“When you look into your mother’s eyes, you know that is the purest love you can find on this earth” – Mitch Albom
When did THIS happen?? My oldest baby is now in double digits! I swear it was just a few months ago that I was 10 years younger and completely clueless about how to raise a human child, woefully unprepared for the chaos that reproducing would inflict upon my life.
But rather than go down the path of my insecurities and failings as a mother over the past decade, I’d rather focus on my insecurities and failings of my 10-year old self, as a way to try to figure out what path my daughter is on and how to build her sense of self-worth and confidence now, rather than try to help her salvage her self-esteem several years down the road.
Things I remember about being 10 years old:
Getting made fun of for my Mork and Mindy lunchbox (all the cool kids had already moved on to paper bag lunches).
Getting made fun of for my Mork and Mindy suspenders (I LOVED MORK AND MINDY).
Coveting the rainbow knee socks with the separate toes.
Only six kids left on the stage, and I got booted from the spelling bee for putting an extra “m” in “coming”.
That kid Joe, who was great at drawing, also really liked pulling apart caterpillars. In front of an audience during recess.
I had my first crush. His name was Freddy and he was the only kid taller than me in 5th grade. I have no idea if he was smart or kind. But he was taller than me, and that meant we were meant to be.
Except that Freddy didn’t like me back.
I had to start wearing what they called a “training bra”. Whether it was training me or my future boobs, is up for debate. But it sucked grappling with that particular clothing item. But if the flat-chested me of then knew the well-endowed me of now, it may have been a totally different internal conversation and external training.
I first found my voice as a writer. My 5th grade teacher encouraged my creative side, my poetry, my journaling, my writing. I still have a note from her that says, “I want an autographed copy of your first published work!” I’m working on it, Ms. Leland, I am.
That all was but a preview of things to come. It would be a couple of years before I entered the awkward stage full throttle, and a few years after that when I decided that being “cool” was better than the pain of being “different”. Regrets? I have none. But yes, I might have done things differently if I’d had the knowledge then that I have now. But again, what would be the point, right?
So, my own misty water colored memories aside, I have my hopes and thoughts for my 10-year old daughter:
Somehow, someway, we figure out how to allow her some untethered time to be with friends, walk in the woods and explore her mind without any interruptions.
She is more formed than unformed. I love the person that she is, with all of her capacity for empathy, her super smarts and artistic talent, and her ability to react both intellectually and emotionally to experiences. I hope she finds a way to balance all of the parts of her brain.
This kid has been exposed to sarcasm since she was a toddler and can give as well as she gets at this point. She definitely has a good sense of humor and a sharp wit. My objective is to teach her appropriate moments for sarcasm vs. appropriate moments for empathy.
I hope to run at least two 5K races with my girl this year; and I’ve decided I don’t care if we have to walk/run/walk them. The time together is invaluable, and I promise to try my best not to screw it up by getting frustrated with her.
ALL THE BOOKS. This girl loves reading, so I will encourage her relatives to get her Barnes and Noble gift cards and continue to get her to the library on a regular basis. I may even hand over my books that contain some of the classics.
Although I never wish for a moment’s discomfort for my children, I know that awkward, upsetting and embarrassing moments happen to everyone, no matter what stage of life they are in. I hope that she realizes that a sense of humor about oneself can go a long way toward getting through and beyond those awful moments.
I have witnessed a significant increase in her independence and self-reliance recently. She has asked me several times to let her do things on her own. I hope that I have lowered the helicopter blades enough to allow her to learn how to do things for herself, but not so much that she risks causing more than minor damage to herself, someone else, or any of my stuff.
She’s gotten through the first decade of her life pretty well, but I know this second one is probably the most difficult to navigate. As we go through the next ten years, I promise I will love her always, hug her as long as she lets me, give her almost as much space as she needs, be her biggest supporter, worst nightmare of a disciplinarian, and do my very best to be present with an open mind, heart and arms when she insists that she does not want it, but will most certainly need it.