What was I thinking when I thought putting myself out of the parenting job meant the ultimate success as a parent?
The greatest piece of parenting advice I’d ever received, I liked to brag.
Several years back, my daughter called me to give me some news. She was newly graduated from college, but we lived in the same town in Florida.
“I’m moving to Portland, Oregon,” she said when she called.
I managed a few questions, such as, “When?”
“In a month,” came the unwanted reply. I offered a word or two of encouragement before we ended the conversation.
She wisely chose to present this bit of news right before she went to work and twenty-four hours before we planned to get together for dinner. My daughter knows me well.
I spent the next twenty-four hours composing myself and stemming the tears every time I imagined the breadth of this country where Oregon sits as far west as I could imagine, and Florida lies as far south and east away from it.
I called a friend and sobbed, “Anna’s moving to Oregon.”
My friend let me carry on for a few minutes, before she said, “But remember, you raised her to be independent and free-spirited and to follow her dreams.”
“And what was I thinking?” I asked.
But I knew my friend held the answer. My ex-husband and I raised this independent creature whose first complete sentence set the pace for the road ahead.
“Me do it myself,” Anna said before her second birthday.
We should have done something then because in retrospect it’s abundantly clear that our daughter would do exactly what she wanted when she wanted to do it. If only we’d tethered her to the bedpost the day of the first sentence perhaps, she’d remain in close proximity to me for the rest of my life.
As the day of her departure drew closer, I fluctuated between sadness for myself and happiness for her. Happiness won out as I saw my daughter grow up as she prepared to travel cross-country with most of her belongings.
Her father is a freelance artist, and as a child, Anna watched him draw portraits or logos for clients. Often, she went with him when he delivered the products and received a payment in return. Afterwards, they’d go buy groceries. One day when Anna was five, she wanted to buy something at the store. We told her we didn’t have the money. She didn’t say anything, but turned around and went into her bedroom. In a few minutes, she returned with a drawing of her own design.
“Now we can go to the store,” she said proudly holding out her offering that she planned to present to the cashier in exchange for the item she wanted.
So what was I thinking?
I hoped my daughter would turn out exactly the way she is as an independent, free-spirited woman possessed with the ability to follow her dreams.