A couple of years before our firstborn entered this world and changed our lives forever, I had a compelling dream. I dreamt of a little girl who needed rescuing. I don’t recall the setting of the dream, but I recall the feeling. I was chasing after this little girl in a dress, with dark hair in her eyes, and I whisked her away from danger. She clung closely to my shoulders and snuggled into my neck. She didn’t call me mommy or anything, really. But I remember the ferocity of the determination I felt to save her, to keep her safe, to let the world’s pain slip off her shoulders like water off silken paper.
Years later, after our Lily was born, it was only then that I realized I dreamt this beautiful little baby girl up. She was the girl in my dreams. I am not a religious person, but I am spiritual and I’d like to believe that I am at least somewhat in tuned with the universe. Somehow, I always knew I was going to be a mom to a girl. At least one girl. Now I am blessed with two.
I understood from afar the complexities of being a parent. A mother. A woman parent. I understood that the responsibility is grand beyond all other measures of life. More so than being a good daughter, it is weighed heavily on women to be good mothers. I unreasonably and naively thought that this would be easy to do. I know what kind of mother I’ve always wanted, and the kind I was given sometimes felt like I was given the short end of the stick. I knew then that I would work harder, try better, at being more than what I was given.
No one could have prepared me for the mind craze that comes with motherhood. In all actuality, motherhood means living with guilt, fear, pain, and a tremendous amount of incredible and unequivocal love that feels like your chest will rip open right in front of you. It doesn’t feel real some days. It feels miraculous and frightening. Most days, I run through my life doing my absolute best but never quite my absolute perfect. By the end of the day, I sleep exhausted and mind numb with feelings of guilt and shortcomings. I am not perfect, I will never be perfect, and I cannot rid the guilt I feel because of this.
It is easy to tell a parent to “do their best” and be okay with it. There is nothing more to give outside of your “best.” There are many days I wish I can be more than I am. There are still many days I know I cannot be more than I am. The mind already knows the impossible task I set myself to, yet the heart and the soul refuse to give up. Because really, at the end of the day, at the end of eternity, these girls chose me to be their mother. They chose me. And I can’t help but feel that they’ve made a terrible choice in the matter. They could have chosen someone much more patient, much more worthy, much kinder and more intelligent. They could have chosen someone with so much more to give, yet they chose me. And on my worst days, when I grow impatient and my temper just falls short of beautiful, I wonder if the damage I am doing to their esteem means they will one day regret ever choosing me at all.
For a mother of daughters, there is much to do. There is much to teach simultaneously. To teach confidence and humility. To teach patience and strength. To instill in them the ever-flowing capacity for kindness and the silent yet firm hand of character. To give them grace and will power. To role model strength and power in the midst of fear and weakness. To be okay with fear and weakness while striving for strength and power. It is a task not made for the weak of heart or the tender of character.
Raising daughters is a delicate task. We belong to a sisterhood of love and competition. Sometimes our cruelest friends are the ones we love the most. Sometimes our biggest teachers are the ones we call enemies. More often than not, we learn best from our vulnerable moments and we grow from the tenderness of our love and the strength of our tears. We fall into the hands of those who make us rage and we take comfort on the shoulders of those who let us cry. And somewhere in the middle of all of that, in the beauty of the light of day and the glory of night, I should know how to teach all these things as a mother. But I don’t even know how to gracefully walk it as a woman half the time.
I hope that somehow, I am teaching them grace in my shortcomings. I hope that somehow, when I am at my worst, I am teaching imperfections and acceptance. I hope that somehow, when I am giving examples of what not to be, I also show them that I am vulnerable when I am at my worst, and they get all of me. They get all of me. Even when I don’t want them to, they still get all of me. My relationship with them is something beautiful and terrifying. The motherhood of the story of my life is the most beautiful because it is the most vulnerable.
I hope that in my own imperfect way, I am protecting them and keeping them safe.