What I wish I had taught

I doubt very much if there is a mother on Earth who doesn’t think from time to time, if not regularly, that she could have done a better job at parenting.
I know I wish I had done better.
After spending time with my four daughters and celebrating the wonder that they are, the people they have become despite my flaws and missteps, I am reminded of what I wish I had taught them.
I most certainly would leave intact their wonderful sense of humour; their ability to giggle and guffaw, and be silly and applaud whimsy. Nor would I tweak a thing about their caring hearts that have great empathy for those who struggle and those who live in unfortunate circumstances.
I applaud their love of animals and their concern for the planet. I admire their willingness to try new things despite being afraid; to challenge themselves to adopt a new set of skills, to be intrigued by something outside their ordinary.
I wouldn’t alter a hair on their head or the set of their jaw or the colour of their eyes because they were born perfect—no matter how society would assess their height, weight, size of their feet, their being right-handed.
I care not if they can make a bed properly because I’m reasonably certain that as we draw our last breath, we aren’t taking comfort in our bed-making skills or regretting the lacking therein.
We aren’t chuffed up by the fact that we didn’t lose a sock in the laundry or could parallel park the car with precision, or even if our apple pie was second-to-none.
I’m pretty sure we may regret an outstretched hand we didn’t take, or a space on our knee we didn’t make available; a stranger we didn’t make feel welcome. Whether our teeth were perfectly straight matters little in the end, I would surmise.
I should have intervened and taught my daughters how to protect their hearts; how to not let the cruelty of others lie on their skin, how not to be weighed down by the judgment of those who only want to harm, how not to be wounded by the silence of those they trust to speak up on their behalf and demand respect.
This is where I fell short.
My whole “career” as a mother has been spent running interference; trying to shield my children from those who intend harm, those who want to strike out and injure for their own purposes.
The mother bear in me knows no exhaustion, knows no bounds or limits. But I never taught them how to save themselves, how to keep their hearts safe, and how to hold their hand up to say enough—and for that I am regretful.
To be a parent is to teach your child to live without you. I read that somewhere. It isn’t my own thought so I can’t take credit, but it is the truth of the matter.
I never wanted to be obsolete or declared redundant. I kept thinking as one daughter left home that there still was another behind me who needed my protection, but eventually I ran out of daughters.
I haven’t yet learned how not to mother; how not to worry every single day if they are safe and how not to want to ensure their happiness however I can.
Perhaps there’s still time because as my dear friend recently told me, we don’t get a do-over but we do get a Do Now.
That may be just the opportunity I need to grab hold of.
wendistewart@live.ca

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