Posted in family, kids, Life, motherhood, Musings, parenting, People, relationships, women

Unconditional

unconditional

It is 4:42 a.m. and my eyes pop open. I bring my wrist to my face and squint up at the green numbers on my Fitbit, then slide awkwardly towards the foot of my bed to exit, grabbing my phone from the charger as I go. There’s a child sleeping beside me that had not been there when I went to sleep, and I don’t want to risk waking her. This is as much for my sake as her own- maybe more for my sake, honestly. These little hours of the morning are the only ones that are truly mine, and I am not willing to share them with anyone.

Camryn, though, is not the child that sleeps lightly. Aisley was the one I had to tiptoe around to keep from waking, the one who would always wake simply because the warmth of my body was missing beside her. From the moment she was born, she lived her life perched in the crook of my arm, balanced on the side of my hip. She slept pressed against my side, curled herself into my lap as we watched TV. Camryn was different- she wanted to sleep near me, but not too near. She wanted down, she wanted to explore, she wanted to do it herself. I told myself it was a good thing, her independence. It meant she felt safe, that I was doing something right. The truth is, I missed all the cuddling, and it probably had nothing to do with me. Children, in many ways, are born with personalities intact.

Last night was a rough night. Though there is nothing I love more than my daughters, and having them both home, under the same roof, brings a peace to my heart like nothing else, my girls are…polar opposites. Like two ends of a battery, they go together, but they are not the same. Positive and Negative. Cam is happy and hyper, kind and silly. At the far end of those things, she is obnoxious, relentless, impulsive and incapable of pumping the brakes. Aisley is…quiet, calm, practical and sensitive to her environment. The darker side of her is moody, agitated, intolerant and…unhappy in a way that you can feel, even when she is silent.

Her sister gets on her nerves. I can feel the tension building, and it affects me, too. Cam is bouncing off the walls. Aisley is stewing. I am in the middle, trying to warn them both “She’s only eight, be patient.” and “Camryn, you need to settle down.” “Settle down.” “Camryn, THAT IS ENOUGH!” Poor Cam, thinking she can crack just one more joke, and everyone will laugh and be happy, not realizing that every time she opens her mouth, she’s pushing both her sister and I closer to the edge. It ended with me losing my cool, Aisley jumping in, and Camryn in tears, feeling (rightly) that she’d been ganged up on. My poor little peanut.

I apologized, but was not granted permission to hug for several hours. I explained to Aisley that, though it isn’t her intention to do it, her moods are contagious for me. They always have been. I’ve always been pretty empathetic, but with her it’s next level. I’m like a little sponge, soaking up her vibe. All I really want is to be happy with my kids, to treat them kindly, to feel good about our time together. I didn’t feel that way last night. I felt terrible, actually, and ashamed at losing my cool. I went to bed early just to be done with it.

Today is a new day, though. I ran to the store at 6 to buy sugar, and the streets were deserted, the sky still dark as night. At the stop sign down the road, the twinkling lights of Monterey spread out across the bay, and the heaviness in my chest leftover from last night lifted. It’s still early. The possibilities are endless.

It is 7:17 now, and my daughters are still sleeping- the big one in the little one’s bed, and the little one in my bed. I wonder if they know, if they will ever really know…how much I love them? Exactly as they are, whoever they should become, no matter what they do. My love for them is…profound. It is the definition of unconditional. No hormonal “I hate you!” or “You’re a TERRIBLE mother!” could penetrate or even disturb the fortress wall that is my love for them. As a matter of fact, the cruel things said, the unintentional slights, the outright insults? They slide right off that wall, forgotten almost immediately. Ironically, Aisley cries to me sometimes about terrible things she said to me when she was younger that I don’t even remember. It means nothing, I tell her. I forgave you before the words left your mouth.

I am proud of them. I am proud of them, and in awe of them, and amazed by the people they are, knowing it has nothing to do with me. They are their own little souls, forging their own paths in life, separate from me, but entwined also. Most of all, I just feel so incredibly lucky to know them. To get to have a hand in any of this. To have had my life so enriched by loving them, and getting to be part of it all. I mean, I feel so privileged.

