Every year on my daughter’s birthday I write her a love letter. One day may she will get to read them.
One of my favorite things about who I’ve become as your mama is my commitment to honesty.
I’ll always show you the value of the truth by telling you the truth. That puts me on the spot for answering the questions you ask me. Which is why, after you made a really big mistake with a rather wild friend you met this year in kindergarten, we started talking about mistakes I made when I was a kid.
It has become a trope. You say, “Mama, tell me a mistake story.” I pause and dive into my experience to find a memory that won’t blow your mind about who I am. Because the path to become your mama took a lot of practice; I haven’t always done the right thing. So I’m truthful, but I’m also protective of how much you need to know right now.
But since it’s your birthday, I’ll tell you a new one.
I made a mistake by being so unsure about you.
Not you specifically. Trust me, the moment you became a part of my body I was all in. I just struggled for many years with the idea of you and put off this process out of fear.
My worries were justified. I can’t do much of anything I used to. I’m interrupted at every fifth word whenever I try to tell a story. I go to bed at 9:30 (at the latest) and haven’t had a night out in, well, I don’t even remember how long. But the worst thing I feared has come true – every decision I make highlights you and your needs first. Every day I have to fight to make my needs a consideration. But I’d be lying if I said I hated the struggle.
Not being a mama for 38 years made me kind of selfish. Not entirely in a bad way. It’s because of this selfish streak that I wake up at the crack of dawn to give myself two hours of space before you so sweetly crush all my morning plans. It’s because of this selfish past that I’ve undone the doing of so many of my ancestresses who have handed over the keys to their fulfillment to their children. But it’s also because of this selfishness that I have often struggled to release fully into what you ask of me.
And you ask a lot. Not only unanswerable questions of how and why (dammit, you are as sharp as me), but also you ask for my stable presence. As someone who is already reaching for her keys when things begin to smell difficult, you have forced me to find different ways to deal. This includes what was previously unthinkable to me – staying put. Perhaps the destruction of a pattern I could sink quite easily into is what I unknowingly feared – and simultaneously invited – when I was dancing with the question of having you.
Mamas have always said to me that the kind of love they feel for their children is unlike anything they’ve ever experienced. Yes, I agree. It’s a death-defying feat that I perform every day. On one side is the caged-in feeling from holding all this space for you. On the other, I see that your presence in my life – what I’ve had to be in order to hold this space – has opened the door to that cage.
One mistake I will never make – and why I am committing to writing a love letter every year on your birthday (happy 6th, baby) – is to hide who I am. Sure, I will curate things until you’re ready enough to hear about my rebellious years (which, by the way, are still in effect). But as long as I’m your mama, I’m always going to let you see me as human.
My promise to you is to give you the rare gift of seeing you in that same light.
Posts like this are made possible by the support of members of The Nest and my other clients. If you enjoyed what you read and want to keep my journal open to the public, consider joining The Nest or making a donation to my Venmo account.