No secret being a momma and bonusmom is my life’s greatest joy and purpose. I also have the privilege to teach secondary kids; 154 this year. Last Thursday, I shared my Jason Reynolds’ emulation to my high school students, For My Students, Whom I am Thankful. I chose to not only share this letter with my students, I chose to take six minutes (give or take) to read it aloud to each class – making eye contact and smiling with them – some classes sitting on the floor together just outside our classroom. It was a bit of a full circle moment for us as we started our first week of school emulating Jason Reynolds’ letter Ten Things I Have Been Meaning to Say to You. My teacher example I provided to my students (exactly three months ago) on 26 August 2019, however, was to my four daughters. With the Thanksgiving spirit in full fledged – and parents blending with and/or without their babies this season – I want to share a letter I wrote my daughters in August to remind each of you no matter where your baby is this season (or any day), regardless of their age, it is up to you how your relationship with them unfolds-
You are my daughters. Born from me or from my heart, you are equally mine. One of my greatest life treasures has been being your momma and bonusmom, sharing you with the world, and watching you grow. To you, my strong daughters, when you are a bit older & need to hear these words, here are 10 things I want to share with you:
- I have chosen to be as vulnerably honest with you when it was appropriate and limiting details as necessary about the life we share as well as who I am (I would be selfish to share too much otherwise). I have chosen to live a life to inspire you to be better each day you wake than the day before. I live this vehemently because I want you to feel how important you are to me. You drive me. Everyday. To grow. So, grow. Everyday. Do not give in to the chaos and allow yourself to suffocate under its gripping pillow. Use the pillow to rest. Wake. Then kick the pillow’s butt.
- As we all know, the reality of life is just as much heart wrenching as it is incandescently happy. We cannot (and should not be expected to) handle each facet of this life with pure grace and pristine propriety. So, cry. Often. Let it out, baby girls. Every age you ever are. Cry when you need to. This will allow you to have clarity. It will remove resentment. You will be freed.
- “Man plans. God laughs,” someone, somewhere coined that phrase. It’s epic. I live it fully. So, be malleable. Adapt.
- As if it has become my life’s purpose to find what exactly I want in life – me – I feel as though I am steadily crapping on everyone. It is not my intention. It is just me trying to make sense of this life I am living. A great part of it was not a life I chose; I was born into it… for better or for worse, I am my parents’ child. My life seems to be bathed in conflict. I try to nurture my pride with the great words of Winston Churchill, “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” Over the years, I have matured the phrase to be franker, “if I am not ticking someone off, who am I being true to?” What I realize now is I am solving all my life’s problems, one by one, by fighting for everyone else and what I feel they deserve. How am I living for me then, you may ask… well, I only fight for my people- my husband, you four girls (our precious daughters), and those closest to us, so it truly is my fight in the end. Plus, there were plenty of times people should have fought for me (or others), and they were too apathetic, selfish, lazy, or tribal to give in to the idea. So, be a fighter. Fight for what you believe in and for those you love. Do not be weak. Face it. Fight it. Be better for it.
- Being a fighter also means a portion of my life comes second because I never, NEVER, want my girls, you four beautiful creatures, to feel as though you are not enough. You are my priority. Every. Single. Day. So, be a mom. Feel this level of commitment and purpose in your life. Experience this unconditional love. Make your children feel worthy. No matter their age. Pursue them. Pursue their children. Be bigger.
- There is a lot of money to be made out there. Money brings materialistic items, big homes, nice rides, fancy vacations, euphoric moments, and delicious food that transports your senses into a delicious utopia. But money cannot buy loyalty, commitment, love, belonging, genuine relationships, and the true sense of home. So, find your home. Find your social sphere promoting your growth and cheering you on. Find the profession that allows you time to cherish genuine relationships. In time, you will have the means to engage in exciting occasions with a price tag. Know, those experiences will be there waiting to be had, but your relationships need to be watered daily. Water them.
- I never want you, my girls, to feel as though “people like me don’t go to college.” It is your American right to education. I never want you, my girls, to feel as though “I have to go at this alone” because I will always be here to help you, tutor you, encourage you, and allow you to struggle as a learner to truly learn. Knowing your momma never stopped trying to get that degree, to teach, and ultimately to be a better woman, I hope you see just how special you are because it is you that drives me. So, be educated. Never stop learning. You will never know everything. Someone is always smarter than you. Learn.
- Graduating high school is expected. I will not treat it as though it is the biggest deal in the world. It’s not. It’s basic. I will, however, celebrate the heck out of your collegiate degrees. So, keep going. Treat this – secondary education – as a simple prerequisite.
- Mental health is accepted in our home. So, talk. Share. Heal. Everyday. No one in this world is mentally immaculate.
- I love you. You know this already. But I also like you. A lot. Like, I would rather hang out with you than any other group of girls in my life. You each are tantalizing individuals I marvel in intense observation. I enjoy hearing you chat, laugh, spill-the-tea, and just becoming the ladies you are destined to be. I actually envy all the priorities stealing my quality time from just sharing space with you. So, be you. Always. Never worry about my acceptance. I really, really, like even your quirkiest self and annoying habits. I hope you treat others unconditionally. Speaking of this… Let me try number 10 again…
- Be gentle with others. Allow them to be them. Never force what you would prefer them to be. Allow them to grow into whom they are hungry to be. Especially your children. Love them in their entirety. Remember this as you are growing with other children and eventually growing with adults. People are trying. They really, really are. Trying to belong. Trying to feel worthy of love. Trying to make themselves proud. Whatever you do, fill their cup. Every chance you get. Be kind to everyone. Make your goal for them to leave an encounter with you feeling happier, more special, and capable to do this little thing called life.
I love you~
The holiday season tends to bring out emotions in all of us. I get it. The varying thoughts you have- you miss your baby/babies. You never wanted to be without them. It’s not fair. It’s hard to see them experiencing a life without you… We – all of us blending parents – have felt the very vulnerable and real emotion you are. It sucks at first… but it is not supposed to suck every holiday season. You are supposed to grow in grace with each passing year.
The little caveat I started telling myself six years ago when my girls went to experience the holidays without me was simple- we just get to practice this part of our life earlier than most… Let’s face it, our children will grow to find a partner to share a life away from us… At least we will be more ready for the beautiful transition.
So, this season grow in grace. Take care to display the side of you your child will benefit observing. Remember, they did not ask for this blending life. It is not their fault. It’s yours. Celebrate their time spent with their others and the love their others provide them. They are doing nothing wrong enjoying their life with their others. They have more than one important person in their life. They are supposed to. Remember, wherever you are in your life at this moment is your fault – good or bad – not your child’s/childrens’. How you make them feel is your choice, too. Choose wisely how the time you share with your child/children is spent. Ensure the communication you invest in with your child/children fills them up with assurance of your love and acceptance. The best gift you will ever provide your child/children is confidence you adore them and want to spend time with them. For the rest of their life. Blending doesn’t stop when your child/children turns 18. You will share them forever. The number of people you are sharing them with will continue to grow. Your child/children will grow to make a choice as to whether or not they want to make time for you. It starts with you, always. Make time for them.
Thank your child this holiday season. For what? You decide.
Photos by O’Banion Portraiture