My daughter is 23 today. I know why they say time flies. I got pregnant with her when I was 16 and up until that point, I don’t think I had ever been scared of anything in my whole life. I was never really given “the talk” about sex or the dangers of it. I think the sex talk I got was one sentence long. “If you’re a virgin when you are 18, I’ll give you a thousand dollars.” So when I ended up pregnant, although I knew what caused it, I had no idea how to fix it. I was young and dumb and scared and looking for the options that should have been told to me before I found myself in that predicament. Once there, it seemed that the options narrowed. One of my mom’s friends said that she wanted to adopt the baby. My baby’s great aunt couldn’t have kids and said she wanted to adopt the baby. Of course, people from both sides of the family said abortion. Thinking back on it, the only option I wasn’t offered was to have a baby and become a mom. Well, maybe my own mom gave me that option. I don’t really remember. I think I was almost 5 months pregnant before I actually made that decision.
I had no idea what being a mom consisted of. I didn’t even have any idea what being a babysitter consisted of. I hated kids. My older sister used to babysit when I was in 8th or 9th grade and my mom would always try to volunteer my help and I was firmly stuck in my “forget that” ways. I didn’t want to babysit. I didn’t plan to have kids. My plan was to be a traveling gypsy. I was going to work my way through the united states as a waitress and when I finished here, I was going to leave the country. No ties. No permanent residence. No stability.
Unfortunately, after I had my daughter, I inflicted my unstable rootless ways on her little life by endlessly moving around, but even so, when she was born, she was the only thing that mattered. I spent the first six months of her life apologizing to her every chance I got for ever thinking about not keeping her. And then I spent the next six months of her life feeling guilty inside for almost letting other people make such a huge decision for me. I know I was not always a great mom. I’d venture to say that throughout her life I was less than great the majority of the time, but I tried. I wasn’t one of those PTO moms because when she started kindergarten, I was only 22 and I looked 17 still. I was so intimidated by all the older parents, the parents who had a plan and did things the television way. They went to college, fell in love, finished their degrees, got married, bought a house, planted a tree in the front yard, fenced in the back and got a golden retriever and then had kids. Some of the parents of her friends were old enough to be my parents. So I let that bother me to the point that I would just show up for the important stuff (if you are a young mom, don’t do that, just show up). It didn’t make matters any easier that I was attempting to go to college and work too, so time was always an issue.
I had a lot of help from her dad’s side of the family when she was younger. And by help, I mean, they took me to court and sued for visitation. More visitation than had probably ever been granted to any non-custodial “parent” ever, but I was backed into a corner and they did provide a lot of things that I could only dream of giving her. And she slowly grew up. She was wise beyond her years. At one, she was piecing together sentences. She had an internal pressure system that was at work in her throughout her school years. She always wanted to maintain an A average. She would get upset with herself if she didn’t. And I’ve always been the “as long as you try your hardest” kind of parent, but that wasn’t good enough for her. She always wanted to do better. In high school, she found herself and blossomed into her own little brand of human, unlike anyone else. She read all the books in the library she could get her hands on. Teachers befriended her. She was smart, witty, mature, easy to be around, passionate about what she believed in, focused on who she wanted to be, caring, giving, and beautiful inside and out. She is still every one of those things.
It’s not like I only think about these things on her birthday. I think about them all the time. I think about them when she calls me on her way home from work just to chat. I think about it when she calls to see if her brother needs anything. I think about it when I look at old pictures. I think of how much shit she had to deal with being the product of a teen mom. A single teen mom. We basically grew up together. Sometimes I was not even sure who was the parent and who was the child because 90% of the time, she has had her head on way more straight than I probably ever will. And I am so proud of her. From the moment she was placed in my arms, I never once wondered what my life would have been like if I had made a different choice. I never once questioned the choice I made even if I do question just about every choice I made from that point on from a parenting aspect, but she turned out just fine. Better than fine.
And as it turns out, the thing that I feared the most became one of my greatest accomplishments.
Happy Birthday, favorite daughter!