A Letter to My Youngest Daughter
Why I’m not always on your side.
Dear Youngest Daughter,
I thought you knew. Maybe I took for granted that you understood that I am and always will be your biggest fan. Lately, though, it’s come to my attention that from time to time that you don’t feel like I’m on your side. The first time you slouched in the passenger’s seat on the way home from school, lowered your chin to your chest and mumbled, Why can’t you be on my side? — well, your reaction took me by surprise. You were having a difficult moment working with a friend on a school project. Your reaction surprised me because I thought we had an understanding that we (okay, really I) analyze situations — a lot. I look at every situation from every angle to find the best solution. It’s rather exhausting for me and, now I realize, excruciating for you. I didn’t quite expect my words to make you feel on the sidelines in our mother-daughter relationship.
I started thinking about what you said. I tried to see it from your perspective. You know what? It’s a fair assessment you made in the car that day. Sometimes I’m not on your side. It’s not because I don’t love you. It’s not that I don’t trust your judgement. It’s not that in some situations that I don’t think you were treated unfairly. Quite the opposite, really. I agree with you more than not.
So, what’s the deal, huh?
Well, here’s the deal my youngest daughter. It seems that we’ve reached a canyon that needs to be crossed and the only way across it is to walk along a shaky suspension bridge that feels like it’s not going to hold us. This bridge will take you from the safety and security of a luscious childhood forest to a new land where sometimes the grass doesn’t grow. Where you sometimes encounter towering, seemingly impassable mountains blocking your path and you question how you’ll get around to the other side. This place is called adulthood and it’s not all that bad. In fact, it’s pretty cool. You get to stay up as late as you want. You meet lots of interesting people. You can travel to amazing places. The thing is though that you must come to this land well-prepared with humility, kindness, gratitude, and a sense of self without sacrificing knowing others. Without these tools in your backpack life isn’t going to be easy.
It’s my job to mold you into a well-rounded human being. Not a shell. Not a person who moves through each day with self-centered intentions and the proclivity to ignore the struggles and intentions (good or bad) of others. My job is to raise you to be strong and independent. When it seems like I am not on your side, I’m not trying to negate your feelings. I’m trying to provide you with armor. Your armor is empathy and if you wear this armor with care and love you’ll find that sometimes those injustices — because there will be plenty throughout your life — won’t make you feel less. You’ll be able to see another perspective and move on. You won’t sit and wither in self-hatred or self-pity. You won’t feel like a moving target for other people’s rudeness and spite.
Empathy doesn’t make us weak. Even when someone is unkind to us it can be therapeutic to our soul to try to understand why they’ve acted the way they did. You don’t have to invite this person back into your life. You don’t have to forget the pain they may have caused you or how you felt about the situation. All you need to do is acknowledge it and move on. It’s one of the easiest ways to be free and not allow our happiness to be dependent on the feelings of others.
In that same breath, youngest daughter, we must also accept our own failures. We must own our mistakes. It’s not my fault. We’ve all spoken these words at one time or another. Sometimes it’s true. It’s not our fault. It’s just the way the cards were dealt. Sometimes, though, we do share blame and our first instinct is to run from accepting responsibility. It’s not my fault. What I want you to know is that being at fault or making an error in judgement isn’t a crime (Okay, well sometimes it is. But that’s a whole other letter that I have no intention of ever writing). It isn’t something that is going to ride your back for the rest of your life. Taking responsibility for the good and bad decisions we make in our lives is just part of, well, living and being human.
So, youngest daughter, know that even in times when it seems like I’m not on your side that I am. One-hundred thousand percent, I am. I may play Devil’s advocate and ask you to see another person’s side. I may hold you to a higher standard than you think is fair, but know that I don’t love you less or won’t go to battle for you. Just know that I am simply polishing your armor. I am getting you ready to safely cross that bridge and find beautiful, luscious lands on the other side of mountains. Truly, I can’t wait to see the awesome person you’re going to become.
Piper is the author of the bestselling Amazon novels, The Waiting Room and Missing Girl. She is a Midwestern girl with a So-Cal soul and an NYC wardrobe. A habitual truth-bender turned novelist, Piper seeks to explore the many levels of humanness in her tales.
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Originally published at piperpunches.com on January 28, 2017.