|One of the most blessed places in life a person can be is to be a parent. Parenting is not merely the donation of sperm or eggs. It is neither the gestation nor delivery of life into this world. Parenting is to be involved in your child’s life to the point that it affects your life.
Having been a single mother of one daughter for the past eighteen years, I’ve come to realize that life as a parent can be the most rewarding experience a person could have. It can also be, at times, be the most worrisome, exhausting, heartbreaking experience as well. My every move, from career change to change of residence has been strategically planned with her best interest at the forefront of my mind. Her father and I divorced when she was two years old. The amount of contact between the two of them over the years can be counted on only one hand. It may have been much easier on her if he had just vanished or become a completely absent parent.
The early years were trying. She was so curious and full of energy; with excellent problem solving abilities. On one occasion, after getting out of the shower and not being able to find her anywhere in the house and after searching every room in the house, two or three times, panic started to set in. I tried to calm myself and talk to myself rationally, “listen for sound”. After following the sounds, I found her (at 22 months old) sitting on the top of the refrigerator, with the scissors, cutting her hair. What? How did she get up there? She had used the kitchen drawers as a ladder, climbed up on the bread box and from there, the refrigerator. Once I got over the initial shock of what she was doing, and doled out discipline, I realized that she was going to be a very intelligent, albeit dangerous child. The early years included an extended stay in the hospital for a stomach virus that almost took her life. That’s when I learned just how much I needed her in my life and couldn't bare the thought of life without her in it.
Kindergarten graduation was so precious. Each child in her kindergarten class took the stage and declared what they wanted to be when they grew up. Some of the children were saying careers with words bigger than the children themselves. My daughter took the stage and declared, “When I grow up, I want to be a babysitter”. Shortly after that, talks of ambition, accomplishments, goal setting and happiness ensued. I wanted her to reach for not just the moon, but also the stars. Middle school brought about an opportunity for her to participate in a foreign student exchange program. I viewed it as an opportunity of a lifetime for her and used it as an opportunity to put a contract in place. This contract stated that she would keep her grades up, make education her number one priority and stay away from drugs and alcohol. In exchange, I would allow a Japanese student to spend the summer, living in our home. Then I would send her to spend the summer with this Japanese student’s family. I wanted her to see what the world had to offer beyond the boundaries of our little piece of the world.
She studied Japanese on her own and learned the language enough to be able to communicate with the delegates when they arrived. Between broken Japanese and broken English, the visit from our Japanese student was quite amusing and fun. I believe the experience helped to develop a love for foreign languages. She spent almost every cent of her allowance at the bookstore buying books on foreign languages; self-studying German, Russian and Japanese. She was an honor roll student from the sixth grade all the way through her senior year. She helped her Science Olympiad team place second in a regional competition and won a silver medal. At the age of 17, she enrolled in our local university and seems to have life by the tail.
I'm now learning that being a parent never stops. I will always be her mother, proud, worried, hopeful and sad at times; but more than anything else, glad that she's mine.