It was my daughters 11th birthday last Saturday and it didn’t hit me until today, when I read a post about leaving your legacy by the lovely ladies from Ask Ajna, how fast time has gone by. It feels like it was yesterday (yes, so much cliché) when I found out I was pregnant, gave birth 9 months later and even when she took her first steps. While it feels like yesterday, it has been 11 years and in those 11 years we have been through ups and downs in life. We have moved more than once and across continents too! We have been through deployments, divorce and the mental illness of family members. We have been through thick and thin and today it hit me. We are past half of her childhood and I feel like I missed most of it.
She is a gifted child, is in the gifted program at school and tested off the charts. Naturally curious, learns with ease and has insight some grown-ups don’t have (including me as you’ll learn throughout this post). She has high goals for life and a plan that will carry her for years to come. Because of this, it’s easy to forget that she is only 11. As a parent I want the best for my children, I want to set them up for success, ready them for failure and give them the tools to succeed in life. I don’t want them to have to face the struggles I had to face. While I have learned from every fall, picked myself back up and succeeded, I don’t think that some things need to be repeated for the sake of learning and character building. But today I realized, I may be setting her up for failure. A friend told me a story last night I’d like to share with you. I think it was the first domino that fell and set todays thought process in motion.
The Carrot, Egg and Coffee Stew.
A little girl walked in the kitchen with a sad face. Her mom asked her why she looked so gloomy and the little girl said “Life. Mom, life is hard and cruel and I am saddened and upset by all the bad things that happen in life.” Her mother nodded. As the girl was watching, the mother placed a pot on the stove, filled it with water. While the water heated up, the mother gathered carrots, eggs and coffee beans. When the water boiled the mother added the carrots, the eggs and the coffee beans to the pot. The little girl became irritated with her mother and said: “MOM, I was hoping for advice, a life lesson, anything but watching you cook things that don’t go together!” Her mother smiled and asked her for a little more patience. After a while she took out the eggs and said: “The boiling water is life. Life can have different effects on different things. If you are an egg, life will make you hard. The longer you stay in the boiling pot of life, the harder it becomes until it may or may not crack.” Then she took out the carrots: “If you are a carrot, life will make you soft and mushy. There is nothing wrong with the carrot or the egg. Each just react different to the boiling pot of life. One makes you hard, the other makes you soft and vulnerable.” Next she showed the little girl the pot of water, now coffee. “Finally look at the boiling pot of life. While the egg and the carrot were changed by the water that’s life, the coffee beans changed the water that’s life. The coffee beans didn’t change. They were the change. Who they were, seeped out and had an effect on everything. It changed the water that’s life and touched the carrot and egg because they absorbed some of the coffee as well.” Smiling, she hugged her daughter. “Life may be hot and tough, life may be able to change people, but if you are a coffee bean, you will change life and everything in it.”
Last night, I realized I am a soft boiled egg. Soft on the inside and hard shell on the outside. I protect myself and what’s in me from life. I should be a coffee bean. I also think my daughter already has that wisdom and has always been a coffee bean. A coffee bean protected by an egg carton. Go ahead and laugh, I had to.
Instead of encouraging creative curiosity and encouraging her to become the successful business woman she dreams of becoming, my fear of her being hurt stands in the way of her discovering life on her own. My fear stands in the way of her changing life. So I’ve made a list of things she wants and things I want.
