Dr. Jennifer W. Shewmaker

Parent, Teacher, Author

The Child You Have: Parenting and Letting Go


Celebrating the child you have


My friend, Melissa Wardy of Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies, recently shared this quote,

“Motherhood is about raising and celebrating the child you have, not the child you thought you’d have. It’s about understanding he(she) is exactly the person that he (she) is supposed to be. And, if you’re lucky, he (she) might be the teacher who turns you into the person you’re supposed to be.”

-The Water Giver

We all have those moments as parents, when we realize that our child is not who we expected them to be. It may be when you see your child struggling to make friends, or do well in school, or perform in athletics or the arts. Before we even have a child, most of us have ideas of what our child will be. Sometimes we base this off of who we were as a child, either hoping they’ll follow our lead or hoping they’ll develop strengths in our areas of weakness.

And then suddenly or gradually, it hits us. This child is her own person. She is not who I thought she would be. She is not who I want her to be. She is not of my making. She is not a doll to be dressed and shown off. She is herself, full of her own beautiful secrets and challenges and insight. She is her own person. And in that moment of insight, we may mourn a little, that person who we thought our child would be. And that’s okay, because the letting go of a dream is hard.

All three of my daughters teach me new things every day, about myself and about life. My middle daughter, Catherine, is in the picture above. Yes, she has a giant hoop earring in her nose pretending it’s a nose ring.

From the moment she was born, she has been her own person. At the age of two and a half she said to me, “Nobody can make me do anything but me.” And at the age of twelve and a half, she’s still sticking to that statement! She has gifts of leadership and creativity, and sometimes it can be desperately hard to help her learn to channel those gifts in a way that is respectful and productive. But, as we struggle together, I see a beautiful, strong young woman emerging. A woman who will lead and love others and make this world a better place. And so, I let go of who I thought she would be. Of who I thought any of my children would be. I say good-bye to those imaginary children and all their perfection. And I embrace the beautiful, messy amazingness of the real children in my life.

I hope, after that moment of mourning, of letting go, we can allow ourselves to embrace the joy of discovering this beautiful person in our life. If we can do that, it is one of the richest rewards of parenthood. Because our children are not in our lives just to be guided and taught, they are also in our lives to guide and teach us. As we walk through this life with our child, embracing his imperfections, his quirks, his gifts and strengths, as he grows and learns, so will we. And together, we will become the best that we can be.


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This entry was posted on April 28, 2014 by in Acting, Emotional Health, Recognizing, Talking and tagged , , .
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