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Letters to My Daughter: Ocean

I saw us today, you and I, in the brief glimmer of your face before you did your very best to slam your bedroom door.

It was you, seven and indignant, brows furrowed, grunting something about me and how I never and you were shaking your little head so passionately, I froze and held my tongue.

The door popped right back open and I saw your heels as you flung yourself up the ladder to your bed.

I don’t even remember what we were arguing over.

And I wonder sometimes, if this is how you see me:

Furrowed brow, exasperated sigh, eyes rolling, shoulders sagging. If you’d just listened to me in the first place…

Until all that’s left is the closing of a door and the backs of my boots.

So yes, I saw us today, you and I.

And I want to stop everything, every hot little word, every out-of-sorts-emotion, everything. I want to stop the ride and get off for just one minute, to put my hands on your shoulders, to look directly into your eyes and to let you look back at me – all of me.

I want you to see the little girl I was, who slammed doors and back talked, and who was grounded too many times to count.

I want you to see the me who thought, for a moment, she was going to disappear across the Atlantic after college, never marry and never have children.

I want you to see the me who wandered the craft store at eight months pregnant, finally knowing the name of her first daughter, looking for just the right wooden letters to spell it out. L I L A. The most beautiful name, the only name that fit.

I want you to see the me who lays awake at night, wondering what could have been done better in the day, what could have been said gentler.

I want you to see the me who questions, daily, if this decision to keep you home is what’s best, or if I’m setting myself up for a lifetime of justifiable you ruined my life, complaints.

I want you see the me who prays for you after you’re tucked in and sleeping.

I want you to see the me who loves you deeply, madly, and without limits  – with a love that’s not crushed beneath the weight of the busyness of life, a love that doesn’t get annoyed when your shoes still aren’t on and we’re ten minutes late.

Unfortunately, I can’t stop the world and take a time-out to show all of this to you in a nice long supernatural motherly gaze or in a conversation over cookies and milk.

There is no fast forward button to this relationship.

We are, in this moment, two bodies staring at the same ocean.


But where you see waves and adventure, I fear the undertow.

At seven, you wonder where you’re going and how fast you can get there.

At thirty-four, I see where I’ve been and I want to slow down.

I don’t know when you’ll cross the ocean, or why. I don’t know when you’ll fall in love, or if you will. I don’t know what career path you’ll take or where you’re going to live. I don’t even if you’re ever going to be a mother to fully understand all of the emotional baggage (and brilliance and beauty) that comes along with it.

I don’t know any of it. The ocean is large, the undertow can carry you in any direction and life moves too fast.

But, I know this:

Today, you slammed a door and climbed up to your bed.

And I saw you, and I saw myself.

Today, I followed you in and looked into your eyes and I apologized.

The world didn’t stand still and you didn’t see more of me than the earnest, exhausted love that I have to give.

Lila, I believe, you and I, we’re going to be okay.

I don’t even remember what we were arguing about.

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About the Author

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Writer, Photographer, Wife, Mother to four rambunctious and amazing children.


  1. It took me a few days to come and read this – I have such an emotional connection to my (almost 27 year old daughter) and I knew it would stir things in me. As it did. It brought me back to the moment when I knew my daughter had bold-faced lied to me for the first time. And I felt such a separation from her! As the tug of war began….and continued….it was sometimes challenging to hold on to that faith that we’re going to be ok – but it was so important to hold on to it. Deeply, madly, passionately! And, so we are. Ok. as adults and friends. Each others most trusted adviser. And that “all of you” that you long for her to know….she grows into that knowledge. And it’s wonderful.

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