The Mother My Daughter Is

Mom and baby

I like to say I knew her when.

I knew her when her bangs were cut straight across with sewing scissors because the idea of spending real money on a haircut for a kid seemed outlandish to me.

I knew her when she would dangle upside down from a metal bar at the playground, do a flip and land on her feet on the concrete while I covered my eyes and waited for the absence of crying.

I knew her when she would sit across from me, a single mom with a single daughter, while we ate dinners made with a lot of macaroni and tomato soup.

I knew her when she would do her homework in the bathroom while I sat in the tub so paralyzed by distress and depression that I could only go to work, make dinner, and hide in the tub every night drinking wine and smoking cigarettes.

I knew her when we crammed the remnants of our apartment into our Toyota and we drove to our new flat, her holding on to the door because it wouldn’t close, the living room lamp and a laundry basket full of clothes on her lap.

I knew her when she decided to end a boy’s constant teasing by punching him in the stomach and I knew her when she was selected by her favorite teacher to give the graduation speech at the end of 8th grade.

I knew her when she became big sister to two Nicaraguan babies, knew her when she changed their diapers, rubbed their backs and sang them songs.

I knew her when she got her first job, her first boyfriend, and her first car; I knew her when she took off, first for college, and then Spain and London, New York, Washington, Palm Springs and San Diego, and she accomplished many things, and we grew apart and then together many times.

So I should have been able to predict what she would be like as a mother. Who would know her better than me, I ask?

But it came as a surprise that no matter how tired she is nor how loud her twin babies are crying, she will smile at them as if seeing them for the first time, as if every moment she ever lived brought her to the moment when she would smile at her baby boys. She looks in their eyes and talks to them, every word is lilting and beautiful and meant just for them. Her gladness is constant and unfailing. Every day is like that. Every time.

I’m in awe of this. I wish I had been a mother to her like that, a mother who was so glad. I wish all children would have such mothers.

It is luck, nothing else, that has allowed me to see all of this from the uneven bangs to the baby boys and to be able, at last, to be what I never let myself be while she was growing up. Glad.

16 Comments on “The Mother My Daughter Is

  1. Pingback: Dare You: NaBloPoMo | Red's Wrap

  2. It’s good to know that through all of the struggles single mothers go through, that our children will still persevere. I worried when pregnant with my son, and going through a separation from his father, that all the tears I cried would make him a sad baby, and I was thankful my worries were unfounded. So now I will hope that my imperfect mothering won’t affect him too badly, and he will still grow to be the amazing man I know he is capable of being. Great post!


  3. So much of this resonated with me, not just because I have the privilege of knowing your daughter but also because some of the scenes from your early life with her seemed so much like some of the ones I shared with my son [ bathtubs that served as feeding stations, car doors that wouldn’t close, laundry baskets as cupboards, twelve-year-olds he recruited to help move us to yet more apartment]. This was beautifully and honestly said. I’m glad for both of you right now.


    • Thank you and thank you for reblogging the post. I am really honored that you would do that. I am so glad you are Elizabeth’s friend.


  4. Wow. Wow. Wow. That’s all I got right now. Oh, one more thing, I guess: beautiful. SO beautiful.


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