Last year around this time, I had my first child, a daughter. I can’t exactly say that I miss being pregnant, but I am glad I went through it. It totally changed my priorities and my point of view. As I prepared to welcome my baby girl last winter, I thought a lot about how my mum raised me. I realised that she did some pretty important things for me — and I hope to do those same things for my daughter, Elsie.
1. She let me be myself. We’re so different in many ways, but my mum has always allowed me to be who I am, and not tried to force me to be like her. I know she wishes I were a little neater and a little less inclined to live my life on a whim. She insists she doesn’t think I’m weird, but I know she thinks some things about me are weird. She’s always thought my friends (and the way I dress and the music I like) were a little weird, but she’s still always made me feel like the most precious thing in the world to her. I’ve never felt shut down by my mum. She may not “get” me all the time, but she loves me like crazy.
2. She was self-aware. My mum, like most human beings, made some mistakes when I was growing up, but at the same time she was reasonable about them, and kind afterward. She’s very good at apologising, a skill I think most of us need to work harder at. It might have hurt my feelings if I felt that my mum was unfair, but it meant everything to me to get a big warm hug from her and hear her say, “I’m sorry.” It taught me how to apologise to others, and that apologies are important and meaningful and go a long way with most people. It made me trust her, and feel close to her; I hope that when I inevitably screw up, I can find the kind of grace my mum has to admit that I was wrong and do everything I can to make it better.
3. She let me struggle sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll do everything I can to keep my daughter safe and teach her how to protect herself, but I know I can’t protect her from everything — just like my mum couldn’t protect me from everything. My mum has been there for me in the aftermath, when she couldn’t protect me, when I did get hurt, and when I needed her. I shudder at the thought of my daughter going through some of the things I’ve gone through, but at the same time, I know that those struggles made me smarter and stronger and braver. I want her to be able to learn those lessons, and I want to be there for her the way my mum was there for me, even if I cringe at the thought of not being able to keep her as protected as I’d like.
4. We had fun together. In my many years of childcare experience, I have learned to love having fun with kids. Laughing with children and playing with them (from tickle fights and art projects to dance parties and impromptu cookie-baking) are the bread and butter of raising children. It’s what makes the job so rewarding, just getting to talk and joke with kids. My mum was a total influence in this area. She has always had an awesome sense of humour and she’s quick to laugh. She’s always wanted me to have fun birthdays, Christmas mornings, days at the beach and time with other kids, with family, and of course, with her. My mum worked full-time most of my life but she knew how to make up for her unfortunately necessary absence. We watched movies together all the time and they were great conversation starters. A movie would trigger discussions about anything and everything; a fun shared experience that made a difference to how I saw the world. I love those memories.
5. She made sure I always knew I was loved. The world has a way of convincing us that we’re not loved. However, all I have to do to know that’s a big fat lie is to think of how much my mum loves me unconditionally. I want that kind of emotional safety net from the harshness and unfairness of life for my daughter. Whenever she is discouraged or torn down, I want her to know that I am totally batsh*t crazy about her, that no matter what she goes through, she matters, she is seen, she is heard, and she is loved, because she is my daughter, my baby.
More about raising girls:
- The Best Girl Power Movies to Watch with Your Daughter
- 18 Most Inspiring Celebrity Mothers and Daughters of All Time
- How to Raise a Daughter with Leadership Skills