My 11-year-old daughter wants to be an FBI agent when she grows up. I wish I could say I have no idea where that desire derives from, but a rawer truth is that choice illuminates a great deal about her young life – and equally about mine.
When I was a young mother, I focussed so much on what I could give my children – homegrown organic squash, stacks of library books, sand castle building – that I pretty much entirely discounted all the influences that would equally affect my daughters, unintended or not: in short, the great wide world we live in.
A first-time mother, I just took everything so personally, as if feeding my kid a potato chip would amount to heresy. I had this very naive idea that if I pushed the image of the Earth Mama hard enough, I could hold off from my children the equally real awfulness of this world.
Over and over, one strand emerges in my writing: that our choices and actions determine who we are; that while our heads may be filled with the finest of intentions and profoundest of ideas, only action and how those actions affect others determines, ultimately, the mark of who we are. Which perhaps is why I’ve ragged on that Hallmark card notion of love. In my experience, love is the nursing mother’s arms around her baby, but also the ragged fierceness to step forward when the seas go swirly and the sharks surface to feed.
Whether I like it or not, children grow up, one little bit at a time, not simply with a birthday, or turning eighteen, and, having seen plenty of ignorance (my own and others’), I’d far rather my daughters make their decisions knowingly.
So…. when my brother taught my younger daughter to shoot his Glock, his hands over hers, I let them be.
Here’s a New Yorker parenting article, on resilience.