I used to believe that I had a maternal superpower that could control my children’s life experiences, while I protected and steered them in the right direction. I needed to be aware and vigilant at all times, lest their lives went astray. I truly felt that if I were off duty during any moment that they needed guidance, support or advocacy, that their lives might be ruined, and it would all be my fault. Because I could have done something to change the course of their lives; I would have been able to save the day. That took an overwhelming amount of energy and it certainly was a lot of pressure that I put upon myself.
For the first decade and 1/2 of being a mother, it actually seemed true. My children seemed to be living the life I had hoped for them and I took a lot of credit for that. They were well-adjusted, well-behaved, kind, smart, curious, fun, funny, energetic and all around fabulous. They are still all of these things. However, these qualities did not determine the roads that they would travel as they experienced life. And it took me a lot of time to adapt to the uncertainty that comes with the possibility of the unknown.
I used to believe that I knew how my children should lead their lives. I now am relieved to know that I am not actually the one steering the ship. Two scenarios proved to me that I should not be in control of my children’s journey. These scenarios stay with me, guide me, and even haunt me.
Many years ago my son had a challenging time during his freshman year of college. He left that school and while figuring out his next move, he enrolled in the local community college. That was a difficult time for us and took a lot of adjustment to the fact that he was no longer on the typical path of our community. He excelled in his community college classes, applied to a competitive university, and was accepted. I was over-the-moon excited that this blip of a diversion from everyone else’s track was over and saw this as proof that everything happens for a reason. The new school was more prestigious than the first school, my son had more clarity about what he wanted out of life, and what had become messy in our lives was about to be put back in order, in an even more efficient manner. I celebrated quietly and filled my prayers with gratitude. But then life got very real and it was clear that my son would not be enrolling in that savior of a school after all.
I could not handle this change in events. I felt like my body was shattered into a million pieces. How was it possible that he had been about to be saved and now he wasn’t? I couldn’t imagine any other kind of future. I was completely heartbroken and petrified that there would be no other options for living the life I knew he needed to live. And the judgment I imagined us facing from the community! How would I survive that? I cried. I begged and pleaded with God to fix the situation so that he would go to that school. And, temporarily, that prayer seemed to be answered. My son was actually accepted a second time after having a stellar beginning to his next semester at community college. But for reasons that I could not understand at the time, it still did not work out and my son did not end up enrolling in the school.
20/20 hindsight is everything, isn’t it? Years later, with so much more clarity about my son, and what he needed in his life at that time, I now am filled with gratitude that God did not listen to me. I didn’t know what the right course was for him because I didn’t have all of the information that the universe had. I now know that had he gone to that school, there is a very good chance that things would have ended tragically. My son feels the same way. He is now healthy, has choices in his life and is one of the most insightful people I know. I do not ever want to assume again that I know more than our higher power.
When my daughter came out to me as transgender, it understandably also threw me for a loop. Once again, I pleaded with God to have her come back to my room, letting me know that she was kidding. This was not what I had planned and I knew best. I hoped she would realize that she made a mistake and that she would be ‘normal’ and live a life like everyone else. I couldn’t visualize her finding joy and love in life, as a transgender girl, as I had always dreamt for her.
Today, on Transgender Day of Visibility, I can say that I am so glad that she followed her truth – not mine. She has not only found joy and love, but self-confidence, maturity, purpose, and success. She is thriving and through her own self-assuredness and advocacy, she is changing our world and the lives of others. I dream of a time when this day will be obsolete; when no one will want to make transgender people invisible, as I almost did to her. I shudder to think of what her only recourse might have been had I not embraced this detour from my expectations.
These lessons have helped me as my youngest goes through her college process. I never assumed to know what school would be best for her. I have allowed this sometimes bewildering process to play out as it is, knowing that I could not have done a better job if I had been in control. I might have given her different responses, but I feel confident that that would not have served her well. Because, once again, I am humble enough to know that I do not have all of the information to plan her future for her. I leave that to the universe and to her. I am just along for the ride. And I am excited to see where that ride takes us!