Sunday, January 24, 2010

I have failed as mother

We always tell Kate that she can be anything she wants but until today, we have stupidly forgotten the "as long as you out your mind to it" - part.

Before the Holidays, she asked me what I had wanted to become when I was little.
- I always wanted to become a writer, I said.
- Oh, she said, with genuine upset in her voice. And that didn't happen.
- Well, it hasn't happened yet, I said, trying to sound cheerful.

Granted, to be a "writer" is a matter of definition. If being a "writer" means you sit at home with your note-pad and lap top and churn out short stories, diary-entries and blog posts that no one reads, than yes, by all means, I am a bona fide writer. But if it means getting your texts published, seeing your name in publications or on the book shelf of your local book store, then no, I am very darn far from being a writer. (And since Kate's definition of work is "when you leave the house in the morning to do very boring stuff at a desk and come home late at night just like daddy", I doubt she would choose to let me get away with calling me anything else but plain "mommy".)

Kate's ambitions ranges from becoming a prima ballerina or artist to a paleontologist and, as we've already seen, married with kids on Hawaii. She can get in to a dreamlike state of wishful thinking at the most random of places like Safeway or in line to the bathroom at swimming, and suddenly say: "I wish I could be a paleontologist."
- Of course, you can sweetie, we tell her. You can be anything you want.
We want to give her the security and confidence to believe that anything is possible, and also let her know that we will support her regardless of her choices. We are not pushy parents. We do not pre-determ our children's future. Instead we think that they are responsible for their own lives, but we will be there, all the way, cheering them on and making sure they don't miss a single opportunity if it will help them go further. So maybe we are pushy? I call it 'forceful support', or 'optimistic encouragement without limits'.

So, this morning in the car on our way out, Kate falls in to one of her thinking modes again until I suddenly hear from the back:
- Mommy. Can anyone become what they want, or is it just some people?
- Everyone can be what they want. Why do you ask?
- Because, like, you wanted to be a writer, and you're not a writer.
I realize it is time to get down to serious business, and suddenly I feel like one of the teachers in Fame:
- Honey. We can all be what we want, but it doesn't just happen to us, we have to work really hard to get there, too. Mommy just haven't worked so hard on becoming a writer, but that's not to say that it won't happen one day.
I quickly move the subject away from myself and on to her by explaining that if she works hard in school and really sets her mind on something it will happen, but it is also important that she enjoys what she's doing, and that it makes her happy.

The rest of the journey we're both quiet. I'm not sure if I have convinced her, but I did my best.
I can't help but feeling that I have failed her. And myself. It was never my one and only ambition to be mother. I was going to be some many things, whilst having children at the same time.
I always knew that for as long as I am "just" a mother, the feeling of falling short will never leave me, but I made that choice, and only I can do something about it.
And staying at home was never going to be forever. Instead of letting the conversation bring me down, I make a promise to myself, and to Kate, right there in the car, to keep working harder at what I am doing, and to let this conversation be the start of something positive.
I owe this to both of us.

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