We took my daughter swimming for the first time in a long time and she was so excited! She is so independent and strong-willed and so very almost two. She took off in her little floral suit with the bright orange tu-tu ready to go out and swim all on her own. Even as the water reached her chin and she bobbed along on her tippy toes, she was not about to let me carry her.
So I walked closely along beside.
Every so often she’d lose her footing and go under, unable to get back on her feet. Then I’d quickly pull her upright again and as she spluttered and cried I’d tell her again and again, “It’s OK. You’re OK. I am with you.” I must’ve told her at least 20 times.
It won’t be long before she is learning to swim independently. Jumping off the side or showing me her flips. Trying out the slides or the diving board. And I’ll be right there watching and saying, “It’s OK. Give it a try! I am with you.” And then eventually, she’ll go off swimming with her friends.
A great metaphor for life, right?
And that statement is just so powerful.
I am with you.
To me it says, “You are smart. And beautiful. And strong. And capable. I believe in you. I am always on your side.”
Moms, we have these babies, and in an instant it seems we are holding our hearts right there in our hands. We didn’t know this kind of love even existed. We spend all our days feeding and diapering and bathing and dressing and rocking and burping and reading and teaching and watching. And before we know it, these little babies become our whole lives.
It is natural then to see their lives as an extension of our own. And we subconsciously build these dreams of who they’ll become one day. We imagine happiness and health. Success. A family. Perhaps some wealth. A fulfilling career. We see ourselves in it all too.
We hope somehow our babies will take on all our best qualities and maybe if we push and prod they’ll be able to navigate all our shortcomings, too.
Perhaps if she’s in the advanced reading group or top of the class. Maybe if she makes the elite soccer team. If we can only give her all the right opportunities . . . she’ll be perfect.
And what we really mean is perhaps she’ll avoid failure. And pain. And sadness or loss or loneliness. Maybe she won’t ever struggle.
It will be so hard to watch my baby girl struggle.
But the truth is, this little girl of mine may be my whole life . . . but her life is HERS. She has her own talents and preferences. She’ll have her own struggles and shortcomings. And all those dreams I can’t help but have for her are not mine to imagine. Those choices are hers . . . she gets to decide. She gets to choose her friends and her college major. She gets to decide on a career and the right time to start a family, if she wants one. She gets to create her own little life exactly the way she chooses.
And it will be so hard to watch, but I’m sure she’ll struggle, too.
There’ll be SO MANY who tell her what she should do. The right way to happiness and health and success. The path to perfection. So many voices. So many toxic messages. From family and friends, teachers and classmates, coaches and teammates, bosses and co-workers, TV and social media. So many voices that constantly tell her to do more, be more, achieve more, and attain more. So many toxic messages that so easily translate into, “You are not enough.”
I know because I am fighting the voices in my own head that whisper the very same thing.
You’re not a good enough mom or a good enough wife. You don’t spend enough time with family. You’re not working enough. You’re not running enough. You’re not thin enough or pretty enough. You don’t have a big enough house or nice enough clothes.
You’re just not enough.
Not enough. Not enough. Not enough.
Do you know my one and only parenting goal for my children?
That mine will not be one of those voices.
My voice will never tell her she is not enough.
Mine will be the strong clear voice shouting above all the noise . . .
I AM WITH YOU.
You are smart. And beautiful. And strong. And capable. I believe in you. I am always on your side!
Even when her choices are different from my own. Even when she chooses her own way. Even when I don’t agree. Even if she loses her footing for a little while and comes up spluttering and crying. Even if she fails.
Mine will never be one of the voices whispering, “You are not enough . . . ”
My dear sweet darling girl. My heart. My whole life.
I am with you.
And you are so much more than enough.