Monday, October 27, 2008

My daughter and me

Lauren and I haven't seen each other much lately. It's been nearly three weeks - that's a long time when I usually see her at least once a week. We've both been really busy. Of course, we've been emailing, texting and talking on the phone but it's not the same. I know I shouldn't complain. My daughter lives just two suburbs away and actually enjoys talking with her mother. Some parents aren't so lucky.

Because I've been missing her I've decided to do a few posts of "Memories of Lauren". Things that have stuck with me for years. Defining moments that show what a special person she is. Here's the first one.

From the moment she was born Lauren showed a determination that amazed me. She could never be told to do something – not even eat. She had to be cajoled and convinced things were a good idea. She had to make the decision for herself.

I’m very much a ‘see how it goes’ kind of person. Lauren plans things meticulously. When she was about three months old I decided I’d have to have a plan for how I was going to raise her because she wouldn’t respond well to my usual ad hoc approach to life. Unfortunately I’m not what I consider a natural mother. It took me about three years to work out how to deal with this very different personality, during which time the closest I came to formulating my plan was to make a few decisions about what I didn’t want to do.

My decisions:
Don’t ever break her spirit.
Don’t ever make her feel unloved.
Don’t ever let my decisions put her in danger.

In the ten years that followed, I did each and every one of those things. Probably more than once. I could say the break-down of my marriage, the abuse and subsequent stalking was the reason she was badly done by but really it was just me reacting to the world around me instead of having that plan I knew I would need for her. I’ve been very lucky with Lauren. She’s an amazing person.

Lauren is a watchful person but basically cheerful. I knew that and, during the times things were bad, I worked hard at getting her to smile. I remember sitting by her bed each night, talking about the day. We had a little system going.

I would ask, “What was the worst thing that happened today?” and she would tell me all the awful things that happened. It was difficult to get her to express how she felt about each one and I worried about that for a time. Actually I still worry about it. At 25 she still doesn’t express emotion well.

After we’d discussed all the bad things, how she dealt with them, what would happen if she did different things and what else she might be able to do next time, I asked another question:

“What was the best thing that happened today?” It broke my heart that some days the best thing to happen in her life was that her cat purred in her ear. At least she had that much.

We did that every night. Over time, the best things began to outweigh the worst things and she started smiling spontaneously again.

I realised when she was fifteen that our evenings talking about the bad things and how to deal with them had a wider-reaching impact. It was during one of those highly-charged emotional times teenagers have.

She was standing in the front yard screaming at me:

“You’ve ruined my life!”

I went outside and asked what I did to do that and her response was:

“You made me think of consequences. Now I can’t have any fun!”

I think that was the first deep breath I’d drawn since she hit puberty.


glediar said...

I just had an email from Lauren about this post.

Her response:
"the best thing to happen in her life was that her cat purred in her ear. At least she had that much."

what are you talking about??? this is still the best thing in the world!!!

Aah - what would we do without our cats.

Danielle Ferries said...

Gee, I remember shouting similar words to my mother. I think mine were "You're trying to ruin my life" after she wouldn't let me go to a rock concert "unchaperoned" when I was 15.

glediar said...

I really believe limits are important for children. The tricky bit is getting the balance right so they aren't stifled but still know someone cares what they do and what happens to them.

Danielle Ferries said...

I totally agree, but I think its funny that the irony is you don't see it as anything other than your life being ruined until you yourself are an adult.