It is Tuesday morning, and my house looks like a cyclone hit it. To my left, the couch is covered in jackets, napkins, pillows, a purse, and a discarded bra. Under my chair is an empty sparkling water can that I keep forgetting to pick up, and next to that is my seven year old’s backpack.
There are no dishes in the sink because we haven’t eaten a meal at home in DAYS. There is, however, a garbage can full of empty take out containers, and one half eaten box of carne asada fries on the microwave stand. The bathroom floor is covered in clothes abandoned pre-shower, and left there until someone (me) picks them up. The counters are littered with expensive make-up and hair products. The front porch? Oh lord, I was out there this morning, and there are puddles of spilled coffee all over the place, a dead giveaway that my older daughter is home. She loves coffee, but doesn’t metabolize caffeine very well in her tiny little body.
And in each of the beds in both of the bedrooms, my daughters lay sleeping. My mom always says she sleeps so much better when her kids are home, and I get it, I really do. The past three nights since my oldest has been home, I’ve slept with my bedroom door open, and slept more soundly than I have in weeks. Just knowing she is right there, in the next room, and my littlest one is sleeping beside me…it’s like heaven.
You have to understand, my daughters and I…we are the closest of the close. Aisley, my oldest, we have been through hell together- most of it my doing, of course, but she…I’ve always said, she’s the reason I am still on this earth. I don’t know what would’ve happened to me if she hadn’t come along. We are more than just mother and daughter, we are each other’s core family, the nucleus, the main event. We grew up together. Which means things can get weird, and roles can be confusing- sometimes I try to be the mom, and she doesn’t want it. Sometimes I’m more like a sister, and she needs a mom. We have struggled with boundaries, and with communication, and with our expectations of each other. We’ve healed a lot since I have gotten and stayed clean. I think she finally trusts that I am serious now, that I’m not going to fuck this up. She doesn’t look at me with that suspicion on her face anymore, and I never want her to worry about that again. I don’t really ever entertain the idea of getting high anymore, but the odd time that it idly crosses my mind, I imagine what it would do to my children, and I know it’s not worth it. Not even close, not ever.
It was always Aisley and I, the two of us, and no one else. By the time Camryn was a toddler, Aisley was off living her life, in high school, running around with her friends. So I basically have two only children. Now it is Camryn and I, and Aisley has moved away. But sometimes, for brief times like this, I get to have them both, together, sleeping under the same roof, and I can breathe again. The worry I didn’t realize I was holding, I can set it down for a few days.
I am so blessed. That my life turned out the way that it has, that my children still love me, that I get to be their mother, and that I am better at it than I ever dreamed I could be. Not perfect, I’ll never be perfect. I might not ever even be great. But I’m so much better than I ever thought I was capable of. And honestly, for now, that’s all I need.
One thing in my life that it is never hard for me to be grateful for- even on the very worst days- are my daughters. Man, I hit the jackpot when it comes to kids! My girls couldn’t be more different…not only are they 13 years apart in age, they are just completely different personalities, and yet I relate to them both so much, in separate ways.
Yesterday, my eldest, Aisley, who is beautiful and complicated, came down off the mountain she now lives on for a short visit. She misses me so much now that we aren’t seeing each other every single day, and it’s been hard on her. So when she does get to come into town, she’s so excited to see me- she wants me to write down recipes for her, and she has so many things to show me and share with me. This daughter has always been my uber-affectionate little bear, and she still wants a million hugs and all my attention when she sees me. Yesterday, she planted a little vegetable garden out in front of my house for me. She put in little stakes with labels so that I would know what was what, and she made me promise to remember to water it. She has my dirty sense of humor, and we always make each other laugh, and I am so glad she belongs to me- that I get to be her mom. I’m so happy to call her mine.
And Cammy, my little one…oh, man. She is so smart and independent, with her giant vocabulary and the biggest heart. One of the great joys of my life is waking her up every morning. I always take a minute to watch her sleeping; mouth open wide, hair in a big old knot on top of her head. She still lets me haul her into my lap for a quick cuddle most days, even though she hangs over both sides of me by quite a bit, and I can barely pick her up. I smiled this morning as I watched her lurch, half asleep, to her waiting bath, like a little drunk person. I know these particular days aren’t going to be around for too much longer…I am acutely aware of the passage of time, having been through this once already.
