While grocery shopping with Grace last weekend, a well-meaning older gentleman stopped me and jovially mentioned “Ma’am, I hope your husband has a shot gun”. As I prepared to answer with a quick “He’ll probably need one” (I’ve learned it is simpler for everyone to allow people of a certain generation to believe that I’m married), Grace proudly announced, “My Mama doesn’t need a husband”.
A response that, if I’m being completely honest, shocked both of us.
My initial reaction was pride. I was impressed that my girl realized that we were doing just fine “on our own”. I was pleased that, despite loving princesses and fairy tales and babies, Grace understood that these things were not the ultimate fulfillment. That her life should be a kaleidoscope of imperfect parts and that no one element could truly anchor all the others.
As proud as I was, I couldn’t shake a nagging feeling of worry. Worry that my own life experiences were bleeding cynicism into Grace’s life. Love is messy and fairy tales don’t always have the happy ending we expected. But the idea of her not wanting love, not seeking a partner to support her, to take out her garbage and rub her back because she “didn’t need one” or worse, because she was afraid of being let down…it tugged at my heart in an unexpected way.
I’d never want my girl to be afraid to get out there and “play the game” (why are relationships always described in sporting analogies?) I want her to get her heart broken 100 times, if it means she is putting herself out there.
This is the constant battle when raising a daughter. Wanting her to be tough, yet soft, strong but delicate.
I’m a far better person for all the love I have given and the mistakes I have made. I’ve had my heart broken enough times to recognize the symptoms but the physical pain of it never fails to take my breath away. But there is some truth in the belief you can’t recognize the beauty in your life without a little bit of the ugly.
You don’t need someone by your side to make your life an amazing journey. But there is no shame or weakness in yearning for the comfort of a shadow next to yours.
The guy who was never going to love me back reminded me what a selfless and illogical act love is. The guy who I desperately wanted to save showed me that letting go isn’t the same as giving up. There have been men who have unearthed parts of me I buried long ago, with small acts of kindness. Sometimes there is a lesson in the wanting.
A friend recently said to me that she wasn’t sure what the opposite of feeling things deeply was but that it was something close to apathy and that it “just wasn’t her”. She wasn’t talking about romantic feelings, but that sentiment has stuck with me over the last few days. Whenever I have made mistakes when my heart is involved, it has been in situations where I’ve tried to remain unfeeling or ignored my own thoughts, negating my emotions as being “crazy”. I’ve spent so long trying not to feel things deeply that now when I do, it scares me.
I want better for my daughter.
Grace knows that people can have babies without being married. She knows that boys can get married to other boys and girls can marry girls and that it doesn’t really matter who you marry, as long as there is love and kindness there. But what I’m afraid I’ve forgotten to teach her is that love is always worth the risk.
Nothing lasts forever and there are certain to be moments in her life where someone unexpected will hurt her. But even in those moments of pain (which will be worse for me, I’m sure), she is growing. She will come out on the other side changed, but infinitely better.
I didn’t expect to be teaching my daughter about love when I was still trying to figure it out for myself.
Grace is beautiful, but more importantly she is smart, funny and kind. I am confident that she will grow up being certain of all these things. I hope I am patient enough to foster her fierce independence. I hope she is so certain of how awesome she is that she will believe that everyone else must see it too.
One day, I hope she meets someone who is even more certain of these things. Who will remind her when she falters. When that day comes, I hope she has no fear in sharing her life with them. Not needing to. But wanting to.