From the moment I found out that I was pregnant with my daughter Sydney, I was determined to provide her with a great life. I would make sure that she had everything that she needed and within reason, most of the things that she wanted. She would receive the best education and I would enroll her in any program or activity that she showed an interest in, and anyway that I could help her to have a leg up in life, I would absolutely give to her. Most of my determination was driven by things that I saw lacking in my own childhood which I think is a common driver for most parents. Our main goal as parents is to provide our children with a better life than we ourselves had.
One day, I went to pick Sydney up from daycare early and before going into the actual classroom, I saw her tussling over a toy with a little boy who was her age but bigger than her. My natural instinct was to rush in and stop the tussling but I held back and watched it play out. Sydney, although smaller didn’t give up the fight and eventually wrestled the toy from the boy's hands. She was the victor! I can’t explain how proud I was. The first thing that came to my mind was…”My child can hold her own.” The wrestling between toddlers was a small thing but it got me thinking and has caused me to change my perspective on what providing my daughter with a great life means.
I've come to realize that the things I thought I lacked as a child are a part of what makes me who I am as an adult. I have a strong work ethic because I had to work from the age of 16. I am independent because from a very young age, I had to be able to do things for myself and my younger siblings. I am resilient because I’ve faced much adversity in my life, both in my personal and professional life and I’ve had to navigate through that adversity to reach success. The desire to give Sydney the things I didn't have as a child was being replaced by a desire to give her the life skills that she needed to possess to thrive as an adult. I wanted to raise a child that wasn’t afraid to ask me for help but also didn’t depend on me for their survival. I wanted to raise a child that came to me for counsel, but in the end was capable of making their own decisions.
That being said, I don't want my daughter to have as difficult of a life as I did. I worked from the age of 16 but I worked so much in High School that I didn't get to have the fun carefree teenage life that I should've. I worked so much in College that my grades suffered and so much post-college that I burned out. I took care of my siblings and myself but hated the fact that the responsibility fell on my shoulders and resented my parents for making me do so. I grew up to be an independent adult but I was so used to doing things by myself that asking others for help made me feel uncomfortable in many ways. The question then became, how would I find balance?
I came to the conclusion that I could absolutely give Sydney many of the things that I did not have as a child and I could help her navigate through the ups and downs of life rather than letting the school of hard knocks be her teacher, but in my quest to right the wrongs of my childhood, I would have to make sure that I give her some room to make some mistakes of her own. I’ve always believed that the mistakes we make in our lives are more transformative than our successes. You might even argue that some first-time successes may be more luck or being in the right place at the right time than a prodigy at work. Many of the greats in our history were failures long before they became successful and in my own life, whether it be career or dating, I had to fail a few times before learning from those failures and becoming successful. Yet, with my own child, I was always so quick to swoop in and help her. It pained me to see her struggling or frustrated with some task but made me happy when she clapped after an accomplishment. I wanted to shield her as much from the frustrations and give her as much of the happiness as possible but by doing this I would be setting the path for her to have none of her own roadblocks to learn from.
Along the way, I know that there will be times where she needs my help or advice but rather than telling her what to do or solving a problem for her, I want to be able to serve as a guide. I know that it will be hard for me because I still don’t like to see my child disappointed and whether it be a hard math problem, a bully at school or a broken heart, I will want to rush in and save her from the harshness of life, but in the grand scheme of things, I’ve learned that more important than all of the money is giving my child the confidence and sense of satisfaction that comes from accomplishing tasks and knowing that she can take care of herself.