Maybe it is the historian in me or rampant narcissism, but I examine my life through my daughter's eyes 30 years from now. For instance, when she is 36 (my age now), and she looks back at our life, how will it seem to her? Hopefully, she will remember it warmly, and her memories will agree with the reality of life as she knows it then. Hopefully, a team of psychiatrists won't pry repressed memories out of her.
As a single mom, that is the ultimate fear—have I scarred my child for life? The next is that something will "happen to you," i.e..: car crash, cancer, alien abduction or ebola virus. The paranoid list goes on and on with personal variations according to pet neuroses. But despite the paranoia inherent in parenting, single parenthood has been a tremendous gift for me, and in turn, I hope, for my daughter. I feel our home is at last whole, while society mistakenly considers it "broken." I appreciate the importance of every choice I make or don't—inaction is also a choice. As a raging codependent (is that possible simultaneously with narcissism?), when faced with a big decision I imagine my daughter making that choice for herself one day, and weigh it accordingly. If it isn't good enough for her, why should it be good enough for me? I am able to make hard choices for her welfare that seem inconceivable on my own behalf. I marvel at the sheer number of choices made concerning children of which they remain blissfully and rightly unaware until they are of an age to understand and appreciate them.
A new reality in our life is the sleepover—consequently I remember many nights spent at friends' houses. One night when I was 7 or 8, my friend and I climbed into her spacious full bed. I was so envious of her big bed—I had a twin bed with a trundle. Her Mom settled in between us to read a bedtime story, then reached over and turned out the light and went to sleep! I literally fell out of bed several times. She snored, had icky breath, and I returned home the next day bedraggled, bewildered and swearing never to sleep over there again.
As an adult, I've since learned that my friend was abused by her creep of a father. Her mom saved me. Was she really there to protect us? Did she alternate between daughters' beds every other night? What were the choices she was living with in that minefield of a home? I'll never know, and therein lies the beauty of her mother's choice that night: My innocence and youthful conceit were spared.
How can living in the illusion of a perfect family while atrocities occur on a nightly basis be less broken than a single-parent home? In our "broken" home, appearance agrees with reality. In our "broken" home, we are surrounded by the unconditional love and support of family and friends. My parents and daughter remind me of the importance of "just being there" in our most truly human and authentic form. They remind me that 30 years from now my daughter will remember playing Tiddly Winks, not my messy house.
My daughter's gift to me is constantly one of herself: speaking in a pretend English accent (where did she learn that?); singing lustily in the bath with her regatta of conscripted bath toys; and her demands for my company that I know I'll long for in about four years. Her joy and confidence affirm my choices. Our life is one of authenticity where actions match words, promises are kept, and wishes are dared. And there's nothing broken about that.