Nurturing a Free-Spirited Child
On this Mother’s Day, I reflect on what is in many ways the hardest job in the world: raising a child. This day, Mother’s Day, honors that effort, for it is mothers that often have the most impact on a child’s future and they unfortunately many times have to do it alone. Next is teachers.
The internet is wonderful in its democracy of opinion but I am always struck but those who are offended by the concept of Mother’s Day. Those women who have chosen a different path from motherhood are in now way of less value and I’m surprised that the celebration of mothers makes them feel this. After all, everyone has a mother! Motherhood is a choice, one that comes naturally to many for those who choose otherwise it is simply a choice. There should be no need to prove that one could be a good mother even if you didn’t choose to be. We all have the capacity to nurture but the fact that one cares for an animal is not the same at all. A single child can affect the entire world one day. A great leader, inventor, humanitarian can do so much good whereas a dictator, warmonger, or criminal can do the opposite. Mothers can the be key in which direction a child grows in. A mother’s love or lack of can shape a child’s future.
Every mother has its challenges. My mother was faced with raising a child with medical issues. I didn’t understand until I became a mother myself how hard it must have been to see me in the hospital, to wish to take away my pain and to feel helpless. It was much easier to be the child than the mother.
As a mother we agonize over our choices. We wonder how we are affecting our child good or bad. We are afraid for the future; we wish them only joy. But we are human too and mistakes we do make. Mistakes that a children bear and must overcome. That is the cycle of life.
So here I am, a mother and my challenge is not a grim as my own mothers. My children, thank God, are in good health. My challenge is centered around my daughter Elsa who is the most, independent, free-spirited child I have ever known. Wonderful? Yes, very. Scary, extremely. For that free-spirit nature can lead her to be a brilliant artist and innovator can also leader into danger. How to guide her to safe choices when she innately rejects my guidance is the challenge I face and it is not an easy one.
I have heard it said that those who become leaders as adults were difficult to raise as a child and I believe that wholeheartedly. There is one thing that we mothers depend on and that is that our child wishes to please us, wants to do good. Therefore, when they stray, they accept the correction, the understand the guidance and adapt, even if unwillingly. My daughter wants to be good but she wants more to listen to her own voice. When her inner will conflicts with me, instead of resigning to the rules she knows she must follow, she instead evaluates her options: can she do what she wants anyway, is there a workaround? So, unlike my son who will correct his behavior when “caught” doing the wrong thing, Elsa will actually continue to exert her will in a sneaky way.
Add to this that Elsa is extraordinarily beautiful. I say this not as her mother but in objective truth. She takes your breath away. She is gifted with the best looks of both parents, a magical multicultural mix with the full lips of her Dominican father, natural, Shirley Temple-like curls, and light blue eyes. People are always stopping us and telling us how beautiful she is.
Beauty is powerful.
She is already learning the power her beauty has — power over men and boys, power to appear good even when she is naughty. Don’t get me wrong. She has a pure heart, a beautiful soul, but a free, fearless spirit. That spirit can lead her down dangerous paths of trusting the wrong people, stealing small items from stores, and using her looks for the wrong reason. She is not yet nine so imagine how this beautiful little sprite keeps me up at night praying she will stay safe while she remains free.
But like any mother, all I can do is my best. I know the tighter I hold her the more she will struggle to get free. I am preparing ahead so that she won’t leave and not look back when she is old enough, or worse run away. I want her to know that I honor her spirit and will nurture it. I try gentle guidance to keep her from harm, to help her understand the consequences of bad decisions, of running with the wrong crowd. You see she may be only 8 years old, but when you encounter a child with this much spirit, you know she has the potential to burn bright or burn up. You take care before she is too hot to handle.
God bless all the mothers. We carry a heavy burden. May we enjoy our day.