and any other mothers-with-young-daughters who might be reading:
I have no doubt in my mind that from the moment you announced your first pregnancy you have been getting well-meaning advice left and right and up and down and every which way but loose. The best diapers to choose, the proper ways to burp after feeding, the "right" toys to buy, and how much TV to watch (or not watch). Women who walked before you - who learned these lessons the hard way - all coming to help you learn the easy way.
I'm not one of those women. I have no idea what I'm talking about when it comes to being a mom. And this letter? Well, it's not a letter offering advice at all. Think of it more as a letter of encouragement, coming from the heart of someone who does know a little something about being a daughter.
Now, when I say I'm going to offer encouragement, that still leaves a lot of possible material open as options. I could try to prepare you for the awesomeness that is Her First Crush, or warn you about Her First Break-Up, or awkwardly introduce the idea of Her First Period, and how Murphy's Law all but guarantees that You Won't Be There For It. But you'll figure that stuff out on your own, I have no doubts. In fact, I have little doubt that you can figure out everything you need to be great moms, without any help from me. So my encouragement, it's not about how to Do, or how to Say, or how to Be. It's a little pearl of truth, for you to take in and keep close to your heart, from now until forever:
You are never helpless.
I hate to say it, but the truth is that as you raise your daughters, you will feel helpless. There will be those days when you are at your wit's end, and you just don't know what to do. You feel them already, I know, but they will change with the years. As she gets older, you will feel helpless not because you don't know what to do - because this whole Mommy thing is still new, or because the doctors never told you how to deal with this kind of infection, or because she refuses to eat anything but peanut butter cookies - but because you know there's nothing you can do. Because as she gets older, the battles will be hers to fight, and you will be relegated to the grandstands to watch and wait and hold your breath.
But that - the "there's nothing I can do" feeling - is a myth. A lie you'll believe because it's easy. And you'll feel helpless. But you're not.
You are never helpless.
In those deepest darkest moments, you're still her mom, because real moms are moms forever. And that means that you always have the power to help. It may not be in the way you'd like, and it may not be in the way she'd like, but it's there anyway. Someday, there will be more distance between you than you'd like - she'll go to college far away, or follow a husband across the ocean, or get an exciting job in a bustling metropolis - and the helpless feelings will only get worse. But as long as you are her mother and she is your daughter, you can help.
When I was a freshman in college, I was massively unhappy. I was still struggling with my father's death, and I felt like a failure among so many successful students. I wanted to be home, with people who knew and loved me, instead of in this strange place surrounded by people who barely noticed me.
My mom came to visit me for a weekend in February. It wasn't nearly enough. I wanted her to stay forever, because being alone here was awful. But I knew that, come Sunday, she would have to leave me again.
Sunday afternoon, in the last minutes before she would have to leave, we lay together on my bed. She held me close, and we listened to music. And as we lay there, "Baby Mine" came on. I cried, because I wanted her with me always, but she would be leaving. But together there, on the bed, I know she was giving me as much of herself as she could, so that it would last when she was gone again. It was, in many ways, not unlike the original scene from Dumbo, when the little elephant goes to visit his mom in the jail. She can't be with him as he struggles, but for those few minutes, she holds him, and she rocks him, and while he is sad to go, he is stronger when he leaves. (Click on the pic to watch the scene.)
I have never forgotten that day, and those precious minutes together on the bed. They did infuse me with a strength I had been lacking, and they still do, just to remember them. When I visited her in November, just after my breakdown, she held me again, and I was more able to realize the importance of what she was doing. "This is our time," I thought to myself. "This is when we pool our strength and we both come out better for it."
A few weeks ago, on April 27, I got a text message from my mom: "I love you." That was all, and yet my day was easier because of it.
Sometimes at 1am, when I am weeping and at a loss for what to do, I call and wake my mom up, just to hear her voice. She doesn't say anything particularly insightful - it's the middle of the night after all - but just that voice is enough.
Wonderful ladies, I see your love for your daughters all the time through your words. And I have no doubt that as those girls grow, they will know that love as an unshakable truth in their lives. All of you will constantly surprise yourselves with the wonder inherent in that kind of love, and the strength of that kind of bond. Just remember that in the darkest hours, there will always be something you can do to help.
So don't be discouraged. Do what you can, when you can, and keep that love at the forefront. And that, beautiful women I love, will be enough.
It will be more than enough.
Happy Mother's Day to you all,