That’s all, really. I just wanted to take a minute to speak my gratitude for my children out loud to the Universe. I don’t know how I got so lucky- I definitely got so much more from this life than I probably deserved. But I am so in love with those girls, and feel so blessed to be their mom, still the most important woman in their lives. Every day I pray to be worthy of the task, to be the person they need me to be. Some days I fall short of the mark, but miraculously, they love me anyway. I don’t understand how that works, or why it’s true, but I’m sure glad it is.
Hi! It’s me, your mom- you know, the weird lady who lives down the hall, who yells a lot (so that you can hear me, because apparently, our “inside voices” don’t work around here). Anyway, I figured I would write to you this morning, since you girls are the center of my universe, basically blocking out everything else, and I have no other material. Not that I am complaining. I feel pretty lucky, I happen to have created not one, but TWO, offspring that I actually like.
I mean, yes, you have your less awesome moments. Like Camryn, when you want me to pretend to be a vampire or some other scary, imaginary creature, and I do, and then you get too scared, and punch me in the mouth with your tiny little fist. It’s hard to believe how much your bony little knuckles can smart, but you always seem to catch me in the exact wrong spot. I know you feel bad about it, and I am likewise ashamed of my (clearly too) believable portrayal of a blood sucking demon of the night. I don’t think I want to play that game anymore. And Aisley, thanks to our much lengthier history, I have a wide assortment of complaints I could lodge against you, anything from vomiting in my shoes, to taking my thong underwear to school for show and tell, all the way up to sneaking boys in the house (which I actually found more amusing than anything, because any guy who still likes you after being covered in your dirty laundry deserves whatever he gets). Despite all of that, however, you are both my favorite people in the whole entire world.
There is probably something wrong with me. But, I am not alone. Most moms feel pretty much the way that I do, just loving the shit out of our disgusting, embarrassing children- lucky for you. I am sure it is just some built in safety feature that keeps us from eating our young, or leaving them out on the side of the road when they become too screamy. Nope, most moms still don’t do that, even now, in these crazy times. Not that it doesn’t cross our minds occasionally. There was actually a full year, Aisley, when you were about thirteen or fourteen, when my dearest fantasy was to…well, it wasn’t kind, lets just say that. But in my defense, you were barely a human being at that age. I think it speaks volumes of both of us that no one was jailed. For long.
I can assure you, before you were born, I had never been peed on. Not even for fun. I had never been vomited on, at least not by the same person more than once, ever. I had certainly never been able to continue to tolerate anyone who wet MY bed on a regular basis. I am pretty sure that before you guys came along, no one had ever used me as a Kleenex, although that is one of those things you can never be totally sure of. I had never been expected to comfort and soothe someone who obviously hated me, I had never had so many doors slammed on me, so much change stolen from me, and so much of my stuff haphazardly destroyed. Before you were born, my main job was keeping myself alive, and I was not very good at it- mediocre, at best. After you were born, I was suddenly promoted to keeping alive small humans who couldn’t even hold their own heads up. Do you know how fucking terrifying this is? You both had mushy spots on your HEADS where the effing SKULL hadn’t finished growing. I just wanted to point that out, for the next time (or in Camryn’s case, the first time) you want to tell me what a terrible mother I have been. I managed to not let your giant heads snap off at the neck, and I kept things out of your soft spot. Cut me some slack.
In spite of all of that, I find that I can still look at both of you, at times, and feel the kind of love I have never felt for anyone else. The kind you read about in overly dramatic romance novels, only without the creepy parts. You both make me weak and stupid with love, like, my heart pounds and I get all choked up, and ALL of that. It’s embarrassing. But you are both SO lovely, and so funny, and so full of life and outrageous personality. In a MILLION years, if I had been able to hand pick every single aspect of you, to make a perfect child for me…I never, ever could have gotten it right. No one could ever be better, more perfect, in my eyes, than you are. You beautiful girls make me laugh every single day. I keep going because of you. I try harder because of you. I may not always get it right, but please believe, I never, ever stop thinking about you. And I love you both more than I could ever have imagined loving anyone, and that will never, ever change.
If the world ends tomorrow, there are a few things I’d like to say.
