I Wanted to Give Her the World
By Deanna Kahler
I wanted to give her the world, but the world was too much for her.
It was early morning when this phrase came to mind. Along with it, I saw an image of my daughter holding the earth in her arms while struggling with its weight. Too powerful to ignore, my brain went to work. What I concluded is an important message for all parents as well as the children they try so hard to provide a good life for. I’m hoping that by sharing this, others can learn from my experience and maybe avoid making the same mistakes I have.
Most parents will tell you what they want most is for their children to be happy and healthy. We take our roles very seriously and will love and protect our kids at all costs. While this is a great goal, I recently learned that taking it to the extreme can backfire. Let me explain.
From the moment my daughter entered our lives, I have been extremely driven to be the best parent I can possibly be. Our family situation is a bit different than some because we adopted our daughter as an infant. So, that adds an extra layer of wanting to make sure she has a good life. Her birth family trusted us to take better care of her than they were able to, so I felt an added pressure to never let my daughter or them down. I vowed to be there for her always and to essentially “give her the world.” Little did I know, this was one of my biggest mistakes.
When she was an infant, I was an attentive and eager parent. I immediately responded to her every cry and chose to be a stay-at-home mom so I could be there for her 24/7. I don’t regret this. We bonded quickly and easily, and these days were some of our happiest. Being a parent was exciting, challenging, overwhelming, terrifying and joyful — all at the same time. It wasn’t long before I realized that I loved my daughter more than I have ever loved anyone in my life. As the cliché says, she was — and still is — my pride and joy.
As she grew, I showered her with not only love and affection, but also activities, toys, experiences and opportunities to learn and grow. To illustrate just how much of the world I gave her, I’ll share some of this. We did mommy and me music classes starting when she was just 18 months old, along with dance at age 2, swim classes, piano and guitar lessons, numerous outings to the park, zoo, beach, etc. Our family attended cool shows like Disney on Ice and Phineas and Ferb Live. While my husband was at work, we spent a lot of time reading, playing games, blowing bubbles, drawing with sidewalk chalk, painting, coloring, playing with Play-Doh, doing flashcards and memory matching, watching her favorite shows — you get the idea. I kept her busy and entertained all day long. She learned quickly and was thriving. She was a very active and curious child, always on the go, with a zest for life and an infectious laugh. She was a handful, for sure, but her boundless energy and feisty personality were endearing. She could easily charm the socks off of anyone she met.
When she was school-aged, she had fun birthday parties every year as well as play dates and outings with friends. She had a huge bedroom filled with clothes, toys, books, over 100 stuffed animals and pretty much anything else she wanted or needed. I was there to catch her when she fell and help soothe away her worries and fears. We had a close mother-daughter bond, and she was the happy, healthy child I had always hoped she would be.
Fast forward to the teen years and we have a serious problem. Today, our daughter may be smart, talented, ambitious and caring, but she is struggling. She’s plagued with anxiety and panic attacks, is moody, extremely sensitive and emotional, and is easily angered. She feels the weight of the world on her shoulders, and I can no longer help her carry it. The close bond we shared until about age 11 is gone, and most days I’m convinced she hates me. Some of this can be attributed to adolescent hormones and genetics, but sadly I know in my heart that I have done too much for her. In my attempts to give her the world, I forgot to show her how to deal with it. She so desperately wants to make the transition to adulthood; however, she lacks some of the tools and skills she needs to get there. And for this, I am deeply sorry. (Yes, I’m crying. What parent wouldn’t after realizing she let her child down?) So, now the challenge becomes teaching her to cope and function on her own. I know it won’t be easy. I know a lot needs to change. But I am still the same loving, driven parent who wants her child to be happy and healthy, so I will do whatever it takes to help guide her there. Keyword: guide, which is much different than doing it for her.
Parents: please think twice before you try to give your children everything. It’s great to be there for them and be good providers, but what they need most is your love and support as well as a good, solid example of how to survive in the real world. And kids: when your parents say no, don’t buy you that awesome shirt or coolest gadget or when they make you do something on your own without their help, know they have your best interests at heart.
Yes, I may have given her the world, but I forgot to give her the skills to carry it. Please don’t make the same mistake.
Do you have a parenting lesson or tip you'd like to share? Are you a teen who's struggling with similar challenges? Share your thoughts in the comments below.