I have a teenager. A teenage girl.
She is still mine, a little. But not like she was.
I will never forget the day we brought her home from the hospital. It seemed crazy to me, really. Here was this precious little human, this tiny little seven pounds one ounce of pure perfection. And someone, someone, between the nursing staff at the hospital, my parents, my husband’s parents, our families, the doctor, and ‘GOD’ himself, someone thought it completely appropriate to entrust this flawless being in our (let’s be real, my) care.
For the sake of the story, I’ll call her My Hay.
I looked at her sleeping, and said to her father, very, very seriously, “See this? This Perfection? We’re gonna spend the next eighteen years Completely F-ing. This. Up.”
It sounds funny in retrospect, but I meant it. Because I realized then, as I do now almost fifteen years later, that we were mere humans. Still learning, still f-ing up our own lives, let alone now being responsible for someone else. And, I knew, that that’s what parents do. We f-up perfect.
I tell her all the time about those first two years. She was learning how to BE. I was learning how to be Mom. It was her and me most of the time. We were practically inseparable. I was a great mom for those two years, a Great Mom. She was my baby and she had me by the heart. I smile looking back at the person that I was. If I’ve screwed up every single day of the last twelve years since, I’ll own it, I’ll take it, I’ll wear the cape of shame. But please give me those two years. Please. I earned those.
She was five when her dad and I finally called it quits. But she had already seen enough. My second daughter had come when My Hay was almost two and a half. She was a big sister now. Somewhere in those couple years things had gone from bad to worse with me and their dad. F it, who knows, maybe somewhere in those couple years something had gone wrong with me. I’ll own the possibility.
I wanna get real honest and ugly here, because I’m writing this mainly for me and for my girl, and I need to summon the courage to make sense out of things that she may not remember.
There’s two specific times that I recall. One was when I was still pregnant, probably getting ready to pop. Something My Hay did had caught me off guard, the details are blurred now like they get after a decade. But I remember slapping her little face with my hand. And I remember the look in her eyes. It haunts me as I write these words. It haunts me and begs me not to be so candid, with you, and even with myself. But my journey here is spiritual, my momhood journey is soulful, and who can change or grow without being real enough with yourself to stare your ugly down? Her eyes looked at mine and welled. I had hurt her Trust. The one who had taken care of her, the one who made the pain go away, the one who always was on her side, suddenly was the one on the other side of a slap. I’m sure she didn’t deserve it, because it would be impossible that she did. I grabbed her and kissed her and wept for forgiveness, which she gave me easily. Not that I deserved it. But I was eternally grateful none-the-less.
Time two. She was about three or so, the baby still an infant. My second girl was not a sleeper as My Hay had been, and it was all in a days work just to get her to rest for a bit. My life was torn between a toddler and a newborn, and I was many times much more hormonal nutcase than Betty Crocker, but I wore my Betty mask well as we all do. I had gotten the baby to sleep finally, with My Hay under strict instruction to Please! Be! Quiet! But, My Hay was THREE. And Three don’t do Quiet. So, she woke the baby. I remember this next sequence in my minds eye like the most horrific movie I’ve ever seen, only there I was, the terrifying lead. I TORE thru the house after her, chasing her, yelling at the top of my lungs about how horrible it was that she had awoken her sister. And as she reached the couch, and climbed up to hug her little knees in defense of my tone and obvious rage, there was that look again. That look in her eyes. Betrayal. I had betrayed her Trust. Even in that moment, that look shook me to my very core. It does the same as I write this now.
Honestly, I’m not sure why I felt the need to share those uglies, other than to say I spent this evening listening to my now teenaged daughter tell me what a failure I am, and I find it almost necessary to dig in real deep and try to figure out Why. How. When. I owe her that. I may be judged, or disliked, or discussed for sharing my ugly moments. I justify it because she’s worth it. I justify it for her.
And so it began. My Perfect Mom crown was tarnished, but much more importantly, so was my girl. I know, I know, none of our parents are perfect. I’m not, mine aren’t. You’re not, and yours aren’t. But I won’t be so quick to dismiss my own imperfections. My imperfections had a hand in Shaping LIVES. I want to make sure my honesty stays as on point as my interest in my teenager, And that’s pretty on point rite about now.
So, ok. There WAS that. She doesn’t “remember” that, no doubt. But who’s to say her soul doesn’t, her heart doesn’t? For a two/three year old, that’s some pretty heavy shit. For the twenty something year old mom I was, it’s what makes up the stuff that keeps her up at nite. It’s the “I wish I hadn’t” and the “WTF kind of monster am I”.
