Spending time over breakfast with my two teenagers (think: me keeping up a one-sided stream of chirpy, cheerful conversation; them chewing and looking off into the distance as if entirely alone) I found myself wondering what I could have done differently with them. Should I have been reading shakespeare to them instead of Harry Potter? Should I have instituted chore charts earlier? Should I have taken them to soup kitchens on christmas to help serve dinner to the needy? In other words, what could/should I have done to make them not like they are now? I know the answer is, probably nothing. They're teen zombies; walking, talking, shopping beings in total thrall to their hormones. But the interesting thing here is that I, who was once a terrifying teen zombie myself, still believe in my heart that, with my kids, I should have done something, anything, better.
I was talking to a friend the other day who was telling me what she wished she'd done differently, raising her now fully grown child. "I should have made her do more around the house," she said. "I should have taught her more about duty and responsibility. But I just wanted her to be happy and I thought she'd learn from our example." I told her not to worry, that being in the adult world would teach her all those things. In a job, if you don't show up when you say you're going to, if you don't clean up your own messes, you get fired.
So, this morning, I remind myself of this; anything I missed will bump up against them in the "real" world of adulthood. But when it's your own child - the child you have spent so much effort on just keeping safe (don't get in to stranger's cars), alive (look both ways when you cross the street), and out of harm's way (don't play near the stove, don't put that in your mouth, don't, don't, don't!!!!!) - it's hard to say, 'Ok, they'll just have to learn that the hard way.'
There are lots of things my mother should have done, or not done. But that list would reach deep into cyberspace and be, in the end, entirely pointless. My mother is a good, kind, imperfect person who raised a daughter that is also a good, kind, imperfect person. And that's all I really want for my kids. It's just that right now i'm not seeing much of the good, kind part and am seeing all of the imperfect part. It's hard to trust that they, without me there to hold their hands and guide their steps, will find their way safely and well.