Thinking about my adult daughter on her birthday

I'm thinking about my daughter. Thirty-four years ago, Erin was born. I woke up this morning and took my first breath with thanks for sharing time with her.  

I made a timeline of her life during her Montessori days. This photo is from the early years of the timeline—it's Halloween. Erin created her own costume by dressing in layers of her clothes and mine calling herself a cowgirl horse rider. She applied her own makeup.

For her birthday a couple years ago, I decided to record what I remember about her temperament and included antidotes with pictures representing each year of her life. For example, describing her activity, I wrote: "You would not sit for long periods of time, frequently fidgeted, needed regular exercise, and preferred to walk briskly until you saw something to study - you could observe something with a hyper-focus." I described you to others as active until her brother Michael was born when I learned there are degrees of activity."

This temperament recording idea was inspired by our Raising Children parent study group. We looked at a longitudinal study of temperaments in children by Drs. Stella Chess and Alexander Thomas (Know your Child, Basic Books, 1987). They outlined nine temperaments that might shape a child’s personality and approach to life and noted these points:

*All children possess varying degrees of each of the nine characteristics (sensitivity, activity, intensity, adaptability, regularity/rhythmicity, approach/withdrawal, persistence/attention span, quality of mood, distractibility)

*Each child (and every temperament) possesses assets and liabilities, strengths and weaknesses.

*None are good or bad.

*The major benefit of becoming aware of temperaments is that it reminds us to become observers of our children so that we can better understand and learn to respond to them in ways that encourage development and growth.

*It is helpful when parents eventually recognize and accept the ways in which their children’s dreams and temperaments are different from their own

Understanding more about others, especially my children, interests me. Temperament studies help me calm down when I'm uncomfortable seeing the ways my child is not like me.

Often people say things such as, "I see you in Erin. Erin is just like you." It is a compliment to me that people see me in Erin because I think she is such a beautiful being.

Yet, I also notice how Erin is not me. I want to remember that she is her own person with her own dreams. Kahlil Gibran describes what I mean:

Speak to us of Children. And he said:

Your children are not your children.
they are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
and they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth... - The Prophet, 1970.

I am the bow. Not the arrows, not the energy behind the bow going forth. 

(Originally posted 8/20/09.)