First of all, I have had a fabulous run. If the world really does end tomorrow, I will leave it clean and sober. I have somehow, out of the rubble of a life I had destroyed, managed to rise up out of the ashes like a Phoenix, weaving something beautiful out of the mess. If the end is near, my head will be clear, my regrets will be few. I am so grateful to God for giving me the gift of relative speed, when extricating myself from the destruction I have visited upon myself, again and again- if relief had not been swift in coming, I don’t know that I would have hung in there. I am glad and proud to be where I am today, even with as much work as there still is to do. I know so many people who struggle on and on, and have to fight so hard for every little step forward, and I don’t know how they keep on…I don’t think I have that kind of strength. So, if this is it, I am happy with who I have been.
I know I joke around a lot about my mom, and, while I won’t pretend that we don’t irritate the shit out of each other, I will say this- she has been a good, good mother. My biggest fan, my mental twin, she taught me everything I know about pushing forward, striving harder, no matter what. Not only that, but she did it all with a clean house and great clothes, something I fall way short of. The best thing of all about my mom, though, were the holidays- no matter how broke we were, how awful things got, the holidays were magical thanks to my mom. I will never, ever forget those perfect Christmas mornings when, no matter how early I woke up, the tree would be ablaze with lights, music from the Nutcracker would be playing, presents were piled in heaps around the tree, and always, the cookies and milk were eaten, Santa long gone. Without my mom, I don’t know if I would have made it out of the lifestyle I allowed myself to be swept into- I measured myself so much by her approval ( a habit that is no longer very helpful, thanks) that at least I could see how far I had fallen. She never gave up on me. She always saw the real me, under all of it. I love you, mom.
I have the most amazing children under the sun. Aisley, so unlike me and then so similar- she is full of surprises, at such a weird, awkward part of life- fifteen. I wouldn’t go back if you paid me. Yet she handles all of the traitorous goings-on of high school with so much more grace and nonchalance than I ever could have. She is so beautiful and calm, most of the time, haughty and witty, private and contained. I think she will surprise us all, if we make it past Friday. And Camryn, my God! What a blessing and a joy she is. So smart, it freaks me out, so happy and sweet nature’d, charming and funny. I was so afraid of having another baby so late in life, but it was the best idea I’ve ever had.
If the world ends tomorrow, I can tell you that my life has been breathtaking, full of abundance and blessings, a million last minute rescues, countless good people who have reached out their hands to me, pulling me back when I got too close to the edge. The beauty has been constant, even in the dark times, even when I couldn’t see it. The heartaches have all been worth it. The goodness far outweighs the bad.
If the world doesn’t end tomorrow, I will be glad. I will continue on, as I have been, trying to get better, to be better than I am right now. But if it does, it’s been a wonderful trip. It’s been a marvelous time. I wouldn’t change a thing.
I would like to dedicate this post to all the moms I know, but especially to Amanda Davis, and her one month old baby girl, Maxine. I love you with all my heart.
The day that each of us got the news, either from a doctor, or, more commonly, from the stick we just peed on that had the nerve to turn pink, our lives began to change. I cannot speak for everyone, but I know for me, the first few months were a mixture of fear (is everything alright in there? What the hell will I do with a baby!?), excitement, and that weird, buoyant radiance that feels different from any other thing apart from pregnancy. We become so in tune with our bodies, and every day we wake up with a new sense of purpose- to carry this life within us carefully, safely, to it’s fruition. Not everyone of us gets to do this perfectly- I have friends who have lost babies, friends whose babies were born so, so early that they spent months in the hospital keeping vigil at their tiny infants bedside. For many of us, as mothers, this is the first time our lives are every truly hard or scary- it’s like everything before this pain is NOTHING in comparison.
From the time we feel their movement inside of us for the very first time, like a butterfly’s wings fluttering or a flurry of tiny bubbles brushing against us, to the alien rolls and elbow jabs of late pregnancy, we begin to develop a relationship with this little person. Then the moment arrives when they are ready to come out into the world, and time stands still the first time you see this marvelous, beautiful human being for the first time, or hear their tiny, gorgeous voice. There is nothing in the world like this.
You have expectations. What you think they will look like, what you think they will be like. Then, here they are, so different than you imagined- and yet perfect, better in every way than you could ever dream up on your own. A lot of times, we are so busy and caught up in them, these little miracles we get to claim as our own, that we don’t see what is becoming of us. The biggest miracle of all, for me, was what happened to my heart the day that I began to love my first daughter.
