I am a mom. I am one of many, in a world which is continuously moving and forever changing. Each of my children are individuals, with personalities that shine through to my heart. I cherish how each one has helped shape me into the person I am. The day my oldest daughter was born is etched into my soul. As I held this small, 7 lb. 1 oz. little girl, I was amazed that she was all mine. I created something so perfect. So fragile. I realized that the past was not important. It was the future that mattered. It was HER future that mattered. I was just too young to fully understand that profound epiphany. Your first child is your “guinea pig”, so to speak. You learn with mistakes. You struggle to make ends meet. To buy diapers, formula, and clothes. You fight to find your sanity. You do not handle your failures as a parent well. You do not celebrate your accomplishments when you are this young and naïve. Being a teenage mom was not a choice I ever saw myself making. It was not the road I imagined. I wanted a life like my parents. The life I experienced growing up. Happy. Loving. Complete.
Lost and Found
My delusion only gave way to despair. I was 19, married, and miserable. I continued on with a false sense of hope. A hope that I could fix my broken family. When my daughter was around 2 years old, I had that moment. Her father and I were arguing. Details of the argument escape me, but what I do remember clearly is when my daughter walked into the room. Her small arms reached for me to hold her. Her love surrounded me. Holding her comforted me. As I hugged her to my hip, the sweet smell of childhood filled the air. She looked her father in the eye and spoke the words I never had the strength to say. “You do not talk to my mommy that way!” Her words, her protection, woke me from a restless sleep. She deserved better. SHE deserved to be protected. My daughter became a child of divorce. A child with 2 homes. Two versions of life. Two angry parents trying to survive. There is more to this chapter of my story, but that is for another time. Another place. My daughter was my strength. My daughter depended on me to live. She depended on me to scare her monsters away. Her small hand clung to mine and we taught each other to walk. One step at a time, we survived.
Hiding from Myself
I doubted my abilities to be a good mother. I tried every day to be what I thought a mom should be, but felt like a failure. I was an impostor in my own life. I would watch her play and try to keep her safe. I would rock her to sleep at night. I would tuck her in and recite the childhood prayer my dad always said to me….
“Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. Guard me safely through the night, and wake me with the morning light. Amen.”
During these seconds, while we recited the prayer from my youth…..everything would be a cocoon of peace and safety. Her sweet voice would whisper, along with mine, echoing the belief that tomorrow would be okay. That cocoon shattered as I would leave her room. Only then did my tears fall. At those moments, I was still too young and gave into my feelings of helplessness. I felt like I was in a foreign land. A place where an eternal war was raging and we were stuck in the middle. Each day was a new battle. It was just her and I against the world. How would we get out alive and unscathed? My mom stepped in during this time in our life. Without her unconditional love, devotion and stubbornness my daughter and I would have remained broken. She knew that I was struggling as a parent. She knew I was feeling weak and lost. She loved us without ever asking any questions or for anything in return. Her selflessness allowed me to learn and slowly become the mother my daughter needed. With time and experiences, you become wiser. Hardened. You feel older beyond your actual years. The time between 18 and 21 are a blur to me. I remember stumbling. I fell at every bump. I felt like I was drowning in the unknown. Each time I faltered and started to give up, I made myself try again, for her. It was always for my daughter. I did not think I deserved to live a life outside of being a mom. I made these choices and I had to make the best of what was handed to me. I was in a different place than most of my friends. Meeting someone was not realistic. Who would want a single mom? How could I bring a man into her life, if I wasn’t sure I deserved someone?
Let Go & Live
I realized that I just needed to let life happen. I made smarter decisions. I had more than myself to worry about. My daughter was prideful, stubborn and so unlike me in many ways. She welcomed anyone and everyone into her heart. One memory I have of her greeting everyone as she sat in the shopping cart at HEB. “Hi! I’m Kayla! What’s your name?” Some adults would be intimidated that a child this tiny would speak this bluntly, while others would introduce themselves and hold a conversation with her. With her acceptance of the world, her small voice helped me let go of my fears and live. My daughter was 4 when I remarried. She was 5 when we welcomed her new baby brother into the family. She was 10 when we welcomed her sister into the madness, only a family of 5 could create. I can’t help but worry and wonder if my past decisions would affect her. That my painful memories were somehow tattooed into her mind as well.
Fast Forward to the Present
I still worry. I still wish that my first born did not have the heartache in her soul. I am responsible for this. Eighteen years flew by for me. It was never enough time to fix the wrongs I believed I caused her. I hope that having 16 years of stability and love from two devoted parents would make up for the 2 years that seem lost to both of us. When I received her senior pictures last year, I compared them to her baby pictures. I caught small glimpses of life merging as my fingers moved through each one. In my mind, she is still that blond haired child greeting strangers from the shopping cart. This was my first born. This was my beginning. From a young age, she never failed to ask “Why?” She always wanted to know more and was never I knew many quite satisfied with “Because I said so…” years ago, that her independence and curiosity for life would lead her. I realized that she would continue this trip through life regardless of past road blocks….Regardless of my fears. This is a story of strength, courage, and love. I wanted to share this because I feel my oldest child may need to see these words. This is a part of her story. Where these life moments do not define her as a whole, I am hoping it helps heal her if she is feeling pain; helps answer questions she may have; or that it may fill a void. More importantly, I am hoping it shows her that she is loved…. that she always has been….and always will be.
I want to thank her for holding my hand during those early years, for showing me there is happiness in the world, and for scaring MY monsters away. I love you to the moon and back.