Mother’s Day was this past weekend. My mom got the best present a mom could ask for-her only daughter came home for the first time in over 3 and a half years. My sister is a pastry chef, adventurer, and all around gully individual. She’s been living on a mountain outside of Hangzhou, China being a pastry chef and running an awesome cafe/restaurant.
We all talk about how we’ll raise our children if we are lucky to procreate. Here, on the internet, I mostly see photos of adorable children in amazing little outfits with captions like “This is how my children will dress.” Or a cute hipster couple without any trace of irony or ennui walking through a farmer’s market, their child in chukkas in tow.
I’ve realized though, that being a good parent is heartbreaking and impossibly difficult. It means letting your kids do what they want to do, to make their own decisions, whether you agree with them or not. My mother is not only an amazing woman in her own right, but also the best parent anyone could ever ask for. She raised her daughter the way she said she would-the way we all want to raise our children. It’s one thing to say “I will raise my daughter to be independent, to make her own choices, to welcome adventures and challenges with open arms.” But it’s quite another to actually do it. My mother has raised a daughter who is fiercely independent, has a strong rebellious streak, and has never, ever let what others think influence her. The flip side to this is that my mother has had to accept that her daughter has a chronic case of wanderlust. She is not scared to jump into a new situation, even if that takes her all the way around the world in a country whose language she does not speak. My mother raised a woman who taught herself Mandarin while working 70 hour work weeks. My mother accepts that she was not able to hug her daughter, or to comfort her in times of need for several years back to back. She understands that my sister has no desire to live in Michigan and that her choice in tattoos is her choice and her choice alone. My mother has never forbade my sister from anything. When my sister told my mom she was moving back to the States, my mom almost hugged her through Skype. Then my sister told her before she comes home she is going to ride a bicycle from China, into Vietnam, into Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand. It broke my mom’s heart. Not because she didn’t understand why my sister would want to go on such an adventure. But because she would have to wait that much longer to see her daughter. That she wouldn’t be able to protect her, to make sure she was eating enough, that she put sunscreen on, and always wore her helmet. But my mom never said no and she never expressed the deepest and most unsettling of her concerns. She put on a brave face and waited with baited breath for each email and Skype conversation she could have with her young adventurer. My mother encouraged her daughter to play sports with the boys, to listen to the music that moves her, and while she may drive her crazy, my mother cannot hide the fact that she is incredibly proud of the young woman my sister has become.