First let me say that no, the title isn’t a typo. My daughter has a capital L in the middle of her name. This is because in the process of choosing her name, her mother wanted to call her Emma LeeAnn. After much arguing I was able to convince her that if we did her name like that, her first name would be Emma. (Seems intuitive, I know). So, we compromised. EmmaLeigh Ann is her name. Interestingly….her friends call her Emma, and I call her “Em”… unless I’m serious.
I also want to point out that Em has a sister. A younger sister, but not a little sister. Laura is actually taller than EmmaLeigh, taller than her mother, taller than my wife, and creeping up to the point where if she doesn’t stop sometime soon she’ll be as tall as her dad. I’m about 6’3” for the record.
Laura is every bit the love of my life that EmmaLeigh is, though for different reasons (aside of course from the obvious, they are both my children). I mention this here because I know if EmmaLeigh reads this so will Laura, and I want her to know.
Em just turned 18, and she has a senior trip coming up. I spoke about it on Facebook. She has asked me if I will go with her to London, and I am going to do all I can to make that happen.
Anyway, that impending trip and the discussion surrounding it is what has her and her sister on my mind.
In the comments section on my Facebook someone said “Parenting, apparently you did it right”. That statement was the real impetus for this post. Primarily because if I were to be honest I would have to admit that I cannot claim much of the credit for parenting my daughters. Her mother has raised two fine young ladies, for the most part on her own.
Make no mistake, these are definitely my kids. A few minutes of conversation with either of them will convince you of that. But I have not been around them day in and day out all their lives like their mother has.
I have endeavored over the course of both my kids lives to teach them to question quickly, and believe slowly. I have tried to teach them to keep an open mind, and be willing to change course if the facts indicate a change is needed. I have tried to teach them to abhor cliche’s and pursue truth rather than convenience. In some of these respects I believe I have succeeded. In others, not so much.
Nevertheless, I must echo the thoughts of some of the people who commented on my post on Facebook. I do have a special relationship with my daughters.
Em is a typical 18 year old. Always believing that some new fact she discovered is privileged information and beginning sentences with, “Did you know…” Mostly, yes…I did know. But it’s fun to watch her learn and grow, become aware of the world around her, and try to find her place in it.
EmmaLeigh is smart (I’ll take credit for that). She’s college bound, and looking forward to going. I’ll take credit for that too.
When she was a baby I was considering how best to go about avoiding the problems parents frequently have with children. I wanted to find a method for doing my actual job, which was to mold this new person in to someone who could be productive, successful and happy. I wanted to help her avoid the pitfalls that so many young women fall in to. So I thought about it, and a light bulb went off. A light bulb I applied to her sister as well when she came along 3 years later.
I considered how it is that a song I haven’t heard in 20 years can come on the radio, and I can remember every word. Hell, I even remember the pitch and inflection, and sing along as if no time had passed. It occurred to me that the key was repetition. So I began a program…to brainwash my kids.
From the time each of them was born I sat them on my lap saying out loud, “You’re so pretty. You’re so smart.” Making these things common from their earliest remembrance. Why? So that when some slick Rick in high school said, “You’re so pretty’, they wouldn’t gush all over themselves and get knocked up over a compliment. My intent was for them to reply, “I’ve heard that all my life, you’ll need a better line.”
I played them Master of Puppets by Metalica from the time they were old enough to ride in the car. When they got old enough to ask me what the song was about I told them it was about cocaine and how drugs become the master and you become the puppet. I have fond memories of my daughters riding in my truck, banging their heads and shouting “Master! Master!” My hope being that one day, while at some party in high school or college, when some scrub produced some drugs and asked one of them “want to get high?”, in the back of their minds they’d hear, “Master! Master!”, and decline.
I told both my kids from the time they were 4 what the rules were.
1) Go to college
2) Start a career
3) Get married
4) Have kids
IN THAT ORDER! Absolutely no babies before college was finished and career begun.
Both my daughters can quote these rules. Though they have been shortened and then amended. Now they are summarized as follows:
1) Don’t get pregnant before finishing school. 2) I have the coolest dad in the world. 3) You can never have too much Def Leppard. lol
Words to live by….
People smile at me and nod their head knowingly. They assume that I am naive’ and that my kids will be just as stupid as some of their friends, make the same mistakes, and suffer the same consequences. By and large these are people who have never met my kids.
If there is one thing I believe I have taught them it is a philosophy I have often espoused and always lived by. I cannot be peer pressured, because I do not consider anyone my peer. Sure, I have colleagues at work. I have mentors and influences. There are people I respect. But in the end, the only person who has to bear the consequences of my actions, is me. So I never consider what other people think is “cool”, or “fun”. I do what makes sense to me, and I don’t care who does or does not like it. I have passed this on to my kids, and I believe that is why they are so well adjusted, confident, capable, and independent.
My kids suffer from no psychological problems. They don’t do drugs. They don’t take anti-depressants. They don’t cut themselves. They don’t wear black make-up, pierce odd body parts, sleep around, or in any other way abuse themselves due to a wide array of problems that all boil down to low self-esteem. Because they don’t have low self-esteem.
Their religion and their mother inform their morals, and I address their attitudes and disposition.
I can however say, and it strikes me that not a lot of fathers can say this, that I admire my kids in some respects.
EmmaLeigh is a warm, compassionate, friendly individual. She sees strangers as friends she hasn’t met yet. She cares about the world around her and the people in it. She loves from the heart. She cries easily, and she is not ashamed of it. She is an empowered young lady that stands on her principles. She’s quirky, and odd, and nerdy, and beautiful, and popular. She thinks and concludes, and then defends her conclusions. Even with me. Anyone who has ever argued with me knows what a feat this is.
Laura is fearless. She’s the girl who doesn’t know how to do something but invites people to come watch her try. She plays the guitar for a few weeks and joins a band. She tries out for every sport, and makes the cut in all of them. She’s hardcore and ferocious. She plays to win, but she also plays to play. She wants to be famous, and she’s working toward that goal. She’s goofy, and funny. She makes videos and vines of absolutely hilarious stuff, and posts them.
These things they got from somewhere. Some strange combination of myself and their mom, and a little magic dust from the universe. I am not nearly as compassionate as EmmaLeigh, or as fearless as Laura. Though I am more hard headed than EmmaLeigh and more intense than Laura.
And so, from time to time, I see in my kids people I’d like to be more like in some respects.
But more importantly, I see in my kids two young ladies that will be successful, contributing, happy members of society. Confident and at ease. Driven, focused, and aware. Comfortable in their own skins. Knowing who they are, and where they came from…and where they’re going.
So maybe, to the extent I was able and to the extent I was responsible, I did a decent job of parenting after all…