Later today, when Aisley is complaining for the fifteenth time about how much she “just HATES people, I mean, they are EVERYWHERE!”, or Camryn asks me what she can eat for the seventh time in two hours, I will forget all of this. I will roll my eyes, I will sigh heavily, I will probably snap “You can’t possibly be hungry again already! You’re just bored! Go find something to do!” If I’m lucky, I’ll go to bed tonight feeling like I handled things okay, that I did an okay job. If I’m not, I’ll go to bed beating myself up and wishing I’d done better. In short, whichever way it goes, I’ll go to bed feeling the same feelings that mothers everywhere feel- the good days could have been a little better, the bad days are the end of the world. You can’t really win.

But at the heart of it all is this vast and unchangeable love. Perfect, but heavier than the world. It fulfills me in a way that I never expected, and that nothing else ever has. Yet it is also terrifying, the depths of it, the way it matters- I could survive many things, but I cannot contemplate a life without them. Anything but that. Given the choice to live my life over, I know I would painstakingly recreate every moment, every poor choice, every failure, just to wind up with these two girls. It’s not even a question. It’s just a given.

I am many things, but none of them matters more to me than being a mother to them. Nothing else even comes close. I wonder if they know?

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Posted in adventure, family, kids, Life, love, motherhood, Musings, parenting, People, relationships, women

Motherhood

Motherhood- “the state or experience of having or raising a child”. That’s it, that’s the definition. And by that definition, any woman-nay, any person, can be a mother. But for those of us who have experienced it, it is so very much more. I can’t speak for anyone else, but for myself…it has been life altering, to say the least.

I bring this up today because today marks the 22nd anniversary of my life as a mother. That’s right, my daughter turns 22 today.  And on this day, the moment she arrived, a new part of me was also born.

While my daughter was a robust, long (slender, though- a lot like she is now!) and healthy child, born a full five days past her due date, my motherhood was premature. Unprepared for the world I was barreling into, unaware of what I had actually undertaken. I was a mother because I had a baby, but in most other ways I was woefully behind. While some women take up the mantle of motherhood with some innate grace, some primal knowing…I wore it more like an ill- fitting Halloween costume, a child masquerading as a grown-up. A little girl trying to walk in her mother’s high heels.

I am a late bloomer. I know this about myself now, but I did not realize it then- I didn’t understand anything back then, to be completely honest. I thought, of course, that I knew everything. Which made me the most dangerous kind of person there is- a confident idiot cannot be swayed or reasoned with.

The moment that glorious little girl was held up before my eyes, a feeling swept over me that I struggle to describe, that I still cannot name to this day. Time stopped, and I felt an awe sweep through me, a stunning, heart-stopping, “WHOA!”. I remember praying “Please, please let me remember this forever.” and I have. Not as clearly as I’d like, but clear enough. I must have known, somehow, that that was truly a once-in-a-lifetime moment- that no matter how many children I went on to have, this was the only first time that would come my way. I held onto it, and I am so glad I did.

Right behind that feeling came a terror unlike any I had known before. It was suddenly very clear to me that I now loved someone more than I loved myself, and I sensed that this was a very dangerous thing. I didn’t even know this little furry, brown person. Yet…in an instant, my heart was changed.

I was not good at the job. I have tried to find all kinds of different ways to explain it, but it comes down to that. I didn’t know. I didn’t understand the enormity of the responsibility before me. I didn’t grasp how precious and deserving a child is just by virtue of their existence. I didn’t know how careful and tender and loving I needed to be. I just…simply didn’t get it.

I won’t subject you, or myself, to the well-worn list of “Things I Royally Fucked Up”- quite frankly, this is supposed to be a blog post, not a novel. Besides which, those things are long past, now, and there is nothing I can do to change a minute of it. Forgiving myself, though, well…I’ve come to the conclusion that might never happen, not completely. And that’s okay. Some things are worth being sad about indefinitely.

Instead, let me tell you some of the good things. There was a night, about four months after she was born, that I remember so clearly. I woke up to her, snuffling and wiggling the way newborns do, in the bed beside me. It was about four in the morning, and the rain was pouring down outside the window of the dark room. I picked her up and lay her on my chest, her little downy head warm against my chin, my hands resting on her tiny back as it rose and fell in slumber, and I remember thinking “This is what it means to be content.” To this day, I cannot recall a more perfect moment than that.

