I woke up the morning of Sunday, February 8th, 1998 at 5:15 a.m. in contractions. I had no idea what to expect, but I told my husband, “This is it!” and he nervously cleaned every possible space of our apartment in anticipation. By 9:10 p.m. I was holding my baby girl, with her crooked nose, and starting in awe that this little creature was mine. (The crooked nose was from dropping into my birth canal to hang out for a whole eight days before she decided to come on out).
As any new parent would be, you want to be the most perfect parent. You want to instill your child with all the proper societal rules and a mix of your own family values. You want to shape and mold this newborn being into a wonderful and functional person to add to society. You want to love your child unconditionally, and yet, balance that adoration with a sense of parental boundary. You want to fill your little person with just the right amount of consequences to teach them, but not so much as to traumatize them.
My Riley is nearly fifteen years old. My first born has turned out to be everything I could have ever wished for, and so much more. Riley has made being a parent so much easier than I would have ever considered. My girl has set the standard: she has raised the bar for not only her siblings behind her (eek, sorry Jake and Reece), but she has been the role model for those around her. Riley inspires me to be a better person. Is it possible for a child to inspire their parents? I emphatically say yes.
Riley is beyond compassionate. She has a love for animals unlike anyone else I know. Her desire is to be a veterinarian and I have no doubt, her future line of work will include animals. She has deep-routed bloodlines of love for her family; from her 99 year old Memere to her cousins to her little four year old sister.
Riley’s compassion has extended beyond her circle of friends. She has often times gotten up and left her crowded lunch table at school to go and sit with a child who is lunching alone. Riley has gone over to the new kid in class or on her soccer team and she has invited them to participate or hang out with her. Riley has confronted bullies at school, telling them in a way-too-mature voice for her age to knock it off. Trust me; you would be afraid of that menacing look on her face, too.
Riley is so much like me, but a million times more the person I wished I was at her age. I wish I had the confidence to stick up to the bullies (especially when I was the subject of the bullying). I wish I had the security to not worry about being judged as I left a table to go sit with someone all alone.
Yes, the boys have taken notice. (I think I will throw up now.)
She is now a freshman in high school. The boys seem to be everywhere. Everywhere. Did I mention boys….everywhere? (Where’s the toilet when you need it?).I have to trust that my daughter has been raised to make the right decisions. I have to trust that when she makes mistakes (and she will); she will learn from them and move on. I have to trust and hope that my first born will not make the same mistakes that I did.
In the meantime, I talk to her. I talk to her. I talk to her some more. I ask questions. Every day is full of questions:
Ø I want to know who’s she’s hanging out with.
Ø I want to know who she talked to today.
Ø I want to know how school was.
Ø I want to know what homework she has.
Ø I want to know how soccer practice was.
Ø I want to know her plans for the weekend.
Ø I ask her what boys she talked to and in return, which boys said hi to her.
Ø I want to know what boys she’s crushing on.
Ø I want to know what boys her friends are crushing on. (Yes, I ask them too!)
Ø I want to know who’s dating who and who’s allowed to go out on “real” dates already at this age.
You may be asking if Riley gets annoyed by the daily interrogation. Sometimes, yes, she does. I carefully explain to her that the more I know about her life, the more I trust her. I remind her that I do not want to find out that stuff is happening through other sources, whether it’s her friends, other parents or through the grapevine. I have explained to her that if I find out some important detail of her life from someone aside from her, I will be hurt and I will lose some fraction of my trust. My goal is to have as much open communication between Momma and her daughter, so that we can go through the teenage years together.
When Riley gets to the eyeball roll point with me, I gently let her know that I was once this age, too. I remember the feelings of awkwardness, inadequacy, the tingles and nervousness around boys and so much more that comes with teenage angst. I remind her that my mother never talked to me about any of this stuff. I remind her regularly that I will be there for her when she is struggling with a decision. I want to be her grounding when she feels like she is falling. I will be the Momma when she needs a good dose of a reality check (hypothetical car dates with boys? Um, no….not at 14 or at 15).
After all, she is my first-born and I am still determined to get that right.