That I have a child, a daughter born in 2014, is not something of which I’ve made a secret–although I do not discuss her much online, to be sure. (When I do, I usually refer to her as “Ms. 8” for reasons those who know her and her parents will understand–and which were her mother’s idea, although I approve of it entirely.) And, as I am a parent and I try, with less success than I might like, to be engaged in my daughter’s deeds and doings, there are no few things that give me pause, that concern me greatly. One such is that she will end up having some of the same regrets that I do–not of things left undone, but of things done.
To explain, ungrateful as I know it will make me sound: I regret doing many of the things I have done, things that other people look back on as having been fun and worthwhile experiences. High school prom (on my mind because of the season as I write this and the things that come across my news feeds as a result of that season) is one example; I went to several, spent hundreds of dollars on each, and regret most every moment and every penny put to those ends, since they’ve done me not a bit of good, and I’d’ve been better off putting the time and effort represented to work or reading. Many of the parties I’ve attended–and, believe it or not, there’ve been more than a few–have been similar; while I did have some few that were good experiences, more of them resulted in nothing more than me waking up too late the next morning, head pounding from a hangover and withdrawal from my drug of choice (caffeine, of course). One, a New Year’s party, sticks out in my mind as being a particularly bad experience. Hell, even some of the book-buying I’ve done pains me to think back upon–and I read.
However it might be that I feel as I do–and I’ve heard quite a bit about it from many people across many years, thank you, so I need no more of it–I am worried that I will pass it on to my daughter despite any efforts I make against doing so. Young as Ms. 8 is as I write this, she is already able to see through at least some of the acting I do to be her father. (I tend to subscribe to the idea that we perform roles for one another, roles based on our understanding and experience and belief about who and what we ought to be to do the things that we are or should be doing.) She knows, for example, that I take delight in some of her “bad” behavior, even as I am obliged to rebuke her for it. (Wrong for all the right reasons Ms. 8 may be at times, but I still have to caution her against the wrong.) And so I find myself caught in the cleft fork of wanting to caution her away from doing things that I see are like to do her little good if any while at the same time knowing that she may well enjoy and remember fondly what I may not have and do not. Too, there is the fact that, owing to my overall orientation, I have little idea how to have the kind of fun many of the other people I know prize–but she seems poised to be the kind of person who delights in such things.
I know, of course, that my task is to support Ms. 8 in exploring who she is and to do what can be done to keep her safe while allowing her to take the risks and experience the consequences she needs to take and feel to grow into a person who will not need me to be with her. (I hope she will want me around, of course, but I also know the day will come when I cannot be with her as she might want, far off though I hope it is, and she needs to be ready for it.) I remain unsure how to do it, though, and I worry that I will fail.