I remember so many sunny days, driving in my car with the windows down, singing Dixie Chicks at the top of our lungs.

I remember sliding down the snowy sidewalks of Sparks, Nevada, in our knock-off brand Ugg Boots, early on a winter morning, just laughing and sliding, then laughing some more- until we were doubled up and our sides ached.

I remember endless nights snuggled up in bed, watching Animal Planet or Sponge Bob. I remember innumerable hugs and kisses, and the way that little girl soaked up affection like a sponge. It was the one thing I always had enough of to give, and the one thing she always took willingly.

Today she is 22, the same age I was when she was born, and I am…it is hard for me. It is hard for me to describe for you the heaviness my heart feels when I think back over those years. Not for me- I don’t care about me. For her. The things I should have given her, the things she doesn’t even know she missed, the chaos, the dysfunction. The things I stole from her that I cannot give back-that I didn’t even know I was taking. It’s a hard truth to live with.

I am so incredibly lucky that we survived it all, somehow, pretty much intact. A part of my mind tells me that I have a tendency to recall, with freakish clarity, the bad things  while simultaneously forgetting the million good things that also happened. But when I am feeling this way, it’s hard for me to believe.

I am so blessed and lucky to have the relationship I have with her today. We are the closest of close, and there is nothing we cannot or do not discuss. She tells me often that I need to let it go, that it wasn’t that bad, that she loves me and forgives me, and that she is glad she had the childhood she had. It wasn’t boring, she says. It was always an adventure.

And I look at the way she lives- out in the country, with the same boyfriend she’s had since she was fifteen years old. She loves to cook, she bakes her own bread. She gardens as if it were what she was born to do, raising fruits and vegetables I’ve never even heard of before. She cares for her dog and her cat, and she just wants to be somewhere quiet, somewhere out in the woods, away from the noise and crowds and drama. I look at all of that, and I think…it could have been so much worse. If children want to be different than their parents, if this is how she rebels…thank GOD. Seriously, thank God.

I am still not the best mother. I probably never will be. I cuss too much, I yell too much, I tend to treat my children like miniature adults. But I am so much better at it. As a matter of fact, I can say with a straight face that I am proud of the mother I have become. Not just to my little child, but to Aisley, as well. She still needs me- maybe more than ever, actually. Navigating adulthood is no joke. As she has grown up, so have I. Yet another thing we share, another thing that bonds us. As long as I stay a few steps ahead of her, I think we’re doing okay.

So…happy birthday to my sweet little Aisley. And happy motherhood anniversary to me. It’s been a long road, but I think I’m finally headed in the right direction.

 

Posted in family, kids, Life, love, motherhood, Musings, parenting, People, women

Messy

messy

On the peninsula where I live, September and October are the most beautiful months of the year. We get these gorgeous, sunny days and the evenings and mornings are crisp and cool. It’s not like autumn anywhere else that I’ve lived, but it’s lovely nonetheless. I might be imagining it, but it feels like there is a quality to the light, too…it feels more fall-like, and I just love this time of year. My body seems to sense the difference, and I become more relaxed and languid. I want to be with my family even more than usual.

It’s a good thing, too. My daughter (who will be 21 in just a couple of weeks!) and her boyfriend had to move back in unexpectedly, just temporarily (we still haven’t pinned down exactly what “temporarily” means to them, but trust me, that conversation is coming), so I have a full house right now. They brought with them their cat and dog, and the cat is currently running around behind my chair, trying to play with/provoke her own murder with my cats. My cats are mostly just ignoring her.

So, my younger daughter is sleeping with me (nothing new about that), and my older daughter is in her sister’s room, and I…well, I’m happy. I’m sorry, I know I’m just one of those moms who sleep better at night when I know where my kids are. And the thing is, I ADORE my daughters. I sit here in the morning, and I think about how crazy it is, how lucky I have been, to have gotten the kids that I have. That I grew them in my own body, that they exist at all. It blows my mind. Of all of the ways I ever imagined my life turning out, there’s no way I could have expected this feeling of love. It is truly everything.

