Every parent thinks their kids are special. The universal biological function of reproducing turns us into doting, obsessive chumps. We see our kids’ idiosyncrasies, talents, weaknesses, and emerging personalities through the unique parental lens that makes us simultaneously blind and omniscient about these beings of our creation. I am a typical parent in this regard. As Thing One (age 17) and Thing Two (age 13) grow up, I have a new perspective on my girls. This may be something we all go through as our kids begin to knock on the door of adulthood. Regardless of the universality of it, what I feel for them these days is novel and pleasantly surprising. This is a distinctive mix of gratitude, respect, intrigue, and admiration. I am inspired by the unassuming wisdom and dignity of my children.
My girls have not had an easy childhood. While it started out “normal”, I blew their worlds apart when they were 5 and 9 years old. That year, they lived through my tumultuous transition from heavy drinker to non-drinker and the flailing search for identity that accompanied that transition. The same year, I threw in a move across the country to Colorado, so they had to change schools, leaving behind their friends, family, and everything that was familiar. A few months later, their dad and I realized it was time for divorce, and he and the girls moved back to Vermont without their mom. Things stabilized after that year, and our newly defined non-traditional family settled into a rhythm of monthly visits from Mom and summers in Colorado. Five years later, I can happily (and with some degree of incredulity) report that they are not only well-adjusted, but clearly thriving.
As I think back to my own childhood, I cannot fathom what this has been like for my girls. The security and stability of everything they knew was suddenly removed from
their lives. Their grace, strength, and magnanimity in the face of that upheaval was extraordinary, especially given their tender ages. Now that they are older, I am overflowing with gratitude to them for their kind hearts, their flexibility, and their affability. They have instinctively and naturally worked with their dad and me to forge happiness within a family structure for which there is no existing script. They are authentic, open-minded people who have survived broken hearts at the hands of their own parents and wear the resulting scars without resentment.
I have not deluded myself into thinking all rough waters are behind us or that my girls will never experience angst from what they have been through. I used to worry I had caused them permanent and fundamental damage. They have made it clear that they are ok, and I can settle back into the routine worries of “normal” parenthood. They have and will continue to have shithead moments, just like the rest of humanity. They are growing into themselves; the same strength that got them through before shows up every day as they do life with gusto. They try new things, express themselves, and share themselves with the world. They are great people, and It is not an exaggeration to say I am in awe of them.