Punkin’ Pie is 16. The other day, she and I were driving somewhere – the destination isn’t important to the story – and we were having a wonderful time together in the car. My older daughter is smart and riotously funny, and she was in rare form that afternoon. At one point, I feared I’d have to pull over because I was laughing so much I questioned my fitness behind the wheel.
It was one of many moments of amiable companionship and loving ease that I share with my daughters, and it was glorious.
It occurred to me then, and solidified into a much more substantial realization not too long after, that I’ve won. I did it. I’ve succeeded in the one thing that I swore to the Universe that I would do.
I’ve been a good mother.
When I was Punk’s age, I had just about reached the edge of the cliff that my parents had been driving me toward my whole life. When I was just a few months older than Punk is now, I found myself standing in front of the bathroom mirror with a full bottle of my father’s Valium, doing the calculations for how to stagger the ingestion of the pills for maximum effect and minimum discomfort.
I didn’t choose that path for a couple of reasons; chief among them were that a.) I didn’t want the bastards to win and b.) I would disappoint the people in my life – namely my adopted mother and grandmother – who genuinely loved me. That kind of love was entirely absent from my household, though, and I understood that evening that it was either them or me, and it wasn’t going to be them. The next morning, I began a hunt for an attorney who could execute an emancipation order to get me out of that house. It was the best thing I had ever done in my life to that point, and I regret nothing.
Despite the fact that I had terrible models for parenting, I think the experience of growing up in the environment I did helped to make me the kind of mother I’ve become. I knew exactly what I DIDN’T want to be, how I WOULDN’T speak to or treat my children, and what I REFUSED to allow in my relationships with my kids.
The end result? I’ve got two healthy, beautiful, self-confident, funny, brilliant daughters. I enjoy spending time with them, and they with me (most of the time; they are teenagers, after all). We talk openly and honestly – and often. They know they can confide anything in me and that I will help them in whatever way I can. I am warm and affectionate to them, I praise them every chance I get, I ask their opinions, and I respect them for the people they are. I’m doing everything my own parents didn’t, and I’m happier at home than they ever were. What’s more, I’m going to enjoy a long and healthy relationship with my kids for the rest of our lives.
Parenting. I’m doing it right.