Each month, my oldest daughter, “Pocketbuddha” sends me (and the rest of the family) an update on Oliver’s progress, which is titled “Oliver is [x] months old.”
Well, today I get to update you all about Pocketbuddha, because it’s her birthday, and because I’m her mother, and because - damn I am proud of her.
She was born 24 years ago in Kindersley, Saskatchewan. There was still a Soviet Union then, and a divided Germany. Jello Biafra was in his last months as a member of the Dead Kennedys. A two-headed baby was flown somewhere for surgery - luckily not my baby. I didn’t want to think about such things back then. No. Wait. I still don’t.
It was hotter than hell the week she was born. The little maternity ward was full and the water pressure in that small prairie town failed from overuse - there was no running water in the hospital for a day or so. You can imagine how much I wanted to take my little girl home to Kerrobert, an even smaller town where we lived. After three days, we did just that.
Me: barely 21 years old, not much prior experience with babies or toddlers of any kind (not much babysitting experience, no small cousins, etc.). We come into our home (a two-bedroom apartment), I took my baby out of her car seat and laid her on the bed.
Baby Pocketbuddha: tiny. Black hair. Sleeping peacefully.
Me: Ye gods. This is an entirely new human being depending on me 24/7 from now until - well like 18-20 years.
What. Do. I. Do. Now???????
Like any new mother - no worse, because I was so inexperienced - I had hopes, dreams, expectations. But Pocketbuddha was from the start her very own person who didn’t feel the need to follow any path but her own.
I’ve always admired that about her, even while I was admonishing her to “Question authority, NOT your mother!”
This is what she taught me: children are their own people, they’re not little “minime” copies of their parents. Not necessarily.
So you can be horrified all you want when you carefully raise them vegetarian until age 4 when suddenly at day care they grab a sausage and wolf it down.
Yes, she did this.
Yes, I was horrified.
But look at her now: she’s the vegetarian, I’m the carnivore. Closing the circle. Nyah.
Over the years our relationship hasn’t always been close. At one point when she was a teenager I actually had serious doubts as to whether she could actually take care of herself on her own given the horrific state of her room and her generally slovenly attitude toward household chores.
I didn’t realize at the time, but it’s just a developmental phase teenagers go through. Pocketbuddha is the eldest of three; she had to train us to be good parents. She did her job well, because I felt more prepared for it with her younger siblings, much to her chagrin.
But one thing I never had any doubt about: that she would be a wonderful mother. When her best friend had a baby at 17, she pitched right in and had that little girl in her arms as much as she could. Same with another friend’s baby boy a year or two later.
One night I was driving up to her dad’s house for a visit, or to pick up something, or drop something off, I can’t remember now. It was summer, it was fairly late (9 or 10 in the evening). There was my teenaged Pocketbuddha with her friend’s baby on the front porch, on the rocking chair.
“Mom,” she said with a pitiful expression on her face. “She’s been up for hours and she won’t go to sleep! I’m exhausted!”
“Oh no!” I said, seizing the teaching moment by the horns. “Gosh, well. Babies do that sometimes. It won’t last. Eventually, she will go to sleep." I beat a hasty retreat without offering to help, figuring the lesson here would be: don’t have children before you’re damn good and ready.
So when my beautiful, smart, sassy, creative, artistic daughter called me a year ago February to tell me she was pregnant, I cried tears of joy. My little baby was going to be the best mother, EVAR. Better than me, because she knew exactly what she was in for.
And when I walked into her home that she shares with my son-in-law (a man I quite like, respect and admire) and my grandson: I saw everything in its place, neat and tidy, and a mother completely in love with her baby boy (c’mon - what’s not to love?) and I knew that, just as her namesake wrote in the 14th century:
All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.