Don’t get me wrong- it’s not always sunshine and butterflies. The older one has mood swings that are unpredictable and incredibly swift, and the little one cries about thirty times a day for almost any reason you can imagine. They are people, not just little extensions of me. Which means they have minds of their own, and reactions I don’t expect, and feelings about things that are different than my own. But this is also what makes them so wonderful. I love their differences. I love them exactly as they are. I enjoy their company. Which makes me very, very lucky and blessed. And super grateful.

I have not always been a “good mother”, whatever that might mean to you. By anyone’s definition, I would have pretty much sucked. But more and more lately, I feel like I am doing it right. At least when it comes to them, at least in that part of my life, I feel capable and competent. And that makes me feel really good. Because when it comes right down to it, what else could matter more in my life? The way I loved my children has got to be right up at the top of the list.

My life is messy. I can’t ever seem to get a handle on my home, I can’t stick to a routine to save my life. I struggle to like myself, I’m harder on me than anyone else has ever been. It’s a challenge for me to just lighten up a little bit. But you know what? That is just LIFE. This is just who I am, and I’m working on accepting myself, warts and all. (for the record, I don’t actually have any warts. That I’m aware of.)

And there are some things I’ve gotten right- these beautiful, funny, smart, big-hearted young ladies that I get to call my own? I hit it out of the park in the kid department. They are part of the mess, I suppose. Which makes the mess a lot easier to love.

Posted in family, Goals, kids, Life, motherhood, Musings, parenting, People, women

Close, but no cigar.

Before I even get started, I have to tell you this: As soon as I wrote down the title to this post, I had to go and look up where the hell this expression even came from. Apparently, from what 30 seconds of googling could tell me, it originated during the 20th century at carnivals when they would hand out a cigar as a prize when/if you could win one of the carnival games. So there you have it.

Anyway, what I am referring to here is my attempt to make it a full 24 hours without raising my voice. I did pretty well, honestly, right up until I was getting ready for bed. Cam was out in the living room with her dad, doing homework, and I was trying to figure out why all my sheets and blankets were all over the floor…and in the hallway. This isn’t what irritated me, though. I like to make sure my bed is made properly before I get in it anyway, so I would have been fixing it no matter what. What made me forget my goal was the pile of milk-soaked cereal, not in a bowl as one would expect, but sitting ON the surface of my antique wood dresser. Just sitting there, soaking in. Ewwww…not cool at all.

So I may have raised my voice, just a bit (although, in fairness, she WAS in the other room, so I needed to be heard) to demand what the hell was happening on my dresser. A silly question, as I obviously knew what it was, but…maybe just a little clarification as to whether or not she knew it was there, and why, if so, did she simply leave it there? Her father, who reads my blog, reminded me of my goal to not yell- which I both appreciated and found very annoying, in equal measure- and I simmered down. But still! What the hell?

So, I kinda fell short. It was a brief episode, and it didn’t leave me feeling guilty and terrible, but I still fell short. I will continue today to try for 24 hours without raising my voice- same rules as before.

In other news, I know, and have known for a while now, that it is high time to get my kid into her own room. She thinks my room IS her room, and her room is just where she stores her belongings. I know lots of people have lots of opinions about this, and I am going to be very upfront here and say I HAVE HEARD ALL OF IT ALREADY. I always have allowed my kids in my room…my older daughter didn’t start sleeping in her room until she was probably 8, and honestly, I have no regrets about allowing her to sleep with me for so long. They grow up so fast, and one day they want nothing more than to hole up in their own room and have no interest in snuggling with you at all. So I created this situation, 100%.

And now I am ready to start transitioning her into her own room, and her own bed. Sleeping with Cam is like sleeping next to a very active windmill. She’s a bed hog, she’s a blanket thief, and she takes up an incredible amount of room for a child. When she spends the night away, I find that I sleep quite well and that my blankets are incredibly neat in the morning. I feel guilty for even saying this, but it’s true. So, putting her into her own bed, in her own room, will solve a couple of problems- it will alleviate the things like wet cereal on my dresser, and it will also give me a good nights sleep, without being punched in the face by anyone other than myself (I actually did this recently and gave myself a bloody nose. True story).

