A Letter of Gratitude To The Mother I Deserved
When the pain of being an unloved daughter is too much to bear, I like to fantasize the nurses accidentally switched me at birth. That my real mother, the one I desperately needed, might still be out there. This is a thank you for the person I imagine she would have been if she existed.
Thank you for believing in me. I was such a fickle child. I bounced between ideas, left projects unfinished, and chased after new dreams of my future career. You never made me feel ashamed for uncertainty or told me I was unrealistic. You never forced me to stay committed when I was no longer happy. And you always saw my potential for greatness no matter how confused I felt.
Thank you for being patient with me. I took a long time to mature and learn. Maybe even longer than most. You handled the process with such consideration. You allowed me to suffer natural consequences without unnecessary punishment. You recognized my need for exploration. You admired my curiosity and urged me to find things out alone even if it was through trial-and-error. You let me develop at my pace without imposing your expectations or deadlines.
Thank you for allowing me to be a child. I wanted to be independent and “grown-up” sooner than I should. But you knew better. You saw the joy and freeness of youth. You allowed me my small victories of autonomy but also shielded me from premature responsibilities and harsh truths. You wanted to keep the naïve spark in my eye for as long as you could. You let me be a kid and enjoy my adolescence.
Thank you for teaching me how to be a woman. Femininity is difficult. There is pressure to look, act, and think a certain way on top of all the physical discomforts associated with a female body. You prepared me for my first period. You demonstrated how to glide a razor up my leg without nicking my skin. You helped measure me for my first bra fitting so I wouldn’t feel embarrassed to expose myself to a dressing room consultant. You taught me how to apply eyeliner thick enough to pop out the hidden speck of hazel in my iris but thin enough to avoid ‘raccoon eyes.’ You even taught me how to excuse myself if I farted in company because women are still human and perfection is not real.
Thank you for being consistent. I never had to tiptoe around you and wonder what mood you would be in. I never had to keep a secret from you out of fear that “my mother would kill me if she found out.” I knew your expectations, and you set firm boundaries. I knew my place in your life and heart. I knew, no matter what, you would always be my mother.
Thank you for gently telling me the truth. I know your mother is supposed to make you feel you are special and excel in all areas. But you remained honest with me. You told me if I wasn’t putting out my best effort. You told me when, quite frankly, my attitude sucked, and I needed an adjustment. You told me when my outfit didn’t match, a hair of mine was out of place, or I tweezed my eyebrows too thin. But you said all of this out of love and was there to help me fix them. You never put me down or deserted me. You had my back.
Thank you for instilling in me my sense of worth. You always respected me even when I didn’t honor myself. You taught me I deserve to love, heard, and enjoyed as a person. You showed me how someone is treated when they are a priority so I would never settle for less. You loved me before I could even define love in words.
Thank you for making sure I never felt alone. The day I accidentally spit milk out in class, the mean girls laughed at me, a jealous classmate ripped down my birthday locker decoration, or when my date stood me up at the Valentine’s Day school dance, I felt so down. You reminded me storms come and go. You assured me these memories would fade and life changes. Because of you, I never felt so low and hopeless I thought nonexistence would be a better option. I knew I always had you.
Thank you for being proud of what you saw in me that reminded you of yourself. I know I can be so stubborn, difficult to handle, and sometimes downright mean. But I’m also resourceful, talented, and high-performing. And you recognize that many of these traits, both good and bad, come from you. Even when I cause your headache, you still smile when you see parts of yourself reflected in me.
Thank you for not putting any limits on my success. You always wanted me to reach my highest potential. You helped open any doors you could for me. You helped me see through any opportunities I was given, like when I needed travel funds after being chosen to perform a cheerleading routine to Grease Lightning in the London Parade. You filled out all my financial aid paperwork for college and coached me through mock job interviews. You were my biggest supporter.
Thank you for sharing your culture and personal history with me. Knowledge about you and your roots helps me understand myself better. I felt privileged to have the secret family recipes passed down to me. I treasured your childhood stories because they allowed me to know how you became who you are and feel more connected to you. I enjoy having a sense of identity beyond just myself, so I know what the bits and pieces that led my creation were.
Thank you for wanting to be around me. There are people in the world that are cruel. They cancel plans last minute, don’t return phone calls, or stop reaching out with no explanation. It’s easy for me to blame myself for others’ lack of commitment. I’m sure you had better things to do than watch rerun episodes of Gilmore Girls on repeat or witness me try to bounce the red rubber ball on the wood paddle 100 consecutive times in a row. But you never made me feel like I was too much or not good enough for company. You never told me children should be seen and not heard. You allowed me to feel important as a person.
Thank you for showing me how to not take life so seriously. I can put so much pressure on myself by setting impossible standards. You let me know it was okay and healthy to let my hair down. You weren’t afraid to get your hands dirty with me or bend a rule or two every now and again. You let me know being rigid wasn’t worth compromising mental health and missing out on making fun memories.
Thank you for taking care of my health needs. You listened to my complaints and discomfort without disbelief. When the optometrist said I needed glasses, we picked out the most stylish and girly frames so I wouldn’t be made fun of. When the dentist said I needed a mouth guard for grinding my teeth at night, you did what you could to get me in for a fitting. When I had panic attacks and an eating disorder, you took me to a psychologist to be treated for anxiety and depression. And when my periods were heavy and inconsistent in high school, you took me to an ob–gyn to discover what I had could later affect my fertility. You didn’t leave me with undiagnosed symptoms so it would leave me to pick up the pieces and clean up after years of issues as an adult.
Thank you for being my friend. I’ve found out the hard way not everyone who claims to be my friend is there for me. Supposed friends don’t always stick around through big life changes. People I used to talk to every day have become strangers. Past girlfriends entered serious relationships and became too absorbed to communicate anymore. Some people only want me around when I have something to offer them and contribute to their lives, but when I needed them were nowhere to be found. But none of that ever mattered because I had you. You were always there to listen to my secrets, fears, and stories. You wiped my tears when my heart got broken and drank a celebratory root beer float together when I landed a big promotion at my job. You never gossiped behind my back or abused my kindness.
Thank you for making the world less of a scary place. You knew one day I would leave the protection of your home. But moving out wasn’t so bad because you prepared me for independence. You showed me how to write a check and separate colors in the laundry. You did my taxes with me the first few times and even gave me tips on how to make wise financial investments. You told me how to make sure no one scammed me when buying a new car or getting automobile maintenance. You prepared me to be a successful, self-sufficient adult.
Thank you for showing me unconditional love exists. People have broken my heart many times. Many have disappointed me and let me down. Sometimes I wonder if any relationship is permanent. But I never had to worry with you. I knew no matter what, your love for me was unwavering. I knew I didn’t have to perform for your affection or go out of my way to keep you interested in my life. Unlike everyone else, you would never leave me.
Thank you for setting the example I would follow when I became a mother. I couldn’t have asked for a better mother even if I had made her up in my imagination. You were everything I could want or need and more. Now I have my daughter; I know what to do. I want to be just like you.
To my real mother, I’m sorry I wasn’t enough of a daughter to motivate you to be this person for me. If any good came out of our relationship, at least I know what I want to do differently.