A few months ago I walked into Megan’s room and noticed she was very upset. I asked her what was wrong, and as the tears welled up in her eyes she said, “Nothing.” My first instinct was to MAKE her tell me. I’m the Mom, she’s the kid, she’s hurting, and I want to know what’s going on RIGHT. THIS. MOMENT. I had to resist the enormous urge of falling back into the familiar pattern from my childhood of the parent making the child spill her guts immediately. Instead, I chatted with her, asked probing questions, and realized she really wanted to talk about what was bothering her, but she was afraid of getting a bad reaction. A MOM reaction. An overreaction. Given what I have learned from my own experiences, I assured her there was nothing she could say that would upset me so badly that I would freak out on her. I promised that I would calmly listen to what she had to say until she was completely finished.
That’s when she willingly spilled her guts.
Honestly, I did not envision my 15 year old daughter being confronted with the situation she told me about. She’s a good kid. She hangs out with the good kids. When she spends time at her dad’s house, she’s with good “christian” kids. So when she told me what had happened, my head almost exploded from trying to keep my promises to her. When she was done I told her three things:
- “Friends” DO NOT put friends in the position she was put in. EVER. Period. Full Stop. End of Story.
- “Friends” DO NOT attempt to manipulate us with emotional blackmail when we do not respond as they would like us to. Attempting to control anyone in that way is one of the worst things you can do to another person.
- She handled the entire situation with more maturity than I would expect from an adult, and I was SO PROUD of her.
In the middle of our conversation, I told her that I had been meaning to write a list of things that I have experienced that were difficult to get through. I wanted to present it to her as a ‘Letter To My Daughter’ sort of gift when she graduated from high school and was beginning to live her own life. I wanted her to know that if she ever experienced any of the same type of things, that she wasn’t alone. She looked at me, with tears falling down her cheeks and said, “I wish you had it for me right now.”
That was a knife to my heart. I felt that I had failed her, because it had been on my mind to do for quite some time (clearly for a reason). I just did not think she would need it yet. Then I remembered some of what I experienced in high school. I remembered the situations I was in, and how mean others could be. I realized that I, too, could have used this advice at that time in my life. So, with that said, I am finally getting around to doing what I should have done months and months ago.
Writing a letter to my daughter.
(A lot of this is deeply personal, but I’m putting it out on the blog just in case anyone else out there may be experiencing similar things, and might feel very alone. You need to know… you’re not.)
As you go through life, you are going to have some amazing moments! You will celebrate, you will be excited, and you will share that with those around you. You’ll have some normal, every day moments and those you’ll share with your close friends. You’ll even share the irritating, piss-you-off stuff too. But, you will also have really bad moments. Horrible, gut-wrenching, how-do-I-get-through-this kind of moments. And you may feel like you have to hide those. I know, because I’ve had some of those myself. And, while your experiences will not be the same as mine, I hope that simply knowing that someone else has gone through difficult times will help you too.
I want you to know, you are NOT alone. You aren’t the first person in the world to go through difficult things, and you won’t be the last. You need to remember that there may be several million other people that might be having the same difficulty as you, at the same time as you. I do not ever want you to feel like there is no one who could possibly understand. I don’t want you to be afraid to tell anyone what you’re going through because you are afraid of how others will respond. Of whether they will ridicule and reject you. I especially do not want you to be afraid of me and how I may respond. That’s why I need to share some of my darkest moments with you.
I Know What It’s Like…
- I know what it’s like to hold all of your feelings inside because you don’t feel you have the right to really and truly say what’s on your mind. Do not do this. It is dangerous, because in the end you will become angry and bitter; or you will end up sacrificing your wants, needs, thoughts, and opinions in favor of others. And you will lose you.
- I know what it’s like to put myself in a potential date-rape situation. I attended a high school birthday party sleepover where there was a lot of alcohol. I had a few drinks, and put myself in the very scary position of being taken advantage of by a college aged boy. I was fortunate in that I was coherent enough to say NO, and even more fortunate that he listened. (This was one of the scariest things I did in high school, and something I’ve not told anyone about until writing this blog.) Looking back, I know how badly that night could have ended. I regret making the choice to drink, to not keep complete control over myself, and to have become so vulnerable as a consequence. However, I learned a life-long lesson from what happened, and I would rather you learn by reading about this now and choose not to make such a bad choice as I did, rather than learn this lesson for yourself.
