Growing up I never imagined myself with children. I saw myself living in a high rise penthouse apartment in New York City using my expert arguing skills working as a lawyer and making tons of money while I waltzed through life with no responsibilities other than myself and whatever whim I had at the moment. That dream changed when I fell in love for the first time. I no longer saw my future as alone and independent, but with a companion to keep me company on my journey towards whatever dreams I’d conjure up next. But still, no children in my future. I didn’t think I had it in me. No mothering instincts to speak of, no draw towards children, no inkling to take on any additional responsibility I didn’t know how to manage.
I remember the ride home from my mother in law’s house the day I invited in the idea of having a baby. I had just met a beautiful premie and held her in my arms gently and wondered what it would be like to hold my own. But I was terrified. I was clueless. I had no idea how to be a mother. I didn’t even feel comfortable around babies. But being who I am, I made up my mind and was pregnant with my baby girl very shortly after that day. I spent my pregnancy listening to advice, reading books and then putting them down when it became overwhelming. I studied the mothers around me and watched what they did as though they carried the secrets of the universe in their interaction with their children. I prayed I’d figure it out. I did not want to screw it up.
I looked for models of what I wanted to be everywhere I went. I took memory shots of experiences I wanted to have and listened for words I wanted to use with my own child. I studied the behaviors of children I worked with and kept a mental journal of characteristics I hoped for in my own child and what I hoped I could steer them from. I grieved the absence of my own mother and felt the void of experience I’d never learned from her. But I knew, somewhere, I’d find a match for me of who I wanted to learn from.
In retrospect, I couldn’t have been any luckier to have met my teacher. Not only did she parent exactly the way I thought I’d want to, but she was beautiful, incredibly smart, insanely funny and had a heart like I had never seen. In so many ways, I wanted to be her. I loved the way she talked about her kids, the way she challenged herself regularly and her views on life nearly matched mine perfectly. Being in her presence was calming, rejuvenating and inspiring. There was never a doubt that she was The One.
I feel so fortunate that her kids are a few years older and I have been able to watch her navigate through the trials of parenting at every stage up through high school graduation so far. I have seen her dip into doubt and frustration and bounce back with an understanding that she is doing the best she can at every stage and that no “mistake” can ever overshadow the good that is consistent and true for their family. I have seen her humanness and struggle in deciding what’s “right” and then make decisions she never thought she would. I have seen her build a suit of armor to protect her children and then take away the shield when she thought they could use the reality check of a quick jab, just enough to hurt, but not enough to harm. And in case I ever needed proof to see if her “tactics” were effective, I have had the luxury of watching her children grow into amazing human beings I feel proud to know and simply like to be around.
I can not count how many times in the past 10 years of my parenting life that I have asked myself “What would Jeannie do?” And each time, my inner Jeannie gives brilliant advice whether she knows it or not.
It will never stop amazing me how many incredible teachers we have in our lives when we ask for them. When we step back and look at who influences us, who inspires and helps us develop into who we’ve always wanted to be, there is such a sense of gratitude and awe that accompanies that knowledge. I can think of nothing better.
I hope to be half the teacher for others that Jeannie has been for me. In this month of thankfulness and gratitude, I give thanks to all my teachers that have helped guide me along the way, with special appreciation for my parenting guru and her parents who influenced her the way she influenced me.
Who is your parenting model who influences you the most…and when is the last time you thanked them?