It’s weird to stand at the front of a class, look out at the faces, and see my daughter in the front row. I have struggled over the past three weeks to come to terms with the fact that she will be turning homework in to me to grade, that all the personal stories I tell in class will have to be weighed against her presence, and that this may not be the only class in which she is my student over the coming months while she works on her degree.
She’s a good student, though I find I spend a lot more time looking around the room so I avoid any indication I might be favoring her. I would like to say I just treat her as any other student, but clearly, that’s not humanly possible. She is first and foremost my daughter.
To be truthful, I like having her in class. I have to be on my game, because she knows a lot about me. If I’m tempted to exaggerate, she is there to call me on the carpet. If I do something silly in class, I’m going to hear about it at home later. If I’m not organized, she’ll remind me of that, too. When I talk about my family in class, she is there to verify the truth of what I’m saying.
I’m very proud of my daughter. For years she was treated as a second class family member by my ex-husband and his second wife, and also by my sister-in-law and my mother-in-law. My niece who is the same age as my oldest daughter has always been held up as the shining example in the family. My mother-in-law will constantly talk about how my niece is so pretty, so popular, so successful, and has no problem telling my daughter she should be like her cousin. However, this same girl never graduated from high school. She dropped out to move in with her boyfriend, and she was recently evicted from her apartment for not paying rent. She has chosen – and let me emphasize chosen – to live in a tent in a campground for the time being. She works as a waitress, and her big goal is to turn 21 so she can serve alcohol and make bigger tips.
My ex-husband and his second wife also used to compare my daughter unfavorably to her step-sister. The repeated message was that my daughter was not as thin, as pretty, as smart, or whatever, as her step-sister was. My daughter’s former step-sister is also the same age. This girl is not yet 20, lives with her boyfriend by whom she is now pregnant, and has no plans to marry this guy. She is, however, fully convinced that she is mature enough and capable of raising a baby.
I wish both of these young women the very best in their lives. They are both delightful young girls – most sincerely – but I worry very deeply for them. But I’ll keep my daughter, thank you very much. She has certainly made her fair share of poor choices, and there are days I am frustrated beyond belief with her. But she is getting an education, she is focused on her future, and most of the choices she makes are in her best interest and motivated by goals that include being successful and achieving dreams. She will graduate in Medical Assisting in under two years. She has a job she enjoys. She has a good, core group of friends. She goes out with a variety of nice boys but she is clear with each one that she isn’t interested in anything long-term, or anything that will derail her plans for school and her career.
However, despite what she says, her kitty likes me more.
I’ve come to enjoy my drive to work in the morning, because I get to talk with my daughter uninterrupted by texts, siblings, or other distractions. We have always had close relationship, but it has evolved into something new and very satisfying in recent weeks.
I hope to have her in more of my classes. I hope to have her at home for at least another year, though I’m certain she hopes not that long. But I enjoy my daughter as motivated, self-assured, young adult these days, and I wouldn’t trade this time for anything.