- I know what it’s like to have lost a best friend. You must remember that many friends will come in and out of your life, and their purposes are all different. Sometimes they need you, sometimes you need them, and sometimes you need each other. A Best Friend loves you as you are. They’re the ones that know when you are troubled, even when you keep lying to yourself and everyone else. They are at the ready to help in whatever way they can, and sometimes they have the difficult task of telling you that you need to help yourself. They’re honest, even when they know it hurts, but they will help you through the hurt. When you have this kind of person in your life, be there for them in the way you want them to be there for you. Remember that it takes two people to have a relationship. Don’t abuse each others friendship. Know that sometimes these kinds of friendships do end, and if that happens, do your very best to make sure you end it on good terms. They may come back into your life. Either way, you will have no regrets.
- I know what it’s like to have gone to a four month ultra-sound check up during a pregnancy, and find out that my baby had been dead inside of me for a month. When I decided to wait for my body to “naturally” go through the miscarriage, I emotionally and mentally flipped-out after waiting for two days. I also know what it’s like to have the doctor have to surgically remove the baby, and that was psychologically one of the hardest things I have ever gone through. I felt every little tug throughout the procedure, and my heart wrenched and the tears streamed down with each one. I also happened to be in a car accident the same day, at the beginning of the three-hour drive to the doctors office. Later, as we were almost there (and in a different vehicle), one of the tires had a blow-out. Remember, life is going to throw you curve-balls and sometimes they will all hit you all at once. And you will learn that you ARE strong enough to get through them.
- I know what it’s like to be so angry and yell at God. Out loud. After losing my baby I had so many questions. I was so angry at having to go through that kind of pain. My mother immediately told me to never blame God or yell at Him. I wasn’t blaming Him, but I absolutely was yelling. I was questioning. And while it might not be the popular thing to do, you need to know that God can handle what you throw at Him. He’s big enough, and strong enough. If you need to yell at Him and question Him, then you do it. And then… YOU wait and LISTEN for His answer.
- I know what it’s like to be so overwhelmed at a job, and intimidated by the people there, that I wanted to quit. I felt miserable, inadequate, and like a complete failure. This was one of the hardest things for my ego to deal with, because I thought I could do everything well. I decided to learn as much as I could from others around me, and do the best job possible. I overcame the difficult obstacles, and ended up being promoted. Don’t quit when things get hard. Do the best you can, and see what happens! If it turns out your best is not good enough for a particular job, then you can leave and move on knowing you gave it your all.
- I know what it’s like to tell a family member some of the most embarrassing, humiliating and painful experiences I have endured, and later be told, “I just didn’t believe you, until [someone else] told me it was true.” It hurts to feel like you’re screaming at the top of your lungs for someone to care, and find out they never even really listened to begin with. I hope I will always hear you, Megan.
- I know what it’s like to be told, “It’s just too much work and too hard to try” by someone who was referring to maintaining a relationship with me. Relationships take work. Sometimes it’s easy work, sometimes it’s hard work, but it always requires both parties to work at it together. Love is so many things, but to me these are some of the important ones: Love is an equal partnership. It is putting the other person’s wants and needs first, knowing that they are putting yours first too. It is apologizing when you are wrong, and receiving apologies from the other person. It is not keeping score of all the hurts you’ve felt, and then slamming the other person with them. It is not harming the other person physically or emotionally. It is not manipulating them to get your own way, and it never, ever, uses emotional blackmail. It is constant communication, even when you don’t want to be in the same room with them. It’s finishing arguments before you go to sleep, and then holding each other in your arms. It is tender touches, looks, and kisses. It’s respect for each other, always. And the moment someone in a relationship with you hits you or attempts to hit you, it’s over. No second chances, no “they didn’t mean it”. You walk away that very moment, while you still can. It may save your life.
- I know what it’s like to be so depressed that I didn’t care about anyone or anything. Including my own children. I wanted to be left alone. I started to drink alcohol with the misguided thought of easing my pain. I woke up in the morning wishing it was already 6:00pm and I could have a drink. Alcohol is not the answer. It is seductive, and is too easily abused. Make it a rule to not ever drink when you are sad or angry. It will not make you feel better in the long run. It compounded my depression and I started lashing out at those around me. You probably remember that more vividly than I would like. It took a long time for me to realize something was wrong, simply because I was locked in the “I am Super Mom/Woman and I can do EVERYTHING” role. You must realize that taking on too much will eventually overwhelm you and may send you into a spiral. You are not required to take on 500 different roles at once. Give yourself permission to say NO, especially to those who are closest to you. They are usually the ones to put the most pressure on you.