Before she came along, I was very, very self- possessed ( I”m not saying I’m so damned perfect now, I’m just saying you should have seen me before!) and it was incredibly hard for me to be empathetic for others. But the love that came to me with her was so profound, so incredibly pure and perfect, there was no way I could accept that love and not be fundamentally changed. My heart was just laid open, and it changed who I was. It was really the best day of my life.
I was very, very young, and messed up countless times with that child. I will go so far as to admit that she got a bad deal with me. I wish I could go back and change it all, I really do, but you know how useless that is. But I will tell you this- because of my love for her, I had the good sense to feel guilty about the way I was living, and the desire to change grew from that. Because of my oldest girl, and my love for her, I found my way out of the mess I was living in, and became someone better.
My second daughter knocked out every barrier I had left, allowing light in all of the places I had hidden away for myself. There was no place left in me now that was safe from emotion. My second daughters birth obliterated me with that love, and I was so ready and receptive to it. My heart expanded, making room for both of my girls and so, so much more. You think you know about love before you have kids, and I hope I don’t offend you when I say, with all sincerity, you don’t. You can’t, it’s not possible, it’s different, it’s rare and perfect and amazing. I know you love your dog, you love your parents, you love your husband. But this love, while absolutely worthwhile and good and necessary, is not the wrecking ball love you get with your babies. It destroys you and resurrects you into someone so much better than you were before- softer and stronger, deeper and…just better.
As our children grow, and the time flies by, there comes a moment when you realize that there is a distance growing between you. Then you come to understand that this was always the purpose of all of these years- to raise them and to let them go. It happens so fast. So, so much faster than you would have believed fifteen or so years ago…it breaks your heart. No matter how rotten and selfish and foul mouthed they have become, they are the same big-eyed, sweet smelling, little miracles who latched onto your heart with their sticky hands and kissed you with their runny noses underneath all that teenage loathing, and it hurts to let them go. But that is all you can do.
My advice to you, just starting out, is to relish every minute of it. Every time you start to feel fussier than the baby making you climb the walls, look down into that tiny face, and memorize it, because in five minutes they will be someone else. It goes by in a heartbeat. You cannot love too much, listen too much, be too affectionate, be too present …when they are small. But you can do and be too little of all of these things, and you will carry that pain with you for the rest of your life-so do yourself a favor, and be the kind of parent you can be proud to be. You will not regret it. Welcome to the mommy club. May the force be with you.
Something I haven’t talked about in a while, and something I don’t know how far I should get into, is my older daughter. This has been a REALLY trying year for us. I always think of it in terms of how hard it is for me, dealing with her. What I am only now starting to really consider is how hard this past year has been for her.
I found this out, unfortunately, when she was placed on a 72 hour hold at the hospital after making threats of killing herself. No matter how much you want to call “Bullshit”, when it is your child telling you that she has been thinking about killing herself for a year, you do not take it lightly. As a matter of fact, it shatters your heart and fills you with fear. If you are like me, you look back at the last fifteen years of dysfunction and beat yourself up for every kindness you didn’t show, every error in judgement you have made. If you are REALLY like me, you can’t remember them all, there are so many, and you are pretty convinced that everything wrong with this kid is your fault.
Since she has been home, we have been doing so well…or so I thought, anyway. We went to the pumpkin patch, out for family dinners, sat down at home for family dinners. We went to Santa Cruz and to the beach, and we have spent a lot of time together. When she told me she didn’t want to take the medication they prescribed her, I told her I wouldn’t make her if she really didn’t think she needed it. She seemed happier than she had been in a long time. So happy, actually, that I forgot to make her that appointment with the psychiatrist that we were supposed to follow up with.
Last night, it was clear to me that I had made a huge mistake. She had been talking to her boyfriend, Josh, (who I love dearly), and then after he left, she talked to him on the phone again almost immediately. I asked her why, and she said they were talking about something important. Of course, I immediately assumed she was pregnant, and followed her through the house, harassing her, until she broke down.
It seems things are not as okay as I thought they were. She is feeling really, really bad. She doesn’t see the point to life. The world looks violent and hopeless to her. She does not feel smart enough, worthwhile enough, special enough. She feels like she has no friends and does not fit in. She is anxious all the time. She isn’t happy, at all.
