Sunday, May 13, 2012
Mothers of Daughters
I'm not saying I never want a girl. I do. . .maybe. . .someday. . .we'll see. But the prospect of having a girl is daunting, because I know what that experience looks like from the other side, and it is not all rainbows and sunshine and darling dresses. It's scary and horrifying and at some point I assume you just have to cross your fingers and hope your best was enough. Because you won't be getting any reassurance that you're doing things right, that's for sure.
But Mom, today I want you to know your best was more than enough.
You threw the best birthday parties, hosted the best sleepovers, went to every gymnastics meet or dance recital or choir performance or cheer-leading competition or Taekwondo event that I ever had. You drove me to school dances and bought me beautiful dresses and paid for overpriced hair updos and bought me ice-cream when Jimmy Diekmann wouldn't dance with me. You chauffeured me countless miles. You were there when I woke up. You were there when I went to sleep. You were always right there within arms-reach.
You were not thanked, but you never quit.
But being the supermom is the easy part, isn't it?
Because raising a daughter is more complicated than that. There is character that must be built, a confidence that needs to be instilled, a strength that must be taught. There are some things you can only learn by being raised by a strong woman, and thanks to you I have been so lucky.
You always had a quiet fortitude that I noticed from a distance. You carried within yourself a life that I did not know, that I may never fully know. To me, you were Mom and that was the wholeness of your being. But there was more to you than that, and even when I didn't know it I'm sure that I felt it.
Because I always wanted to know who you were as a person, as an individual. It was a curiosity not only for your life but for my own. In the process of deciding who you were, I was deciding who I wanted to be. At the time, I said I didn't want to be anything like you. I yelled it, I'm sure. But when it comes right down to it, all the important traits that make me proud of who I am -- I'm sure those traits come from you.
I watched you, and I saw the kind of woman you were, even if I could not put into words the opinions that were being tattooed to my heart. You embodied the strength that comes from seeing life at its highest and lowest moments -- a life that you did not allow to break you. I tried to break you sometimes, and maybe once or twice I did, but you were resilient. You were strong and self-assured. I saw it. I remembered.
You worked hard and you had passion for what you chose to do with your life. You did not settle, you were always improving. You lived as if your best was never enough, because you had drive. You worked 50 hour weeks and went to school and did that whole supermom thing. You never had to tell me who you were, did you? You showed me. I rolled my eyes at you, but you showed me.
You loved fiercely. You kept me close, and I hated you for it. I felt safe and loved, but I was so mad I couldn't see straight most of the time. I wanted you to let go of me, and I said every horrible thing you could imagine, but you never let me go. I was so anxious to go out there and make all the mistakes I could, as if I didn't have my whole life ahead of me to do just that. And sure I peeked into the abyss every now and again, but I could feel your hand wrapped tight around my wrist each time I leaned in for a closer look. Then I'd come home, and I'd seethe and glare and lock myself in my bedroom, because I knew I could never jump off the edge.
Then I turned eighteen, and I ran headlong into a harsh world. And sure for a while I only ate off-brand ramen noodles and off-brand golden puffs, but I survived because I was prepared. Because I learned from your example to be strong and self-assured and hardworking and driven. I adapted, I learned, I grew up. Even though I was young, I was ready to take on the world because you showed me how. Because that resilience a saw in you was within me all along.
I made it through college and accomplished a lot more than I ever thought possible. I got married and bought a house and gave birth to a son and graduated university. I owe a part of all of that to you, Mom. My accomplishments will always be yours as well.
I'm still young, and I've still got a lot to learn. I'm still making mistakes and growing up. There is so much life ahead of me still. But I'm proud of where I am right now. I'm proud of where I've been. I'm proud of where I'm going.
I am becoming a strong woman, because you were a good mother.
So, thank you. For everything.
I still don't have a clue as to exactly how much you did for me over the years. I don't know what it feels like to be the mother of a daughter. Maybe someday you'll tell me. Maybe I'll find out for myself. I am only barely figuring out what it means to be a mother at all.
But I imagine the appreciation in my heart for you will continue to grow through the years, because I'm seeing your journey through different eyes now:
"...And should she choose to be a Mother one day, be my eyes, Lord, that I may see her, lying on a blanket on the floor at 4:50 A.M., all-at-once exhausted, bored, and in love with the little creature whose poop is leaking up its back. “My mother did this for me once,” she will realize as she cleans feces off her baby’s neck. “My mother did this for me.” And the delayed gratitude will wash over her as it does each generation and she will make a Mental Note to call me. And she will forget. But I’ll know, because I peeped it with Your God eyes.
-Tina Fey, "Bossypants"
I love you, Mom. Happy Mother's Day.
*If you've never read Tina Fey's "Prayer for my Daughter" you can read it in it's entirety on the blog I pulled it from. Or just buy the book, because I hear it's awesome.