Tuesday, November 8, 2011

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Letter to My Children

Dear Children,

This is your mother. The woman God decided to gift you to. Catarina, you have known me as mama for almost 21 months now and little Baby D, you will know me as mama in no time. We have a whole lifetime to get to know one another but I wanted to write to you now to capture this moment in time. There is so much going on with me emotionally that I feel it's important for me to tell you about it now in case we never have the opportunity to talk about it later. My point in writing this letter is to tell you more about me as a mother, my hopes and dreams, and the things that influenced me. Whether this is useful for you I don't know but I wish my own mother had done something like this for me. Maybe we would understand each other better today.

First and foremost, I want you to know that I am not perfect. I am actually far from perfect so please don't ever hold me up on a pedestal. I am human. I make mistakes. Lots and lots of them! I will love you always, but I can't guarantee that love will always make me rational when it comes to you two. I can be lazy, messy, airheaded, rude, and mean. I don't always make the bed. I don't always want to brush my teeth. These are things that will continue as you get older but I will try to hide them so that I can set a good example for you. My biggest secret is that I don't always feel like an adult so forgive me if I don't always act like one.

Just as you will be trying to navigate the world and your place in it, so will I so don't be too mad at me when I don't have all the answers or the power to make you feel better. Life is hard and full of pain and I will try to protect you but sometimes pain is good. You will learn from it and become stronger because of it. I will always be here for you. I will always support you and I will love you no matter what so don't ever be afraid to turn to me. I can try to be a friend, but my goal will always be to be your mother so I'm sorry in advance if I ever come off as too "motherly."

Growing up my mother was strong. I admired her. Things changed, however, the older I got. You see, she has a different approach to motherhood than I do. I always disagreed with her and she would respond with "you don't know because you don't have kids." If I ever say this to you, kindly remind me to respect your personhood. If I had to sum up her approach/thoughts on motherhood it would be this:
  1. Your responsibility to your children ends once they turn 18. 
  2. Your children owe you. 
  3. It's better for your children to have a crappy father than no father at all.
Now, dear children, I want you to know and understand fully that I disagree with all those assertions. I disagree with them to the core of my being. These statements are repugnant to me and have no place in my definition of motherhood. I hope one day you agree with me too but I don't want you to do so blindly, so let me explain why I am so against these statements.

Assertion: Your responsibility to your children ends once they turn 18.
Your children will always need you. As you grow you will come to need me in different ways. As a baby you will have needed me to change your diaper, give you milk, give you affection, and help you develop into a well-functioning child. As a child, you will need me to help with your homework, give you affection, and help you develop into a peer-savvy teenager. As a teenager, you may or may not need me to help with homework but you will need someone to teach you how to drive, to give you spending money, help you fill out college applications, give you affection, and help you develop into a responsible young adult. As a young adult, you will probably still need money, but you will need guidance on picking a career and on starting your adult life; you will still need affection and for me to help you develop into a responsible adult who needs to manage the juggling act of career and family of later adulthood. As an adult, you will need me for support and maybe even as a safety net, you will need me as a babysitter for grandkids (if you have them), you will need my affection and help as you continue to develop into an amazing person. You will not always need me financially, but you will need me emotionally. One of my goals as your mother will be to make sure you understand that I will always feel a sense of responsibility to you. I will never abandon you and I will always be here when you need me. How you need me is something that will be defined as you age and as our relationship with one another changes, but the need for a loving and caring parent will always be there and my desire to fulfill that need will also always be there.

Assertion: Your children owe you. 
Let's be clear, this is my opinion and it may not be the opinion of other parents so do not take this as standard thinking for all parents. My mother has always felt that we owed her for all the struggles she experiences as a mother. The only way we could pay her back for everything she did was by lending her money or being there when she needed us and if we didn't do as she wanted, she would get angry, break up with us, or say she was dead to us. My view is that it is me who owes you. Your father and I decided to bring you into this world and raise you. We decided to bring you into this world despite all the badness, sadness, and suffering; despite all the disheartening things you might have to face. You were our choice, our gift from God. We are the ones who owe you the chance of a good life and of good opportunities. We owe it to you to help you navigate the world, a world you had no choice but to enter the day we decided you would be born. We chose to make sacrifices for you. We made the conscious decision to do so. Neither of us will ever ask you to make sacrifices for us. One of my goals as your mother will be to provide you with the opportunities to lead a better life than your father and I did. I don't expect you to ever "pay us back" or to feel in our debt. If we are great parents to you, then hopefully you will be great children to us. Not because you feel you owe us, but because it is something that comes naturally from our interactions.

Assertion: It's better for your children to have a crappy father than no father at all.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with single parenthood and, in a way, I am glad we live in a day and age where single parenthood is becoming a new norm for family systems. I feel my mother was a better mother to us when she was on her own than when she remarried. Don't ever let wanting your children to have two parents be an excuse for staying in a relationship where one of the parents is abusive or dysfunctional in some way. Sometimes it is better and healthier to be on your own. While it may be harder, your children are worth it.

So dear children, this is my letter to you. One of many that will surely capture me in the process of trying to become a better mother to you. One that will capture the struggles I am facing and all the heartache. Like I said earlier, I am not perfect. I never will be. And that's ok because I don't want to be perfect. I would never learn from you if I was. I am simply me and simply learning along the way, hoping that my unconditional love for you will help me to be the mother I have always dreamed of being. Hopefully you are patient and forgiving with me as I learn how to be the best mother to you two.

Love Always,

1 comment:

Desi said...

Loved.every.single.word. You are amazing for writing this to them! I may "borrow" this idea one day when I have kids. I wish my mama would have wrote me a letter like this. I remember thinking that since she was my mother, she had all the answers and could do no wrong. As I grew up, I realized she really was only human and indeed did make mistakes. I wish I had realized from early on that mothers don't have all the answers, that they are just trying their very best. I completely know the feeling of not feeling like an adult fully yet. I wish I had known these things and given my mom some slack. Amazing letter. Please give this to them!