June 15, 2010
Mothers and Daughters have it tough. Our relationships are not always the easiest. Maybe it’s because our daughters fall too close to home that we find it somewhat easier to parent a boy, or at least I do. But, what I hope Tanner realizes, in the middle of all the mom-daughter tussles, is that I love her completely and really do want the best for her.
The beauty of this blog is that maybe someday she’ll see that. That even though it didn’t always come out right, I was always doing my best and that anything I did came from a place of love.
So, this post is a love letter to Tanner. A letter that she can read when she’s old enough to understand some of the grown-up things I write about here, and old enough to forgive her Mom for the blunders and maybe even understand where I was coming from. But, mostly, for her to see how much — how very much — I love her.
I hope by the time you read this, that this leukemia business is far in our past and we have moved on to arguing about what you will wear to school or whether it’s okay to wear makeup or not. I’m thinking you won’t remember much about being treated for leukemia, but I know it will have shaped who you are. Maybe reading this blog will help you understand some of things you do, and some of the things Daddy and I have done.
I don’t know who you will become, but I do know one thing… you will be strong. You would have been strong before this damn cancer, but after you will be a force to be reckoned with. There will be nothing you can’t do.
Being your Mom is a privilege I wouldn’t trade for all the power jobs or peaceful Saturday afternoons in the world. If it hasn’t always felt that way to you, I apologize. Being a Mom, and maybe particularly a stay-at-home Mom, is decidedly unglamorous. And, I’m a pretty lousy homemaker, so I probably gripe about that part. But, never doubt that I stayed home with you and Jake because I wanted to… desperately. I didn’t want to miss one minute of the wonder that has been you. I didn’t want to look back and have not been a part of all the things that made you grow into the wonderful young woman I know you are becoming.
I’m sure it won’t always be easy for us… we are too alike. You have inherited my stubbornness, which makes us a little like gasoline and matches at times. As long as you can remember that being right doesn’t equal happy (I’m still trying to get that one down), your stubbornness can serve you well. It will help you not give up, but instead work harder than everyone else. And, it will free you to be yourself all the time and not care too much what other people think.
I’m going to try to practice what I’m preaching here and admit that I haven’t always been right when it comes to being your Mom. You are a hard cookie to parent with a strong will, but a bright spot of joy also, and I have often struggled with how to teach you right from wrong without breaking your beautiful spirit. If I haven’t done it right, it wasn’t because I didn’t want to or because I wasn’t trying or because I didn’t care. It was because I am human, and what you will learn someday is that there is no instruction manual for raising a child and we all just do the best we can. In particular, there’s no instruction manual for raising a child with leukemia and few qualified people to ask for advice.
Daddy and I were nearly broken in two when we found out you had leukemia. It was, without a doubt, the worst day of my life. Either one of us would have gladly taken your place rather than watching you suffer so. The physical treatment was hard on you, but it was the isolation that was the really tough thing for you to swallow. You are a social butterfly and love people, so being kept out of school and away from friends and activities was so difficult for you. I know you blamed me for a lot of that, because I was usually the one breaking the news that you couldn’t go to a birthday party, or spend Thanksgiving with family, or go to the beach with your cousins. And, that’s okay. I just hope that one day, maybe when you’re a Mom yourself, you’ll get that being a parent means loving someone enough to let them hate you when you have to. We did everything we could to keep you safe and assure that you had a life to live at the end of this seemingly endless chemo.
When I was a little girl, I thought my Daddy was stronger than anyone. I knew he and my Mom would never let anyone or anything hurt me. I am sorry that you had to learn at age 5 that the bogeyman is bigger than Mommy and Daddy put together. It’s not a fair age to learn that and we did everything we could to retain your childhood, but cancer is ugly and you are too bright to not notice that no one could ever really promise you would be okay. You must have been so scared and I wish I could have made it better.
I want to make sure, more than anything else, that you walk away from reading this letter knowing three things: 1) I haven’t been the perfect Mom, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. It’s not the easiest job, this Mom business, but I love it and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 2) I am prouder of you than you will ever realize. You have been braver, stronger and more poised than I could have ever been in the same situation. 3) I love you… fiercely and completely… just the way you are. And, I always will.
I hope this helps… for you to understand what happened to you, and to our family, many years ago, and for you to realize that you have been all I could ask for from a daughter.
I love you, T.