- I know what it’s like to have felt so much pressure, and felt so hopeless, that I thought suicide was the answer. Suicide is NEVER the answer, but when you are in that place it may seem like it to you. It’s a dark and hopeless place, and it feels so overwhelmingly lonely. But you must REACH OUT to someone. Get help! Remember that there are people in the world who deeply love you, and losing you would be devastating. You kids were my reason for crawling out of that hole and going to counseling.
- I know what it’s like to have been so hurt and devastated that I felt like I could not breathe. There will be times when you may be so crushed that you may feel that you can barely move. You may want to crawl into bed, curl into yourself, and feel like you want to die or just sleep it all away. You need to know that it’s ok to do that… Give yourself time. Grieve, cry, push it out of your mind and allow yourself to rest. However, you CANNOT let yourself stay down. Once you have regained your strength, you must get up, get out of bed and face it head on. Do not run, do not hide. You absolutely MUST deal with whatever it is that has knocked you down. Because it will follow you. It will dog you until it drains every last ounce of energy and emotion from you. You will probably need help getting back up and dealing with it. Get it; whether it’s a friend, minister, therapist or all even all of the above. And know that you will survive it. I promise.
- I know what it’s like to have lost almost everyone in my life because I chose to no longer live the way others expected (and, I daresay, demanded) me to. You know the difficulties in our family. If this happens to you (I pray not), such a thing will cause you to lose your balance. You need to know that you will find it again on your own. It is your life, after all. You will discover how strong you are, what YOU really think and believe, and where you really and truly put your faith. My goal is to parent you in a way that you discover those things in a healthy way, without losing anyone around you.
- I know what it’s like to have serious lies said about me by a family member, and upon correcting them, be told by another family member to “Take your lies, and sell your story elsewhere.” Know that many people can be part of the same experience, but have completely different perspectives regarding it. It is important for you to remember this, as it will help you put yourself in other people’s shoes and be able to understand them during difficult times. It will help you to not hold anger and resentment against others. You also must remember that you need to be true to yourself, should anything like this occur in your life.
- I know what it’s like to have moved to another state with three kids and started life over. Sometimes you may have to start over, from scratch. Doing anything new can be difficult. Being on your own can be scary. There may be a lot of obstacles, but if you know it is right, then you will do whatever it takes. And you will be ok.
- I know what it’s like to realize that I did not agree with some of the religious belief’s taught to me since childhood, to change churches, and then face such disappointment and anger from others. Megan, you must serve God because you WANT to, not because someone else wants you too, or because you’ve been taught that great harm will come to those you love if you don’t do it right. I don’t believe God wants you in church if you’re there for any other reason than because you want to serve Him. God wants you to want a relationship with Him. He is not going to force you into it, or threaten to harm your loved ones. I believe He will be disappointed if you don’t want a relationship with Him, but He gives YOU the choice as He promised you a free-will. I know you love God, you let Him guide you.
Megan, I want you to know that I am glad to have had these experiences. If given the opportunity for a do-over, I would do them all again. However, I would change my reactions in some instances. I would take more time to think things through. But, as Mister always says, the sum of your experiences has made you who you are today. And I wouldn’t be the person I am without having gone through these things. Even you have recognized and told me that I am a better mom to you, because of many of these experiences. Only through adversity will you see who you really are, and what you are capable of becoming. Without pain, and without suffering, you will never fully appreciate the good times in your life. Or know the kind of people who you want to be in your life.
I also want you to know that when I felt that most everyone around me let me down, and I knew they felt I let them down, I always knew that I had never been completely abandoned. I knew God was always there. No matter what you do, or where you go, He will be there for you too. My wish is to also be there for you, when you need me. So many times I have tried to think of anything that would make me not want to have you in my life. There is nothing, Megan. I’ve imagined the most horrible things, and still, I love you so much that nothing I can think of would make me want you out of my life.
This is your life, Megan. I will disagree and disapprove of some of the things you do. I may express that to you. But I will not force you to live your life my way. I will honor your personal rights. I will be here for you, I will encourage you, I will cheer you on, and I will do everything in my power to understand you. And…I will always love you.
This is your dash. I hope this helps you to live it well.