As most of you know, the child is graduating and I’m overcome by a feeling of inadequacy as a mother. I’m not ready. I’ve not told her enough to face life on her own. I lament all those lost teaching opportunities that are forever gone to me, all the systems I should have instigated and mundane things I never insisted she do for herself. Why didn’t I give her an allowance and make her record it and save 10% and take her to the bank once a month to deposit it? All those chores I didn’t make her do because she was so busy with homework and dance? How will she function? I don’t think she knows how to clean a toilet unless my mum or one of her friends taught her. I wish I been vigilant with Baby Mozart…maybe she would have been a math genius if I had committed fully to the Mozart Effect? What about all that reading I never forced her to do? All those habits like daily meditation, goal setting, healthy eating, being tidy, flossing daily. Why did I ever let her watch television in the first place? Eat candy? Why did I ever get her a mobile phone? Should I have been doing extra workbooks with her all summer? Would she be a different person if I had?
It’s funny when they’re born and you have all these ideas of how you’re going to be a parent and how your child is going to respond. You have this illusion that if you do everything right, your child will do well, be well and have a happy and successful life. I made my own baby food, used natural detergent, breast-fed as long as possible, did all the baby activities like Gymboree©, Storytime and various mummy playgroups. I didn’t use any medication until she started teething and I had to resort to Tylenol as she was cutting four teeth in a two-week period. Before that I used naturopathic remedies and essential oils. Seriously. (N.B. I was trained in aromatherapy…don’t try this at home unless you really know what you’re doing.) I read to her all the time and didn’t allow TV or videos until she was three. There was no juice or candy allowed. Her clothes always matched. We listened to music—even the dreaded Baby Mozart, thought not every day. We played with educational toys and spent time in nature. She went to play-based preschool and on to private school—one that I chose (after extensive research) because they taught Philosophy and Japanese and had a great uniform.
However, despite my best efforts to create a little girl in my graven image but better, Karis grew up to be herself and not really like me. Just as they’re meant to do. I’m thankful she’s not like me for many reasons as I actually learn things from her (don’t tell her that as she’ll never let me forget it). Our kids are actually people, with their own ideas, wants, needs, desires and aspirations and there’s not really much you can do about it. Except celebrate, as that’s what they’re supposed to do. If you’ve helped create a thinking and conscious being, I think that’s probably a good thing; however, this whole parenting gig is a constant learning process and I’ve recently had a somewhat terrifying epiphany that it actually never ends. I think I subconsciously assumed that once I’d got her this far, the universe would take over and she’d magically become an adult and we’d have dinner parties, lunches and go to the spa once in a while but that overwhelming terror/love you feel for your offspring would mellow and become less intense. It appears that that will not be the case as I’ve realized my precious child will be going out in the world, without me to protect her, to grow up and become an adult. She’ll be living her life and I will be wondering where she is, who she’s with and when she’s going to be home. But she’ll be living in another country so I’m not sure how that’s going to work. I have actually become my father. I totally understand him now. I know why he didn’t sleep until I got home, even if I was in my 20s and had lived alone in a foreign country. It didn’t matter because I was under HIS roof and he went right back into dad mode as soon as he was given the opportunity. He used to give me $20 every time I left the house…I managed to train him out of this by the time I was 27. And married. I think he was relieved to pass me off to Chris so someone else could worry. Though I don’t think that stopped him. Until I had Karis, then he worried about her too. It’s an Italian thing. Don’t be thinking my mum didn’t worry. She did, but she’s much more practical and tended to get stuff done instead of being paralyzed by the unending and unresolvable existential angst over children that can’t be controlled anyway. The fact remains, I did survive. Learned stuff. Grew up and became a relatively productive adult, I’m sure despite my parents initial misgivings that I was a complete moron.
My sense of impending doom is complicated by the fact that I’ve also realized that I haven’t taught Karis anything that is remotely useful. Neither, for that matter, has her education, but that is another story. All those little things that I simply do, that I haven’t told her about:
♥ How to buy a fresh avocado.
♥ How to suck the air out of freezer bags so your food stays fresh.
♥ Buying toilet paper when it’s on sale.
♥ Always pay your credit card on time.
♥ Don’t buy fish if it’s smelly.
♥ How to fold a fitted sheet (just mastered that recently myself).
♥ Choosing clothes that hang well.
♥ Finding meaning in our cold cruel world.
♥ Appreciating art (maybe I’ve done that one just a little).
♥ How much it really costs to have a pet.
♥ How to arrange food on plates.
This has caused me a lot of anxiety as I’m constantly adding items to the ongoing mental list of Things-I-Need-to-Tell-Karis-Before-She-Graduates-and-Moves-to- New- York. Of course, I then forget what’s on this list which causes me more anxiety. I’ve decided to channel this free-floating anxiety of mine into something useful, productive and tangible.
Earlier this year I was wondering aimlessly around Park Royal looking for Christmas gifts and I found myself in Urban Outfitters. An establishment I no longer support since I found out that they’ve been accused of stealing designs from small independent artists but anyway, they had this book called Adulting: How to be a Grownup in 468 Easy(ish) Steps by Kelly Williams Brown. This is a GREAT book and a GREAT IDEA for a book. I wish I had this book when I was a young adult. I’ve decided to write my own version of this book for my child. Seeing as she doesn’t like reading, I’m sure it’s an exercise in futility, but it’ll make me feel better. Maybe I’ll do an audiobook…though I suspect this is actually about me anyway and she’ll be fine with, or without, the book 😉
PS. My one real regret: I wish I had bought a copy of Dr. Seuss’ Oh the Place’s You’ll Go and have every teacher, coach and significant person sign it so I could give it to her at grad as a tangible record of her life thus far. I have to say, that endeavour would be more about me as it would indicate a level of pre-planning and organization that I aspire to even today and she’s not really into that kind of thing anyway. I did start writing letters to her on every birthday and keeping them in a box but I lost interest. Maybe I can fake it….