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Friday, October 10, 2014

When Kids Do What You Say

When I was my daughter's age, I was applying to a master's degree program. I was a child of the 80s, impacted by feminism, yet aware, of a feminine backlash against it on the horizon. I thought I was quite crafty, having chosen a field that would allow me to collect an admirable salary in context of a flexible career field. My children (we had though there would be many) would never step foot in daycare, yet I would do my empowered duty by contributing to family finances if needed. I thought it was a splendid plan.  Twenty-seven years later, I'm not so sure. Our goal was for me to be home full time, but it just never seemed to fully happen. I am absolutely certain that had we put my husband through grad school before we put me through, and I had stayed home full time as a wife and mother, all three of our lives would have been better. I suppose this may not be true of every family, but it is certainly true of ours.

In our defense, one of us was always home with Elyse.  We essentially both worked part time and cared for her the rest of the time. For a while, my husband packed her up with his tools and home schooled her while working.  She essentially had the life of a child with a stay-at-home parent, but neither of her parents had the life of a stay-at-home parent or of the spouse of one. In retrospect, we could have done better, for all three of us.  Someone needs to mind the home fires, and it is difficult to do that part time.

True to our values, and partly in response to our experiences, she's been raised with a strong focus on home and family.  She's been taught that being a wife and mother is a high calling, and that the lives of every member of a family are blessed when mom is dedicated to honoring, respecting, and caring for her husband, and dedicates all of her time and efforts to attending to his needs and to the rearing of their children.  This seems a marvelous plan when a daughter is young.  One ought instill in a child one's sincere beliefs, yes? The problem is, then she may become an adult and actually want to do it.

This is when the parental panic starts. My bright and capable child who had been carefully groomed for University of California admission doesn't want to finish an undergraduate degree? Wait, she's doing what I taught her to do. Is there even a man out there who wants this anymore? Will she be safe?  Will she be valued?  Is there a complimentary piece to this two piece puzzle?  What was I thinking?

I suppose I was thinking that I don't want her to have the stresses I had, by trying to fill both roles.  I imagine I was concerned about shielding her children from growing up as she did, with a mother who couldn't dedicate all of her efforts to home and family without being emotionally strangled by work pressures.  The picture changes, though, when a daughter reaches an age when you can no longer view her as one person, but now as one half of a yet-unidentified union. Someone has to have raised the other half.  A half that fits.  A half that wants to fit. A half that will not view her as failing to "pull her own weight." What was I thinking?

I suppose that I was blinding trusting.
I suppose that there isn't any reason to withdraw that trust.

She doesn't have any doubts.  But she is twenty.  She is young and naive and trusting.
Maybe she has it right, or maybe she's too young to know any better?  Only time will tell.

She sits at a sewing table each day and diligently pursues home industry. Lace runs through her fingers as I craft clinical reports.  She does the shop's bookkeeping to the ticking of a wooden cuckoo clock while I watch the cold, black schoolroom clock in my office. She kneads bread on the kitchen table while I hone phonological systems at a laminate therapy table. Our home is blessed with her daily presence there, while it is taxed by my absence, I'm sure.  She has chosen the better part. I just hope that there is a man out there who will choose to embrace her in the role she has chosen.

I suppose that he is out there.  I suppose that there are families preparing the other half of this puzzle. Of course there are.  We can't be the only crazy ones.  I suppose one ought to stay the course.  And trust.

Pax Christi,

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