I am sorry to say that I don’t remember what secret my oldest daughter is telling me in this photo. It looks like a nice picture of a mother and daughter, and it is that – but the truth is, we were at an outside concert and I was on my second bottle of wine. I took the photo to remember this moment later, but a picture can only tell so much. That moment is lost for me. I will never know what she said.
Life has changed a lot now at almost 3 consecutive years sober, almost 4 if you don’t count the weeks after my mother died.
I carry a lot of guilt and weight about the things I lost. About the things I don’t remember, the times I missed, the time that I can never get back.
But carrying that weight is like carrying my past with me everywhere I go, it’s a shadow that won’t let me shine as I am now. It causes me to numb out in other ways and figure, why bother, I’ve already lost.
This is, for failure of finding a better word, insane. I haven’t gotten sober and come this far just to drag my old self around with me like a bag of bones. I am a Christian and I know God has redeemed me, why can’t I redeem myself?
I have other old mother wounds that affect me that I let affect me that I realize I need to work through, but I am no longer going to tell myself I’m a “bad” mother.
As a Type 1 enneagram, I see things in black or white, good or bad. But really, the beauty is in those shades of gray.
I visited York cathedral in England and my favorite chapel was one where the stained glass was all made of shades of black, white, and grey. There wasn’t one single color. And I found this to be the most beautiful thing.
“Once in a while you get shown the light
In the strangest of places if you look at it right.”
Scarlet Begonias by The Grateful Dead
So no more bad and good moms. To define motherhood as good or bad is to limit it, diminish it, and I’m either winning or losing, and motherhood is not a game. I am a mom, and I do my best at that. I would say in some ways I’m exceptional, and in many ways, I fail daily. But my desire is always to be there for my daughters. And I realize I learn just as much from them, if not more than they will learn from me. And these are relationships that take time to cultivate and I’m here for that. This will always be my work and it’s a privilege, even on days when it feels like a chore.
I’ve made a list of all the ways that I am a mom. Not good or bad, just letting it be what it is. (these apply to both of my daughters, I’ve used the pronoun her to simplify it. )
- I love her.
- I love her unconditionally. I may not like her or the situation at the time, but I love and honor HER.
- I ask her for her opinions and I listen.
- Let me repeat, I listen.
- I act on her best interests.
- I spend too much money at times trying to make her life magical.
- I believe there is magic and that our relationship can be.
- I had something magic with my own mom, and we survived my teenage years. I’ll survive this.
- I worry about whether I’m a good mom.
- I am a good mom.
- I’m also a bad mom.
- I’m eliminating these terms from my vocabulary, starting now.
- I yell too much.
- I accept her sexual orientation without question.
- I learn about her sexual orientation.
- I don’t bad talk her with other moms.
- I let her have a snake and there is a Tupperware container labeled “mice” in my freezer, next to my veggie swirls.
- I need my alone time.
- I have a savings account so I can spoil her at Christmas.
- I keep her secrets.
- I see the magic in her.
- I think she is beautiful.
- If I were her age I’d want to be friends with her.
- I believe in therapy and medicine if needed.
- I work on my own issues and my health, inside and out, so that I can be the best mom and woman that I can.
- I steer her in a direction I feel is right, and if she veers off that path, I honor that, too.
- I trust her decisions.
- I’m learning to let her be who she is.
- I wonder what she’ll be like as an adult.
- I ask how she’s doing, sometimes too many times.
- I see her.
- I support her causes.
- I am saving money for college.
- I sacrifice, not enough but I am trying.
- I have been the sole provider financially since she was born and we are doing OK.
- I took her to see Hamilton twice.
- I took a class on mental health and will be a lifelong learner on that for support.
- I’ve made hard decisions and advocate for her.
- I nurture her creative talents.
- I can find her a Micron. 03 pen when it’s needed.
- If there’s an art supply we don’t have I consider this an emergency and we immediately go to the store.
- I push her to be a better version of her while accepting the version that doesn’t clean her room.
- I am always carrying her heart with me.
- I dream and pray for her future.
- I release myself from all past guilt.
- My past sins are not remembered. I need to let them go too.
- I buy her clothes and makeup that she sends me hints about thru Instagram messages.
- I am a good role model.
- I apologize when needed.
- I demonstrate my love both out loud and silently.
- I have shared my love of books.
- I fight for her.
- I think she is strong and marvel that she came from me.
- I stopped drinking for her.
- I promise to hold her secrets and remember them.
- I will do hard things to make her life easier.
- I relish any hug or love I receive from her, I know teenagers don’t give those out easily.
- I encourage her art.
- I’m her biggest fan.
- I know she loves me even when she doesn’t say it or show it, and especially when she acts like she hates me.
- I say good morning and good night.
- I let her cut her hair however she likes.
- I have an alarm on my phone to ensure I give her medicine.
- I have a folder named “daughters” on social media and save posts I feel she’d like.
- I respect her belief, or disbelief, of God.
- I know this is not a reflection of me or my failure as a Christian parent.
- I realize my feelings of failure as a mom will be a roadblock to our relationship.
I could keep writing this list forever. I do all of these things, but also being her mother doesn’t define me. It shouldn’t, really.
I no longer strive to be a “good” mother. That is impossible and will bury me further into the guilt that seems to come as a side helping along with motherhood. I strive to be the mother that both of my daughters need.
And I will listen to her secrets and I keep them now.