Anyone who knows my mom knows of her mild (by mild I mean unrelenting) obsession with Anne Lamott (Anne and my mom are pictured together, left. See how excited Anne Lamott is to meet my mom?), and so I figured it was only fitting to begin this post about my mom with a quote from her favorite author, which I believe also describes my mom through my eyes:
"Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.”
And so, my mom is a lighthouse. My lighthouse. She doesn't need to be by my side, talking to me, or watching from the audience to show her love, support, and salvaging powers to me. All she does is live and she is. She is beautiful, forgiving, intelligent, supporting, saving, and gracious. She is my mom.
Obviously I didn't know my mom in high school, but I like to think I'm a lot like her – driven, compassionate, and smart. Sometimes it's weird to think that my mom lived a life before me, because I've only ever known life with her in it. And thank God for that. I like to think that when she was my age, my mom was almost as sassy as I am. And that she loved, fiercely, like she does now.
I don't have a lot of memories of my mom and dad together anymore, which is really sad because, obviously, they made me who I am today. I see many aspects of myself in both of them. I know a lot of things about both of them, about the way they were raised, and I know what kind of parents they are to me and the role they serve in my life.
Here, specifically, is what I know about my mom:
She is driven. Last year, I got to watch her walk across the stage at graduation because she was getting her Ph.D. This was one of the biggest moments in my life, and I wasn't even the one getting the degree! It was the sheer fact that that was my mom. My mom kicked ass, worked hard, and became Dr. Mom.
She is busy. I mean for God sakes', she raises four kids and a husband. Not to mention, sometimes moms have to take care of themselves, too. On top of all of this, she's working to start her own business and retain her sanity (or find it again. Some days this is debatable.)
She is beautiful. And I'm not just saying this because she wrote her dissertation on body image 😉 I think it's absolutely true that we don't see ourselves as other people see us. I see my mom as a woman with beautiful red hair, blue eyes (that I also got, thanks Mom), a smile so big her eyes crinkle at the corners, and a voice that was made to tell people stories.
She is loving. And not just to me. To my siblings, her husband, our dogs, herself, and the world. She shows this in a lot of ways – showing up to speech meets even though she's heard the same piece 12 times, smiling at our jokes, making us food and doing our laundry, telling us the truth even when we don't want to hear it, reminding us to wear a coat for the millionth time, hugging us when we're happy and when we're sad, and reminding us that we can do it and it will be okay.
She is a woman. I mean this in the most incredible way possible. Female empowerment is something I believe so wholeheartedly in, and my mother provides me with the perfect role model to show me why women deserve to be respected and loved. She knows what she wants, and she knows what she means. And she isn't afraid to tell you what she thinks. She is intelligent and learning, she is courageous and fearful, she is loved and loving. She is a woman.
I like to think that my mom and I have a relationship that is better than most moms and 17-year-old girls have. And I believe this is partly because we are a lot alike. My mom taught me to read, and showed me why reading and writing are so important and can save your life.
She makes me read Anne Lamott and push myself.
She listens to Broadway musicals and One Direction with me. She took me to my first One Direction concert and had fun.
She is never afraid to tell me, one more time, that everything will be okay.
She is there on my high anxiety days to calm me down and remind me of who I am, which incidentally, is half of her, and why I'm so strong. There are so many ways that my mom lives her life that I look up to and want my daughter to see the same things in me, one day.
It was my idea for us to write a blog post about each other, and I didn't realize when I threw the idea out how many things I wanted to say about my mom. But I think the biggest and most important thing I want to say to my mom is thank you.
I love you.
Since I started with an Anne Lamott quote, it's only fair to end with a Glennon Doyle quote (Mom and Glennon are pictured together, right), another one of my mom's favorites:
The only meaningful thing we can offer one another is love.
Not advice, not questions about our choices, not suggestions for the future, just love.
Abby and I really like to read. A lot.