But I’m not a monster. I’m just a mom. And I’m not just a mom. I’m a flawed human being. Who deep inside, is sometimes no more than a f-ed up little kid myself.
She saw me and her dad get ugly. Not a lot, but enough. Enough that she held me while I cried at the age of two. Enough that she seemed to understand in a ridiculously mature way when he left. Enough that it had to have hurt her.
I spent the next nine years raising her and her sister alone, and even adding a son to the mix when she was ten. I was a good mom for those years, although I had let my “Great Mom” title fall by the wayside early on, somewhere between the slap and the nap. Sometimes I’m proud that I was Ever Great. Other times I wish I woulda been great a lot longer.
So here we are. She’s a teenager now. Once in a while she seems like a really big little kid, but mostly she seems like a tiny little grown up adult. Occasionally I still think she’s mine, but usually, I see her becoming her own.
But they give you the baby! They give them to you to take home. To raise. To nurture. To f-up. That’s how it goes. None of us get it different. Different circumstances, different wage classes, different environments. But still we’re all raised by Humans. And the only humans at all who have it figured out are dead, and therefore have no business raising children in that manner, hehe.
I Am Not A Perfect Mom. I’m a woman for one, which makes my hormones rule my life for what seems like three weeks out of four, haha. But, truly. Sometimes even I don’t know what the fk I’m talking about. I’m also doing it alone, which I know is difficult for a fourteen year old mind to comprehend or care about, but, it’s my reality anyhow, and the different set of bullshit that accompanies that from financial to emotional to physical is legit af.
I yell. I curse. I overreact. I have called each one of my kids out of their name when they didn’t deserve it, which is every time I did so. I have thrown their dad’s lack of involvement in their face when pushed to the limit, which is gross, and below me. But, none-the-less, there I went. I have raged and cried and broken things and broken egos. I have been disgusting. I have been a failure. I have been ridiculously Human.
As a matter of fact, pretty much every thing my teenaged daughter called me out on tonite is true af. I am not above letting her have her truth. Even if it shreds me, even if it shows me for the pitiful parent and person that I am. I’ll take it. I wish it would be so easy to give her back her perfect. But I can’t. That perfect is lying in a bed in a little one bedroom apartment that me and her dad could barely afford. That perfect is lost in a world of new siblings and failed marriage and burned out single mom-dem. That perfect only really ever exists on Day One. You wing the rest on love. Period. And as all of us adults know all too well, love is not always perfect. Scratch that. Love is perfect. People aren’t. Self included. Very, very included.
And although I have no qualms owning my ugly, I won’t allow myself to live there. Because there was beauty in my journey, our journey, Twicefold, shit, TwoMillionthfold the ugly. And I’ll own that, too.
I remember being a teenager. I remember it sucking. I remember feeling misunderstood, alone. I remember the emotions. I’m not saying that all feelings are alike, but some are. Just like us moms have other moms who went ahead of us. They come to us and tell us how fast it will fly, tell us all their regrets and joys. We remember being teens, we do! Life does us all the same a little. Enough to keep us united as humans.
I am not a perfect mom, though if I could be perfect at anything it would surely be my choice. But I love my kids with all that I am. I made mistakes and those mistakes don’t leave me. I won’t run from them or pretend they didn’t happen. I just do what we all do. Pick up the pieces, move on, trying to get it a little better each time. I fail, I fall, I scream, I cry. I Curse and say means things that I lay in bed at nite and cry over later. But I do it again anyhow, cause that’s how I know to be.
It is painful to let myself talk with such candor. My daughter never asked me to do so, but I owe it to her anyhow.
It’s easy to write about Wins, and I’ve been fortunate in wins, and writing. But I’m not here to be praised. I’m here to raise up a young lady. That’s my foremost task, and it’s one I take as seriously as it is.
As a mom, I am a mess. As a person, I am a disaster. As a mom, I love with my entire fire. As a person, I live with the truth. Truth is not always pretty. But it’s always easier on the heart than a lie. This is me owning ME. This is me owning the bad mom, the great mom, the good mom, and the horrible mom. They’re all ME. And ME, well she will do anything in the name of her children. Even This.
None of us gets to be perfect, and those of us who are parents somehow get the luxury of being even further from it than originally thought possible. But, we get to love a whole lot more than we ever thought possible too. And I’ll gladly take that love in trade.
So on behalf of All Mother Everywhere,
Forgive me. Please.
I. Love. YOU.