Today my youngest daughter celebrates her eleventh birthday. I would love to spend this post telling you all of the things about her that confound and amaze me about this precious child, but with each passing year, her story becomes less mine to tell. I might share anecdotes here and there, and she is still the child with the most tweetable comments, but she deserves to live her life out on her own terms, not simply as fodder for my blog. She needs to be allowed to make choices that won’t be scrutinized by readers who can only see pieces of who she is. She needs the space to make mistakes and know that they are not part of public record.
I remember when our lives were so intertwined that there was no aspect of her story that wasn’t my own. I could wrap her up in the sling and take her with me wherever I went. The way that her curls would tangle around my fingers, so our stories tangled together.
But as she and her siblings age, the way that our stories interlace will be expressed differently. We can never be fully separated, as they are a part of me, but the way that connection is shared must continue to evolve.
As a writer, it can be difficult to give up the rights to those tales. But as a parent, it can be even more difficult.
I want to be able to direct the way that my children’s stories unfold. I want to have the ability to craft their lives in such a way that keeps them safe and tidy. And dare I suggest it, I want to manipulate things so that they are free from pain and sadness.
I don’t get to do that.
My children are individuals. They have their own feelings and thoughts and opinions. Part of respecting them is respecting those differences. Even when they make choices that I don’t understand or don’t agree with. Even when they make decisions that cause them pain. Or that cause me pain.
Oh yes, especially that last one.
Because no matter how much I want to say that my desire to control of my kids is about protecting them, a large part of it is about protecting myself. If I share about my kids, I don’t have to share about the ways that I might have failed them. If I write their stories, I don’t have to dig into the things that might be hurtful for me to share about myself. If I make all of the decisions for them, then perhaps I can redeem the poor choices that I’ve made for myself.
But instead, I will allow my children to tell their own stories in their own words and in their own time. I will give them guidance and encouragement and support, but I will also give them space and distance and separation.
And I revel in the ways that our separate stories weave back together into something more beautiful.