A month or so ago, I wrote on the Facebook page about wanting to try to honor mothers at their children’s birthdays to say, “congratulations for being an awesome mama, making it this far and going through all the struggles we know you go through to get your babies through another year safely”. I gave that a great deal of thought as my own birthday approached and how I would acknowledge my own mom. Turned out, even with months to think about it I couldn’t come up with anything that I thought really encapsulated the feeling I was trying to convey, and there aren’t any cards out there that say, “hey, thanks for not killing me when I was a kid…”, so I opted for a letter. I wanted to share it with you because I think it speaks to many of us who are now in the position of relating more to the mothers in stories than the young, spirited girl looking for her way. As we carry forward in our own mothering adventures, we suddenly begin to see wisdom in our parents we didn’t realize was there before. It’s a funny thing, this parenting stuff… I suddenly relate more to Triton than to Ariel and I gain mountains of respect for my own mother in the process. Life is crazy. Anyway, here it is.
Mom, I wanted to do something this year to honor you on the day that everyone honors me.
It really isn’t “my day” is it? It’s the anniversary of the day you endured pain, anxiety and looked the fear of the unknown in the eye, all to bring me into this world. It’s not a day to celebrate my life- it’s a day to celebrate the life you made possible.
I reflect on this a great deal now that I am a mother. As I lie awake in the middle of the night, watching over my babies as they sleep, (I’m writing this on my phone at 2:30am with both sleeping babies in my arms) my thoughts often drift to how many times you must have done the same thing for me, how many times what I go thru as a mom, you must have experienced too.
This motherhood thing… Man, it’s hard. It’s scary to love this much, to put so much of myself into a total investment of a other human being’s life. I feel such completeness when I know they are happy and safe. Such total joy when they return the love I give with hugs and kisses and wanting to be close to me and it’s wonderful… except when they aren’t happy, or when I worry about them not being safe- and then my life is total hell. I turn into a crazy person full of anxiety and my brain turns to mush. I can’t think about anything else until they are back within view and arm’s length.
In moments like that, my thoughts always drift back to you.
It must have been terrifying to have to watch me wheeled away on a table headed into surgery, just a baby and helpless, trusting and oblivious.
It must have felt like some kind of strange betrayal to hold me as they pricked and prodded me, I’m sure I was confused and afraid and I can imagine how horrible that felt to openly deliver me to the hands that would cause me pain, even if it was to help me- you can hardly explain that to a baby, a toddler, a very young child… And hope they’d understand.
Then after all that, it must have been terribly disappointing, even terrifying- for me to ignore your advice about when to come home or what not to wear. To watch me deliberately put myself in harms way after so many years of doing all you could just to keep me safe, alive and happy.
My dear mother, how many times did my childish decisions as a young adult make you cry? I’m sure there were lots of times I never even knew it, because you are such a very good person and such an incredible mother that you allowed me to make my mistakes and suffer the consequences, learn the lessons and grow as an individual, even when it hurt you to have to watch.
It must have been horrible, that first time I broke away, pushed you away and denied the unconditional love you offered. It must have been heart wrenching the first time I yelled back, the first time I felt rage and allowed you to be the target, waiting for me to grow out of those awful phases of hormonal teenage insanity.
But its okay. I did, mom. I did grow.
I want you to know the tears, the exhaustion, the pain and the fear…
I appreciate it. All of it. I remember each moment of triumph and of failure and even when I made the wrong choices, you were there to love me. Even if you kept a distance, you always had a lantern waiting- lighting the safer path, hoping I would one day choose it on my own.
Well, I did. It took a while, but I did.
Today as everyone honors and celebrates me, please know that I am honoring and thanking you.
All I am is because of the love you gave, the sacrifices you made and the hard work you so willingly took on. (Okay, okay, I’m sure, dad helped too!)
I wonder if you realize how strong you are. Sometimes I don’t think you do.. you say things about how you are weak or shy, or afraid… but all you have to do is look at our family and what you did to ensure we were happy to know this is not the case. I know I wasn’t the easiest kid to grow inside you, to birth and raise. I was hard work from the beginning. Losing a child is a horrific trial of life that no one wishes upon anyone. I’ve had three miscarriages and I don’t believe the degree of loss even partially compares to the pain you endured. And then after, having the courage to have another baby, me, after losing one- is the strongest kind of love, courage and strength. If you didn’t have that enormous amount of strength and courage to try again, I wouldn’t be here. Having the will to try again and to do all you could meant I had the very best life possible and I want you to know, I know it was because you fought for it, to give me this life- that without your willingness to look fear in the eye and try again, I wouldn’t exist.
As I lay here in bed with my babies in my arms, I know all too soon those moments of distance will happen to me. They’ll walk in the opposite direction and will take on their own lives and embrace their futures… And it will happen with me just a distant spectator, not a direct influence. Walking hand in hand to the corner and back together, talking about birds and rocks, being pulled close for comfort in the night… I know all of these moments are fleeting and I do my very best to savor every one.
I thank you, for the strength you have taught me through your example. I know that when that time comes, when they pull away from me to go off on their own, I will be okay and so will they.
I want you to know that I love you mom. I always loved you, so much- even when I was stupid and didn’t really act like it. I think more now than ever because I understand things so much better, but never think for a moment that the love wasn’t there.
I am the mom I am because of the mom you were and are. I am so grateful, so honored and so blessed to have a mother like you and to be able to pass on the gifts of your strength to my children, because they were given to me by you.
I always say, “each day’s decisions are tomorrow’a traditions” and I have so many to pass forward from you!
So happy birth-day, mom, and thank you.
What sort of letter would you write your parent/s if you could? Did they guide you successfully? Would you teach them a thing or two? Would you forgive them for their mistakes? I find myself being a lot more forgiving now than I was in the moment of some of my conflicts with my parents… Is that just because I’m older now? Or because I’m a parent? Hmm… things to ponder…