I barely know my kid, but I really like her.

by Alicia on May 29, 2017

She’s got a whole life, my girl.

A whole life outside of being my daughter.

Isabella still suffers from anxiety. She always will. It is not a sentence, it’s just a fact. Similar to how her hair is blonde and that she’s almost as tall as me already.

She adjusts with the pressure, and we adjust with her.

 

Isabella, March 2017In truth, I really thought our lives would drastically change. I thought raising this girl with anxiety would mean unpredictable stress and sadness and questions and so. much. time. spent on keeping Bella confident and on track and heard.

The actual truth is that in all that planning for the hard parts, I didn’t take into account that my kid was a whole person who would take on the planning of her own life with anxiety. I did not foresee that she would only need gentle nudges from us. I was still hard into blaming her anxiety on something I did and then having to fix it by being a better parent. Some kind of More Parent than I already am. Surely I had not given enough of something, surely I had to be more involved, surely I had to pick up some pieces I had dropped.

Nope. She needs none of that.

We have this team of people that assembled around us- I can’t even tell you that I did the hard work of sifting through options and that I was smart enough to pick the very best. Because our Very Best Team was already around us and they came out willing to help. (Sidebar: a major part of our team was support just for me. People that I could turn to and cry and say unthinkable things and admit failures and ask hard questions. Words fail to encompass the enormity of the way those people held me in my life.) The VIP on our Very Best Team? Is Isabella.

She never once backed out. When there was a setback that crushed us all, she went back to school the very next day. When there are hard and scary things facing her at school, she’ll ask us what kind of options she has, she’ll ask us if we think she can do it. Then she just…does it. It’s wild, you guys.

I’ve never actually been able to watch a person actually grow into themselves until these moments with Bella. It’s been quite a lesson for me to watch my daughter turn a thing that at one point shut her inside herself completely, now use that same thing as fuel to turn herself into the actual human being she wants to be. A person who changes frequently. And it’s inspiring as hell.

 

So what was the thing that worked?

Figuring out alongside Bella all the things she actually wanted in her life. And then working her way around having those things plus anxiety. Bella has to remind herself of the choices she has in each circumstance that causes her anxiety. Bella has to breathe deeply and sometimes go be alone and sometimes talk to a friend or a parent and sometimes opt out. We remind her of the steps when she forgets. We talk, a lot. We talk so much.

 

I give her almost no advice, actually. I ask her a lot of questions when we talk. Because she is a person I’m just meeting. I have all of her backstory in my rear view, but she now makes a lot of choices about herself, for herself. I can’t tell her how to do life. I can prompt her to consider a few important things, but I can’t tell her they’re worthy of her attention. She makes those choices. She decides how to get through hard things, she learns her own lessons from those experiences, she is collecting her own building blocks of Isabella.

 

She’s earned some babysitting money while watching her sisters for us. She’s joined and dropped out of school things. She’s stood up to some bullies. She’s made some bad choices. Some days she wears makeup and some days she wears sweatpants. I like this girl. It’s been fun and very challenging to relearn how to parent her. From the outside. Learning where to step in and when to step out. When we disagree, it’s intense because we’re both building trust. Redefining a mother-daughter relationship is hard work, and I’m truly loving it.

Motherhood may not always be my jam, but the kids I’ve managed to get out of this deal are turning into people I want to hang out with. I ask their opinions, and they ask mine. Mothering older kids is a mess of ugly and beautiful things. These girls teach me more about being a woman than I taught myself in the 24 years before I had them. I like discovering who they are, and I like watching them discover it too.

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