As my daughter gets older, I often reflect upon her childhood. Growing up with an abusive mom, I understand the significance of my role as a mother. I know that her upbringing will shape her values, beliefs, and perceptions about herself and her relationship with others. My hope is that when my daughter grows up, she will look fondly upon her childhood. I hope I will instill in her morals, kindness, and self-confidence. These are the things I want my daughter to remember about me:
(1) She received my full attention
Life can pull all of us in many directions, and as mothers we have to juggle quite a bit. However, I always set aside quality time to spend with my daughter. No matter how hectic my day was or how many outside distractions, I was intentional in my time with her. I want my daughter to remember that there wasn’t a single day when she didn’t receive my full attention. The amount of time might have varied, but we always did something together without me looking at my phone, checking my emails, or thinking about something else.
I implemented “fun time” with her, which is a minimum of 15 minutes a day together doing something of her choosing. We played tea party, teacher, house, teacher, tic-tac toe, hangman, etc. Whatever it was, I gave her my undivided attention. There were many times throughout the day when I couldn’t give her my full focus. However, during fun time she had all of me. I hope she will remember that when she grows up.
(2) I cared about what she had to say
I want my daughter to remember that her thoughts mattered to me. When she spoke about Frozen for the 100,000th time, I listened. I listened to every single word of her conversation with her imaginary friend. When she told me that she wanted to be a horse trainer when she grew up, I listened. I cared about every hope, every thought, every dream, every feeling. No matter how big or small, I want my daughter to remember that I wanted to hear what she had to say.
(3) I made her feel safe and comforted
I cry as I write this one. Of all the things I want my daughter to remember about me, this one is of utmost importance. I did not grow up having a mother who made me feel safe, and I wanted that more than anything. Being the person who makes my child feel safe is such an honor and a privilege, and it brings me so much joy to know that I was able to give that to her.
I am the one she goes to when she is afraid. She comes to me when she feels hurt. I am the one who reads her books about not being afraid of the dark and teaches her belly breathing. I am the one who helps her relax when she has a hard time sleeping at night. She reaches for my hand when she needs comfort. I am the one who wipes away her tears, kisses every boo-boo, and wraps my arms around her when she needs reassurance. I am her safe place.
(4) She is loved unconditionally
While I’m crying, I might as well write about this one too. Again, this was something I lacked growing up, and it was something I vowed to give to my daughter. I want my daughter to remember that no matter what, she is always loved. There is nothing she could ever say or do that would change that.
When I am feeling angry at something she said or did, I always make sure to tell her that my feelings of anger do not take away from my love for her. If we have a difficult night and she is giving me a hard time at bedtime, I always make sure to tell her “I love you” as the last thing I say to her for the night. There are many uncertainties in this world, but my love for her is not one of them.
I have no doubt that the conflicts between my daughter and I will only intensify as she hits puberty and teenage years. I want my daughter to remember that no matter our disagreements or frustrations, my love for her is unwavering.
(5) Our bedtime routine
I have put her to bed almost every night since she was born. I want my daughter to remember that our bedtime routines have changed with age, but we always have one. When she was younger I would rock her in the rocking chair and sing her lullabies. Now, I read her the next chapter from whatever book we’re currently reading, kiss her stuffed animals, and then we kiss each other’s hands and forehead. We always say our bedtime prayers and “I love you.”
(6) WE DID THINGS JUST THE TWO OF US
We have a secret handshake, we like to snuggle together in the bed and talk about our day, and we listen to yoga music and put our legs up on the wall for ten minutes (it’s very good for relaxation). We also take walks around the block when it is nice weather, and we will stop and look at the lawns, the flowers, and the house on our block that frequently changes its outside décor. While walking we also like to play a game. We quote a line from a book we’ve read together, and the other one has to guess what book the line came from. I want her to remember all those little things that we did, and that they were special because we did them together.
(7) I homeschooled her
This is the second year that I’ve homeschooled my daughter. During this time, I want my daughter to remember how much she has grown and learned. I want her to remember that she is capable and that her Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) do not define her.
