Not a day passes that I am not reminded about how extraordinary my daughter is. Sure, we all think that about our children and clearly many of us are blinded by maternal love (even though, I’m the least ‘maternal’ person I know), but I am just in awe of this girl and the woman she is becoming.
My life has been in a state of flux, let’s say, over the last year or so. My girl has been the rock, the anchor, the one constant. This has not been required of her (I’m plenty constant/strong enough for the both of us), it’s just something that has ‘become’. This child has always been incredibly mature, capable, pragmatic and independent – even since making her own packed lunches from the time she could reach the worktop – but more than this, she is (very subtly) the emotional stability; the core of this two-person family.
Is that how it should be? Surely, I, as the adult and primary care-giver should fulfill that role? I’m sure she would tell you that I do, and anyone who knows us would agree that she is certainly not lacking emotional stability from me, but what has struck me recently, is how we have found ourselves in this mutual state of being – but notable given that she is only 14.
We have always had a relationship that was extremely close yet independent of each other. I remember her happily toddling off into nursery at ten-months-old without a single look back. I remember being mortified at this, thinking it a sign that she didn’t want or need me, but later on, when she was about four, she was randomly selected to take part in a child development project. I recall the psychologist asking me about her detachment behaviour and how I was rather embarrassed telling him that she’d never once cried when I’d left her. I also remember the massive relief I felt when he explained that this was more indicative of a very strong and very confident attachment – that she always knew I would come back.
Even now, we co-exist. We are unorthodox. We share a space. Logistics dictate we spend lots of time apart. We orbit around each other. We both like our own space; our own time. Some days, we can be in the same apartment for the entire day and only actually speak for a total of ten minutes. This may sound cold and detached. It’s not and I only mention it to highlight how, in those ten minutes, the bond is so securely but subtly reaffirmed, it blows my mind. It’s as if there is an invisible and unbreakable rubber band around us that stretches out, then pulls us back, but the feeling that we are both constantly there, no matter how far we stretch, is never ever lost.
My girl is academic, achieves well and shows exemplary behaviour at home and school. Of course I am proud at these qualities, but these things don’t even scratch the surface of why she is such an inspiration to me.
And she does inspire me. She is funny. Her wit is so sharp and quick it often leaves me open-mouthed. She is fiercely protective and loyal over those she loves. She is so quick to stand up for people without concern for herself. She has such integrity and a strong moral compass and is not afraid to fight for what she believes in. Her mind is brilliant. She is so open and considers concepts with such philosophical enquiry. Her sense of equality, fairness and her humanitarianism is astonishing. Her manners and consideration of others, often at the expense of herself, is just beautiful.
What makes me most proud is that my girl and I don’t fit into any boxes. We didn’t do it how the books told us. I’m sure many of these ‘child experts’ that wrote all of those books, whose sole purpose was to make us parents feel inadequate, would look at my parenting methods and frown. I mean, I went to university full time when she was a toddler – she went to nursery, I never took her to ‘Tumbletots’. We never did ‘play dates’. I certainly didn’t play Mozart to her in her cot and I didn’t force her to do her homework at 6 years old. We didn’t bake cakes often. And art at home? Pfft!
My point is that I spent many years feeling inadequate as a parent for not doing all of the ‘fluffy’ things, even though I knew that the core values I was instilling, the role model I was providing, the love and emotional security I was constant in, would be the thing that mattered. And I was right. I’m a single parent from a council estate – a product of a poor socio-economic background, statistically predisposed to failure and low achievement, but my girl and I refused to be put in to any pigeon hole, to adhere to any labels, to be kept down by society’s expectations of us. It makes me proud that we did it our way.
If we have proved anything it’s that you just need to be constant and inspire your children – the rest is peripheral; companies making money (parenting books, CDs, reading schemes etc) out of our anxiety to bring our children up well. If you inspire your children, believe me, they will inspire you back in ways that you cannot imagine.
My girl is incredible. I just wish she saw herself in the way I see her. But then her humility will always prevent that. She will be successful in whatever she chooses to do – that’s just how she is. I hope she chooses to be happy and fulfilled; to fill her life with whatever grows her soul and that she surrounds herself with people who love her and recognise her brilliance. I am certain she will continue to inspire those whose lives she touches.
She’s my girl. My inspiration.