, I made us an appointment to look at a beauty school next week.”
“Really Mommy?” she squealed. “Thank you so much! I love you!”
“You’re very welcome, Honey,” I responded with false enthusiasm. This wasn’t exactly my passion, since my idea of a beauty day is one in which I comb my hair.
But when we walked through the door of that beauty school one day, I felt a strange and powerful feeling. It may have been from the enormous smile on my daughter’s face, which went all the way up to her big, bright brown eyes. Or maybe it was the excitement for learning I saw when she talked to the students and instructors in the classrooms. Whatever it was, I witnessed my daughter come alive in a way I had never seen before.
And when we sat down with the Admissions Director, she showed newfound maturity, asking pointed questions and demonstrating self-advocacy.
“How do you accommodate for students with learning disabilities?”
“Do your graduates have their own businesses? I want to own my own business and make people feel good about themselves.”
We were there for my daughter that day, but somehow, some way sitting there in that school, I experienced a beautiful transformation of my own: I wanted this for her more than I have ever wanted anything in my life. Anything.
“What do we have to do to make this happen for her?” I excitedly asked.
The Admissions Director turned to me and said, “You’re a good mother for letting her follow her dream.”
As nice as that was to hear, I knew it wasn’t true. I was just a Mom, who after decades of imperfect parenting, finally learned that all-important lesson.
It’s NOT ABOUT ME.
(But the free and stylish haircuts she will give me someday will be.)
Urk. Thanks for this reminder. Now I want to wake my kid up to apologize for getting mad at him because he made me look bad today……
I so admire you for giving her the gift of acceptance. I have to practice that constantly, and it’s hard. Thank you.