I Believe in Putting My Hands on My Child
Before you call children’s services to report me for child abuse, let me explain. I believe in being a hands on parent.
I can’t expect teachers to educate my child if I’m not already teaching her everything that I know. I can’t expect a coach to make my daughter a better softball player if I’m not willing to play catch on a moments notice even when I’m tired or busy. I can’t expect the police to keep my child safe if I’m not already doing everything I can to ensure her safety.
I was so scared the day the doctor put that tiny, helpless baby in my arms for the first time. Scared actually doesn’t even begin to describe it. I was so full of doubt and fear, but yet, happier than I had ever been at the same time. I looked into those big brown eyes and promised to be he best mom that I knew how. I knew from that moment on that my life would never be the same. Silly me, I also thought that there was this person who would love me unconditionally, day in and day out. That unconditional love my daughter had for me lasted about 2 years.
One afternoon my daughter and I sat in the driveway of a home in our neighborhood that had burned down a few days before. It was shortly before Christmas and their burned toys and gifts were laying ruined on the front lawn. I asked Stephanie if she knew why we were there and it didn’t take long for her to start to cry and admit that she had lied earlier about not playing with matches. I already knew that she had lied since the smell of burning wooden matches is unmistakable, but it was good that she admitted to it. She then said she felt sorry for the kids who lived there because they must not be able to go to school since they didn’t have a home for the school bus to pick them up. When we returned home I showed her in a metal trash can how quickly a fire can start and spread. Of course I used tissues, newspapers, and typing paper since I knew it would catch and burn easily. It was unfortunate for the family who lived in that house, but fortunate for me to be able to use it as a learning lesson for my daughter and her friend. The fire started as an electrical problem, but Stephanie didn’t have to know that.
When I coached her softball team, I didn’t think twice about sitting her on the bench for being rude and disrespectful. Her tears washed lines in her dirty, little face but what would I have taught her by leaving her in the game. At that point, winning was not as important as learning a lesson about teamwork. By the end of the inning when the rest of the nine year olds were coming off the field Stephanie was the first one to pat them on the back and comment on the good things instead of mentioning the bad plays.
Stephanie grew tired of my constant interrogations by the time she turned eleven. She knew before asking permission to do something that I would be asking the usual “with who, doing what, when will you be home, and why do you want to go?” Even though I knew she would be getting an attitude, I had to ask. It was my job as a parent to know what she was up to, if I had been liked in that process that would have been nice. But it didn’t usually work out that way.
Often I thought about throwing the towel in and giving up; just letting fate take over and hoping for the best. I couldn’t begin to tell you of the sleepless nights I spent worrying about her, or crying myself to sleep because of something hateful she had said earlier. But it seemed every time I considered giving up, she would surprise me with a great decision. One night after a school dance her sophomore year, she called to let me know that plans had changed. Her friend’s mom had decided for them to ride home with an older cousin instead of picking them up as was planned. I was so proud of Stephanie when she called to let me know, even though she knew I might not have caught her and it would have been so much cooler to ride home with her friends. I told her all the way home that she had done the right thing calling me and that I was proud of her.
No doubt she got tired of hearing me say “it’s my job to make decisions for you until I know I’ve taught you well enough to make good choices for yourself.” As tempting as it may have been to keep making all her decisions for her, a point came when I had to start letting her make her own mistakes and hoped that I had instilled enough good qualities in her. I knew she would have to fall on her face from time to time to keep growing, but that didn’t mean that I couldn’t throw a pillow down at the last second to help soften the blow.
As Stephanie grows older, she’s now eighteen, she makes more good decisions than bad ones. I know I have to remember when I map out her future to use pencil. I’m sure she’ll come along with an eraser and make changes. With all the mistakes that I’ve made in my life, and there have been plenty, the one thing I know for sure is that I have done the best that I know how to raise my daughter to be a responsible, loving, and caring adult. A few weeks ago she got a letter in the mail from the University of Akron and handed it to me saying it belonged to me. I looked at the address and said no this is to you. She insisted it belonged to me, and after opening it I realized two things, she made the dean’s list her first semester and she really had been listening.
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