To My Daughter on Mothers Day (Sappiness ahead, consider yourself warned)

Dear Daughter,

I hope you’ll forgive me for so public a display as this.  Maybe you’ll never even see it.  If it does what I hope it will, you will instead receive a hand-written letter of apology and remorse from me.

See, I’m so used to typing, it’s hard to sit and write.  But maybe this habitual action will help me sort out what I want to say.

Seventeen years ago, I found out I was pregnant.  An accident, but not really.

The truth is, I wanted to be.  I wanted a baby.

I wanted someone to love who would love me right back.  Someone who wouldn’t leave me or hurt me the ways I’d been hurt already.  I wanted you, always.  Even before I knew.

You were born ten weeks early, so fragile and tiny, I thought I would lose you immediately.  I had no way of knowing whether you would survive.  I cried every day until you came home five weeks later.  I railed at the unfairness of never getting to experience a sense of peace about you.  I knew from the minute you were born how tenuous our hold on life is, how you didn’t really belong to me after all.

Because of who I am and what my life had been, I made bad decisions.  A lot of them.  Your father and I are both damaged people, mostly incapable of making reasonable choices for ourselves.  In order to survive, I had to leave him.

I hated the split of our lives.  You were just a baby, but I hated that I’d failed you already.  I made vows to do things better, to be a different kind of parent than mine were.  I swore I would never be the one to say you couldn’t see your dad, as long as you were safe with him.  I wanted you to know him and me for what we were.  I never spoke badly of him in front of you.

But all my hopes of being a good parent were nothing in the face of my mental illness, my irresponsibility, my dysfunction.

And now I see that no matter how much I loved you, it wasn’t enough.  I didn’t do the things that would make you feel secure in yourself.  I wasn’t well enough to model maturity and security for you.

I brought men in and out of our lives, I moved us around incessantly.  I was selfish and impatient and wouldn’t just sit and play games with you, or hang out.  I worked long hours and still didn’t do a good job of building a life or supporting you.  I indulged you out of guilt over giving you me as a mother.

And now, you are lost to me.  Not in a physical way, but I sense the distance and I feel fear about you.  I fear your anger and overwhelming emotion; I’m all too familiar with it because it mirrors my own.  My love for you is so strong it burns a hole in me.  I fear it’s too late to undo the damage I’ve done and the patterns already so ingrained in you.

Being a mother is the most wonderful awful feeling in the world.  Every action takes on vast meaning and sometimes irrevocable consequences.

But if I can start to learn how to loosen myself from this miry muck, then anyone can.

When you need to know the way, I hope you’ll still love me enough to ask.


23 Responses to “To My Daughter on Mothers Day (Sappiness ahead, consider yourself warned)”

  1. She will return to you. She is whole and she will grow and she will return. Keep loving and keep patient.

  2. Damn BK, you are such a brave writer, its anything but sappy. Honestly, I teared up. Have a great day…really.

  3. I have been following your blog for a while, and just wanted to say that this was beautiful. Having been 17 not so long ago I know how much I hurt my mother by being angry and distant, it’s as if she could never do anything right and every word she spoke was totally unwelcome. Now that I am 23 and have started a family of my own her opinion and support is the most important thing in the world to me. I returned to her, just as Melissa says your daughter will, just give her time.

    • I truly appreciate your input. It took me so long to be able to see my mother as a person with her own issues to deal with, I often wonder how long I will have to wait for my daughter to really see me.
      It’s nice to know I might not have to wait too long.

      Thank you for visiting and commenting; I am so grateful that people like what I do here.

  4. I really believe that one day you and your daughter will find peace with each other. It just may take some time. Your letter is heartfelt, bold, tender and beautiful.
    Your friend,

  5. Wow. I’m speechless. I’m in awe of both your writing and how well you know yourself. Your perspective is amazing.

  6. Wow. I am in awe – of your perspective, of your self awareness, and of your raw, powerful emotions. It’s inspiring. Your words make me want to be a better mother to my own daughter. I hope you and your daughter are someday able to rebuild a relationship and that your new self awareness can help to heal both of you.

  7. If she feels even a fraction of the love that you poured into this letter to her then she knows with her whole heart just how very much she means to you. She is blessed to have you tell her the things she needs to hear you say. Many need to hear it but never do.
    You leave me speechless!

  8. Beautiful. I have a teen daughter and I could have written what you wrote. i SHOULD write what you wrote…in my own words, of course. As my daughter gets older, I am forced more and more to really see myself and like you, I hope that my daughter will understand me or at least forgive me my faults one day.

  9. […] To My Daughter on Mother’s Day (Sappiness ahead, consider yourself warned) […]

  10. I know where you’re coming from, BKT. I have an 18 year old son and he has to figure out who he is before he will ever be able to figure out who I am. I was on my own at 16. I forgave my Mom by the time I was 20, but she didn’t apologize to me until I was 30.
    And so it goes. All you can do is the same thing you’ve been doing, which is the best you can. Keep loving, and don’t give up.

  11. I loved this. I see my little girls and wonder what mistakes I will make that will distance them from me when they are teenagers and I hope I will be close to perfect so that nothing will get in the way of the bond we have now, but then I remember being a teenage girl and I wonder if it is inevitable.
    Anyway, thank you. She will come around. 17 is a hard age. You feel like you’re an adult yet you’re still a kid and you can’t agree with that because you’ve experienced so much, so you start acting independent and shutting the important people out so you can figure it all out for yourself. But then you get to where you want to be and see that you were foolish.
    She will come around because you won’t stop loving her.

  12. ectopist Says:

    Brutally honest and shows a lot of self-understanding. I don’t know you and it’s the first time I see this blog, so I have no idea how you came to this and nor do I want to interject inappropriate comments. I think what is important is that you continue your own voyage of self-discovery and self-healing, this is the only thing that will bring you and your daughter back together. Don’t blame yourself, but find the anger with the people (your own parents presumably) who gave you all the issues you seem to have been struggling with all your life. Good luck!

  13. That was a beautiful letter. As a daughter, I know the best gift a mother can give is knowing and acknowledging her mistakes. As a mom, I know I will make my own with my daughter. I hope she too will still reach out to me.

  14. danny d Says:

    i don’t know how i got here… but i’m glad i did. this was a beautiful piece.

    but… what if it’s a mistake to see a cause and effect relationship between the (inevitable) mistakes in parenting and having her break away at 17?

    maybe the fact that she’s breaking away at 17 means you did a swell job of raising her – and she’s able to follow her inner programming to become an adult. maybe she needs to show you that she’s distant because she’s afraid she won’t be able to leave if it feels too cozy.

    in short, might it work to have faith that her moves now will take her where she needs to be (and where you want to see her get to)?

    with solidarity,

    • Thank you so much, Danny. I know I tend to look at things rather pessimistically. It’s nice to have a different view of the situation. So glad you did find me, regardless of how.

      • danny d Says:

        i like to take the wider view. as in : we’re all little blips of consciousness that are part of the massively wide and spacious Consciousness. from that point of view, faith is more sensible than worry; compassion is more sensible than blame.
        with love,

        p.s. feel free to hit me up at any time for an alternate take on reality

  15. Heather Says:

    Oh wow. Great post. I’m going to email you about something regarding this.

  16. […] or worse. For others, it is occasional questioning whether stumbling through is good enough or wondering if there is a way to repair past mistakes. These mothers may feel overwhelmed by too few hours in the day (@ewiller), or not enough energy […]

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