This I Believe

Kathy - Fayetteville, New York
Entered on September 15, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: parenthood

A Good Parent


I believe the most important thing in life is being a good parent. Before I had a child, I might have known this in a cerebral way but I did not take it into my body and feel it straight through to my very DNA until my daughter was born. I’ve read that women fall in love with their babies at the moment of birth, when they first see the product of conception and gestation. I did not so much fall in love as fall into an unshakeable belief that if I accomplished nothing else in my life, raising my daughter, Sophie, to be a decent human being would be enough.

I am not the kind of person who always expected to be a parent. I went to college and graduate school, moved thousands of miles from my hometown, pursued a career, and had many adventures before I met the man who became my husband. We did not fall easily into marriage or parenthood. When I finally became a mother at age 36, I was not sure I was prepared to be a parent at all, but I wanted to try.

From the beginning of our time as parents my husband and I decided that Sophie was going to be the focus of our lives for the next 18 or so years. My primary goal has been to be a consistent, loving, supportive force in my daughter’s’s life. At the same time I’ve done my best to allow Sophie the space to make her own mistakes, express her own opinions, fight her own battles. My own mother hovered over me, so standing back has not come naturally to me. And Sophie is my only child, so I am constantly aware that I cannot do it over or better the next time around.

Over the years I’ve seen evidence of the adult Sophie will be someday soon. At age four she declared that she wanted to have her ears pierced – today . As the technician shot the studs into her ears, she did not scream or cry. In second grade she decided to get her waist length hair cut off so she could donate it to Locks of Love. At eleven she went by herself to a week of camp at a college several hours from our home. Sophie is independent and cares deeply about people and principles. She works hard to do her best in school, but she is also a shopaholic who spends hours instant messaging on the computer. Her friends call on her for help with their problems, and they also paint their nails and talk about boys.

I always thought parenting would be just one part of my life, one patch in a crazy quilt. But for me, being a mother is the border and the batting, the stitching and the knots. Everything else – the marriage, the career, the friendships – are the patches in between.