My baby is turning 16 today. She is a beautiful blonde haired, blue eyed mix of pure joy with a smile that can be contagious to those around her. She is about a constant 70% happiness and can quickly turn to display that perfect attitude as all 16 year old girls have. I can’t help but to realize the difference between who am I today and when her brother and sister were 16. Our home is very different, quiet, our finances are very different, and well, her mom and dad aren’t the same that her siblings had at her age. So, this is a letter to my Rylie, on her 16th birthday, today.
The mom who raised your brother and sister did look a little like me, but she was thinner, had younger skin, and took much better care of herself. She ran mostly on energy, enthusiasm, and expectations to keep up with our crazy schedules. She could read important things like thermometers and medicine bottles, always remembered all those important dates and times of milestones like when you lost your first tooth, and could hear her children plainly when they hollered for her from another room. Everything from great grades and high achievements were always expected and misbehaving and failures, were kind of a big deal. She knew her kids’ teachers well because she was quick to address any of the above; she did a few things in the classroom to volunteer and participated on field trips and made sure every school function was attended.
She expected her kids – because she more or less expected herself – to be ever excellent and practically perfect. But, at this time the young mom was asking herself how come it all felt so hard all the time, and was there another way, she was already falling apart a little.
As a result, you got a refurbished version of a mom, the kind you end up with after the first one breaks down but is still under warranty, and is returned to you with different insides, a new Motherboard.
A pre-menopausal mom who cannot hear you when you call from your room and who pees her pants a little while fake-nice-shouting for you to PLEASE COME DOWNSTAIRS TO HAVE A CONVERSATION, and also, Is anyone else freezing?? One who knows that it is much too late in the school year to admit that she does not actually know what home room you are in, and has no clue how to actually look at your grades online. (She claims publicly that this is because she understands now that your grades are yours and not hers, and that even a failing grade is less damaging than a mom failing to keep perspective; while these things are true, it is worth mentioning that it could also be because she cannot remember that she doesn’t have her password to log on because it’s one more thing that she says she needs to know, yet doesn’t make the time for, because after work she is simply tired and puts too much into her work to leave.)
The mom you got has been a back-at-work mom and even worse, a mom working a 2nd job trying to make a financial difference, while your siblings’ were the mostly stay-at-home variety, and this has cut both ways. On the gooddays, when she has been on her game, she has so proud to be providing a model of working motherhood with her stay at home Wedding and Event Planning business that was thriving and booming. So in order to spend more time with my kids, she decided to go back to work full time during the day to gain our weekends back. That means you became THE day care child. Your mom was a whole different person in the world, bearing the excitement of a new new job and great paychecks for the fun mom points – the good kind of fun with MONEY! That mom felt the pride of professional accomplishment. But as the family knows, there have been other days, too, the ones when despite her best efforts, she couldn’t quite keep all the plates spinning in the air, and it’s been you who has been hit by the shards as they’ve crashed to the floor.
I know how often she has been distracted by emails on her phone or laptop, half-listening as you chatter about the day’s events, the group project, the upcoming field trip. I am pretty sure she has missed more of your school events than she missed for all three of the others combined. Worse are the evenings that she has sped into the school parking lot, choking back tears because she was so late coming from work that it was getting dark and having to stand with the coach as the last child to be picked up.
Your self-reliance on all things from lunches to laundry fills your mom with pride for a modern-day mothering job well done – until she belatedly discovers that you are in over your head on something a girl might rightfully ask for help with, if that girl was not trying so hard to be independent, not to bother her overextended mother. These are the times that when I miss the young mom, and wonder if she really could have done a better job.
I can only hope that it will matter more that you have a mom who is old enough to have learned – and to teach you – important things the younger one did not yet know, truths which might come in handy for the girl you are and which are essential for the woman you will be.
- That perfectionism is just a fancy way of covering up the fear that you are not enough.
- That your worth is in who you are, not in what you do.
- That being kind and a good friend is important, even and especially if that friend that needs care and kindness is yourself.
- That everyone really is doing their best.
- That it is not your job to manage other people’s feelings, or expectations, or to always pick up the slack.
- That sometimes friendships fall away without it being anybody’s fault.
- That courage is essential, and that you must practice it often, so that you can always show up for yourself, taking up your space in the world, freeing up the space to show up for others.
- That gaining is success IS the best revenge, to be able to walk away and know that you ended up giving your all, and proved the naysayers wrong.
- I hope that learning all this a lot earlier in life might help keep you, whether you are the young mom or the older one, from falling apart a little, too.
And no, your mom does not remember a story that you might have told her two days ago and what your thoughts and plans are. But know this, as the other siblings have left the house and our Party of 5 has quickly become 3 and all of our attention can turn toward you, these next few years that we have you to hold and enjoy our time with you, will truly be meaningful years for your dad and I. We will be a little more prepared with you to actually allow you to grow and explore, and as these next few months quickly pass by and the keys to a car will be handed over to you, we still worry at all times, but have faith that you have been raised by your brother and sister as well, and I believe that you have had excellent role models on how to survive these last few teen years.
So, as we progressively get older and our memory fades, it’s okay, we realize that you don’t quite have the memory of us when we were those younger parents either. So, here is to all the years to come as we each continue to grow with each year, our love for you will grow more meaningful each day as you continue to blossom into a young woman!
(*My Modified version from Grown and Flown)
Your forever mom,