‘Cause I am done with my graceless heart
So tonight I’m gonna cut it out and then restart
‘Cause I like to keep my issues strong
It’s always darkest before the dawn.
-Florence and the Machine
You turned 13 years old this week, my beautiful daughter.
I can’t help but feel celebratory and hopeful when I look at you.
It hasn’t always been that way. For many years, I looked at you and saw the damage I’d done. I saw the traits I didn’t like in myself—ones I’d inadvertently passed down to you.
too worry wart
too task driven
For many years, I was afraid the damage was done … and could not be redeemed.
But then I stood in front of an audience, baring my soul. You stood off to the side, away from the crowd. I wasn’t sure if you stood there in case you needed to make a fast getaway or because you didn’t want to miss a single word. I was nervous to see your reaction to my honest admissions. Yes, you’d experienced life with a critical, hurried, distracted, and spread-too-thin mother, but this would be the first time you heard my most difficult confessions spoken out loud.
My main concern was that the description you were about to hear about the “old me” – particularly the characteristics I was trying to soften and reign in – would sound an awful lot like you. I didn’t want you to think that just because I needed to make changes, you did too. I didn’t want you to think there was anything wrong with the way you were. One thing was for certain: keeping my struggles and triumphs to myself would not be helping anyone. I swallowed my fear and began to speak.
Five minutes in, you rested your head against a nearby bookshelf. It appeared you were planning to stay awhile. With encouragement in your eyes, you listened to me reveal my mistakes, along with the insight I’d gained from every stumble and fall. And then all at once, the most peaceful expression settled on your face. I couldn’t deny the overpowering love radiating from one spot off to my left, the spot where my brown-eyed girl stood, taking it all in.
Watching me take my imperfections and mistakes and turn them into life-changing revelations offered you a reprieve, my mini high achiever. I saw the recognition on your face, the exhale of your chest. I felt as though I could read your mind. Perhaps the missteps of a messy, imperfect life weren’t shameful or bad; perhaps they were vital steps to becoming who you’re meant to be.
Watching you watch me was like seeing the sun come out after a long, hard rain.
Watching you watch me was like seeing the tightrope walker realize the ground was much closer and much softer than expected.
Watching you watch me was like seeing a worn bandage taken off to reveal healing pink skin underneath.
Watching you watch me was like seeing a flaming torch held up in a dark forest to light the way home.
In that moment, your radiant face was a reflection of my own—peace with who I am and hope for who I am becoming. But there was more. Your eyes seemed to sparkle with a possibility you hadn’t considered before—maybe the phrase, “mistakes mean you’re learning and taking courageous risks,” wasn’t a lie spoken simply for comfort; maybe it was actually true.
This could be a turning point in your life, I thought to myself. With continued guidance and further displays of authenticity and humanness, I believed I could alleviate some of the future pressure you were bound to put on yourself.
And it that is exactly what I have tried to do. It’s been almost three years since I bore my scars on that platform while you silently cheered me on with your eyes. Some things have changed since then, but some things have stayed the same – gloriously the same:
You are as goal-oriented as ever, but your goals are achievable and realistic; they’re even flexible and adjustable if you realized you aimed a little too high.
You like to do things right the first time, but you see the value in effort and risk-taking, even if you aren’t able to perform the task as you’d hoped.
You like when things go according to plan, but you’ve come to believe that snags and detours often mean a greater plan is at work.
You are a worrier, but you are learning self-care tactics for alleviating your worries and falling asleep that will benefit you for a lifetime.
You care what others think, but you’re learning to create healthy boundaries and make sound decisions based on your heart and mind, not on other people’s opinions.
You are sensitive, but you use that sensitivity to touch hearts of people and animals in profound and meaningful ways.
Beautiful daughter, I know you’ve heard me refer your little sister as a Firefly because of the inner light she possesses. Well, you have a special light too. Yours is more like a blazing torch—one that is held up in the darkness to light the path ahead.
I realized this the other day when you were leading Olympic Camp for children in our neighborhood. Most newly minted teenagers would decide their birthday week was a good time to relax and celebrate—but not you. You decided your birthday week was a good time to share your God-given gifts of connecting with children, planning fun activities, being creative, and sharing your knowledge. You chose the Olympic theme because of the upcoming summer Olympics. I loved watching to you teach the children about foreign countries, geography, sportsmanship, determination, and Olympic sports.
When I suggested you leave a little time in the schedule for the children to play with the six kittens we are fostering, you became protective of the daily schedule you’d worked so hard on. I should have known you’d have each minute of the day thoroughly planned out. I let the idea go, knowing that stepping back is love to you.
About three hours into Day One of camp, I came downstairs to find the children sitting in an orderly line. You were telling them about each kitten. You were explaining how to hold them securely and describing the unique personalities of each one. That’s when I saw it—that beautiful torch of hope you possess—your radiant light that illuminates the unknown for others. That’s exactly the moment I saw myself. I saw myself in the way you talked to the children and held the kittens. It was just like when you get on the starting block before a swim meet, and I see myself in your determination and steely focus. I see myself in you when you ask permission to give a little of your money to a homeless person and when you write notes to Pricilla your sponsored child. I see myself in you when you cry at musicians singing powerful anthems to beautiful children in hospital beds. “That’s me,” I say when I see you run with your hair flying in the wind … or when you laugh with your mouth open wide … or organize a closet in record time … or come up with a master plan.
As you held those kittens out so lovingly in hopes that one of the children would go home and ask their parents to adopt one, I realized it was time. It was time to permanently shift my focus from the damage I’ve done to the positives and the passions I’ve passed on to you. It’s time to shift my focus to your unique strengths, talents, and gifts that make me feel so proud. It’s time to focus on who you’re becoming, and who I am becoming too.
You are 13; it’s officially time to look ahead, not back.
Thank you for passing me the torch, dear daughter on this 13th birthday of yours. I will hold it up triumphantly to light the path ahead. I’m bound to stumble and fall; we all do from time to time. But I will simply take one look at you and remember this: Today matters more than yesterday.
You are my radiant light of hope, reminding there is much goodness to be found
and in me.
My friends, if you have not heard of Dr. Shefali Tsabary, I would encourage you to get to know her. As I read her most recently released book, I felt convinced I’d never read a more hopeful book for anyone seeking to create close and connected relationships within their family. No matter how much damage or how many mistakes have occurred, change and connection is possible. The Awakened Family shows you how to cultivate a relationship that allows the one you love to thrive while igniting positive growth within yourself. Raising children “the conscious way” means turning the spotlight away from fixing them and working on raising ourselves to the highest level of consciousness possible. On page 2 of her new book, Dr. Shefali writes, “In an awakened family, parents are aware that every relationship in their family exists to help each person grow.” Dr. Shefali’s life-changing guide gently walks readers through a revolutionary new way of parenting, providing an explanation of how we got here and clear direction on how we can change our family for the better. Dr. Shefali uses common, everyday examples that are applicable to our own families. What I love most about Dr. Shefali is that she truly believes it is never too late to lead your family on this journey of transformative growth, peace, and connection. As you begin to read her book, you will believe it too.
A portion of today’s blog post can be found in my second book, HANDS FREE LIFE. Using truthful storytelling and doable strategies, I reveal nine daily habits that bring more peace, presence, and positivity into your home and heart. Thank you for being part of The Hands Free Revolution. I am grateful for each and every one of you!