My daughter turns 18 Monday, and will graduate high school in June. At 5′ 1/4″ tall, she is a powerhouse athletically, who can outrun most of the students at her school and lift more than at least half of the boys there. She is a force to be reckoned with as a person, and someone whom I truly believe will make a difference in the world simply because she never quits when she’s passionate about something. She is someone who will make you smile one moment and leave you questioning yourself the next. She’s a fighter for her beliefs, and someone who’s fought through multiple injuries over her athletic career, but refuses to be shut down by them. She’s a spitfire. She will be a strong leader. She will be amazing at whatever she does.
And she makes me want to pull my beautifully dyed auburn (or brunette, depending on the internal hormones that round) hair out half the time.
When I read the post A Letter to My Pregnant Self by Someone’s Mum‘s, I was inspired to write a similar post, but from the point of view of now having teenagers in the house, and one who is about to become a legal adult. I’d love to share with you pictures of my pregnancy and my actual babies, but digital photography was not really prominent then. All those photos are neatly tucked away in album after album. Sure, I could go upstairs and put them on a scanner… maybe I will get that motivation later.
Dear Young Mom Me,
Time is a funny thing, isn’t it? The nine months you cooked each of those babies seemed like forever. And then, the explosion of life happened. Having one baby was crazy: trying to work, coach two sports because this was part of your job, be a mom and a wife, and doing it all solo while your husband was on the west coast working. Then baby two came. Thank God you live in a dorm with teenaged girls, even though they simply add to the insanity of it – you will quickly learn to use what resources are available. Know there is never enough time to work, to cook, to clean, to bathe, to launder… never enough time. But you make it happen because you have to. And you will. And you will maybe want to wish things and time away so it goes by faster, but don’t. Your first baby will turn 18 before you know it. Honestly, “don’t blink” will hold more value as time marches quickly on. Savor every beautiful, glorious, bittersweet moment.
Fear and worry will always be a part of the fabric of your life from this day forward, but you will learn to mask these to let your children follow their dreams. Understand you have a tribe of people in your back pocket who will always be ready to help at a moment’s notice. After being told your 26 week pregnancy needs to have a Level III ultrasound because they’ve found an anomaly in your son’s heart and there’s a 1 in 3 chance he has Down’s Syndrome, you will lose an enormous amount of sleep. Don’t…you cannot change the outcome of most things. It will be just an anomaly of excess fatty tissue. Your son will gulp amniotic fluid on his way out of the birth canal and will be born severely jaundiced and breathing 120 aspirations a minute, and you will collapse on your knees in the nursery when you ask and are told Yes, that baby with all the wires and tubes connected, yes, he is yours. He will be completely fine. You will look at your 2 year old daughter in febrile convulsions and know who to call and what to do. You will watch your 4 year old son topple head over heel from step 4 down a steep flight of 30 hard wooden stairs, and you will react correctly. You will scoop your 7 year old daughter up at 10pm and race her to the hospital when you realize she’s at the start of anaphylactic shock from things you had no idea she was allergic to. You’ll witness your 12 year old daughter take out 80 ft of B netting (all that orange stuff on the sides of ski courses for those not in the ski world) on a Super G course after being clocked at 66 miles per hour on skis. Your heart and mind will stop. She will get up and be fine with just a bone bruise. You know these coaches have Ski Patrol at the ready for these camps and races. It’ll be one of those moments you realize children are sometimes made of rubber. You will stand in the ER with your 10 year old son who breaks his tibia on the 1st day of summer vacation in a baseball game that he was asked to play in because the other team was short people, and cry with him when he’s told his baseball season is over, even though it never really began (and you will want to shoot yourself later for agreeing to get a subscription to WWE).Your heart will break when your 7th grade daughter comes to you in tears saying girls have called her a “skanky bitch” simply because they liked the boy who liked her. You’ve never been a screamer in moments of fear, but you, and about 200 other people at the finish line, will hear your blood-curdling scream as you are sprinting, bearing witness to your 14 year old son being catapulted from a rut in a ski course, land and bounce 3 times on his head before finally tumbling forward to end the horror. He is stunned, but he will be fine – you will attest his lack of injury to the grace of the yoga he does. In each of these moments, you had friends by your side, or ready at the go. Many having “been there, done that”, they helped you cope and deal with the stress of having kids who chase big dreams. Just say “Thank you” in your prayers each night for your children’s health and safety. And thank you for the gift of friends who listen and understand.
You will have moments of aggressive guilt. Hysterically crying, you will drop your infant daughter off at a friend’s house knowing you cannot be near her another second because you no longer trust yourself because she will not stop crying herself. After your 2 hour walk, your friend helps you realize you did the right thing. You will pay this forward so many times. You will end up with severe postpartum depression after your son is born. Don’t be too hard on yourself down the road when you look back; you got the help you needed. Know you loved him and your daughter as best you could through a really shitty time. When you sit gapping in the allergist’s office as she runs down the large list of allergies your daughter has, your stomach will knot at the realization you’ve been almost killing her by feeding her copious amounts of the things to which she is allergic. You will turn your life upside down for your son for several years so he can chase his skiing dreams, but he doesn’t want to be away from home. And when he finally agrees to board during the middle of his 2nd year of high school, you think you’ve pushed him out the door too soon and against his will. You haven’t; this was his choice. Don’t beat yourself up – each moment has taught you a lesson that has helped you, and your children, grow into better human beings.
You will want fiercely to whump each of your teenaged demons at some (likely multiple) point (truthfully, many) during these years simply because they will be complete and utter asshats for no real reason. See 15 Things I Hate About My 15 year Old Son or Mom of the Year– it’ll be something along one of these lines. Just depends on the day and the beast. Last night is was, “I have to have my new phone NOW! I cannot live without it!!” Me: “Well, you’re the one who dropped it an broke it, so you’ll get it next time I come up.” I ended up hanging up on her because she was being such a wretched, spoiled wench. They will back talk and stomp off. They will scream, and throw your words right back in your face. Choose to look at all this as emerging leadership skills. It will save you from a prison sentence.
You will second guess yourself when you get pregnant with your son, wondering if you could love another human being as much as you love your first. You will realize love is genuinely infinite when it comes to your children, and when you think no one could love them as much as you, you realize your close friends willingly love your children as one of their own. As teenagers, they will come to have women in their lives whom they call Second Mom, and this means they love you no less; rather, you’ve taught them to have big hearts and there is that much more love to go around. It also means they understand family isn’t always blood. You will take on a few “surrogate children” of your own, becoming their Second Mom, and love them with the ferocity only a momma can have.
None of these are even things on your radar because you’re focused on just making it through, moment by moment, day by day, because of lack of sleep and the general worry that accompanies being a new mom. If there is one thing you need to rely on, it is your ability to do the best you can, with the resources and friends you have, to make the best of every moment. You will raise fearless, physically and mentally strong creatures who fight the vast majority of their own battles and for their beliefs. They will fight through injury, and stand up for the values you’ve instilled in them. You will sit back in awe when they confront adult hypocrisy and peer apathy, calling each one out publicly. Not only will your son use the Boy Scout values to win an essay contest, but also to remind his peers of how to be upstanding citizens when they have made poor decisions. Your daughter will call out the Headmaster of her school when he makes decisions that are not in the best interest of the school. You fear she may have crossed the line until the Headmaster, himself, calls to tell you his version of how respectful she was in her anger, and how well she conveyed her points and made him think.
Your children will become powerhouses in so many ways, but remain humble even in moments of glory. They are everything you gave them and more.
They persevere. Just like you.
All my love and more, because it doesn’t end here,
typewriter thumbnail credit