When it comes to my kids, there's a lot I'll happily choose for their wellbeing. The healthier foods I'd prefer they mostly eat, how much sleep I think they need, and (for now) the type of clothing that's age-appropriate for school days (though, my daughter has been testing me with her choices lately). Still, there are some things I refuse to decide for my daughter, because I believe a lot of life is about learning to make, and trust in, your own choices. It's the only real way to figure out who you are and what you want out of life.
When my strong, independent girl was little (she's 10 now), I thought I'd have her whole life mapped out so all she'd have to do was show up and put in the work. My reasoning stemmed from my own childhood that was less than stellar. I was often left on my own or with my younger brother while my divorced parents struggled to find their own ways after their tumultuous marriage ended. Even as I got older, I never had much direction in school, or otherwise, so when it was time to go off on my own I was clueless. I knew if or when I had children, I'd do whatever I could to make their transitions into life easier than I had it.
However, the older my two babies get, the more their personalities and natural intuitions shine through. I'm seeing more and more that they're fully capable (or will be with guidance) of making their own decisions for their own lives. I don't want to helicopter them away from me, so with that, here are some things I refuse to decide for either of my daughter.
The Kind Of Person She Wants To Be
As a mother, it's my duty to instill in my children all the basics: compassion, empathy, kindness, gratitude, and so on. My partner and I can work on these things as long as our kids are under our care, we can show them through action, and we can hope our kids practice them on their own. My daughter was born strong-willed with some of her first words being "baby do it," so I have no doubt she'll be independent and confident.
What I don't have control over, and refuse to decide, is all the rest. If she wants to use the traits she already has to be a thoughtful, inclusive human, I'll be so proud. If she chooses to be selfish, self-serving, and generally a pain, while disappointed, I'll still love her. The point is, who she becomes is only up to me to a certain point. After that, it's on her.
Who She'll Love
I got married a month after my high school graduation, despite many objections from loved ones. What I learned from that life choice is why I could never attempt to tell either of my kids who to love. In fact, I wouldn't want to. I honestly don't care who it is, as long as they're safe and happy.
In my daughter's case, I can only use my own experiences to teach her how some choices (like marrying young) have consequences she'll have to be OK with (like getting divorced four years later). Aside from that, a mother can only hope her children find love with someone. However, I won't decide who.
I'll be honest, I've tried hovering over my daughter with the friends thing and it's just too much to keep up with. At her age, friendships change so quickly and arguments are usually resolved before I can even form an opinion, so it's often not worth putting myself in the middle of it. I've tried and it's exhausting. While I do pay attention to certain friends who've been known to bully or intimidate, as well as making sure my daughter isn't doing anything like that to others, I'll let her choose her friends.
I'm raising her with a solid foundation to pull from and I trust that I'm teaching her to make good choices. If she chooses wrong, she'll learn. No need for my involvement unless she's in danger or asks for my help.
What She'll Do With Her Life
When my daughter was a toddler, she tried every sport imaginable, including soccer, t-ball, gymnastics, karate, and dance. Even still, none of it was her thing. With her confidence and booming personality, I definitely see her involved in publicity or on a stage. She's also very creative and loves making things for people, which could lead to charity work or becoming a fashion designer.
The point is, she doesn't yet know what her true passion is (and shouldn't at only 10 years old), and while I can help cultivate her interests, encourage, and support the path she chooses, it's not my job to decide for her if she's going to find true happiness and fulfillment.
What She'll Believe In
I was raised in a traditional, conservative Christian household where my beliefs weren't challenged until I was old enough to move away. Growing up with certain standards, and not feeling like I could live up to them, was damaging to my self-esteem. I always felt like I was failing or "bad" even though, looking back, I was just fine. I still hold some of those values true, and still believe in a lot of Christian fundamentals, but I'm so much more open-minded than either of my parents were. I liken a lot of this to my grandmother's attitude (since I spent a lot of my time with her when my parents divorced). She was beyond her time, and as a low-key feminist, liberal, and somewhat progressive, she helped me question things I needed to in order to find my own way, spiritually.
In our home now, we pray, we talk about God, we discuss right and wrong, but, for the most part, I don't want to pin my beliefs onto my kids. I don't want to set them up to feel the same failure. We're human. We make mistakes. It's all part of life. In our home, we talk about a lot of religions and the differences between them so they know why we're praying to the God we pray to. I can put both my children on a certain spiritual path, but only they can decide what they believe in their hearts when they're older. I learned this the hard way and wish I'd been more educated about other religions when I was a confused teen.
Where She'll Live When She Leaves
We don't raise our children thinking about when they'll leave us, but the sad fact is they will, in fact, leave at some point. I moved right at 18, with my younger brother to follow a few years later. He now lives in another country with his wife and three children while I've re-married and moved to a neighboring state away from my family. I can still see people if I want to make the drive (which isn't often) and I do miss them, but I have to take care of my family now.
I'm focused more on my daughter right now because she has a 5 year lead on my son. So, all of these things will come up sooner for her. I can't decide where my daughter will plant her roots. I'll hope it's near me, but if it's not, I'll have to be OK with knowing when I had her, I gave it all I had so that she'd make the best decisions for her.
Whether Or Not She'll Lead Or Follow
As I've said, my girl is probably destined to be the leader of something. She has that kind of resilient spirit (which I adore). However, I won't be disappointed if she's ends up following instead. It's not wasted potential if it makes her happy. But between us, she's probably going to lead the next rebellion. I mean, she's already leading one here and now, in my own home.
The point is, no matter how fantastic my mothering skills are, my kids are going to do whatever they choose. I can't manipulate or demand they do things they don't want because then they'll just resent me for not letting them go forth. They could fail, sure, but they also could succeed. So maybe letting go a little bit is hard, but what part of motherhood isn't?