“When we look at our big kids, we still see our babies, too. This double vision is one of the most profound privileges of parenthood. We gratefully turn to fresh chapters in our children’s life books, but we still keep a finger in the opening pages. We see our grown-up kids as they are, but we also see them as they were. Both are a beautiful sight.”
My daughter, when I look at you, I see the strong, beautiful, smart, creative, capable, vibrant young woman that you are. You are at a point in your life where you are making big decisions for yourself. Where should you go? What career do you want? How do you want the next season of your life to unfold? It’s a precious and amazing thing to watch. I can’t wait for you to have adventures and go out and seize the day. To make some mistakes, and learn more about who you are and what you’re made of. I am thrilled with all the possibilities your life still has to unfold. I’m your biggest cheerleader.
I am in awe of you. And how did you so quickly go from being my baby to the adult before me?
It’s an interesting place to be as a mother. Because when I look at you, I see all the things I’ve just told you, But I also simultaneously see my baby. The one I held in my arms for the first time and in that instant learned exactly what true love was all about. The little girl who put her arm in my sleeve every night to fall asleep. The one who I walked to her first day of kindergarten, and every 1st day of every grade after that. The one who thought my kiss had a magical property to heal her pain, and the one I held birthday parties for teddy bears with. My daughter, I see the sweet chubby cheeks I used to kiss and dimpled thighs I used to hold on my hip.
I’m keeping my finger in the opening pages.
These are memories I cannot erase. And sometimes I know I can allow them to cause me to still treat you like the little pigtail girl you once were. You have just turned 21 and I still have my finger on some of the opening pages. This season requires more letting go than I have ever experienced. You know that letting go has never been my strong suite. This is one of the ways you are my teacher. It is something I must practice every single day. To send my heart out into the world and trust that the Universe has you. That you have yourself. That you don’t need me to protect you the way I used to. Thank you for being patient with me as I practice. Thank you for allowing me to go through my own learning of you letting go.
In celebration of your 21st birthday, and the history we share, I want you to know what’s been going on inside my head. You know I’m better expressing myself on paper than I am the spoken word, I know you are going more and more out into the world. I know you will need me less and less. But I want you to always have something to come back to. When you need a reminder. When you need to feel comforted. And when you need to remember where you came from, and just know that you are always loved.
Throughout your journey, here are 11 things I want you to know:
1. You will always be my baby.
My daughter, I told you a lot when you were little, and I’m reminding you again now that you’re big and all grown up. No matter how old you get, you will always be my sweet baby girl. This doesn’t mean I will treat you like a baby. It also doesn’t mean that I think you’re helpless like a baby. All it means is that the same infinite love I learned was possible the first time I held you, is what I will always feel for you. I will always have double vision when it comes to you. Yet I will always support the you in the present. This just means that I love you for all you once were, all you are now, and all you are yet to be. If at any time on your journey you need to come home, and curl up in my lap, that will always be an option. No matter how old you get.
2. I’m always rooting for you.
I will always be your biggest fan and you’re biggest cheer leader. More than anything, I want you to grow and experience all the beauty this life has to offer. Even it you think I’ll disagree with you on something, I’m still rooting for you. I want you to succeed in whatever that means for you. I want for you to be able to grasp the happiness in life that you design for yourself. No matter what that is. I’ll be here, yelling and clapping from the sidelines. If you ever find yourself discouraged, you know who to call.
3. I will probably always worry about you. This is not your burden to carry.
I’ve resolved within myself that I will probably always worry about you. When you were little I imagined that this would go away once you were grown. Not so. In some ways, I think it’s almost worse because I can no longer be with you every second to make sure you do things like wear your seatbelt or safely cross the street. You know me by now… my greatest wish is to protect you from any pain you may feel. I wish I could wrap you in a bubble and send you safely out into the world. But we all know bubbles aren’t very fun. And we all know that this isn’t realistic. The more I try to protect you, the less life you live and the less you learn.
My worry is my own thing to work through. It doesn’t mean I don’t think you’re able. It doesn’t mean anything about you, because it is a reflection of me and my own surrendering practice that I need to work through. I’ll try my best to keep my mouth shut but if you ever want to know all the things you should prepare for, if something could go wrong, you know I’ll gladly be here to help shed some light.
4. I’m not perfect, but I’ll always try to be better.
We both know I’ve got lots of areas I can improve. When I had you, I was almost still a child myself. We grew up together. You taught me just as much as I’ve taught you. I will never pretend to have it all together. I have not been the perfect mother and you have shown a lot of grace for me over the years. The grace has been mutual and for that I am grateful. No matter what, I will always strive to do better. To be better for myself and for you. Please always keep the communication open with me. If there is something you’re needing, tell me. Growth is a gift and I’m grateful we get to grow together.