|Things my Daughter Wants||What I think about it..|
|Participate in the school talent show. She doesn’t care what people may or may not say. She wants to do it for fun and to challenge herself.||Wait, don’t get hurt by losing or being made fun of. Take more guitar and singing lessons and practice a few years first.|
|Write a blog about bullying and ways to end it. She was the victim of bullying last year and wants to share her story and encourage other teenagers and younger children to come forward and know that it is NEVER their fault and that you can get help.||Wait till you are older. I work online exclusively. I have seen people and companies get attacked by the anonymous crowds online. I have read the stories of cyber bullying. Oh yeah, not to forget my husband is a cop and I used to work in a jail. I have seen the real danger of cyber bullying and what it can do to the victims. I don’t want you to get hurt.|
|Start her own cupcake company. She wants to earn money, wants to combine a hobby with work and see if her idea works.||I doubt it’ll work with all the regulations and permissions needed. Have you read the article this week about the 11 year old girl’s cupcake business that was shut down by the health department? Aside from that issue, what if no one buys your cupcakes, we don’t know that many people. I don’t want you to get hurt.|
|Create her own youtube videos. This goes hand in hand with her cupcakes and blog. She thought about it and wants to share her life with others. She wants to encourage while teaching.||NO. Back to the online issue. Now you want to make videos that people can edit and change? What if someone tracks you down because of it? Momparanoia. I don’t want you to get hurt.|
|Walk home from school and stay by herself. As mentioned before, she is very independent and mature. She doesn’t feel she needs to be supervised at all times and wants more freedom.||Maybe in a few years. Momxiety. What do you mean walk home from school alone and stay home alone? NO. I have to pick up your sister and brother anyway. Not to mention the DPS notice I got about the offender 3 streets down. Oh stay home alone? What if something happens? What if someone breaks in? What if .. I don’t want you to get hurt.|
|Read more mature books. She explained she is well aware that there is a difference in adult books and that she can differentiate between what is okay to do and what is not. My choices of classic literature are cool but not always what she wants.||Stick to classic books. You don’t need to read twilight, hunger games, etc. You want action, read Shakespeare, Ghoete, Schiller. You are bilingual, read it in German, make it a challenge. I don’t want your mind to get muddled with unrealistic expectation of love, life and friendship.|
|Volunteer at the Animal Shelter. She is a firm believer in giving back. She wants to do her part while having an opportunity to spend time with animals. She thinks it’ll be fun and because she sees them there she won’t want one so bad.||Maybe when you are older. To volunteer she needs to be 15 or accompanied by an adult. I can’t go with her because her sister who would then have to come is severely allergic to dogs and cats. Which is the same reason we can’t own either. Plus you will get attached and will be heartbroken when the dog or cat isn’t at the shelter anymore for whatever reason it may be. I don’t want you (or your sister) to get hurt.|
As I wrote this list down, I realized my own insanity. In my crazy effort to protect her from life, the heartache and pain, the naysayers and failures, I have effectively stifled her personal growth and her ability to change the world she lives in. Instead of using this as a bonding and fun experience for all of us, I have shut it down. I have shut her down.
Let that sink in for a moment.
Before you go on a rant about how you’d do it different, or how I am just protecting my kids etc. continue my journey of momploration and the growth process of becoming a better mom with me a little longer.
I have ALWAYS encouraged my children to be the best they can be. To try new things, learn anything and everything, have fun, being creative and unique. You want to learn how to bake cupcakes? No problem let’s do it. You want to know how birds fly? Let’s look it up! You want to sing your heart out? Please do, I love your voice! You want to cuddle and talk about my childhood? Get a blankey and get comfortable, because this mom has some funny stories.. You want to yell because you are upset? Let it out, I know how you feel.
Because of this, I have never realized that while I am their biggest supporter, I am their biggest hindrance. Because I love them so deeply, I have set everything up a way that permits the least amount of failure and pain. I have limited their personal growth to a level that I am comfortable with. As you can see from the table.. she would be okay with failure, pain and the very possible success that could come from any of these ventures, she would change the world as a coffee bean.
What legacy am I leaving my children?
A new one. The coffee bean legacy. A legacy that fosters personal growth, that allows for pain and failure, that encourages their unique personalities. A legacy where creativity and entrepreneurial spirit thrive, where compassion for others is as important as love for yourself. A legacy that has been passed on by my mom and my grandma, that was overshadowed by my personal fears. A legacy that changes the world around us, one coffee bean at a time. A legacy that bonds us together and makes its way through generations. A legacy that hopefully will outlast and outshine the fear that crippled me for too long.
What legacy will you leave behind?