So, goals for today: No yelling. Get Camryn to at least lay down in her room, if not spend the entire night- I’m not stupid. I know it might not happen on the first night. Let’s see how this goes~!

Posted in anxiety, family, kids, Life, Mental Health, motherhood, Musings, women

Challenged

Warning: This post will mention periods- and I don’t mean the kind at the end of this sentence. You’ve been warned.

Yesterday was kind of a disaster. I tried, I really did- I wrangled most of the dishes into the dishwasher and remembered to turn it on. I also remembered to put the chicken I’d thawed out into the crockpot, AND I remembered to turn it on, too, so that’s a win. I managed to get a good chunk of work done, as well, although…I did notice that by 10:30 yesterday morning, I was extremely stressed out, trying to navigate my way through our new system while seeming to have forgotten everything I’d learned over the past two weeks. Everything looked different. I was sure they’d done updates or something over the weekend and forgotten to tell us. I switched from one work queue to another, hoping it would sort itself out. Eventually, I just took a break, if for no other reason than to unclench my jaw and try to turn the volume down on my anxiety. I was just about to take the garbage out when my boss called me- she asked me some questions that I didn’t know the answer to, mostly because I didn’t understand what she was saying- yes, she was speaking English, but my already frazzled brain couldn’t quite wrap itself around this new lingo that came with the new system. Sigh. I muddled through. I must have given her some semblance of a proper answer because she let me off the phone- either that or I confused her so much that she gave up. Either way, the garbage went out. Another small win.

By the time I clocked out, I was feeling incredibly drained and ready for a nap. I had planned on going to the gym, but I couldn’t figure out how to fit in a nap, AND my daughter’s first day of second grade homework, AND the gym, and somehow not die. So the gym was out. This is where things shoot straight the hell downhill. Homework. It’s always homework that pushes me over the edge.

I had such high hopes this year. I imagined Cam and I sitting together, peacefully working through her spelling words, me a bastion of patience and support, her a shining little genius, impressing me with her brilliance. HA! I forgot about the whining, the tears, the outrageous behavior. And that’s just me- you should see how she acts! Hahaha. Seriously though, WTF? How hard is it to trace over some letters and copy a few sentences? Why is this such a struggle? And why oh why oh why have I not learned by now that me yelling does nothing at ALL to help the situation? I am so utterly sick of my yelling…I’ve just had it. I’m the adult, and sometimes I am as prone to fits as a two year old. It’s embarrassing.

There was one moment of grace in all of that, at least. After I completely lost my shit, and after she had lost her video privileges for the rest of the night, we moved on to our 20 minutes of reading. I decided that she would read to me for five minutes, and I would read to her for 15, at least for now. We started “The Boxcar Children”, and to my surprise, she really liked it. For at least those 20 minutes we matched the vision in my head- a mother and daughter, totally sane, curled up together on the couch reading, in a house that smelled like delicious dinner. When the timer went off, she asked me to keep reading! That was a first!

Unfortunately, I was dead on my feet by 7:30 and insisted that we go to bed early. Everything would have been fine if I hadn’t suddenly realized I’d forgotten to take my vitamins and gotten back out of bed. That’s when all hell broke loose. Somehow, on my way back to bed, my cat got a little frisky with me and bit my hand- this is fine, we play like this all the time. Except this time, the cat somehow got his claw STUCK in my little finger. STUCK. I had to pull it out of my own finger while it was still attached to the cat. To say that I was furious would be about correct. It HURT! It was bleeding, and my finger was throbbing like a heart beat. I banished the cat from the room, and Camryn was crying because I was so mean, and I was mad at everyone, and…then I started my period.

And everything suddenly made sense.

Why I was so angry. Why the Kids Baking Competition on TV made me cry. Why homework was the worst thing that had ever happened to me. Why I could not stop eating all day. And why I was so exhausted.

Listen, this is no excuse, I know it. Lots of times I still act up and it has nothing to do with my hormones at all. But hormones are REAL. When they are out of whack, you really do have less room for error, less space to negotiate with before spouting off. At least I do. And I know that is not true for everyone, and congratulations to you if you are one of those rare birds, but I am not. I have to track my cycle like a pro, and even then it can catch me off guard sometimes. Like yesterday.

