I was laying in my daughter’s bed tonight, as I do every night after we read a book, and had what my dear friend refers to as a “love attack.” I unexpectedly started crying–What is this water pouring out of my eyes?–and looked down at her little hand in mine. She is 4 years old. I’m not quite sure how that happened. These past four years have gone by so quickly and in that same amount of time she’ll be 8, and then 16, and then 32, and then…well, you can do the math.
After she was born I could barely function. I was utterly gobsmacked by how much I loved her. I was not prepared for that. No one had ever really said how debilitating it would be to love someone that much. You make fool decisions based on what? Your love for a person who vomits on your favorite shirt, can’t see past their nose, pulls all-nighters like a college kid cracked out on No-Dose, and poos in their pants and could really care two figs about it? Yes. To top it off, I was overcome with guilt for having had her in the first place.
I told a friend one night that I felt horribly selfish for having her because she was going to have to die one day and I am the reason for that. Or what if I died first and left her here all alone with no siblings, no family? My friend, who didn’t have any children at the time, said, “Wouldn’t you rather have 30 minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothin’ special?” And it hit me. Hard. That quote never meant a thing to me before. In fact, I always thought that quote ruined the entire movie. But that is because that quote wasn’t speaking to me before, but it was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment. And my answer was “Absolutely.”
When I went back to school for my second bachelor’s, it was a few days after Huddy’s first birthday. I stupidly thought Oh! This will be so easy. I mean, she can’t even walk. I’ll be able to do homework while she plays and sleeps. Yeah. And then she learned to walk. And she never slept. And yet, I somehow made it through that first semester with flying colors. It was the two years after that which are now a blur. I honestly don’t remember her the second, third, or fourth semesters of school. So overtaken by 82-paged papers and endless lesson plans (for lessons I would never even teach) and online tests and quizzes and projects and reading assignments and math journaling and science fairs and recorder playing and self-evaluating, I think I pretty much only managed to say three words to her for two years: Hold on, baby.
And now, here we are. And was it all worth it? I’m sure if I had a full-time teaching job, I would say ‘yes.’ But right now, I would love to have back those two and a half years and I would work a thousand jobs or whatever I had to do to provide for us. Granted, I was able to spend more time with my child as a single mother than most single parents ever get to do. But all of it came at a cost. I lost a great love. And I lost precious moments with my child because I was so driven to do well in school and make her proud of me; that person who couldn’t even tell me what she wanted for breakfast, let alone her name.
In a couple of days, I’m going to be another year older. I remember when I turned 20, I was at the mall and my boyfriend at the time came and found me, somehow. He walked up behind me as I was chatting with some complete stranger about God only knows what. He said, “Your mother wants you to come home and cut your cake and open your presents.”
You could say I had a mid-life crisis then, of sorts (though, God, I hope not, because that would only give me a year of life left). My mother was beside herself. If she could have given me up for adoption, I think she would have.
What is your problem?
–And in that same amount of time, I’m going to be FORTY.
I do not feel sorry for you.
Now, when I look at my child and think of how many moments go by that we’ll never get back and that, one day too soon, she will be 34 years old (the age I was when she was born), and I will be a woman of 68 years, it makes every second of my life worth reliving. And I can do it, through her.
So, this year, I’ve decided my gifts to myself are: to live honestly, to come from a place of yes, to ask for help, to be in the moment, to lower my expectations, to no longer give unsolicited (or solicited) advice, to no longer think that I have it any worse than anyone else, and to not be so hard on myself. But mostly, I want to remember who I used to be: a person who loved her birthday.