My beautiful daughter is by far my greatest accomplishment.
There is nothing in my life that I will ever do, create, or write that will come anywhere close to the amazing person she is. She is outspoken, smart, independent, knows what she wants, and is incredibly driven. To say I am proud is an understatement. She and I have always done well together. No matter what went on in our lives, we made it work.
When my grandmother, who was her best friend, was in the hospital for my daughter’s fourth birthday, we simply moved the party. As grandma became sicker, we started having weekly dinners. When those needed to be held at the hospital, we became experts at sneaking in food.
She and I have twice navigated graduate school, the loss of both of my grandparents as well as several dogs who were like family members, and endured many other life changes and hardships. No matter what life throws at us, we find a way through. Or at least we did, until she turned 18.
What happens when we turn 18? We go to bed the night before our 18th birthday, content with being a child. Yet, when we wake up the next morning, we are convinced we are adults and know everything.
The first few months of 18, not much changed. B did her chores, went to school and work, and seemed content. About four months in, things shifted. She suddenly knew everything and no longer needed sleep or regular meals. I was stumped. I had no idea what to do. I just knew what not to do.
When I turned 18, it seemed like the rules got stricter. I had less freedom and was questioned more. I resented my parents for refusing to trust me. I had seen friends lose their parents’ trust, but I never had the opportunity to do that.
I remember telling my mom I needed to attend an extra credit movie night for my AP literature class. Rather than trusting me, or even following up with my teacher, she decided I was lying. She had never heard of such activities. I had never given my parents a reason to doubt me, but rather than choose to trust me, they tightened their grip.
I was crushed. I had no idea what to do or say, so I shut down. That was pretty much how my twenties and even my thirties went. That was not the relationship I wanted with my daughter. I valued what we had and what we could have more than a senseless power struggle.
I decided to do the opposite of what my parents did. I loosened my grip. I believed my daughter truly knew what she needed. I started listening more, asking questions to understand, and working to see things from her perspective. I allowed her to fail, pay the consequences, and even struggle.
It was the hardest thing I have ever done.
As a mom, I wanted to fix everything to make sure her life was better than mine. It was this realization that showed me that was exactly what I was doing. Because I stepped back and allowed B to be her own person, she was able to stumble and fall in a safe place. Her confidence has grown, and our relationship is great.
I am far from the perfect parent. But at the end of the day, I have raised a resourceful, hardworking, compassionate adult.
Sara Orellana is a community volunteer, entrepreneur, author, amateur chef, and advocate for rescued animals. She may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.