I hear tell of stories about children who are easygoing, adaptable, calm. My child is none of those things and hasn't really been, even as an infant. She has many good qualities, such as kindness, compassion, openess. She has a lack of fear I sometimes envy. If I could be half as determined in anything as she was this summer about learning how to swim in order to never wear "floaties" again, I could rule the world. These qualities are also mixed in with a good dose of stubborness and a quick temper that can drive me to madness.
At times I think about how she will be as she grows up and wonder if I am too strict or not strict enough. Am I setting the right boundaries? I suppose only time will tell how successfully I've navigated this insane new world I find myself in with her.
Here are some of the things I do hope for as my strong-willed girl grows into her own. Some are less realistic than others, but hey, a mom can dream. Even though I am speaking about my daughter, I can't imagine that a mother of boys wouldn't have some of the same hopes for her son as well.
Always be comfortable in your skin- There are industries built on the insecurities of women and we adults are reminded constantly in subtle and overt ways that if we just did this or that we too could be more attractive/energetic/unstoppably amazing.
Truth is, these little ones have it right. They are who they are and don't fret over the details. Hair's not brushed and you look like you've been in a hurricane? Yeah, so? Tummy peeks out a little under your shirt? What about it? What do you mean my yellow Hello Kitty socks clash with my striped shorts and polka dot shirt? Ok, so it doesn't completely translate to acceptable adult grooming standards, but you get the idea.
Right now, my daughter is so comfortable in her own skin. She doesn't worry about her thighs or her hair. My hope in this regard is that as she grows older and the manipulative hand of these industries that thrive on aspirational appearance reach into her conscience, that she can retain some level of the total acceptance of herself and security she feels today. It is probably unlikely, especially in those teen years (let's not even go there yet), but again, it's a hope.
Keep your openess to people and experiences- Life and its lessons will inevitably lessen her trust of others and instill a sense of caution and risk balance. On some level, this is a good thing. However, what I've also found is that fear, real or imagined, is one of life's biggest inhibitors. The fear of failing can be so crippling that you never even get off the blocks.
Right now, she doesn't know the kind of failure that hits you at your core. She doesn't know betrayal or heartbreak. She is so open to experiencing her life and so open and loving when it comes to her friends and family. My hope is that even when she goes through the murky storms we've all endured, that she never really loses her passion for life, her need to connect, and the energy and joy she puts into being with those she loves.
When you fail, get up and don't give up-I referenced my daughter's determination to swim earlier on. Basically, early this summer she decided, at age 2, just a couple of months from her third birthday, that she would no longer wear floats. She and I battled mightily each time we went to the pool--and this kid loves water--about wearing the floats. Finally, I decided that I was battle weary and she could try to learn to swim on her own. A couple of formal lessons proved to not work very well with this child who would do what she wanted in her time. Torpedo hands? Not today! So, each night we could, my husband and I would take her to the pool and we'd work with her. Nights and weeks passed. Finally, a month and half in, it all clicked. She now swims like a fish and will never need floats again.
In between discarding the floats and swimming like a fish were numerous missteps, trials and errors. Even when she failed, she never quit and never got defeated. Those floats never went back on, not once. I hope, as she grows up, that she approaches everything she really wants in her life with the same dedication, focus, and drive. I hope, even if it takes a while, she keeps working for her goals and that when she's had a bad day, it only means that tomorrow is another chance.
So, yes, there are definitely aspects of my strong-willed child I admire and some that will drive me to the brink on a daily basis, but I wouldn't change anything about her. At least that is how I feel in the calm, quiet interims between when she's testing her boundaries and my sanity. Now, while we are on the subject of hopes, is it too much to hope for that one day my daughter will sleep without getting up 100 times for a variety of excuses or that we can leave the house remotely on time in the morning? Well, I guess there are hopes and then there are dreams.