When my 12-year-old daughter informed me of her life plan, all the ugly parts of my parenting came to the surface. Her (current) ideal includes buying a farm, rescuing donkeys, baking scones every day and bearing a whole tribe of babies whom she plans to homeschool.
Here's how my inner ugly inner parent sounded:
"Shouldn't she want a career?
What are we paying private school fees for?
Rescuing donkeys won't pay the bills.
She's going to homeschool the intended FIVE children?
All that talent wasted -- the development netball, her ability with words, her love of history, her keen mind and capacity to understand the depths of a concept beyond her years.
How's she going to buy that farm?"
My Mama Muzzle had to get whipped out pretty darn quick, because, well, this is all my fault.
Haven't I created a family philosophy and environment in my home to support her choices?
Hasn't she been fortunate enough to have been born into a country that allows her the privilege to sculpt her life?
And then, in addition, haven't I done everything I can to empower her to trust herself and completely reinvent her world if she changes her mind?
This is what I've taught her.
I owe so much of my resilience, compassion and understanding about life to the lessons my own mother taught. She was my only parent, so there was a good while where her opinion was my only opinion, which suited her fine.
In the ever-evolving path we follow, there comes a junction where we step beyond the knowledge and successes of our mother into a new trail, blazed by our own curiosity. This is how we grow a humanity.
It's life's lust for expansion, even though it sometimes upsets our own mothers. If you're lucky, like I am lucky, your mum will pack her growth suitcase and come along with you.
So, what am I now showing my daughter, besides what she's already gleaned this far from watching me as a young'un?
She already knows that she can be financially resourceful and reliant on herself in a crisis; because I've shown her that.
She knows that divorce and heartbreak aren't the end of the story. She knows that being unceremoniously dumped on your bum doesn't mean the end of your joy. I've proven that.
She also understands that staying married to someone who adores you is often seriously hard work, even if your values are aligned. She sees that marriage is tough, frustrating, joyful and messy and terribly, fantastically worth it. She knows because I've shown her that.
She knows that sometimes you just have to say "yes" to terrifyingly out-of-your-comfort-zone opportunities, then scurry around like a rabid fruit bat to get the job done. I've taught her that.
She knows that illness, inability and despair cannot rule. She comprehends that we all have coping mechanisms that can spring like weeds from barren ground and create a foundation for success. I've shown her that.
She knows that in order to be of assistance in a community and help those around you, you've got to save yourself first. I've taught her that.
She knows that children change everything. That they are both a responsibility and a freedom and that the love of a new baby after a decade, only increases the love in the home, not divides it. I've shown her that too.
The birth of our new family business has shown her fresh lessons.
While we are growing something sustainable and clever at our kitchen table, there are seeds of confidence being watered in her soul. Because, if at any time she feels as if the life she's structured isn't as blazing and brilliant as she wants, she'll have seen her Mum completely morph a situation with sheer determination. She will have watched me emancipate myself from an unbalanced career to unfolding into a creative businesswoman.
She will watch me take something I love, invest in my own talent and turn it into an award-winning, sustainable business within a year.
She will have witnessed me second guess myself, then strike a power pose and fire on. She was there the moment I realised my own value, charged accordingly and changed our lives.
Which might just be what she needs when running the donkey sanctuary.