Tuesday, April 7, 2015

D is for Daughter

I gave birth to my daughter when I was 32 years old. So convinced I was expecting a boy, I hadn’t picked out any baby girl names until my midwife suggested it as a kind of back-up plan. I finally picked Shannon because it meant “wee, dark and wise” and I was also reading a book called Ride on Stranger about the union organizer in Australia Shannon. Her story so inspired me that I decided to name my daughter after her – not that it would matter because I was having a boy. No woman in my family has ever given birth to a first born boy. My great-grandmother had eight daughters, her eight daughters all had daughters, My grandmother’s only child was a daughter and it took my mother three tries before she had a boy. Why I thought my genetics would defy this obvious matriarchy remains a mystery to me.

The day I went into labour there was a tremendous storm. The clouds gathered all through the afternoon, making the sky a dramatic billow of dark blues and greys. The thunder and lightening started first and then the wind started. I gave birth with the rain splashing down furiously onto our deck and roof. When my baby was delivered I called out “Liam is here.” The midwives told me to look under the blanket. “You little bugger,” I laughed. Shannon had arrived. It was a good name for her – she had this head of black hair and wizened face. She popped out like a champagne cork but didn’t cry. She looked around the room, first at me and then searching for the other voice she had heard while floating in my womb – her father. Once she confirmed we were both in the room, then she started to cry.

She continues to surprise me. She decided to stop playing T-Ball because everyone got a trophy and she wanted to keep score and be either a winner or loser. She knew at an early age the “everyone’s a winner” was stupid. She asked to stop being scheduled so much in order to come home from school and play. “I just want to be a kid, Mom,” she said.

On our way down to moving to Mexico, we got tangled up on a staged accident at the border. It scared me enough that I was ready to return home. “Maybe that’s the worst thing that is going to happen. Why turn around when we have come this far. Let’s continue.” We did.

After I was heartbroken over a boyfriend who I described to her as a “friend” she told me my formula was all wrong. “You give everyone $100 in the friendship bank right from the beginning and then start subtracting instead of doing it the other ways around. Make them earn the friendship and then it’s not so bad when they don’t work out.” She was 13 years old.

When the hormones hit, we hit a new patch in our relationship. She wasn’t so keen to listen to me and turned her razor sharp intuition to point out the faults in how I relate and mother. She was right most of the time even when it was hard to hear. She has made me keep growing and learning while forgiving my mistakes. At 19, she moved out and got her own apartment. She wanted to be independent and try doing it on her own – just like she had seen me doing for so many years. She’s 25 years old now, finishing school while pursuing her career. She works hard and dreams big. I want her to be the first of our matriarchy who doesn’t continually apologize for being strong, spirited and smart women. I think she will.