It was seven o’clock on Saturday morning and Luau and I were still in bed. I don’t know why the words that had lived safely in my head for so very long needed a voice at that very moment, but there they were, suddenly at the gate, begging for release.
I waited, took a long, slow breath and then asked the question.
“Hon, do you think it’s realistic to think that Brooke will be able to live independently someday?”
Uncharacteristically, I let the question hang in the air. Typically I’d scramble to add more words – to fill the silence. I’d get defensive about having asked it in the first place and I’d try to explain that I didn’t mean to sell her short, I just thought that we should talk about it or at least, well, you know, start to think about it or …
I didn’t. I simply let it hang in the air between us. The only thing I finally added was, “I’m trying not to ask from an emotional place; I just want to know what you think.”
Luau finally answered. Quietly he said, “I think so.” We inhabited the silence together until he said it again, though with no more conviction than he had before. “I think so.”
When I heard Michelle Garcia Winner speak some time ago, she talked about the mother of a ten year-old boy who was convinced that her son would be headed off to college some eight years later. Michelle told us that the boy had very limited communication and that it was ‘obvious’ that the mother’s thinking was desperately out of whack with reality. Michelle said that she had told the mother that she needed to adjust her expectations. I won’t get into how that story made me feel at the time nor talk about how it was only part of why I left the conference feeling agitated and upset; that’s for another day. But I will tell you that it has stuck with me.
Somewhere in the back of my head, I’ve always wondered what my expectations for Brooke ‘should’ be. Truthfully, I’m not even sure what they actually are.
My daughter is seven and a half years old. There is no way to know where she is headed, nor what she can do long term. The gains she has made from three to seven have been exponential. If she continues on a path of that kind of meteoric growth, anything is possible. If it tapers off, who knows.
But that has not stopped me from starting a college fund for her. Perhaps Michelle Garcia Winner would call me delusional for doing so, but I believe in my girl. I believe that with the right support, there’s nothing she can’t do. I believe that throughout her life, we will be able to find or create that support. I believe that prognostication is dangerous. And, with all due respect to Michelle Garcia Winner, whose work I greatly admire, I believe that limiting a mother’s expectation of her child is a load of crap.
I could never look at my girl and tell her with either words or actions that I don’t believe in her – that I don’t think that she could do ANYTHING she puts her mind to.
Two nights ago, *my girl talked to Santa*. She sat with him, smiled for a picture and asked him for a gift. Two years ago, that was so far out of reach as to be nearly unimaginable. But if there’s one thing my girl has shown me time and again, it’s that my imagination is desperately limited. Thankfully, hers is not.
So is there an answer to the question? No, not really. The answer remains, “I don’t know.” One of the eight top five hardest things about this parenting journey is the “I don’t know.” But I do know that I will never stop believing that it’s possible.