Now I’m getting to my point, and yes, I actually have one- You know I love nothing more than a good challenge, right? So today, I am going to see if I can go just 24 hours without raising my voice once. Just 24 hours. No excuses. Unless, you know, someone is about to unwittingly walk off a cliff or in front of a car or something. No raising my voice in anger or frustration. Do you think I can do it? Well, I’m about to find out. Wish me luck.

Posted in family, kids, Life, love, motherhood, Musings, parenting, People

Horror Story

If you were to ask me what role in life I most closely identified with, out of all of the roles I play, day in and day out, I would always say being a mother. I am not pretending that I am the best mom, or the most patient mom, or that I even do the very best I can all the time at it- hell, sometimes I’m just phoning it in, trying to make it to bed time. But I will tell you this- my love for my children is fierce. I have gotten out of bed in the middle of the night to rescue my eldest, I have witnessed her drunk and ridiculous and held my tongue until a more appropriate time, I have failed utterly as a mother in my addiction, but I always, always kept us together. With my youngest, I have sat up all night beside the bed, listening to her asthmatic breathing, waking her when it was time for another treatment. I have raised hell and hurt feelings in order to keep her safe. I would go to any lengths to keep my children out of harms way. Any lengths.

Without question, I would give my life for either of them. When I do not hear from my 20 year old for too many days, or when my youngest is not where she is supposed to be…the panic that comes over me is unbearable. And for me, those times are usually very brief, resolved within minutes or hours (with the older one, it can be hours or a day) and then I get to go back to normal, worrying about average things.

And then we have these families, fleeing the horrors of their homes south of the border, and these mothers and fathers being separated from their children indefinitely. The parents go to jail, and the children, some of them babies, go to…wherever they go. Detention centers. Military bases. Foster homes.

I don’t understand politics, and I hate writing about political things because of my ignorance. I do understand the difference between right and wrong, cruelty and kindness. I am 100% sure that there is a better solution available than this nightmare going on right now, like…I’m just spit-balling here, but how about keep the families together? For the children’s sake, maybe. I don’t know any of these unfortunate people myself, but I’m willing to bet, if given a choice, they would choose to be incarcerated together rather than ripped apart and scattered. I think this is just cruelty, plain and simple.

I don’t care where you are on the political spectrum- right, left, somewhere in the middle. Imagine for a second that you are desperate to make a better life for yourself- so desperate that you are willing to flee the only home you have ever known, to a place where you know you probably won’t be welcomed with open arms, a place where you might not even speak the same language. Imagine, then, that you are even willing to break the law for the chance to leave a place that has become too dangerous to survive. And then imagine that you arrive there, only to have your children torn away from you, to God only knows where, while you are locked up, unable to speak with them, unable to even know where they are. I want you to REALLY imagine that for a second- locked up, in a cell, in a strange country, with NO IDEA what has happened to your children. Now imagine your child, locked up in a cell (for all intents and purposes) crying until they are sick from terror and panic. YOUR CHILD, not some strange child you do not know. YOUR CHILD. How does that feel? Because it makes me lose my mind. It’s so goddamned horrific I can’t even stay with it for too long.

But it’s happening, right here, in OUR country, right now. On a grand scale. Right this minute, while you are reading this, it is happening. I don’t want to hear about “The law” because you and I both know this is unnecessarily cruel. This is cruel on purpose. This is about sending a message, and it’s wrong.

I want to hear about what we can do to make it stop. What we can do to help. I don’t want to make a sign and protest, I want to know how people can come together on a massive scale and say enough is enough. Because this is just too far, for me. This is not the way we treat innocent children. I am so disgusted by this country right now.

Posted in Addiction, family, kids, Learning, Life, love, motherhood, parenting, People, relationships

The Best Thing I Ever Did

everything

I have been a mother now for almost half of my life. I have forgotten so many things- my daughter will say “Do you remember that time…” Or “Remember when we…” and I feel terrible about it, but nine times out of ten, I have no idea what she is talking about. Sometimes I secretly think she is just making stuff up to torture me. But for all the things I have forgotten, I will never, ever forget the day that I became a mother. I remember being in labor all night, by myself, timing my contractions, and sleeping between them, and writing them down on a little paper bag that had held a greeting card (I still have that bag, taped inside my daughters baby book). I remember the ride to the hospital, and the giant men’s flannel shirt that I had taken to wearing because it was pretty much all that would fit me at that point.

