If I could condense how I'll measure my success as a parent down to a simple phrase it would be this:
I know who you are.
Well, that and "You may think you know, but you have no idea." But I refuse to have an MTV show tagline as my parenting mantra.
This whole cliche' business about raising them right or wanting them to be successful and happy -- well that's all amorphous.
Heck if I know how she'll define "right" or "successful" or "happy."
Heck if I know how I even define those things.
But what I can give her, what I can most definitely promise to her, is that I will know her well.
I will watch and listen. I'll observe and hear.
I will know her like the back of my own hand.
I will advocate and fight and stand up for her.
We spend so much time trying to figure out who are kids are like and how they're like whom and we sometimes forget that they're completely and utterly their own person.
Maybe she's cautious, or afraid of failure, or a people pleaser - like me. But those qualities don't have to manifest and stifle her life experiences or her relationships.
Because she's not me.
And I'm not my own mother.
I firmly believe that if we take the time to know our kids then everything will fall into place.
Don't get me wrong. It's not an easy mathematical problem. We're complex humans after all - and we're more than the sum of a bunch of actions and reactions, causes and effects, feelings and emotions.
But everything she does tells her story.
I'm not so much her guide or her mentor. I don't yet know enough about her to be that for her.
Rather, I'm a student - a researcher placed here to observe, document, and learn so that I can become her guide and mentor.
So when we take the time to put all those pieces together, those cryptic notes in our minds that contain all the seemingly insignificant but yet incredibly revealing information about our children, then the paths we should choose for them, the road to which we should guide them - well, it should be clear.
Parenting is not knowing who you think they should be.
It's intimately and sometimes uncomfortably knowing who they really are.
Happy 6th Birthday, Quinlan.