Sharing Our Daughters
When I was pregnant with Zoey--14 years ago--I felt incredibly insecure about the type of mom I wanted to be. I read everything I could get my hands on, anything from Feminist theory to books of poetry to the wisdom of What to Expect When You're Expecting. I jotted bits and pieces down in a journal, marked up my books, and dreamed up the future for a baby we'd prayed for for years.
There are two things that have come back again and again. The first is probably what is now called "attachment parenting," but I think then was just an overarching responsiveness to your child's social and emotional needs above all else--including schedules, sleeping arrangements, eating habits, and the like. The philosophy put the child at the center of everything else, and it led to my children both co-sleeping with us for their first several years, flexible sleeping schedules, and interest-based educational activities. It turns out, in my own home, I was the same kind of mom as I am teacher. The flexibility that I constantly preach for our classrooms is the kind of flexibility that I craved for my own kiddos.
The second lesson that I return to from those early days of thinking about parenting (and believe me, a number of those ideas have changed!), is the need for other adults in your child's life. I distinctly remember this because we don't live near family, and at the time I couldn't imagine my child ever being out of my sight! However, as she grew, I could see that she would benefit from mentoring relationships with other women. As hard as it can be to consider, there are things my daughter might need from another woman that I can't provide. It even feels horrible to write it, but I know in my depths that it is true. As I write this, she is having lunch with a church leader, and I know that this relationship is very important. I'm a very spiritual person, but it is safe to say that I am not the biggest fan of organized religion, and my daughter is a mega-volunteer with a spirit of serving. Zoey also has a theater mentor too, as well as several of my friends who regularly step in to help her.
I've come to learn that the benefit of the "attachment parenting" route is that my children feel safe and secure in their home and relationships with us here, and that allows them to be more independent when out in the world. There have been, of course, bumps in the road when our boundaries are too blurred, but for the most part, this journey so far has benefited from both of those early parenting ideas.
As counterintuitive as it may seem at times, I give Zoey the space to have conversations with other women that I'm not privy to. One day, when Zoey has some problem that she can't discuss with me, I know that she'll have other women who can help her solve whatever it may be. Zoey and I both call each other friend, and though we mean it, I can guess there might be a time when you just don't want to talk your mom about something. I'm confident that she'll have strong, caring women mentors. What better gift can we give our daughters than to share them with other women who can help smooth their path?