When I was pregnant and first learned I would have a daughter, I took to imagining how she’d look and what she’d be like. With me having brown eyes and brown hair, I envisioned a baby with the same big brown eyes as me and inheriting many of my features. I couldn’t have been more surprised to have a blond and blue eyed (later to be green) baby. She looked nothing like me. So much so, people would actually ask if she was adopted.
I also envisioned a daughter that would share some of my own passion and interests. I couldn’t wait to introduce her to my favorite books and sports (basketball and running). Having a girl, I looked forward to our future shopping trips and her asking to borrow my clothes and shoes. There seemed to be an endless list of things to potentially bond over.
Gabby is now 18-years old and will be graduating high school in May. She is passionate about music and theater. Going shopping for clothes is a chore for her. She is completely happy wearing the same pair of shoes everyday until I force her to accept a new pair without holes. She has never once asked to borrow anything from my bursting closet. From the earliest trips to the library, she refused any books I suggested.
Gabby has always known her own mind and what she likes and doesn’t like. When she first showed musical inclinations and a natural talent for singing, I luckily had a neighbor who taught voice lessons. I signed Gabby up when she was about 8-years old. I was clueless about what voice lessons even entailed. While I enjoy music, I have no talent for it. I joke with Gabby that my greatest musical talent is paying for her lessons. I’ve still floundered buying her music and instruments on my own.
Through my musical daughter, I discovered more appreciation for my parents who were not sporty or athletic at all, but were completely supportive of my passion for basketball that began when I was twelve. While there were many struggles financially when I was growing up, they always found a way to get me to camps, get the shoes, gear, whatever I needed. In tenth grade, I asked for a weight set so I could get stronger, since I wasn’t getting taller. I’m sure they felt as lost shopping for that as I did shopping for a flute. Other parents would ask my parents what they did to keep me so focused and hard working as a basketball player. The answer: they let me choose. Some of my teammates were pushed into playing and being on the team by their parents. It showed in every practice and game. I loved it so much, no one had to nag or remind me about practicing. I never have to remind Gabby to practice her music. I love hearing her powerful belt reverberate through our house.
I’m so grateful that my mom and dad showed me that as a parent, you don’t have to be passionate about whatever your kid loves. You just need to show up for them. You just support them. You cheer them on even if you don’t understand all the intricacies of what your kid is doing. You figure out how to get what they need for their passion and who can teach them if you can’t.
As my daughter has grown and engaged in singing, piano, band, and theater, I’m actually glad her interests are so different than mine. If she were into basketball or running, I don’t think our relationship would be as strong as it is. I’d offer too much advice and coaching. I’d probably be more critical than I’d want or she’d like. My ignorance and inexperience about her passions just lets me just enjoy what she does. I feel more awe of her talent. Gabby is very critical of herself. After a performance, she is aware of each misstep or imperceptible voice crack. But she gets a mom that is absolutely amazed that she can stand on a stage and sing with power, feeling, and confidence. One of my recurring nightmares is singing solo in front of people.
Her first role in a play was during Covid, so each performer was limited to the number of tickets for the shows. When I arrived and was asked whose parent I was by the director, I was not prepared for the accolades I’d receive just for being Gabby’s mom. My worries of being too biased and impressed by her vanished. At another of her shows, I overheard the people behind me talking about what an amazing voice she has. I didn’t hesitate for a second to turn around and say, “I’m Gabby’s mom!” As it turns out, being Gabby’s mom is my favorite characteristic that I inherited from her.
As a new mother, I was so limited in what I envisioned for my daughter. As she’s grown, we now look more alike. Yet I have found so much more fulfillment seeing her forge her own unique path developing her talents. I’m fortunate enough to have new experiences and interests just by letting her choose as my parents did for me. My favorite mother-daughter dates are going to dinner and then a musical. One of the great surprises of motherhood is how much joy I feel to see my kid finding joy in her talents.
How have the differences between you and your children enriched and brought joy to you? Please share in the comments!