My oldest recently celebrated his 21st birthday. Here is what I have learned over 21 years of motherhood:
It doesn't matter what you do, you're going to screw up your kids. How you raise them. How you talk to them. How you discipline them. How you feed them. Educational choices. Extracurricular choices. There are no right answers. There are only well-intentioned attempts. In the end, your kids are going to go about raising their own children in opposition to how they were raised. Believe what you will, but when all is said and done, you're going to screw up your kids.
You have no control. You think you do, but you don't. Whether you learn that when they're 2 or when they're 20—you'll learn it. You have no control. I vividly recall the day when my now 21-year-old was about 12 and he stated an opinion that was not one I shared. I was stunned to realize this little mirror was, in fact, not a mirror, but a person unto himself. He thought for himself—as I purposely raised him to do—but what that added up to was that I have no control. Not that I want complete control over my children's lives, but I do want enough control to be able to steer them away from making horrifying mistakes. Never mind. They have to make those mistakes. They have to make all those painful, humiliating, expensive mistakes in order to learn anything of value. If only the pain wasn't so insidious . . .
There is no joy greater than the joy of raising children. There is no pain greater than the pain you feel for your children. There is no fear greater than the fear you harbor for your children. And there is truly no love like the love you give to, and receive from, your children. Cliché, blah, blah, blah, but clichés come from a kernel of truth and these things are true.
Have you noticed that these birthday musings are all about me and not really about the birthday child? Yeah. That's pretty much how it is. Every rite of passage (or, pretty much every common day) makes you question every decision you have ever made. How does it all stack up? In the bigger picture have I done more good than harm? Doesn't matter. I did what I thought was best. Take it or leave it.