“No one travels without purpose. Those who are lost wish to be lost.”-Gabrielle Zevin, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
One of my daughters recently turned seventeen. I’m feeling the bitter-sweet ache in my chest as I watch my child grow into a beautiful, independent, creative, intelligent, stubborn, kind young woman. This is the blessing we undertake when we first become parents; to raise strong, kind, independent future adults who will one day become leaders, healers, artists, entertainers, writers, and extraordinarily better than ourselves. Both of my girls were twirling in princess dresses, singing Disney songs on warm summer days one moment, and in the next heartbeat, they are driving and working.
“Everywhere I’m looking at kids, adults mostly don’t seem to like them, not even the parents do. They call the kids gorgeous and so cute, they make the kids do the thing all over again so they can take a photo, but they don’t want to actually play with them, they’d rather drink coffee talking to other adults. Sometimes there’s a small kid crying and the Ma of it doesn’t even hear.” -Emma Donoghue, Room
When I read the above quote in a book I recently read, it sank like a stone to the bottom of my gut. I worry so often my kids won’t know how much they mean to me, and that I spend too much time writing, and editing photographs (because I have a day-job and I spend way too much time outside of my day-job working on this stuff).
Something I have discovered in parenting older children is you begin to question your past decisions, your parenting choices, and your personal choices. Was I a good enough example to my daughters? Do I show them what an independent, intelligent woman is supposed to look like? Do my actions mirror my heart? My earlier days were not my strongest or my best, and I made many poor choices, yet I regret none of them because they led me here. I believe we should be proud of every part of our journeys, even the dark shadowy hidden pieces. Sometimes those turn out to be little bits of wisdom that come in handy you never knew would be necessary.
Both of my parents throughout their lives at one point questioned some of their choices with parenting me, especially my mom. I think as women, we often internalize so much and blame ourselves for so much. My mom often wonders what might have happened if…which is always a dangerous game to play with yourself. The if game never leads to a good place. There are so many alternate outcomes to our paths, and we are given endless choices in our lives. I truly believe I had/have the best parents for this lifetime. No, they were not perfect, and all of their decisions were not always the right ones. However, I don’t regret, resent or have any sort of hard feelings toward either of them. Especially now as I watch my daughters get closer to adulthood, I have a better understanding of how difficult it was for my parents, and I love and admire them so much.
Some of the decisions my mom feels most held me back in life or impeded my growth were the same experiences that made me the creative, independent, tenacious person I became. My childhood had a few twists and turns, with dark moments, but those dark times taught me how to fight for myself. Time as an only child could be lonely, yet it taught me how to stand up and be independent. I can fit in and blend with almost anyone anywhere, when I need to.
My mom loved books. From my earliest memories, she devoured thick novels, and she loved reading to me. Her soothing voice came to life every night with each tale she read to me, and I begged, “just one more page.” A great love affair ignited between me and my imagination. Characters danced throughout my head as I daydreamed in math class, doodling what I thought they looked like. I took long adventures through brittle Texas pastures with our giant mangy dog and talked to horses and lizards. Always the outdoorsman, my dad would take me out on horseback, more like circle back and pick me up after I followed him. Instead of reading to me, he encouraged me to read to him, forcing me to improve my reading skills. Before I learned to read, my dad told me stories. He talked about his grandmother, his grandfather, his siblings, and other stories he knew. Each time he embellished a bit more. From both of my parents, I learned the magic of storytelling, adventure, and creativity. My mom was and is also an extremely talented artist. I watched her draw, paint, and sculpt.
Some of my most cherished books
Both of my parents taught me to believe in myself. When I told them I thought I wanted to start writing again, neither of them discouraged me. They have both always encouraged me to write, and to follow my own path; which is pretty amazing. Were there bad parts? Sure, but the good outweighed the bad. I choose to remember the enchanting characters on warm summer days who went on long adventures with my mom and I.
Parents, don’t question every little thing you are doing. I guarantee you are doing a few things right, and probably much more than you think.
Trish Eklund is raising her two daughters of thirteen and sixteen with her husband, ex-husband, and his wife. Trish is the owner and creator of Family Fusion Community. She is also the owner and founder of Abandoned, Forgotten, and Decayed, a photographic adventure in the abandoned and the forgotten. Trish’s photography has been featured on Only in Nebraska and Pocket Abandoned. Follow on Instagram, Facebook, Facebook-Family Fusion Community, and Pinterest. Trish is featured on The Mighty, Making Midlife Matter, and on The Five Moms. Trish is also regularly featured on Huffington Post Divorce, as well as Her View From Home. Trish also has an essay in the anthology, Hey, Who’s In My House? Stepkids Speak Out by Erin Mantz, which is currently available. The first book telling the story of blended family life from the perspective of the stepkids.