I knew I’d never be the perfect mother from the day the doctors discharged me with my brand new 7 lb. 11 oz. bundle. She smelled like a mixture of Dreft and that sweet, perfect thing that babies smell like. It was raining and I worried on the car ride home that the sound of the rain would startle her. When we arrived home to our hardly 1000 square feet, 2 bedroom, 1 bath apartment, I found a pot of grits on the stove. I’d cooked them for breakfast on Thursday morning. It was now Monday. Any self-respecting southern woman would have still recognized them as grits even though they’d congealed to the point where the sides were lifted away from the Teflon coated pot and something green and furry had sprouted in the middle. I cried when I discovered them. Maybe it was postpartum. Maybe it was the fact that I’d just brought my first (and only) born into her new home where live fungi was growing on the stove. It was that moment when my dreams of being the perfect mother evaporated into thin air.
Then there was the first time I ever cut her little baby fingernails, which also happened to be the first time she bled.
And her first Halloween where I dressed her as a Hershey’s Kiss and couldn’t figure out how to properly situate the costume’s headpiece on her head. Looking back at pictures now, she looked much more like a silver baby Pope wearing his ceremonial mitre than a Hershey’s Kiss.
There was a week-long stay in the hospital after a surgery and a triple round of antibiotics didn’t cure an ear infection “unlike anything” her ENT had “ever seen.” Further testing would later find e-coli in her ear (I’m still not sure how that got there).
There were also three trips to the ER (broken leg, busted scalp, and can’t remember) within a two week period where I thought for sure The Department of Social Service would send their child welfare specialist to my home for a visit.
There was the time that my perfect angel left a small carton of milk in the backseat of the car which I didn’t discover under after it had spoiled, expanded, exploded, and filled my car with that putrid rotten milk smell.
As a side note: there is no chemical on this earth that will take that smell out of the carpet in your car. I know because my car smelled like that mistake for 3 years.
There was the time that I didn’t take her upset tummy complaints seriously and hours later I was cleaning an excessive amount of vomit from between the bricks of the fireplace.
There was also the time that I couldn’t afford to have the birthday party she wanted so she settled for a small family get-together and a ½ birthday party 6 months later.
There were times I had to take time off from work to sit through 5th grade math classes just so I could help her with her nightly homework.
And then the time I asked her to get something from the trunk of my car, forgetting her Easter basket was hiding there. The Easter Bunny gig was up but I somehow still convinced her Santa was real (until she was 13, nonetheless).
There have been times that I’ve dropped her off at school in the mornings and let her get out of the car without saying “I love you” simply because I had other things on my mind.
And then the times I have let her go to bed upset.
I’ve secretly hated reading her favorite book over and over again and I’ve left her at daycare until closing on days when I needed more “me time.” I’ve forgotten to send lunch money, and I’ve driven through McDonald’s far too many times because I was too tired to cook dinner.
I’m not the Mom who has taken pictures of every single first. I never finished her baby book. I don’t scrapbook. I’m not the carpooling Mom who drags kids around from dance, to gymnastics, to piano practice, and then to soccer.
I am a hard mom who sets tough ground rules because I know how difficult this life can be. I insist that my daughter be respectful to her elders and peers alike. I encourage her to be forgiving of all people, because I know there will come a time in her life when she will seek forgiveness from one of those people. Even as a teenager, she still has a bed time. There is no telephone or texting after 9:00 pm and a 7:00 pm movie showing is the latest she can attend. She’s expected to work hard in school and I do not allow her to use her dyslexia as an excuse. And even as rocky as her young life has been, I remind her daily that there are many others who have it much worse. We are indeed the lucky ones.
Together we sing, make silly faces, build blanket forts, work at the local soup kitchen, and dance in the rain, write love letters back and forth, laugh, cry, learn, and heal. We have a love that surmounts all things.
My dear daughter,
I haven’t been the perfect Mom. I’ve made many mistakes along the way and I’m certain I will make many more. And while I may not be the perfect Mom, I love you perfectly. I love you just as God intended me to but far more than I ever realized I could. I love you like my mother loves me, but far more than I ever understood when I was your age. I love you like you will one day love your own children, but far more than you can fathom today. I love you beyond my mistakes and beyond yours. I love you completely. I love you whole. I love you perfectly and I am so thankful that God picked me, imperfect me, to be your Mom.