As a child, I always insisted that the one and only job I wanted in the world was to be a mother. Seriously, I had no other aspirations until I turned 17 and went off to bootcamp. I attended a babysitting course as soon as I was old enough (right after my 11th birthday), and within that first year I had already built up a sizeable list of families I sat for. I loved it. I would take the kids on hikes through the woods, play soccer out in the yard, make laser guns out of legos and forts out of couches and have a 3-hour long war, build doll house furniture out of old pieces of cardboard and scotch tape, or make board games with posterboard and construction paper. (All right, I was pretty cool.)
I have always had a soft spot for kids and teenagers. It's the fact that they haven't figured out who they want to be yet. They haven't yet endured the halls of middle school where the mean kids might chase you around with bags of dog cookies and bark at you when you walk by. (7th grade...Longest.Year.Ever.) They hadn't been sucked into the different cliques that are formed in high school. They were so pure. And new. And shiny. My main goal was to get as much of that good stuff in them as possible before they endured the unpredictable and often soul-crushing teenage years. I don't know if I made an impact that they remember, but at least I know that I did the best I could in the time I spent with all of them.
It has been an amazing experience to watch all of them grow up into wonderful, kind, polite, and completely awesome young adults. My kids. That's how I refer to them. We have Christmas cards from a bunch of those used-to-be-tiny-but-now-are-6'5" children hanging on our fridge every year. I am beyond proud of them. Every single one.
Now is my chance to impact another kiddo's life - my own daughter's. For the first few years, I had absolutely no idea what the hell I was supposed to do with her. It is the very definition of starting from scratch. I knew all about how to take care of a baby...I just didn't realize how different it was going to be to raise one. Holy crap. I spent the first 3 years like a chicken with my head cut off, certain that I was going to screw up and my poor child was never going to talk, or walk, or read, or write, or be able to function properly in society. I envisioned her running around the neighborhood with a wild dog pack, eating out of trashcans and biting people's ankles as they walked by. It didn't help that the first big thing she was supposed to learn how to do (crawl) took forever to teach her. And by that, I mean that every time I tried to show her how to do it, she'd end up doing a faceplant on the rug and glaring at me like, "Lady, do you have ANY idea what you're doing??" Nope, and I still don't!
It's become much easier over the past year or two, though. She now asks me direct questions about things, and I'm able to give her honest answers that she understands. My husband and I are now able to explain in detail why she needs to be kind to others, and why she shouldn't judge people by their outsides, and why making someone smile is a great thing, and making them cry is not. She's beginning to understand the effect her actions have on others. She's a moody little thing, but I attribute the reason I am able to empathize more with others to my moodiness...so I really don't consider that a downfall at all!
Honestly, I think we're doing a damn fine job with her. With the guidance and love from myself and my husband (and her many, many other loving relatives who have impacted her life in a positive way), this kid is going to be something pretty special. Hopefully, she'll want to make the world a little better, too. (She is half me, after all!)