My hope is that she looks back fondly upon this time. For example, during lunchtime I sometimes take out a blanket and spread it on the living room floor so we can have a “picnic lunch.” I made up a funny song when she couldn’t remember the definition of “antonym”, “synonym”, and “homonym.” To reinforce what she’s learned in math, sometimes I’ll set up chairs around the blackboard and she gets to be the math teacher for me and her stuffed animals. She gets to take frequent breaks and jump around and “shake out her wiggles”. When she feels like she isn’t able to figure something out, I show her another way of learning it. Sometimes it clicks and sometimes it takes days or even weeks, but I want her to remember that learning differently does not mean she can’t learn. The sky is the limit for her.
(8) Our family traditions
I want my daughter to remember the hearts taped on her door on Valentine’s Day, the balloons with little notes stuck inside them on her birthday, and the decorations all over the walls. I hope she remembers how we would change the décor in the house for every season, and how she would help me put the old décor away and set up the current ones. When she grows up, I hope she remembers how we all (me, my husband, and my daughter) sat down together every night at dinner and talked about our days. I want her to remember how we had movie nights with popcorn, how we snuggled under blankets and lit a fire when it was cold outside, and how we drank hot cocoa with marshmallows.
(9) Our Jewish traditions
I want my daughter to remember the role that Judaism played in our lives. Some of these traditions include how we lit candles every Friday night for the Sabbath and had a special dinner. We played dreidel and ate potato pancakes on Hanukkah, we sang our hearts out when we had our Passover Seders, and we said our prayers every night before bed and prayed every Sabbath. I hope she continues to have a love of Judaism and her faith helps her throughout her life.
(10) Cooking together
I want my daughter to remember all the times we spent cooking together. Whether it was making granola, preparing a special meal for Daddy’s birthday, or making cookies, we each wore our aprons as we cooked together. I taught myself to cook, and it was important to me to teach her how to cook. She has sensory issues and didn’t like her hands to get sticky. When cooking she had to put her hands into the ingredients at times to mix (e.g., granola mix). As a result, she now doesn’t have that problem. We always have fun together in the kitchen, although she is never a fan of the cleaning up part! My hope is that my daughter remembers those times.
(11) Being silly together
We have always danced together. When she was a baby, I carried her and danced (and once almost tripped over my pants that were too long!), and as she got older she would hold my hands and dance. Now we crank up the music, shake our booties, and act like complete fools. We also sing together (and not well, may I add) and tell each other jokes. I want my daughter to remember that I wasn’t afraid to be silly and make a fool of myself in the name of fun.
(12) I was her biggest cheerleader
I was fortunate to be able to stay at home so I could witness all her firsts (e.g., first smile, laugh, sitting up, crawling, walking, etc). When she went to school, I attended every school event, volunteered in the classroom whenever there was an opportunity, never missed a Friday school service, and literally cried the one time I didn’t know the school invited parents to participate and therefore I wasn’t there.
When she took dance class I watched on their TV every class she took, watched on the bleachers every gymnastics class, and cheered every soccer game she played. I taped every time she received a new taekwondo belt and clapped (probably a little too loudly, but I clapped for all the other kids too). I want her to remember that I was her biggest cheerleader and supported her every hobby and passion. Most of all, I was so proud of her for trying, regardless of the outcome.
(13) I was her biggest advocate
I want my daughter to remember that I was her biggest advocate. When her kindergarten teachers suggested that she wasn’t capable of doing the work the other kids were doing, I wouldn’t hear of it. I took a home video of her doing the very work they claimed she couldn’t learn. After my meeting with the principal consisted of him checking emails instead of listening to my concerns about my daughter’s lack of support, I pulled her out of the school.
I found out she could get an Individualized Education Program (IEP) through the local public school. I emailed and fought with the support team to get an initial meeting and subsequent evaluation. Then I did intensive research and made sure they tested her on all areas of concern that I had. When it was time to write up the IEP and they showed up with all of two goals, I spend the next two weeks coming up with all the goals and recommendations that she needed. They are now in the IEP.
