Mother’s (Day) Gifts
From the moment we decide to have children, our thinking centers around what we can give them: love, knowledge, wisdom and experiences. The beauty of parenting is that it is both effortless and a great deal of work; effortless because it is done out of love, work because it requires hours and tasks too great to total. This paradox of ease and hard work is somehow the pleasure and joy of parenthood.
What has taken me by surprise is the parenting bonus of having adult children. For two decades I was clearly the Mommy and my kids were, well, kids. Life was about getting them launched to become the people they were meant to be. As my parenting responsibilities wane, I realize more and more how much I learn from them. Although they are both smart, I am most awed by their wisdom and perspectives on life.
My 23-year-old daughter, Danielle, is a role model for women of all ages. Danielle was a painfully shy little girl who has become an assertive, adventurous young woman. She never felt the need to be part of the cool crowd, and never wasted a minute of her life trying to fit in with the formulaic. Danielle continued to pursue her own path when she chose a small Midwestern college that has never been on her elitist east coast high school's radar. It was at this wonderful college (consistently ranked in the top 10 nationally for best teaching and best senior capstone project) that Danielle met her brilliant, kind, and loving boyfriend with whom she is planning her future. This formerly shy girl spent a college semester at a university in New Zealand, knowing not a soul on the other side of the planet. She had the self-confidence that she would "make it" in the land of the kiwis, and make it she did. She missed her friends, family and boyfriend back home, but Danielle did what so many women need to learn: take care of yourself, follow your dreams, seize opportunities, make yourself a priority. Danielle's "just do it" attitude is a constant source of inspiration to me.
My 20-year-old son, Ethan, has had the good fortune to breeze through school, although he has never defined himself or others based on native, measurable intelligence. Ethan's interest in and assessment of people is opposite of the Washington, DC community in which he was raised; resume, power and credentials pale in comparison to being kind, funny and possessed with common sense. Ethan doesn't care what one does for a living as long as it is being done to the person's best ability. He has far more respect for the street cleaner who works hard and takes pride in his work than for a know-it-all doctor who is dismissive of a patient's symptoms. Hand in hand with his openness to other people is his acceptance of what is. Certainly, Ethan has had his fair share of suffering, but has never once asked "why me?" Imagine going through life accepting people and events for who and what they are. Ethan does it, and I learn from him daily.
I used to think the icing on the cake of parenthood was grand-parenthood, a life stage I will embrace some day. But now I welcome the wonderful gifts and lessons that accrue from having adult children. While I hope my children always feel free to come to me for advice and guidance, I also know they have wisdom of their own. I am honored to be their mother.