I don't know what it's like to be you. I've never felt a baby grow inside of me, I've never watched that much of my heart walk around outside of my body as a tiny person. I don't know how it feels to be called “mom,” or to pour eighteen years of love and labor into that tiny person before letting them leave my arms before I’m ready. As a 25-year-old without any kids, I simply cannot relate to you in this way. But I do know what it's like to be that tiny person. I know how it feels to search a crowd of chairs from a row of packed risers and find that face that always makes me feel calm. I know what it's like to be loved so hard and looked at with wonder. I know what it feels like to have roots inside a person to come home to when I try life on my own. I know what it’s like to be a daughter. And now that we’re all adults, I want to tell you something really important
You didn’t mess it up.
All of those times you look back on where you lost your temper and raised your voice to a kid who wouldn’t listen. When you didn’t say the right thing. When you forgot, broke a promise, hurt little feelings, or made us cry… you didn’t mess it all up. You were a mom, in a moment, doing the best she could. And you did really well. Because those aren’t the things we remember first, those aren’t the things that shaped us and turned us into who we are today.
It was the moments when you scooped up that pouty toddler after a time-out and said you were sorry you yelled that you taught us apologizing is more important than being right. The times you humored a head-strong ten-year-old and let her make her that choice you knew wouldn’t work, but were there to help pick up the pieces was the day you started laying the foundation of courage to trust ourselves for the launching pad that we’ll one day use to chase really big dreams. All because we know you’ll be there regardless of our success. The times you knocked on a teary teenager’s bedroom door to sit on her bed and try that hard conversation again, showed us that when you love someone you invest in their heart and try as many times as it takes to get it right. These were the things that shaped us. In these moments we got to see you as real people, not moms. We got to see the façade of “always knowing everything” we clothed you in break a little bit and see a woman just trying to figure things out as she goes, just like us.
When life got overwhelming, finding you standing in the kitchen and crying for a minute allowed us to see that sometimes letting it all out is the strongest thing we could do.
In the moments where you couldn’t take anymore little hands on you asking for things and you sent us to play we learned that taking time for yourself is as important as anything else.
All the times you were certain you were going to lose your mind we got to see that sometimes the things you love test you the most but when you love something you let it grow you.
Now that I’m twenty-five, I get to see my own mom in a new light. Not only are we mother and daughter, but we’re both adults, peers in a way we’ve never been before. I get to see her as a person, not just as a mom. It’s an interesting thing when your mind folds up the superhero’s costume she always wore, packs it away in the closet, and looks at her woman to woman. It’s like meeting someone you’ve known your whole life for the first time. This new season has lent itself to a blend of the comfort I’ve always known with presence of a great friend. It’s shown me how people grow and guide each other into the best versions of themselves. It’s allowed for our lives to take on a different kind of richness I hadn’t expected before, one that feels like a long walk on a summer night when the sun starts setting off to make room for the moon. It feels like home with the windows thrown open.
Moms, this thing you’re doing, raising babies and sending them off into the world is the hardest work. It’s dizzyingly long days and never enough years. It’s more than you can take and always leaves you wanting more. But listen to me, Mamas, you’re doing such a great job. Whether you just brought home your first perfect-smelling bundle or you’ve just returned from your fourth empty-nester’s vacation, you are leading them well, you are loved, and you are not messing it all up.
Breathe deeply, Mamas. You are enough.