Now, as a mother, this is by far one of the scariest conversations I have ever had with my beautiful, smart, funny, wonderful child. I mean, give me a good old fashioned talk about sex and birth control any day over this…Because what do you say? When your daughter tells you she is just unable to find any joy in life at all, how do you show her all the joy around her? How do you help them? If they cannot see it, how can you point it out to them? When you are in a dark place like she was last night, the answer is clearly-you cannot. Talk about feeling helpless. This is my baby we are discussing here…I just don’t know.
What I do know is this- I could not imagine one day on this planet without my child, for ANY reason. God forbid I ever have to face that day. And so today, after a long talk with my daughter, we went and picked up the medication that she was prescribed. She’ll start taking it tonight. And as soon as I finish this paragraph, I will pick up the phone and make that appointment. I will do my part and pray and pray and pray that she does hers.
I would like to start by saying “Hi!” to all of you. I miss you guys when I haven’t been writing, and I really haven’t been writing with much consistency lately, for many (lame) reasons (excuses). So, I am being honest when I say I think about the little blog community I am getting to know when I am nowhere near my computer, and I think that’s cool. I also want to say “Hi” because my next statement is going to be a little (lot) negative.
2) My computer is a f***i**g piece of S**T! I am losing my mind on a daily basis (at least) now due to whatever issue it is having. It appears to have caught some type of unknown virus, probably the computer version of AIDS back in 1983. No cure, no hope, prognosis terrifying and grim. Geez, I am so off track here.
3) I hate to waste more time talking about this, but # 2 is a total lie. I actually have a really great laptop, but I don’t know very much at all about maintaining a computer. I do what I know how to do, and I have some program that is scanning stuff every forty-five seconds (it seems like) and I guess I’ll have to get with it, because this is really slowing me down. It has totally hindered my writing, of all types.
Okay, FINALLY, that is done with- can I PLEASE tell you the main thing now? So, as many of you know from either knowing me in real life, reading my blogs, or both, I have been having a pretty tough time with my oldest girl for a while now…like, maybe since birth, but until this past six or seven months, there were still good times, too. A lot of good times, and despite all the bickering, we were always very, very close. Not anymore. She really, really hates me. She’s done some pretty despicable things to me recently, and out of pure maliciousness, stuff I would NEVER have dreamed of doing to my mom. Not in a million years.
Sometimes it hurts my feelings pretty bad- the other day when we were fighting on the way to her school and I was trying to tell her that had she missed the one hour class that is required of her that day, she would have to repeat 8th grade instead of moving on to HS. She said “I don’t care.” Which frustrates me, because if SHE doesn’t care, why the hell am I doing all this stuff for her?! But I said to her in reply “If you didn’t care, you wouldn’t be crying right now.”
“I’m crying because I hate your guts, and there is nothing I can do about it! You are a mean bitch. I have ALWAYS hated you.” She said.Yikes. That one really hurt, somehow, and I don’t know why, because she has said much meaner things than that to me. Maybe it was because I kind of believed her, that that is the way she felt. That she HAD always hated me. I’m the first to admit, I am totally hateable sometimes, and the more I love you, the worse I can behave. Which puts her, my child, in the number one spot. The number two spot would be held by my mom. These are the two people I want to mainly talk about right now.
Lately, I just cannot think about my daughter and I without thinking about my mother and I. It’s just so strange to me that I am now, basically, standing in my moms shoes, looking at myself in my own daughter. It terrifies me, because I know I can put up speed bumps in her path, but I cannot stop this child. It shames me, also, because I remember being that….just AWFUL, the way girls can be at that age. I had it all figured out, I did not give a shit about how my mom felt (well, sometimes I didn’t) or how my insanity effected her life. You see, I would run away for days on end, never calling, nothing. I just don’t know how my mom made it through those days without losing her mind. I know how lost I feel these days, trying to figure out what I’m supposed to do to help this kid, scared to death I’ll make the wrong choice. There really aren’t too many people I can turn to, because it’s a touchy, touchy subject and I don’t know very many people who could give me any advice I could have faith in. Either their kids are awful, too, or they have never been awful so they have to be guessing. I can’t really talk to my mom about it because she gets too upset, and also because she always blames all of it on me. Which is pretty awful on a lot of levels- I mean, yes, I SUCKED as a mother when she was little. I was as bad as they get. Sometimes. But there were many, many times when I was great, too. I have friends who have known me since before I had Aisley, and were around all the way up until I moved away when she was six. When I came back, at least three of those friends has heard me beating myself up for being the way I was when she was little, and too my surprise, they absolutely disagreed with me. “You were a great mother! You always took good care of that kid. She was with you all the time, you never left her for one night, etc., etc.” So, I guess I wasn’t the monster I thought I was, and I let people make me think- again, my mom and Aisley. My mom was around way less than my friends, so I can’t totally discount what they recall. Also, I tended to act up on the phone with my mom throughout those crazy years, and for some reason, I would say terrible things to make her worry about Aisley. And me. I just tortured that woman. I was so ANGRY with her, and I have no idea why. Maybe because I just wanted someone to fix me, and she wished she could, but she couldn’t.
