Twenty-seven years ago today I gave birth to my most extraordinary and beautiful daughter. The sun was warm in the early morning light today as I sat on my patio with a cup of coffee steaming on the glass and metal table beside me and reminisced. My little dog stared up at me and stamped his feet on the cold cement, asking to sit in my lap. I pulled him up and looked at the frost sparkling on the rooftops of the houses nearby.
I am so grateful my daughter came to me. As all babies should be to mothers who want them so, I thought she was the most exquisite and miraculous of little beings. I was overwhelmed at first with the idea that I had no clue how to take care of this warm, pink-skinned, hairless little creature with deep blue eyes. She had such long fingers and perfect nails on the tiny hands that waved around whenever I unwrapped her blanket. It was my favorite time of year then, just as it is now, with frost in the air and the beautiful colors of the changing leaves in the yellow autumn light. It will forever be more special because this is the time of year when my daughter was born.
I wonder now if I had known then what exceptional teachers children are, whether I would have appreciated more the sometimes painful insights that come with motherhood. My children have taught me more about who I really am, both the best and the worst of, than the seemingly endless hours of therapy I have pursued here and there across my life. My children have asked me, through the sheer force of their shining essences, to confront the internal places where I have been stuck; sometimes angry, judgmental, so limited in scope and flexibility.
I can smile now and say with gratitude that they contributed to my finding and developing a relationship with God, forcing me to pray for help in opening my own Spirit to understand the nature of my darkness, and to find the true nature of what it means to love another more than your own life. I shocked myself to sometimes see behaviors come out, or words hiss across my lips that long ago I swore never to repeat from my own childhood. I sometimes became my own mother with my children. What choice did I have but to turn to my Higher Power for healing?
My daughter lives a braver life than I ever did, appreciating physical challenges I never faced. As a very young teenager she spent her summers camping in the mountains above the tree-line, horseback riding in wilderness areas I never would have dared tread; sleeping under a tarp among evergreens, once finding bear tracks feet from where she spent the night.
She has a gift with all animals, but horses especially, able to ride animals other people feared or couldn’t control with ease and grace. She was a barrel racer for many years, flying past women as a young girl who had ridden all their lives. Now she is hoping she can combine equine therapy with her psychology training to help those with mental and physical disabilities. I envy the depth of her connection with the natural world, and her desire to help those around her.
When she went off to college I was so happy she chose to go to school only an hour away. I think my heart might have broken if she’d moved to another state. She lived in Australia for a time and I thought she might stay there. It’s a beautiful place if the little bit I’ve seen is indicative of the rest, but now she lives only a few miles away in Colorado. Sometimes she calls to talk to me when she has a problem.
“I’m sorry I only call when I’m upset,” she said once. I told her I was honored she trusted me enough to talk to me at all at those times.
“I would have died before I called my own mother when I was distressed,” I’ve told her in the past. That is true. My mother, even in her old age, was never a soft place for me to fall. I must have succeeded in doing something right if my own daughter thinks otherwise of me. I’ve learned that sometimes the best healing comes from just having someone who will listen, who doesn’t have to fix or correct what you share.
I hope someday I will have grandchildren, if only to get a chance to share with my own blood some of the lessons on love, and loving, that I have learned along the way. If not, that’s okay, too. I have new friends, and opportunities, and work that I didn’t have not that long ago. I can show her it’s possible to change, even later in life.
My character has evolved and deepened in the years I’ve been alive, not the least because I’ve been blessed to have a daughter. “You teach what you most need to learn,” I’ve heard said.
My daughter has helped me to be a better person. After all I have to look myself in the mirror and answer the questions that come to the surface when I think of her. “Who is it I want to be if she asks me about being a wife, or a mother, or a friend? What does it mean to be a woman?” She won’t just be asking about the surface stuff. “Am I up to answering that? Am I living an authentic life? Am I being true to myself?” my inner voice asks. “What if she never asks? Can she look at my life and answer those questions?”
“I’m working on it,” I reply. I’m so glad she pushes me along.