I used to think I knew everything; and then I had a daughter.
I used to rock you in my arms and imagine the woman you’d become. You would be popular, but not too popular. You’d be smart, witty, independent, and funny. You would be a natural leader. I knew you’d always be beautiful.
As you know, I have made a lot of mistakes in my life. I was sure they had groomed me into the perfect person to help you make better choices and suffer less. I had foolproof plans to help you identify and skip around the potholes I fell into.
I was going to help ensure your happiness and success! I had no doubt you would let me.
What I didn’t count on was how much you would grow up and be just like me. I was ill-prepared for arguments with my own level of stubbornness, wit, and sarcasm. I didn’t expect to have to fight so hard for the right to love and help you through life’s difficult moments.
I didn’t understand your complete aversion to my selfless desire to guide you — to mold you into that woman I knew you could be — the woman I wanted you to be.
I couldn’t see how selfish and closed minded those ideas were. I sincerely thought I was only trying to help. I couldn’t entertain the possibility you might have been better equipped to make the right choices I didn’t at your age.
And so I yelled.
Honestly, I didn’t know what else to do. I knew you weren’t listening to me – to reason. I was consumed with the fear you’d ruin that beautiful picture I painted for your life that I failed to consider your might have other plans.
Instead of listening to and supporting decisions I disagreed with, I tried to force your hand. When you held your ground, I applied more pressure.
I was terrified. The more you challenged me, the more fearful I became.
There were many times I completely over-identified with what you were facing. I swear it wasn’t intentional. I didn’t mean to downplay or discredit your feelings, but I know it seemed that way. I really believed if I could just convince you that I understood exactly how you felt, you would trust me more and fight me less.
Having had time to reflect, I understand how my responses to your struggles minimized your feelings and threatened your individuality. I swear to you, I didn’t see it.
Now that I do, I don’t blame you for pushing me away.
I know there are times you believe I failed as your mother. I’ve worried about that possibility since the day you were born. Being a mom is hard; and sometimes beyond terrifying. There’s no manual or script to follow.
I have often parented you by Braille — simply feeling my way around for answers to questions I wasn’t confident enough to ask. The frustration and fear I felt, not always knowing what you needed and/or how to help you, left me feeling useless. Some nights, I heard myself screaming things at you I could not believe were exiting my mouth.
I know there were times you hated me. The truth is, there were times I hated you, too. Not because I didn’t love you, but because I’ve loved you too much. No one in my life has ever challenged me the ways you have. I haven’t always been prepared to focus on the not-so-perfect aspects of my personality you’ve mirrored back at me. I didn’t understand that your becoming like me wasn’t the worst thing that could happen. I haven’t always valued myself – the choices I’ve made – the woman I’ve become, and I struggled with the irony.
The last few years of our relationship have tested my patience, beliefs, boundaries, and sanity. There were days – months even – I was certain as soon as you turned eighteen, you would leave this house and never speak to me again. Some days I thought I would want that.
I’m so glad I was wrong.
I used to think being a good mother meant making sure you became a good person and dictating the right path. Unfortunately, those ideas made it impossible for me to let go and respect your personal journey and process.
I lost my footing when you became the independent woman I always wanted you to be, and I let my fear keep me from celebrating that independence and trusting your judgment. That is where I failed you.
I wish I had listened more – like, really listened – for what you were trying to say, instead of translating it into how I could help you.
I wish I had trusted in both of us more; in our ability to handle situations, no matter how baffling, because we were always stronger than I thought we were.
I want you to know how proud I am of the incredible woman you’ve become despite, and in spite of, some of my best efforts to guide you. You are the strong woman I used to imagine as I rocked you in my arms…and so much more than I ever imagined.
I want you to know that being your mother has made me a better person.
I always thought it was my job to teach you about life, but I fear you may not have learned as much from me as I have from you.
I promise to never try to take credit for your accomplishments.
I will however pray that someday, you will tell me there was something in your life you couldn’t have done without me.
I won’t mind if you lie.
This post was originally published on February 19, 2015.