It is one of the ways we connect. I wrote a facebook post about this once, something about the act of putting books in each other’s hands. It’s a type of invitation. We invite each other to know something about ourselves when we read the same thing, then talk about it. It creates a space for a type of exploration to come up that wouldn’t have otherwise had a chance.
Because I know what Abby reads, and how she feels about it, I know what moves her, angers her, inspires her. For Abby and I, sharing books is the secret sauce.
This all started when I stayed home with Abby before she started school. Even when she was only one, she LOVED to be read to. I once read Hey Diddle Diddle (the seven-verse version) 26 times in a row, because every time I got to the end, she would cry. We read for hours every day. Actual HOURS. She didn’t want to play with toys. She would just keep bringing me books, and say, “Again. Book.” I’m not going to lie, this could sometimes be pretty mind-numbing. Four hours of Hey Diddle Diddle, The Itsy Bitsy Spider and the like….but you can’t tell your child, “No, I will not read to you anymore.” It says so in the instruction manual they don’t come with.
Soon she was reading on her own, and we spent several years of reading books together—her reading a page, me reading a page. She loved scary stories at such an early age. It is not surprising that she loves horror movies now. She takes after her Aunt Nancy.
Abby has always been smart. I always took so much pride in this, for both her and me, until one day in sixth grade she came home and said, “I hate when people say I’m smart.” I asked her why. She said, “It’s just so much pressure. I feel like I always have to get everything right. And if I don’t, it’s such a big deal.” I was dumbfounded. All these years I had reveled in the praise. But what I had really done was created an expectation for an eleven-year-old that she had to be perfect or she had failed. I was heartbroken and ashamed.
I’m still guilty of my over-excitement of her accomplishments, but we’ve learned to frame those instead by the hard work that goes into them.
She works so hard.
I remember going downstairs one day in the summer, thinking she had been in her room watching Netflix all day and it was time for her to be done. I was filled with all my best motherly self-righteousness. It turned out she had been working on cutting a new speech. All day. In the summer. Speech season was seven months away. I LOVED being wrong that day.
I am in absolute and total denial that she could be in her last year of high school. The last year of her life she will live with me. I can’t even express how I feel about this.
It’s total bunk.
I didn’t sign up for this. Oh crap, ya I guess I did, but I think I was tricked. Her childhood was supposed to last for a long time. Not 12 minutes. And by the time she was 18, she was supposed to be so awful, I was supposed to WANT her out.
Good, go, who needs ya! I’ve seen your finger paintings and they SUCK!
But alas, I like her. She is sassy, cranky, and snippy… and I like her. She is not great at chores, her room sometimes smells like three-week old garbage, and she makes a MESS in the bathroom… and I like her.
I mean, I love her. Wholeheartedly. But I even like her. And you don’t expect to like your teenage daughters. (That is a slight exaggeration.)
There have been so many late-night talks about boys and friends, so many times we pretended DQ Blizzards passed as supper, so many jam sessions in the car to music one of us taught the other to love. The time She and Livi and I were driving to the cities (during the Twilight years) and saw a wolf run into some trees and she shouted, “Jacob, NO!” I love these funny moments and inside jokes.
The other night was the perfect example of this. I couldn’t sleep and was on the couch. She came up for a snack, and came and sat on my feet, and we just chatted. I love these chats. Some of them are practical and tick items off a list, but in some of them we talk about real world issues. I get to see how her face changes when she is coming from a place of wonder. She thinks and feels so deeply, and she is dying to share that with the world.
I love this in a girl.
Being open to wonder for the world is a type of vulnerability, because the world can be a dark place. But I think this may be her greatest strength. Brené Brown speaks so beautifully in her books about vulnerability. The following is one of her quotes that makes me think of Abby:
Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement. Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection.
Abby doesn’t hide in self-protect mode. She engages with the world. And in this way, I think she will change the world.
Vulnerability is not knowing victory or defeat, it’s understanding the necessity of both;