Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Why Do You Love Me? - An Answer for My Daughter

Twenty-six years ago today, I became a mother. That was a day my life changed. It's the day I learned of a love that's different and more powerful than any I'd ever experienced before.

My daughter and I have had many ups and downs since that day. We've had some very painful "discussions," especially during her teen years. Once, during one of those very heated "discussions," she told me she didn't love me. I told her that I was sad she felt that way, but that I knew she really did love me. I told her that some day she might feel bad that she'd said that to me, but that she shouldn't worry, because I know that even when she's mad at me, she loves me. (I'd remembered this speech from a scene in "Terms of Endearment"--a very moving conversation between dying Deborah Winger and her troubled son.)

I told my daughter that I'd loved her from the moment I knew I was pregnant and that I would always love her, no matter what she did, what she said, or even if she really didn't love me... even if she hated me. I still would love her with all my heart. She asked me with a stubborn defiance, "Why? Why do you love me, Mom?"

I thought of all the classic reasons. My daughter is model-quality beautiful, brilliant, and talented in every way. She is the only person I know who excels (and I mean top 1%) in everything she tries. Seriously! There is nothing she can't do, and I'm not just saying that because I'm her mother.

But that's not why I love her. Those may be reasons that the rest of the world loves her, but I know I'd love her just as much if none of those things were true. But why? Why do we love our children with such depth before they're even born? And then when they're born, that love just grows until our heart feels ready to burst, like the scene from "When the Grinch Stole Christmas". (Obviously, my post today is influenced by pop movies.)

I suppose part of that loves come from knowing that we are responsible for these innocent, beautiful babies. We witness this miracle...this tiny human being that grew within us and managed to find her way out into the world. And even though we've heard of all the biological explanations, we just know there is no way this could be possible unless there is a God.

And we look at this treasure God has bestowed us with and vow that we will be the perfect parent. We are determined to never let anyone harm this innocent baby. We read every parenting book and worry about every hiccup. We take care of this little miracle and marvel at his every move.

And as our little baby grows, we see that we've become her hero. We know how to get him to break into giggles. We know how to kiss away her tears. We feel his little head heavy on our shoulder as he snuggles close and drifts off to sleep. And we think, "I'm a good parent. I love this baby more than anything."

And then our babies grow up.

We start to see their unique characteristics. We see them struggle, make mistakes, and get hurt and, as much as we try, we realize we can't always kiss away their tears. We question whether we are the perfect parents we vowed we would be. We go from being their heroes to their embarrassing parents. We see them disagree with us as they work to establish their own ideas. We see them become independent as they grow into adulthood. We see them practicing their own traditions, making their own paths out in the world, finding love, living life, most of the time, without us. And we think, "My baby has grown up. I love her more than anything."

And then, one day, she has a baby of her own.

And finally, she understands the answer to her question.


Ingrid said...

This captures parenthood better than anything I have ever read! Bittersweet for we who miss our soft babies, they must grow up and have their own to truly understand ... thanks for writing Yvette!

Popo said...

Wow, what a great story. You should put together all your family stories and publish them. It could be the family heirloom passed on from generation to generation and everyone adds stories to it for each new publication. I think I just came up with a great idea I'd like to do! You're so inspiring, Yvette!

heather of the eo said...

So true. Lovely post. Thank you for sharing it with me.