So, anyway, that’s kind of where I am headed with this whole thing. Aisley is tough, but the worst of it is that I MISS her, the her I held for so long…she is just lost to me, I hope only for now. And I remember my mom saying that to me, that she missed me so much, the me that she loved and knew. You think you have so much time to get it right, to fix things and work it out…when that baby is laying in your arms, eighteen years seems like forever. But it goes by before you even have a chance to figure out what you are doing, and that little brown eyed girl who slept curled up in your arms for way too many years won’t even let you touch her hand. She is only 14, but I know the rest of the time I have with her will be more on her terms than mine. That window was shutting and I didn’t even know. I should have known ,because I was the same exact way.
To my mom, I want you to know how sorry I am. I don’t know why I was so wild. I will never know if anything you did or didn’t do had anything to do with it, but I really don’t think so. I think I just was who I was, and I was drawn to that lifestyle no matter where I went. I really believe that you did the very best you could at least 85% of the time, which is a lot more than most people do. I KNOW you love me more than anyone else does. I can’t imagine…no, I CAN clearly imagine what you went through for ALL of those years.
You see, this evening, I finally had a chance to finish going through a box of miscellaneous notebooks and cards and letters and things that I have been lugging around since the early nineties. I have basically been going through box after box of paper, separating the cards and personal things of mine from Aisley’s, and from my drawings and poetry, and from old bills and garbage. It’s been taking forever, but it’s great to see all this stuff. Tonight, though I don’t usually look at the cards, I did. You know, my mom tried so hard, all of those years, to remind me of who I really was. Every single word she wrote was designed to tell me-“This is not you, Courtney. I KNOW YOU, and I will not let you forget.” I never saw that before, until tonight. Thank you, mom. I am so lucky to have someone love me in such a ferocious way, and to have learned to love that way myself.
And there were so many poems and drawings and letters from Aisley that tell me how much she loves me, and how glad she was that I was her mom. I really needed to see that tonight, because I was starting to believe that things had always been bad, and she had never had a mother she could love. I was questioning my own memories. I was really taking all of her issues as a direct assessment of my parenting. But Aisley is making her own choices now and I am not to blame for that. I have been a MUCH better mom to her since she was seven years old, and that is half of her life now. I have been in her life every minute since the day she was born, too, and you can’t say that about all of her parents. I understand clearly that my mom was just as unsure as I am now, and that she did her best to cope with her child who refused to be parented. It’s hard, it sucks and we are still people- busting our asses, keeping things together, and resentful as hell of this KID who gets everything handed to them and still makes sure we can’t have any happy, stress free time, because they have to act like idiots. My mom deserved a way better deal than she got with me. I love you mom, and I just want to thank you one more time, from the bottom of my heart, for never giving up on me. I know it must have been hard.
And Aisley, I promise you, I will never, ever give up on you. No matter what you think right now about me, no matter what you think about me EVER, my love for you cannot be altered. The years you and I had, just us two, are unique to us. You are the best thing that ever happened to me- if it weren’t for you, I never would have thought I needed to change. I never would have understood love. I never would have become anything. You saved my life, and you are so incredibly special to me. I will always be here for you- you can count on that.
Ugh! I am way bawling, by now. This was so long, I thank anyone who made it through this thing. I’m not even going to re-read it, I am going to leave it be. I said what I wanted to say. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go fetch a roll of paper towels. Goodnight.