Your Grandma Bev comes over to watch you once a week (sometimes more) while I work. She and I don't often get much time to chat when she comes, since I'm usually rushing out the door to get to a meeting on time. A couple of weeks ago, we had a bit more time, and we were talking about how so many parents "repeat the cycle" of parenting the way they were parented.
When I was pregnant with you, one of the themes that I saw coming up over and over again in parenting communities and among my parent friends was poor boundaries between parents and grandparents. I read tale after tale of Grandparents undermining new parents, brushing off their parenting philosophies as silly, or insisting that that they know better. It occurred to me that this tendency of Grandparents to insist that they know better than parents might play a big part in the phenomenon of "repeating the cycle". As a group, generally speaking, new parents aren't known for their confidence and assertiveness in regards to their parenting skills and philosophies. So when people who have already raised children offer their advice or admonishment, it's easy for new parents to assume their instincts are wrong and defer to those who've done it before.
Anyway, back to that chat with your Grandma. As we were talking, she talked about how she did things very differently than her own mother. She knew that she wanted her children to experience some things differently than she had, so she made some changes. She didn't repeat the cycle. I got a little nervous as she went on to say that she sees how I am doing some things differently than she did. But what she said next surprised me. She put her arms around you and smiled and said "It just keeps getting better."
That simple statement was quite possibly the most meaningful piece of praise I've received as a parent. It's true, I'm doing some things differently than my mother did. Does that mean she was a bad mother? Not at all. In fact, some of the really important stuff, I hope I'm able to do half as well as she did. I hope that you are always as comfortable talking with me about uncomfortable topics as I was with her. I didn't hesitate to go to her to talk about sex, birth control, drugs and alcohol, and a variety of other things that many kids avoid discussing with their parents at all costs. I hope that you will always feel as loved, supported, respected, and appreciated as she has made me feel. I hope that I will instill in you the importance of living according to your values, the way she instilled it in me, even if those values are different than mine, the way some of mine are different than hers.
Now that I'm a parent myself, I realize that one of the most important things I've learned from her is that being a parent doesn't stop at some arbitrary cut off point. Parents don't stop being parents when their children turn 18, or when they move out, or when they graduate college, or when they get married or when they become parents themselves. The way they parent changes, but the role of parent doesn't end; it simply evolves. If you become a mother yourself, I hope that I will follow in my own mother's footsteps in mothering a mother. She has led by example, by respecting my choices, by trusting that I make informed decisions that work best for my unique family, by offering advice or suggestions only when they're asked for, and by demonstrating that the other half of "you'll always be my baby" is "you'll always be mother".
You'll always be my baby Delilah. I hope you'll let me always be your mother. If you become a mother, I hope that you'll take from me what served you well growing up, and I hope you'll improve on my parenting in any way you can. So that it just keeps getting better.
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