Thursday, May 10, 2007

Lessons from Parenting

When did parent become a verb anyway??

We all learn about being a parent from our own parents. We talk about what we are NOT going to do as parents. We repeat patterns, consciously or unconsciously from generation after generation. Nothing has taught me more about myself than being a parent.

My girls are 11 and 13. Teen and tween. Rapidly growing up into the women they will become. And as they do, I am being forced to look inward at my own experiences, values and dreams and sort those out from those of my kids.

Last month my oldest daughter attended a camp sponsored by Tufts Veterinary School....Adventures in Veterinary Medicine. When she was a little girl she loved dogs in theory, and was absolutely terrified of them in reality. She would literally climb up me when we were out for a walk and a dog was anywhere near by. This girl has come a long way. She and her friend run a pet sitting/dog walking business. At camp, she volunteered to put her hand up the bottom of a cow to feel for the baby. My frightened, timid little girl faced her fears and stepped up to the task when no one else would. I could not have been more proud of her. I could see the dream she has light up her face as she talked about each day's experience. At thirteen, she already has a good idea of what she wants in life, and is already pursuing it.

Around the same time, she got a letter in the mail, inviting her to participate in a pageant. The beauty kind. The kind that makes me shudder. She "really, really, really" wanted to do this. My husband agreed to take her and her sister to the informational meeting. We thought that would be the end of it. Nope. They were "accepted" into the pageant after an interview. Now they had to raise money to participate, and they had very little time to do so. I was still not very enthusastic about it all. A pageant. If my kids do a pageant, does that make me a "pageant mom", and all that entails?? Yuck!

But then I had to pause and remember. Way, way back when. When I would watch the Miss America pageants as a little girl and wonder. But my dreams were kept firmly in check by those around me. I was ready to repeat that pattern. But I had to ask myself, why am I so ready to support her dream of being a vet, but so unwilling to support this? Is it like Barbie? Let them play with it, and get it out of their system. By quashing this dream now, what message am I sending her? That dreams need parental approval before they can be pursued?? Is that the parent I want to be?

As uncomfortable as it has been, I have had to support her in this dream. They have had to work hard to get sponsors, and it has been a valuable lesson in sales. We do practice "interviews" with them at the dinner table. I think I am teaching my kids how to become a politician. Have a story that you want to get across about yourself, and no matter what the question is, find a way to work it around to that. We wrote a press release, and today they had their pictures and a little blurb about them in the paper. That was tempered by the light of day...."what are my friends going to think..?"

Sunday is the pageant. There is some excitement and some wondering about what they got themselves into. And I have learned a lesson. The only dreams we can be sure about are our own. And the only thing we can hope for from those around us is that they support those dreams rather than quash them. My dreams cannot about what my children do with their lives. Those are their dreams to live. All I can do is to support them as best I can, and pick up the pieces when necessary. Let's hope I don't have to learn the lesson again and again.

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