I’ve been a mom now for eight years and it hasn’t gotten easier. The days, they change, and I get better at the basic stuff, but there are nights when I go to bed and I think to myself that I sucked as a mother. That there was that split second where you looked at me and I didn’t hear you. I heard you, but I didn’t hear you. And in that split second, I lost a little bit of your trust.
The same goes for you. Being a kid isn’t easy. Every time you turn around, someone bigger and older is telling you what to do. They boss you and they blame you and they expect you to listen.
But you take it.
The other day I ran into another mother of a kid at your school, and she couldn’t stop gushing about how sweet and kind and genuine you are.
Did you know that that’s the ultimate praise a mother can get?
While I’m sure parents appreciate knowing their kid can read well, or get good grades, or is a wiz at science; knowing that your kid can go out into the world, without you, and do well, is such a compliment.
Claire, I trust that when you leave the house, that you will do exactly as I’ve taught you: to treat others kindly, and with respect, and to mind your manners.
And you do.
There are days when I wonder if I gave you enough attention. With having three siblings, I’m sure there are times when you feel that I don’t give you all that I can. Just yesterday as I was painting the walls, you stood behind me, bored, and watched. When I asked if you were bored, you sighed and said yes, and I said if you were so bored you could clean your stuff out of the car. You instead chose to go back outside and ride your bike. Should I have talked to you, instead? Should I have asked you what was on your mind? I don’t know. Probably. I’m still learning, too.
I’ve been a mom for eight years today because of you. I don’t ever remember wanting to become a mom, until one day I decided I did. It just seemed like a good idea at the time. No one my age that I knew or was close with was having babies. When Facebook became a thing, and I started to connect with old friends, I found that I was in the minority. I was just 22 when you were born, still very much a child myself, and I think that you helped me become the woman I am now. Aside from the patience I had to acquire (because, really, who at 22 has any bit of patience?), I had to learn how to cope with the isolation that came with being a young mother. So even now, eight years later, I forget that you are a very good conversationalist, and that I can talk to you and you’ll understand what I’m saying.
So what I’m trying to say is, I’m sorry that I didn’t talk to you when I was painting, but earlier in the day, when we were driving home from the grocery store, and you went on and on about the different clans the cats are in in a book you’re reading, and when I told you that you have your whole life to be an adult, I meant it. Be a kid. Go outside and bike and imagine you’re flying a plane. When you’re in the circle with your brother and sisters digging in the dirt, you are an excavator. Yes, you can believe that Jill is a lynx, manx, bobcat, and Batman is really a real person. If that is what you need to hear, and you know to be true in your heart, and you continue to be the amazingly sweet, and kind person that you are today, I’m okay with that. You spend your days imagining and reading and writing and drawing. You don’t need an app for that.
Today you are eight years old. I don’t really know what more to say about that.
Who you are right now is exactly who I had hoped you’d become. You make me proud every day. You look at me with those big brown eyes and I can feel it. I always can. You are so much more than you will ever know. Who do you want to be when you grow up? Do you want to save the world? Or do you just want to live life with integrity and be the best you can be?
Here’s my mom advice because I have to give it. You will always be judged by others and you will always be compared against your siblings. You may not be as outgoing as Mae or as good of a reader as your brother, and Audrey may be able to pull the cute card out more often than you, but you’re not them. You’re you, and that’s who you are supposed to be.
There will be times when dad and I may be disappointed in something you do, because let’s get real here – we all make stupid decisions, but you can always tell us the truth. Remember what I always tell you: tell me the truth and I will be upset, or mad or concerned, but lie to me and I’ll be sad and upset or mad or concerned.
Always listen to that voice in your mind that tells you what to do. It’s your moral compass and yours, since the day you could make decisions, has been spot on. You understand right and wrong, you know when to ask for help. You can imagine another person’s struggle and you can empathize. These are things that, try as we may, cannot be taught.
Claire, you are a gift, there’s just no other way to describe you. From the moment I felt you kick me in my belly, to when I first heard you cry, to when you told me you loved me, I’ve been so honored that you are mine.
So while I still question my abilities as a mother, you help make it easier. Please know, that I’m still learning and that even though I love you very much, there are days when I just am not into it, and pretty much suck. And I’m sorry. but, if anyone can understand and forgive, it’s you.
Eight years ago, I was still very much a child in so many ways, and while I’ve grown up in age, I still think I know what it means to be a child at heart. Thank you for showing me that it’s okay to be that way. To be smart and strong, but to stay young and silly.
Most importantly, always remember that you are worth it. You are worth someone’s time and energy. You are worth it to have someone speak to you and look you in the eye. You are worth it to be heard. You, my dear, smart, beautiful daughter are worth all of that. Always.
Happy 8th birthday.