But more than anything, I remember the moment that my daughter arrived in this world. I remember the doctor holding her up, and the way that time stood still as my eyes beheld her for the first time, the way that something inside of me shifted, and the way my heart changed, in an instant, to something so much bigger than I had ever known it was possible to be. For the first time in my life, I loved someone else more than I loved myself. It pains me to admit how selfish I was until that moment, which is not to say that I immediately was redeemed as a human being, but from then on, I learned a lot about guilt, lets put it that way. But that moment, the moment I met her, was so pure. I remember thinking “Please don’t ever let me forget this.” And I never have.

It’s impossible for me to remember that day without thinking about all the ways it went wrong after that. I wanted so badly to do it right, to be the best mom, but I didn’t stand a chance. My addiction and my immaturity saw to that. I know there were happy times, but it’s so much easier for me to remember everything I didn’t do, and all the things I did wrong. It honestly breaks my heart. Knowing the kind of life my daughter deserved to have, and understanding what I took from her. Knowing that is one thing I can never, ever fix. You can’t give someone back the time you stole. And I know that for her, that’s just what she had, so she doesn’t look at it the way I do- she doesn’t know any different. But for me…how can I not see all that could have been, how can I ever possibly be at peace with these things? How can I ever truly forgive myself?

I still don’t have an answer for those questions. But I can tell you this: From the moment she came into my life, I never stopped wanting and trying to be better. I failed, over and over and over again, but goddammit, I wanted it so bad. And it wasn’t for me, which might have been my first mistake- no, at a certain point, I really began to despise myself for my weakness- it was always, forever, and only for her. And because I kept trying, I managed, somehow, to keep us together (although I’ve often wondered if she would have been better off with someone else), and I managed, somehow, to keep our heads above water, just barely. Sometimes things were really, really bad. I have memories that I would love to banish from my head, and yet I cling to them like a penance. How dare I try to forget?

But sometimes things were good and sweet- her tiny feet in footy pajamas. The way we would sleep curled together, two peas in a pod. Riding in the car together on a beautiful summer day, all the windows rolled down, singing along to “Cowboy Take Me Away”. The fierce love she inspired in me, the deep connection I had never felt before for another human being. She was, and is, my world. I just didn’t know how to do it right. I just couldn’t get there in time. She was all grown up by the time I finally figured out how to do this job. Talk about heartache…you have no idea.

Now she is almost 21, and she has a little sister who reaps all of the rewards of my experience. I do homework and read stories, and worry about shit like too much screen time, and processed food, and nitrates in hot dogs. I pack her lunches, and make sure her hair is brushed, and I would never send her to school with a backpack that reeks of cigarette smoke. I try hard not to say things I will regret later, and I try even harder to say things that let her know she is loved. But most of all, my youngest daughter has had the luxury of a safe life. Things are never up in the air, and we always have a home of our own, and everything is consistent and routine. She will never know what it is like to have the ground beneath her feet shifting constantly. I am so glad that this is true. But I wish I could have given this to both of my children, not just one of them.

The wonder of it all is that, despite everything, my daughter- the 20 year old- loves me more than you can even imagine. You know what she tells me? That I am the only one who was ALWAYS there for her, that she looks back at her life, and the only one that she sees in every memory is ME. She remembers the closeness. She remembers the good things. She is the one who reminds me that is wasn’t all bad, that there were plenty of happy times- Like sliding down the snowy Reno streets in our fake Ugg boots, and laughing so hard our sides ached. And sitting in our car, sharing terrible lemon chicken and chow mein on payday, even though we couldn’t afford it. To her, I am just her mom, and she just loves me.

So today, even though she will probably never even see this, I dedicate this post to my daughter, Aisley. The best thing I ever did, and the person who made me a mother. I love you so much, and I’m grateful every single day that God saw fit to give me you.