To My Daughter: I Hope You Set Boundaries With Others

We Can’t Let Our Daughters Lose Themselves While Trying To Please Everyone Else

skynesher/Getty Images

My girl —

Today after I got off the train, I walked around a bit admiring the heaviness of the landscape. I watched my breath dance into the air and exchanged smirks with strangers that seemed concentrated on their destination, and not so much their breathing rhythms. I took the long way today. I had to cool down after an argument your dad and I had this morning.

It was mainly about how we communicate. And how my silence is so loud to him, because it is so absent with everyone else. He isn’t wrong. I am in constant contact with pretty much three people at all times. Normally all while holding you or your brother, crashing my lips against one of your rubber cheeks and repeating, “love you so muchhhhh” the entire time. I talk to my mom at least twice a day, and check in with her mom every 12 hours as well.

Normally I am a designated safe-haven for someone in my text threads. Usually rapid firing responses regarding their intimate problems. And I feel for each and every single one of their tragedies. I really do.

And I wish that last part was just something I say. That I want to be perceived as someone who cares deeply, but then lives my life unaffected by their woes. And even though that would make me a little less authentic, at least I’d be a bit lighter.

I remember when my dearest friend’s boyfriend lost his life, and she finally broke the news to a group chat we were both in. I am not sure what I was doing at the time, but I remember frantically looking for a ponytail holder, grabbing my keys, and speeding to her house. It didn’t even occur to me that she probably didn’t want company. Or that the majority of our other friends in that group chat did what most people do; they let her lead. They let her tell them when she was ready to talk. But I didn’t have it in me, to leave that timeline to someone who is hurting so badly they can’t even think straight.

For some reason, even as a little kid, whenever tragedy struck someone I loved, I found myself at the front lines of their battle. I offered myself up as the infantry unit in their war with grief. Or their terrible mothers-in-law. Or belittling husbands. Or gruesome insecurities. Or chest-crushing guilt.

All of it. I was there — mapping out our plan of attack.

And for a really long time, I thought of it as a good thing; a positive attribute of mine. I considered myself a deeply empathetic person that helps in any way I can. And how much I put these crises before my own family always depended on what hue of darkness the situation fell on.

I’ve spent a lot of my time thinking of ways to cheer up other people. Not realizing, that maybe I was doing it all to distract myself from the real crisis that always sat on my shoulders:

My own crippling insecurities.

Or my chest-crushing guilt.

Or my marital problems.

Or my inability to finish things.

Or my refusal to stay on task.

And my quick-witted arsenal of excuses I have for why all of those things feel so small, or too big.

I have spent my life forging lifelong friendships. Real, deep, raw ones.

Because helping them through their storms is breathtakingly easier than admitting I live in a constant state of Seattle. An overcast day, with a few showers scattered throughout.

I am telling you this, my sweet girl, because I hope you are brave enough to not hide behind other people’s problems.

But I also hope you are the friend that I am to people. The one they can count on. The one they know will not judge them.

I just hope you set boundaries. And I hope you find the joy in the smallest of things. I hope you don’t get so stuck in a perpetual circle of doom, that you forget how to be impulsive. I hope you learn how to prioritize the people you love most, more fiercely than I ever have. I hope you have the courage to say goodbye to people you stop loving with that intensity.

I do hope though, that you find a balance. And when you get off of the train and step into the city alone for the first time, I hope you feel small. I hope you taste the metallic of the concrete and the dry air bouncing off the buildings, and that it intimidates you.

Because I want you to remember how unimportant mistakes are in the grand scheme of things. And even the worst kind of tragedy will stop burning one day.

I hope you find comfort in strangers’ faces, because the only thing that makes losing someone you love a little more bearable is that there are so many people you will love fiercely, that you haven’t even met yet. And really, I want you to remember one thing, so much so, that it hurts:

You are NOT ANYONE’S infantry. You are not obligated to battle anyone else’s demons. Or insecurities. Or terrible upbringings.

You DO NOT have to lay down on train tracks to get someone to love you.

And YOU are more significant than any skyscraper or long stretch of city block, but you are too small to hold the load of the world’s problems. And if you find yourself aching to take them on, be honest with yourself.

Call yourself out on your own shit, my girl.

Because you are too smart to act like the reason you can’t get out of bed has anything to do with anyone else.

Be braver than me. Keep it light. And always wear gym shoes on the train.

All my love,
Mom