I bat my eyelids and suddenly my daughter turned 7 months old. The rate at which time is marching is really quite mind-boggling, and when people tell me, “enjoy, it goes so fast”, they weren’t kidding! As I despondently packed up all her 3-6 month summer dresses and pink frills, I found myself thinking into the future… what will she be when she grows up? What will she be passionate about? How will she impact the world?
As a parent and a professor in the field of early childhood education, I believe that teaching your children that they can be whatever they want to be is paramount. I believe that kids should hear “yes” more often than they hear “no”. And I believe that as long as they’re not committing a crime, every child deserves to be fuelled towards their fullest potential and grow up happy and fulfilled.
I was fortunate to grow up in a family where my dreams were always supported, no matter how outlandish or unrealistic they were. My university and post-university years were spent pursuing graduate acting programs, and although I was rejected and shattered more times than I care to remember, my parents stood loyally by my side and encouraged me every step of the way until I had finally decided on my own that I had enough. But that’s a whole other blog for another time…
My daughter is named after my grandmother, who was very close to me. I grew up in an upper duplex with my parents and younger brother and my “mama” lived downstairs, a living arrangement that most children my age were not as fortunate to have, and admittedly one that I sometimes took for granted. As a little girl, one of my favorite past times was going downstairs to play with my “mama’s treasures”. I would spend hours inquisitively sitting in front of the bottom drawer of her dresser, sifting through jewelry, scarves, vintage purses, and fancy cigarette cases. I loved dressing up and inhaling the lingering scent of her perfume, eyes closed, trying to imagine what the 1930’s looked and smelled like. Her things just seemed to sparkle like gems, and I always felt as if each item told a story of what her life was like when she was younger. And they did.
Enter a granddaughter’s bragging rights here: Amidst all of my “mama’s” sparkly belongings lay an unassuming and tattered-looking relic, ragged, frayed, and quite out of place. This would be my grandmother’s pilot license, buried unpretentiously underneath all her whimsical accessories that I loved so much. Yep, you read that last line correctly. My grandmother was the first female pilot in the province of Québec and flew her very first airplane at the age of 19. She wanted to set the first world record in the province and she did. She flew 16,300 feet into the air in a time when women were mostly relegated to the home and such a feat was unheard of. She had a dream and she pursued it, despite the odds and regardless of conventional norms, and in spite of my grandfather’s disapproval. If Facebook had existed back then, she and Amelia Earhart would have been friends. Pretty awesome historical stuff, and I am exceptionally proud to be a part of that lineage.
I’ve wanted to share my grandmother’s remarkable story with the world for some time, and I have my daughter to thank for the inspiration. As we have recently ventured into a new phase of solid foods and other “firsts”, I cannot help but wonder about her personality that is beginning to form. I am excited for her to explore and discover, just as I did. Granted, my “treasures” are definitely not going to be as interesting as my grandmother’s, but to my daughter, I know they will be. I can’t wait for her to create her own ideas and to teach her that play and make-believe offer endless possibilities and that imagination knows no boundaries. Like most children, she will probably change her mind a hundred times about what she wants to be when she’s older (I think I ditched the fireman idea around the time that I hit first grade) and that’s okay! I just want her to have the courage to take risks and to believe in herself. I want her to be passionate and driven, and above all else, I want her to be happy.
My “mama” taught me that the impossible was attainable and dared me to dream. She was brave and bold and accomplished what she set out to do, and I am honoring
her memory by passing on those same convictions to my own child. I think about her all the time and look forward to the day that I will be able to tell my daughter all about her. In the meantime, I am encouraging my daughter in other ways and celebrating the small daily victories with her as they occur. I am doing my best to raise a child that grows up to be strong and confident, yet humble and hard-working, just like my “mama” was. My hope as a mother is that I can impart on her that through perseverance and determination she can spread her wings and fly, just like my “mama” did. Literally.
Heather holds an M.A. in Child Studies from Concordia University and is a professor at CDI College in the department of Early Childhood Education. She has worked with countless children in numerous daycares and in theatre settings, and often reflects on these experiences as she raises her own daughter. She dedicates this piece to her “mama” and to all the strong Wise Women out there.