My 5-year-old daughter and I were discussing weddings and dance parties. I was feeling good about my open-minded parenting skills when I turned to her and said: “Well, if you choose to get married some day, you can have a disco ball at your wedding, too.”
I am careful never to mention gender when I talk about partnering. I am always clear that there are no expectations about whom they may couple with when they become adults, or if they choose to couple at all. I use inclusive language; I let them know I love them no matter what. I am a supportive and a great mom.
Or so I thought.
Because in that moment, I got blindsided with a response that totally took me by surprise.
“Actually,” my sweet little girl looked me in the eye, ever-so-matter-of-factly, “I am going to be a single mom.”
I did not see that coming. And I am not proud of my first thoughts:
“No one wants to be a single mother.”
“You are not allowed to want that.”
Yes, that is right. I thought that last one too.
Me. The girl driven by the prime directive to live and let live. To love and accept all people for exactly who they are. As long as who they are and what they do brings harm to no one, then my judgment-free acceptance is limitless.
Or so I thought.
Then this dangerous little antiquated gem popped into my head without permission. This little echo of all the times I cringed and had mean thoughts when relatives said, after I had my first child as a single mother:
“Oh, Karen… Congratulations on the new baby, I guess. I just wish it was under better circumstances.”
When people treated my “situation” (um, my brand new baby) like it was distasteful at best and tragic at worst, I wanted to scream:
“Are you f*cking kidding me? Have you seen this beautiful boy? He is unbelievably precious and I have never known such an intense feeling of love! How dare you associate regret with this majestic being!”
And yet, here I was. Judging my young daughter for mindfully dreaming of being a single mother. It is crazy because, for me, being a single mother was one of the best times of my life. Sure, I could have done without the eating-only-rice-and-beans-for-months-on-end part, but the rest was pure magic.
I worked (often with my baby in a front pack), and I mothered, and that was it. When the weekend came it was a glorious montage of free-feeling, little-person-centered fun and love. No house projects and no mate to suck up all of our time. It was beautiful.
Why, then, was I horrified at the thought of my daughter asking for this life?
Because I have baggage. Stupid, unwanted, limiting, mind-closing baggage. I have it and so might you. Luckily, we also have our super speedy, kindness-minded, progressive brains that can help us recognize that baggage — and then send it packing (hee-hee-hee).
What happens in our brains we can’t help, but what comes out of our mouths we can.
So after I told my inner rule-prisoner to zip it, I told my daughter, out loud:
“I think you would be a wonderful single mother. Maybe Daddy and I can come babysit sometimes.”
She thought that was a great idea, and I hope I have given her a little less baggage to unpack as she grows.