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Dear Daughter, I Just Wanted You To Be Better Than Me

I always thought it was my job to teach you about life, but I fear you may not have learned as much from me as I have from you.
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I used to rock you in my arms when you were a baby and imagine the woman you'd become. You would be popular, but not too popular. You'd be smart, witty, independent and funny. You would be a natural leader. I knew you'd always be beautiful.

You would be everything I wasn't -- everything I never had the chance or courage to be. You would be perfectly unlike me in every way. You would be better than me.

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As you know, I have made a lot of mistakes in my life. I had no doubt I was the perfect person to raise you to make better choices and suffer less. I had fool-proof plans to help you identify and maneuver yourself around the potholes I fell into.

I was going to help ensure your happiness and success, and I had no doubt you would let me help you.

What I didn't count on was how much you would grow up to be just like me. I was ill-prepared for confrontation with my own brand of stubbornness and sarcasm. I didn't expect to have to fight so hard for the right to help you through some of life's difficult moments. I didn't envision rejection in response to my selfless offers to guide you, to mold you into that amazing woman I knew you could be -- the woman I wanted you to be.

I couldn't see how selfish and closed-minded those ideas were. I thought I was trying to help you. I didn't think of the possibility that you were better-equipped to make the right choices I didn't at your age.

And so I yelled.

Honestly, I didn't know what else to do. I knew you weren't listening to me -- to reason -- and I was afraid you'd ruin that beautiful picture I had for your future -- that selfish picture I never actually factored you into. So, instead of trying to support the decisions I didn't agree with, I tried to force my will into the situation. When you held your ground, I yelled some more.

I yelled because I was terrified. The more you pushed against boundaries, the more fearful I became.

There were many times when I over-identified with what you were facing. I swear it wasn't on purpose or to take away from your feelings, but I know it did. I thought if I could just convince you that I knew, that I understood you, then you would trust me more and fight me less. Having had some time to reflect, I understand now how that might have minimized your feelings and individuality. I swear to you, I didn't see it that way at the time.

Now that I do, I don't blame you for pushing me away.

I know there were times you believe I failed as your mother. I've worried about that possibility every day since you were born. Being a mom is hard... and sometimes beyond terrifying. There's no manual or script to follow. I often parented by Braille, just feeling my way around for answers to questions I didn't know how to ask. The frustration and fear I felt, not always knowing what you needed and/or how to help you, left me feeling useless. Some nights, I heard myself screaming things at you I could not believe were coming out of my mouth.

I know there were times you hated me. The truth is, there were times I hated you, too. Not because I didn't love you, but because I loved you too much. No one in my life has ever challenged me the ways you have. I wasn't prepared to look at some of the things, in myself, you mirrored back at me. I didn't realize that your becoming like me wasn't the worst thing that could happen. I haven't always valued myself -- the choices I've made, the woman I've become -- and I struggled with the irony.

The last five years of our relationship have tested my patience, beliefs, boundaries and sanity. There were days -- months, even -- when I was certain that as soon as you turned 18, you would leave this house and never speak to me again. Some days, I thought I would want that.

I'm so glad I was wrong.

I always thought being a good mother meant it was my job to shape you into a good person, to make sure you took the right path. I think that idea made it impossible for me to let go -- to accept your choices when I didn't agree. I got scared when you became the independent person I always wanted you to be, and I let my fear keep me from celebrating that independence and trusting your judgment. That is where I failed you.

I wish I had listened more -- like, really listened -- for what you were trying to say, instead of translating it into how I could help you.

I wish I had trusted in both of us more -- in our abilities to handle situations, no matter how baffling -- because we were always stronger than I thought.

I want you to know how proud I am of the person you've become, despite, and in spite of, some of my best efforts to guide you. You are the strong woman I used to imagine you'd become... and so much more than I ever imagined. I want you to know that being your mom has made me a better person.

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I always thought it was my job to teach you about life, but I fear you may not have learned as much from me as I have from you.

I promise never to try to take credit for your accomplishments.

I will, however, pray that someday, you will tell me there was something in your life you couldn't have done without me.

I won't mind if you lie.

Love Always,

Mom

This post appeared originally on nextlifenokids.com. Find Julie on Facebook & Twitter @NextLifeNOKids

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