5. You are wildly capable.
There have been times where I know that my own fears have communicated to you that I don’t think you are capable. This is not fair. The last thing I want to do is pass on generational trauma to you and your babies to someday come. Please remember that you are one of my life’s greatest gift. I’ve learned that letting go means that I get to communicate to you how wildly capable I know you are. And this is the truth. You are capable of amazing and wonderful things. You are capable of protecting yourself. Of making the best decisions for you and your life. You are capable of so much, don’t ever forget it. And in my moments of freak out that can sometimes arise (I haven’t mastered it totally yet), I still know you are fully capable. Don’t ever let me or anyone else make you doubt that within yourself.
6. Always trust yourself.
This is something I will say to you over and over again. You have all the answers you need inside of you. Please know that you can trust yourself. Your intuition and your own voice. It’s easy to search outside of ourselves for the answers. To look to others to tell us what to do and who to be. It may be a partner, a teacher, a friend, or even me. None of us really know what’s best for you. We are not you. We can tell you our thoughts from our own point of view, but that should never trump your own thoughts.
Take other people’s advice with a grain of salt. Bounce it off of your own inner knowing, see what parts fit, and come up with your own perspective. Slow down and take the time to listen to yourself. What you have to say about your own life is the most important.
7. Letting go is bittersweet.
Sometimes it feels really hard to let you go. Other times it feels exciting and I can’t wait to see what’s next. Letting go is this tug and pull that I’m not sure I will ever get used to. There will be times in your life with jobs, relationships, children, pets, and many more avenues where you must learn to let go. I’m learning that it’s possible to be grateful for what was and excited for what’s to come, while also being rooted in what’s right now.
The song that says, “the only thing that stays the same is everything changes” is so true. Looking back at my life I would have never predicted where I am now at 41 years old and what I’ve been through. There has been a lot of letting go. I wish I would have been told back then the bitter sweetness of it all. So I’m telling you now. It’s so much easier if we learn to embrace the change and the rhythm of letting go. Like I told you before, it’s a practice. And often times when we let go, something even greater comes and takes it’s place. For instance our relationship. The more I let go of you being a child, the more we get to move into this beautiful relationship of friendship we have not yet experienced.
8. You will always have soft place to land.
Life can get hard. Things will get thrown your way that are difficult to deal with. This is unfortunately the way life goes. Glennon Doyle calls life, “brutiful”. Because it can be brutal and beautiful all at the same time. I would have to agree with her. Sometimes we get knocked down and it’s hard to get back up. But always know that you are strong enough to get back up. When you are out there, spreading your wings, and also learning some hard things, just know that there will always be a soft place for you to land. We all need a soft place to land every now and then. It doesn’t matter how old you are.
9. We may not always see eye to eye, and that’s a good thing.
There have been times through the years where I have challenged your choices. We’ve had conflict over what we each think is best for you. I’m learning to let go of my idea that we need to agree. Remember that conflict is important for relationships to grow. Of course not the kind of conflict that would be harmful to you in any way, the kind of conflict that is productive and wise. The kind that helps each of us expend our perspectives just a little bit more. Don’t shy away from conflict. If someone cant have productive conflict with you, take that as a huge red flag to run the other way. You should always be able to communicate your thoughts and needs. Don’t ever let anyone squash that in you. Challenge and conflict help us to expand our understanding of the world and those around us.
10. Don’t ever settle for less that you deserve.
There will be times in your life my daughter, where you will have to do things that you don’t necessarily want to do. A certain internship, a job, cleaning your toilet. Life comes with a plethora of things we must do that we don’t love doing. Take reponsibility and do those things as long as they are getting you closer to your goal. The intership will lead to a higher position. The clean toilet will lead to a tidy and sanitary living experience. Just don’t ever get stuck in something you don’t like that isn’t leading you anywhere and stay there. This is called settling. People settle because they crave comfort over taking risks. And sometimes, not settling feels like a big risk. Always keep checking back in on your worth and make sure you’re life is in alignment.
11. Always seek growth.
No matter what anyone tells you, you are never done growing. There is always more to know and more ways to grow. If you can come at life from the angle of growth, it makes everything so much more manageable. We can focus on the misery of situations we experience, or we can focus on the growth. Ask yourself, “What am I meant to be learning from this?”, over and over again. Don’t forget that we are here to learn. Not to control our experience and live in anxiety (I know I know, I’m still learning this too). The more you can surrender and believe you are infinitely supported, the more you can focus on the learning there is to be had around you.
Most of all, remember that I will always love you. No matter where you go. No matter what you do. You are always loved. There is no where you can go that I will not be with you.
So I’m going to keep my finger in some of the early pages, but I’m also going to see you for all you are now. One of the blessings of being your mother is being able to see double.
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Sarah you have such a gift to write as you do. You have captured what I as a mom don’t know how to express in words. Thank you for this.