My daughter is one month away from her 15th birthday. All panic and mommy-craziness aside, this year has put me in a weird place. I thought I went through it with the eldest son when he hit this age, but that was nothing compared to this. Because she’s a girl. And I’m a girl. And I know what it’s like to be a girl. And 21 years ago, a month before my own 15th birthday, I was 8 months pregnant, scared, married, and bouncing between pure bliss and absolute hell.
At around 2 months pregnant, my mom hit me for the last time. Around 3 months, she let me go to my soon-to-be mother-in-law’s for Thanksgiving, and then told me to find my own way home (one town over, 15 miles away). I wound up staying for good because a few nights later, I woke up to a noise at the front door. I reached the door just in time to see her driving away, leaving behind some of my clothes and other belongings. I was dumped off. Again.
So now, I look at this beautiful 14-year-old girl and I just TRY to imagine hurting her.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. I don’t WANT to hurt her. I just try to imagine what makes it okay in someone’s head to do so, to hit, to abandon, to simply be absent. I can’t imagine my daughter being pregnant so young (and yes, I accept that it can happen to anyone — I KNOW it can), longing so much for someone else to give her the love and attention she can’t get at home, needing to hear from someone that she’s beautiful and funny, feeling like she has no worth, no value unless she can make a boy happy. I can’t imagine just abandoning her if she did find herself in a place she never meant to be, dumping her off, kicking her out, letting her go. If anything, I want to hold her closer, lock her in the basement, and not let her go until she’s 25. (But that’s illegal, I hear.)
I want to protect her from heart-breaking and handsy boys, and mean girls (even when I know we all can be mean girls sometimes), and judgmental parents. I love spending time curling her hair, or helping her straighten it, or fixing her smudged makeup. But sometimes when I hug her, I imagine just for a second shoving her away and smacking her across the face, just to see if my mind can conjure the image, and it can’t. It’s unfathomable. And so I just don’t get it. I don’t get what makes a mother hurt her child, and when I think about me at the same age, I can’t help but think of how different life was for me, and a silly thought pops into my head: I think I’m jealous of my daughter, of my children, because they are loved without conditions, cared for without guilt, and “spoiled” without need to pay me back.
I’m the mom I always wanted.
And yes, that’s me patting myself on the back, because as I see the end of this stage of parenting right down the road (4 years left of high school, 3 years until the baby is officially an adult), I feel confident that despite mistakes I’ve made (and will still make), I’ve done right by them. I brought them into the world and loved them, even when times were rough, even when money was nonexistent, even when they couldn’t always have everything they wanted, and even when I was in the middle of my worst places. I didn’t hurt them; they are more than okay. I will never understand how people hurt each other, or worse, parents hurt their children, but I do understand how to love, and I hope if they’ve learned nothing else from me, it’s that. To love without hurting.
And I pray that the day my daughter does become a mom, rather than use me as an example of what not to do, she knows that the most important thing will be to love her children.
(But we can get to that lesson again when I let my little sweetheart beauty out of the basement.)