Several months ago, I started to write about letting go as your kids grow up. (Something I’m so very good at, obviously. Since I can’t even talk about sending my kids to college without crying. But whatever.) I started writing this story because I felt compelled to submit a piece for the Listen to Your Mother Show. For many reasons. But at the end of the day, I felt I had a story to tell about motherhood. As I’ve mentioned before, I started to write the piece I thought I was supposed to write about five or six different times. I couldn’t finish it. Because it wasn’t the story that needed to be told yet.
Thankfully, and because of wonderful friends, I realized that I was trying to tell the wrong story. And through some pretty deep soul searching, and some pretty hidden and tucked away memories, I found my words. I feel like I can’t keep telling my stories here without posting this. I’m the mom and the person that I am because of my story. And I think it’s time I told it here.
I wrote a letter to my 19 year old self. Because that’s when I became a mom. And there were things surrounding that time that needed to be written-needed to be told so that I could let it go. And, in a way, I have let go. Writing that letter healed a piece of my heart that I didn’t know was still broken.
Dear 19 year old me,
I know you’re scared. I know you think you’ve ruined everyone’s life. But you haven’t. You’ve made a very brave choice. I know it doesn’t feel brave right now. You feel like a failure. You can see the look in everyone’s eyes.
I wish I could find a way to go back in time. I would hold your face in my hands and tell you that it is all going to be ok. I wish I could hold you in my arms to tell you that your story turns out pretty great.
I want to tell you about it. I know I can’t and I know you have to go through so much sacrifice and hard times to get to this point. But if I could, I would tell you a little bit about our story.
You know the beginning. The timing sucks. And the not being married and not being ready sucks. And the college drop-out, teenage pregnancy label sucks. I’m not going to tell you you’re wrong.
But you both come from good families. They’re doing the best that they can to deal with their own sadness and disappointment. It will take a couple of years, but everyone comes around. And you’d be amazed how everyone is rooting for you.
I know it sounds weird, but you’ll be out of town when that sweet baby is born. She’s born a month early, but she’s absolutely perfect and wonderful. Being away from it all is actually a good thing. You guys have a chance at being a little family before introducing her to the world.
The two of you get married a few months later. You wear your sister’s wedding dress. The one with all the buttons. You’re more nervous about being a breastfeeding mom with all those buttons than walking down that aisle. There is so much stress and anxiety – it really IS hard to remember anything else about that day. You’ll pretend everyone is happy for you both even though you’re pretty sure that not one person in the room expects you to stay married.
I have to tell you…there are some really hard times ahead. Marriage is hard. Being a parent is hard. You both get good jobs and you, thankfully, have benefits. But making ends meet is difficult. There are a lot of sacrifices and humbling moments over the years. But you do make it through. I promise.
You both work hard and don’t give up. Your stubbornness is a blessing. Stubbornness and faith push you through so much of those hard times. And then all of a sudden, you’ll realize that you’ve been married for 15 years and that your family is pretty damn great.
I wish you could know what great parents you turn out to be. You always knew you wanted to be a mom. Life’s events aren’t what you planned, but being a mom is as amazing as you thought it would be. And, oh my goodness, your kids are so fantastic. As it turns out, you get the privilege of being the mom to two beautiful girls. They are so great, you will wonder daily how you got so lucky.
Believe all the clichés. Time flies faster than you can even imagine and that sweet baby from the beginning of our story turns 16 this year. Sure there’s the excitement of driving and fun, but she’s so responsible and sweet and wonderful. She’s so…good. And she still wants us around. But I’m not going to lie to you, knowing that you have to send her off to college in two years is harder than you could imagine. You’ve already arranged support groups with all your friends because you know that you’ll need it after you move her into that dorm.
Knowing how wonderful life is, I wish I could go back and mend your broken heart. You worried so much about everyone else that you never made sure your heart was okay. There has been so much forgiveness and yet you haven’t ever forgiven yourself. And you won’t be able to explain how you could be so proud of every member of your family and still not be proud of yourself. Maybe this is what helped push you to be strong and accomplish so much. To prove anyone who doubted you wrong. But somehow, even after sixteen years, you’re going to feel like you don’t deserve all these amazing people and experiences in your life.
I hope writing this letter helps you begin to heal. I know I can’t go back and change anything. And I wouldn’t. Even if I could. My only wish is that we both can see how just because life doesn’t go as you planned, the choices that you’ve made will lead us to the most amazing and hard and worthwhile life we could ever imagine.