I have kept the door open to her returning to school. We are looking into private schools, but I will not send her anywhere until I know that the school will implement the IEP completely and will give her the support she needs too thrive.
(14) I made mistakes and I owned up to them
I actually want my daughter to remember that I am not perfect. I want her to know that when she grows up it is okay and normal to not have it all figured out. Motherhood isn’t a walk in the park, and I won’t always say and do the right things. I also want her to know the importance of taking responsibility for your mistakes, and that there is no shame in saying you are sorry. She may be my child, but she deserves an apology no matter her age. In doing so, I hope she will understand and remember that I did my best and was always willing to admit wrongdoing.
(15) It is okay to not be okay
I do not discuss my adult problems with my child. However, I want my child to remember that it is normal and healthy to not always be okay. I have tried to teach her healthy coping mechanisms and ways to work through her feelings. In addition, I model for her that it is crucial to allow yourself space to feel whatever you are feeling. I want my daughter to remember that I encouraged her to talk about how she was feeling and not bury those feelings. My hope is that she also remembers the importance of honoring those feelings instead of judging herself for them.
(16) I took my role as mom seriously
It is my job to guide and teach my daughter. From the time she was born, I have taught her through play things such as language, numbers, writing, and reading. Even more importantly, I teach her the importance of being a good person. I want my daughter to remember that my priority was to teach her morals and values, not to be her buddy. We have fun together and I love spending time with her, but I am her parent. It is up to me to let her know that she should be picking up her toys, taking her schoolwork seriously, and showing respect and gratitude. I want my daughter to remember how seriously I took the role of being her mom.
Part of my job is to encourage her to believe in herself. My daughter struggles with playing independently. I have encouraged her to be her own friend and figure out ways she can enjoy her own company. Although I am her source of safety and comfort, it is also my job to teach her to be her own source of safety and comfort too. She needs to love herself, and I am not a replacement for that.
(17) I encouraged her to be her best self
As a recovering perfectionist, I am very mindful of not instilling a perfectionistic mentality into my daughter. I want my daughter to remember that I encouraged her to always try her best, but I did not compare her to others. I want her to always strive for growth and to be the best version of herself that she can be. That said, perfection is not a goal nor an option.
(18) We always Read together
From the day she was born, I have read to my daughter. Now that my daughter is older, she reads to me as well or we rotate reading pages to each other. I still make sure to read to her every night. She is an avid reader, and I want my daughter to remember all the wonderful memories surrounding reading together.
(19) She could tell me anything
I want my daughter to remember our talks. When something was on her mind, she would often tell me she wanted to have a “meeting”. We would go into my room, sit on my bed, and she would tell me what was on her mind. I tried my best to offer comfort, advice, or just listen, depending on what she needed. I may not have always gotten it right, but I tried. As she gets older, it is important to me that my daughter knows that she can always come to me. There may be times when I feel it is important to state my opinion because I want her to make informed decisions. Regardless of her life choices, I will always be there for her and try my best to support her.
(20) Life is what you make of it, and it is often unfair
I want my daughter to know that life will knock her down. It is up to her if it keeps her down. My daughter doesn’t know any specific details of my childhood now, but one day I will tell her. I want her to know that despite my struggles I kept trying.
She knows she has difficulty concentrating and has difficulty controlling her impulses. When she asked me why some things are harder for her, I told her that life is often unfair and there isn’t always a good answer. I want her to remember that I always encouraged her to play the cards she was dealt. Most of all, I want her to know that her mother was a fighter, and that she is a fighter too.
I am sure I will add to this list as my daughter gets older. My greatest wish is that above all, she remembers and believes that I was a good role model. I hope she looks fondly on her childhood and wants to instill the same kinds of memories with her children. One thing she will never have to remember, though, is how deeply and fiercely she is loved.
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