“I believe Fate smiled
and Destiny laughed
As she came to my cradle
Know this child will be able
Laughed as she came to my mother
Know this child will not suffer
Laughed as my body she lifted
Know this child will be gifted
With love, with patience, and with faith
She’ll make her way, she’ll make her way.”
~ Natalie Merchant
Little girl, daughter, beautiful woman, child. I never thought I could harm you. But, I did.
Over the years I did. I harmed you because I am and will continue to be a pieced together person. I am, quite simply, glued fragments of a shattered woman trying to heal. You witnessed my slicing shards of self-loathing, and you bore the brunt of my yearning for things to emerge in you that would not, could not emerge in me. I wanted to be the best for you, but gave you, instead, my broken worst. I know this. This, I know.
I am a woman, it’s true. But, I am your mother too. I should have found a way to stop sooner, the harm. My anger. My issues. My tangled web of delusions and frustrations. I projected my past pain onto you, my beautiful little girl child. I said terrible things sometimes. I hissed, and I seethed. I rolled my eyes, and I shook my head. I sighed with deep and heavy disappointment about everything. Every last little thing. Most days I didn’t mother you lovingly. Because, in many ways, I was still a child too, and I had my own growing up to do.
Amid the unfinished business of my long-standing hurts, I was entrusted with a girl child. You were but a lamb placed into a butcher’s hands.
I should have protected you, but I didn’t. I didn’t protect you from my demons – the ones that haunted me my whole life. But, born a warrior, you fought every step of the way. You, a little girl, who swallowed your mother’s pain and buried it deep inside. As I railed and clawed and pushed my way to the surface, you dutifully consumed the scattered, dirty debris of my journey.
You watched me. With big eyes and even bigger ears, you saw and heard me wrestle with myself. Through closed, flimsy doors, I taught you that feast and famine are how a woman treats herself. You deflected, deftly, my attempts at fixing in you what I couldn’t yet fix in me. And it made you sad, and disenchanted, and angry. Through all of it, all of it, I know you felt un-liked, even unloved by me. Though I screamed the word “love” at you a million times, you couldn’t feel it.
Because words are empty when an empty person speaks. This truth brings me to tears as I write.
When you were born, I didn’t really see you first. You were briefly shown to me before they wheeled me into the recovery room after another deflating C-section. A few people were afforded longer peeks at you before the numbness subsided and it was finally my turn. They saw you, but I had to wait. And it broke my heart a little bit. I should have been the one to see you first, my new baby. It’s not their fault. They loved you instantly, and they were excited. But, in those early moments, I already felt detached. I mourned a connection that should have been there – between you and I first, before the outside world crept in. You were mine, but you suddenly belonged to everyone. With your curly long hair, fuzzy ears, wide open eyes and smushed baby nose you were but a tiny princess in a plastic case, something for me to look at and wonder about. And though I felt oddly disconnected, I surely loved you. But not the way I love you now.
What I loved then was the idea of you. A daughter. My daughter. I was in love with the idea of you and what I wanted you to be instead of you as you are. I know this now. This, I know.
Your assertions began early, and so, too, did our arguments. Pushing and pulling, we disagreed and tugged at each other. We pressed thousands of hot buttons that caused mini mushroom explosions all around us. And I didn’t know what I was doing. At all. I shouted, exasperated, annoyed. You screamed, frustrated, angry. You stomped your feet. I punched a hole in the wall. We slammed doors and soaked our pillows with tears in separate rooms. For years and years we raged. I was in charge, but then you were in charge. And we let each other have it. I told you what to do, and you told me what I could do with it.
Maybe you will read this. Maybe you are still watching me, reading me, and waiting. Maybe we’ve both grown up enough to understand that forgiveness and small, inch by inch beginnings are possible. When love exists, beginnings are always possible.
And love does exist. It always has. It was there long before we met.
But, before you come back to me, and I’m hoping you will, here’s what I want you to know. Here is what I want you to inhale every day of your own blessed journey:
I see your gifts. I see your beautiful light. I see you joyful, making people laugh with your quick wit. I see you singing your own damn song. I hear you singing the roof right off our house. I see you with your crazy hair and I know it brings you a certain rebellious happiness. Your soft skin and warm eyes and quick smile and giant laugh make you irresistible. I know that when you feel something, you feel it deep in your bones, inside your sensitive soul. You know how to love. When I’m allowed to lean in, I can feel your heartbeat, and it sounds like mine. Because it grew within me, in cadence with my own, and your blood, lovely girl, is my blood. But your gifts are yours alone. I love you now with clarity instead of longing because I see them. Your gifts. You and your bounty of gifts have always been un-tethered to me.
And I’m watching, you know. With a secret smile, I watch you exert your opinion using your sharp intelligence, your talent, your timing, and your wicked delivery. I hear your wisdom, the wisdom of a thousand years, when you talk to your friends. You were somehow born with deep knowing, an old soul, a person that others seek for comfort and advice.
You were born feisty, with fire, and without a filter. I sprinkled you with some of it, yes I sure did, but most of it was given to you by the universe. Fate and Destiny smiled when they bestowed your sweet, divine gifts. Because they knew, before any of us laid eyes on you, how truly special you are.
When I was alone with you, in our hospital room, I thought about how I wasn’t going to mess you up. You weren’t going to be that girl who needed reassurances. You wouldn’t need someone else to tell you that you were enough, or that you were beautiful, because you were going to feel it, always feel it, every damn day.
But I failed you. I couldn’t reassure you when I couldn’t reassure me. I couldn’t give you strength when I was so weak. I couldn’t love you without judgment the way every little girl, daughter, beautiful woman, child needs to be loved, because I was so busy judging and not loving myself. It makes me uncomfortable to admit this, but it is the truth.
And, I’m sorry.
By some ridiculous miracle, you are still filled with life and a giving spirit. I believe you hold the sprouting seeds of greatness in the palms of your hands. And I know you are a fighter because you had to fight your way through me to get to yourself. Mothers are often the toughest hills a woman must climb before she finds herself.
But shrug me off, now. Please shed me. Spit my dirt out of your mouth, and fight for your life.
Despite how I harmed you, what I said, and all that cannot be undone, you are surely making your way. With your own two feet upon the ground, you are moving ever forward, unbroken and unbound.
You are messy, but kind, with a generous light, and a brilliant mind. Every so often, out there in the world, please tell me what you find. Because my little girl, daughter, beautiful woman, child – you belong to yourself now. But you used to be mine.