Me, as Mom, has been the steady, if not always most reasonable, presence. Stress can do that to a person, I suppose. Always supportive, often honest to the point of unintended hurt, but mostly trying to keep every ball in the air while holding the kids together through their own slogs through this strange concrete wilderness, trying to figure out where they want to go, and how, exactly, do they get there.
For my daughter, elementary school was academically easy, socially the second circle of hell. When she wasn't racing through her school work, she was trying to figure out the best way to navigate the tenuous social rules that would land her someone to play with at recess. How do you communicate to a child that even under the age of ten the kids around her are being taught condescension, racism, sexism, and casual cruelty to those showing any kind of fear or weakness by parents who were likely taught the same things so early on in life that they are now ingrained? I wanted, more than anything to help her develop a lifelong love of learning, because in life, you will do a lot of that, un-dulled by the typical urban school experience. I wish I could say I succeeded. I will say that she doesn't hate learning, so much as she has developed a distinct distaste for both the institution of school, and the people within it. What I hope for her, as she takes this next step towards her ultimate (for now) goal of becoming an Engineer, is that she will meet new people a little more into academics like herself, and more teachers that spark her interest in different subjects.
My son has had a much more difficult journey. Starting with the fact that learning difficulties, pride and anger don't exactly mix. Add crippling low self esteem, a dash of depression, and the societal pressure to hide it all behind a facade of "Everything is fine", and down the rabbit hole you go, wondering if there is in fact a bottom to this, or are you just being led along another endless trail. Around, and around, and around went my constant discussions with my son regarding what steps he was taking to get on his way to whatever was going to come next in his life, the un-discussed issue being his fear of failing at everything he had ever tried, and his ongoing fear of continuing to fail, no matter how hard he tried. Now that he has finally realized that not trying is failing by default, my hope for him is that he finds satisfaction in small victories, and finds some level of peace away from the voices that would belittle those small accomplishments.
Like most parents, I wanted to give my children things I thought were missing from my own childhood. Not material things; a sense of peace, comfort and confidence that I am always there for them, even if I do work full time. I wanted so much to spare them everything I had gone through in school: all the bullying and exclusion for being "different", the isolation associated with rarely being able to do anything or go anywhere with friends, standing out in all of the wrong ways for never being enough of anything (pretty, talented, intelligent, etc) to get away from the ridicule. What I have learned is that while I couldn't, and can't, protect them from the ugly, the petty, and the pointlessly mean in the world, and I can, and do, they to prepare them by teaching them to handle life with equal parts resilience (you will likely deal with assholes all your life, so start learning now), and boundaries (no one is obligated to deal with harassment, in any form). I can help them learn to be comfortable in their own skin, no matter how hard someone calling themselves your "friend" tries to fit you into their narrow mold. I can help them develop a spiritual foundation so that even in the midst of terrible circumstances, even if all of their best efforts have failed, even if they feel they have done all they could and the world has let them down, they have a space within themselves to find peace, and calm, and hopefully, understanding.
And I can pray that whatever mistakes I made, or will make in the future, they know that my intentions were pure, my heart was always in the right place, and that, eventually, they will find their path, and continue their journey. And they will always know that I am here for them: to hold their hands, kick their butts, or whatever needs to be done to help them get to their destination.
For both kids, one journey has ended, and another is about to begin. Here's to having a great trip.