Driving around in the car with my kids has always been one of my favorite things to do. I’ve found, over the years, that my kids tend to talk to me about really important stuff when it’s just two of us in the car together. Conversations arise naturally–a thought prompted by a song, a confession prodded by something we pass along the street, a worry brought to the surface by something random.
Today, Daughter #2 confessed that she’s nervous to have children. I assured her there was nothing wrong with that, and then I asked why. She pointed out a few differences between herself and her sister (who is 12 years older than she is.) She’s old enough to know which of her sister’s choices seem wise and which don’t. She’s old enough to know which of her own choices seem wise (in hindsight, of course) and which don’t. She’s also old enough to know that their choices are very, very different.
She wonders what makes that difference. Personality? Upbringing? What did I do as a mom that led one child to act in one way and the other in another way? Her fear is that, when it’s her time to become a parent, she won’t do a good job, and she won’t know why.
Her worry touched me. I told her that I think caring whether or not you’re a good mom is half the battle. We both know moms who don’t care much about the job, who don’t worry much about their kids, and who, frankly, don’t want to be bothered.
I told her that each child’s personality has a lot to do with it, but so do the circumstances they’re raised in. My kids might be sisters, but their life paths have been very different. My oldest daughter was raised in an abusive environment, and she has learned some defensive self-protective techniques that my youngest has never had to learn.
Mostly, I told her, I strongly suggest giving yourself the one gift I gave to myself–the peace that comes with knowing that even when she didn’t make the best choices or the right choices, she did make the best choice she knew how to make at the time.
Just between us, I think she’s going to make a very good mom. My future grandchildren are lucky kids.
(2016 Update: Looking back, I’m a little blown away by this post. Daughter #2 wasn’t seeing anyone special at the time, but she met, fell in love with, and married her husband in a whirlwind courtship shortly afterward. She was a mom just 13 months after this blog post. Who would ever have guessed? Turns out, I was right. She’s a wonderful mother, raising two incredible children. My granddaughters are, indeed, lucky kids.)