My amazing, incredible and world traveling daughter finally came home last week after a month in Amsterdam. She called her time in the CISV village "the most amazing experience of my life." She arrived exhausted, animated and changed. She talked non-stop, except to sleep, about the amazing friends, adventures and life lessons she'd had. Despite my being the adult, she is my hero. Her thirst for learning, her openness, her kind and gentle nature, her willingness to be vulnerable -- all a gift. Her response to the opportunity to meet kids from all over the world and live together in a community of their own for a month was so enthusiastic, it was contagious. I was envious of her journey.
In the yearbook she returned with, so many of her friends, leaders and staff commented about her comfort in her own skin, her big ideas, her open mind and giant heart. Reading those notes was so emotional for me. I was so proud and also in such awe. I take very little credit for the person she is, which is very much her own doing. I know we are pretty good parents and get close to 50 percent of it right, close to 50 percent of the time. But she, she is all her own.
I was reminded however, that it was the same spirit in me that forced me to see how much of myself I had lost in my marriage. How squelched we can become when trying to please someone else's ideal of how we "should be." I was reminded that I had no one to blame for that but me. In any relationship there is give and take. There is compromise. All of that is necessary and good, but when we compromise ourselves, our very core and our very being, that is when it is no longer healthy. THAT is when we have to pay attention to the inner voice that looks in the mirror and barely recognizes our reflection.
Marriage, like any relationship, is hard. Being true to ourselves is even harder. My daughter is my hero because even as she enters the cruel world of tweendom, she stays the course. I'm smart enough to know this might not always be the case. Middle School and High School are other-worldly planets where the rules seem to change daily. Puberty and hormones often take over and cut down self-confidence and ability to be ones true self. Acceptance often rules over self-worth. I remember. I recall exactly when I went from believing (at 10) I owned the world to realizing (at 13) it owned me. I also know that I will fight damn hard to help her stay true to her amazing spirit. I know that I will prioritize that over grades, clothes, looks and even friends. All the while, thanking her for motivating me and inspiring me to remember my own.