Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Under the Influence

365 days have passed me by and the passage of time fails to have much effect on me. I’ll bet I’ve got a few more wrinkles and my weight has probably gone up and/or down. My hangovers last longer but I don’t get as drunk as often. My 40s are passing me by and I’m relatively ok with that. I don’t think I could survive the agony of examining every inch of my face or body for endless hours as is the habit of teenage girls and was most certainly my habit in my 20s. There’s just way too much wrong with it all now.

My children seem to grow up every time they walk back into a room. They don’t need my presence or even my permission. They even mature over night as they sleep and dream of gigantic sweet shops. They lose teeth. They grow new ones. They learn new words. Their hair grows. Their feet grow. I sometimes don’t recognize my babies in the bodies of this 9 and nearly 7 year old.

I’m excited and frightened of the people they will one day become. I watch my son’s fragile ego take a beating due to his small stature. No matter how many times I assure him that dynamite comes in small packages, his classmates don’t exactly agree and his performance on the rugby pitch is not exactly winning him a place on the A team. Then I watch him sing. And I see his ego soar up with the eagles. He is in his element. I have seen the singing of his choir move people to tears.

My daughter fears and withdraws from conflict or confrontation of any kind, which will most certainly keep her out of a street fight for which I am most grateful. Bu when classmates are not treating her with respect she loses her confidence and doesn’t stand up for herself. She would rather not answer a question than risk getting it wrong in front of everyone. She has a wicked sense of humour and can make me laugh my fool head off with her wry commentary on life but her tears when she can’t read a book break my heart.

With every passing year the influence a mother has on a child’s life diminishes with every passing day. Indeed this is the very job of a parent: to teach your child to be an independent and contributing member of society. They are part of your body and then they are born, the umbilical cord is cut and suddenly they are separate. We teach them to feed themselves. Then we teach them to walk. My heart leaped and then fell to the ground as I watched them take their first tentative steps away from me because I knew eventually they would walk out the door of our home and not come back for days, weeks, years. Finally, we hope they learn to have the confidence to go out into the big wide world and make their own way: find happiness in a career, find love, find joy in their own children, find contentment in their own wisdom and judgement. Everything you do leads them down the path you wish for them. But ultimately they pick their own road, their own journey through life.

As a parent your influence begins to diminish within the first year of their life. First I went back to work and the child minder had a part to play. Then they started school and the teachers had a large part to play. And now I find their peer group is starting influence their decisions and I’m caught in a crisis of confidence. Not long from now their peer group will be the primary influence on their lives. Did I tech them to pick the right friends? Did I teach them well enough about everything else, quickly enough? Did I simply teach them enough? Is what I’ve given them a sound foundation for the future? How much longer will they be influenced by me and does that have to come to an end?

Maybe it doesn’t ever end. My mother and father still have a profound influence on my life’s decisions, both good and bad. My grandmother, even though she is no longer living, is constant source of answers when I ask the question “What would nanny say?” For now, I will continue to hope that my voice can be heard over that of others even when I’m not there.

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