As my daughter nears her sixteenth birthday, I’m noticing that her growth as a person is increasing exponentially with each year. In the old days, her maturity was happily and easily measured by annual report cards and steadily increasing clothing sizes during each year’s back-to-school shopping spree. These days, her rites of passage are tougher to measure because her maturity and eagerness, like her longer legs, make for bigger steps at a much faster rate. First steps and words have given way to her first job, later curfews, excitement for driving, SAT’s and saving to travel abroad (without a parent, mind you). And as we discuss plans for college, a career and a life of her own, I’m full of pride and anticipation. After all, my little girl has grown to be a passionate, intelligent and independent young woman. But as she approaches the mid-point of her high school career I’m also struck with a bit of melancholy, because despite my long-held belief that children are only on loan to us – I never understood how quickly that loan would be due.
Ask any number of people to summarize their childhood, and you’ll hear a variety of descriptions. Our childhoods are laced with humor and heartbreak, tragedy and joy, failure and triumph – all in varying degrees. Some of our parents gave their all, though limited emotionally, financially or physically. Other parents had much to give but thought only of themselves and neglected, abandoned or abused us instead. Some of us possessed an innate tenacity and self-assurance while others harbored self-doubt and timidity. Some of us thrived, some crumbled, and some are still trying to come to terms with who we are and how we feel about the men and women who raised or didn’t raise us. Whatever our backgrounds and tendencies, though, I think our journeys contained certain commonalities; what we wanted wasn’t always what we needed, and sometimes what we needed wasn’t at all what we received. Continue reading