My daughter Kira is 20. By the time I was her age, I had been married for over a year, after walking away from my full-ride scholarship to Washington State University in order to move home and play house with a man no more mature than I was. We were doomed from the start, particularly given our different family backgrounds (he was studying to be a priest when I met him) and our lack of maturity.
Often, I’ve been amazed at how different Kira’s life has been from mine. While I know the reason it is different is because of the experiences Dave and I had as teens and young adults and our determination to ensure that our children’s lives were different, the fear of history repeating itself always hangs there making me worry.
Kira has been dating the same young man for two years. He is a sweetheart and we welcomed him into our lives. However, as their relationship got serious, Dave and I worried that Kira would ditch all of her hard work and future plans to do what a lot of the young women in our small town do: get married, have kids, and never leave.
Even though I could see that Kira’s boyfriend, much like my first husband, was too young to know what he wanted out of life, and even though I knew that Kira had so much more time ahead of her to do all that serious stuff, I tried to keep from pushing her in any direction.
I remember so clearly the night my parents forbade my marriage – the night my mom so angrily told me everything she thought was wrong with him and what a mistake I was making. And I remember feeling so defensive and thinking that no matter what, I had to go through with it now. So I bit my tongue, and bit it, and bit it, instead of trying to control the direction Kira should head. At 20, she is an adult, and even though she lives at home and we continue to support her to some degree while she goes to college, she is her own person.
You can imagine, then, the relief I am feeling at knowing that somehow, some way, I’ve managed to raise a daughter who is smarter and more put together at age 20 than I ever was. Kira has broken up with her boyfriend because she wants to focus on school and cheerleading. She did not feel she was ready to be in a relationship that was only destined to grow more serious.
He, of course, is not very happy. She, having made the decision that this was the right path for her, has found it easier to move on, soothing her pain by staying busy. She may someday marry him. More than likely, though, she’ll look back and realize breaking up, while difficult, was the best thing she could have done for herself. At 20, we don’t know very much about who we are as individuals. Marriage, relationships, motherhood…it will all still be there when she’s ready for it.