I have a gold star from friends and family on my parental report card. The girls got into first rate institutions of higher learning; they continue to give a good account of themselves in their alma maters and are evolving into sensible, solid, stable young adults.
What more could a parent possibly ask for? From all appearances, they are off on the track to living meaningful and autonomous lives. I feel a sense of lightness and being blessed but for the occasional, niggling, hissing whisper in the head, somewhere near the stem of the brain. The voice murmurs, sotto voce, “Were you really all that wonderful a parent? Could you have done things a bit differently?”
Oh yes! Yes, yes, yes…I could have handled them with far greater sensitivity, for one. There is a list of attributes that I now see I should have exhibited…greater humour for sure and some generic chill pill. My anticipatory antenna were too acutely humming and swinging in a constant effort to dodge the occasional gale. I might have worn a happier, more open expression, I don’t know. I was too caught up trying to be a supportive, providing, inspiring, driving mother, walking a war path towards a grand sum of opportunities for their growth.
Quite a self-deprecatory list there and some I can try and live with. What I see as my greatest failing as a mother is the fact that I did not have the courage and staying power to permit them their own mistakes.
There are schools of thought on this issue and I align with the one that says, the children must be given berth for the usual age related foul ups, tardy trip ups and childish cape ups. It is a luxury I did not, could not afford them. I read a whole lot of print on how kids must be left alone to gaze out the window and dream, taking in life’s lessons at their own pace and sampling simple pleasures in an unhurried day but that did not happen. There was always a bus to catch, a test to prepare for, a performance to gear up towards, an essay to work on, and a trip to leave upon.
Right or wrong, I feared the uncertainty of uncertainty. I was afraid of the consequences of their unintentional mistakes. It is of course, a whole lot easier today. They are self-driven, self-directed and self-defined. It feels safe enough to let them be.
But if asked in retrospect, as to what might qualify as the greatest parenting skill, I would unhesitatingly and squarely put that as the “courage to let one’s progeny make mistakes”.
Good luck with that one!