I stood in the dark hallway, Jack at my feet, listening to the whispers from their room. It is bedtime and the last phase before sleep is upon them. The phase where the bedtime books are read, the perfect blanket is found, the right dog is on the right bed and the sisterly whispered secrets that no one knows mom can hear are being shared. With three growing girls in the house, the chatter has turned to childhood crushes and reading each other’s diaries. None of them think I know the inner workings of this ten minutes before sleep comes for them. But as I stand there, careful not to let them hear me breathe, gently petting Jack with my foot, a slight smile playing on my lips as I soak up their innocent childhood, I wonder if I am the right mother for them. Will I be able to guide these little girls into adulthood with my own path being so rocky? Will I be able to have the right kind of sympathy for their broken hearts when my experiences have made my cynical? Will I be able to instill the importance of marriage and working hard on theirs when mine so badly erupted?
As the room quiets I head back to my room to catch the tail end of Gilmore Girls. The episode finds Rory having a hard time saying I love you to her boyfriend. Her mom, Lorelai, also relationship challenged, is trying to explain that, though she is excited that her daughter got her eyes and coffee addiction, she does not want her to have her commitment phobia.
As I listened to her explain her reasons so poignantly, I wondered if it is even possible to raise little girls with hope and the desire to experience and let love in when the parent they live with has no such desire. When they have witnessed a bitter divorce, listened to their mom explain why she has no real desire to date, and watch as she navigates the house, the bills, their schedule and everything else life throws at her alone. Happily alone, I might add… but alone none the less.
I want to raise my girls to be independent, self reliant, and determined to live their life on their terms. I want them to want to be kind, loving human beings with a love of helping others and animals. I want them to pursue their dreams without thinking they need a man to get there. I want to raise them to fight through adversity and come out on top. I want them to be like me. Fiercely independent and determined to live the life she wants without the pitfalls of trying to please others first.
I don’t want them to think that they have to rely on a man or a relationship to feel complete. I don’t want them to confuse sex for love and to throw away dreams because it is not what he wants for her. I don’t want them to cry at night, lonely and sad, because he betrayed her trust in the most abhorrent of ways. I don’t want them to be like me. I don’t want them to feel those pains in the deepest crevices of their hearts.
But I also don’t want them to give up. I don’t want them to look at relationships and love as too much effort. I don’t want them to think that every partnership leads to heartbreak. I want them to fall, deeply, madly, passionately, without the knowledge that if it blows up it will hurt too much to have experienced it at all. I want them to love and be loved. They deserve it. They are amazing, after all.
But to be able to teach that and to let their little kid crushes lead to a more adult love, I have to be able to teach them that is OK. I have to be able to tell them that it is all worth it. That the little pains that seem so big at the time can lead to the larger love that is lasting and meaningful. I have to push my own experiences and fears aside and allow them to have those emotions that led to so much heartbreak for me. Maybe I am not the mother when it comes to this. Maybe they need someone who has been successful in relationships to show them the positives.
Or maybe I just have to focus on the greatest, unconditional love experience I have ever had to guide them in the right direction. My love for them. My unending, unwavering, unbending, unbreakable love for them. My complete heart walking around, playing in the yard, sleeping so peacefully. My everythings. My life. My hopes and dreams for them as they walk up the steps to the bus that are clearly too big for them.
Maybe reaching deep inside and allowing the love I have for them to overshadow the lack of love others have had for me is the secret to being able to raise them to, hopefully, have better experiences, make better decisions and to find that lasting love that so many others have been able to know. So maybe I am the best mom for them. The one that can teach them that being alone is totally OK and not a failure in any way. But I can also be the mom that can let them love because her love for them is so deep. So pure. So complete.
Maybe I can be the best guide when those whispers of crushes turn to glistening eyes of hope for love.
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