Listen and Love

Diving under the water I feel the cold hit me and take my breath. I swim two strokes away and then quickly turn back. When I surface, she is smiling and jumping with excitement.

“See,” she says in a voice filled with joy. “It feels so great mom. It’s amazing, right? I just love this.”

She throws her head back and raises both arms in the air and shouts, “I LOVE THIS!!!”

“It’s wonderful,” I say and she collapses into me in a giant whole body hug that ends up under the water.

We play follow the leader along the Tahoe shoreline, she swimming just a few paces in front of me. I marvel at the girl she is becoming.

Occasionally she stops to point out a fish, a rock, or part of a log that looks like an eye. The smile never leaves her face. Or mine.

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“I love you,” she says as we stop to catch our breath. I can see the truth of those words radiating off her. She is positively glowing and it melts me.

It feels like I’ve been waiting forever to see her embrace the adventurous side of her personality. I’ve wanted to see her let go of her fears and just allow life to come her way for so long.

I’m positively giddy at seeing her growth.

My girl.

How I love you.

For many years now, I’ve been certain that I’m screwing up as a mother, particularly her mother. There are so many things I want for her and no skills to help her achieve them.

I see her being scared of spiders, heights, talking to strangers and lots of other little things and I feel like I’ve let her down.

I have felt my dream of raising a fearless, self-confident girl slipping away from me, and it sends me into spirals of doubt and fear.

Do I set a good example? Do I push too hard? Am I not pushing enough? Does she feel like I don’t accept her? Am I trying to make her something she isn’t? Does she feel loved enough?

It’s all so much and I don’t want to screw this up.

She deserves my very best self, and I don’t always give it to her.

I don’t always know what to do.

***

I’m lying in her bed and we are saying our goodnights. I lean in for my kisses and she grabs my face with both hands and looks at me. I see her eyes fill with tears, her face redden and she asks me a question that I’ve never wanted to hear from her sweet little lips.

“Mommy, do you think I’m weird?”

Without waiting a second for an answer, her body erupts into such intense sobs that all I can do is hold her.

My baby thinks she is weird.

My amazing, wonderful, funny, creative, kind, spiritual, beautiful girl thinks she is weird.

My heart breaks.

I want to tell her that she is being ridiculous. How could you think such a thing? Who told you that, because I want to punch them in their stupid, ugly face? Don’t you know how special and incredible you are?

But that is not what she needs. She knows how I feel about her and this isn’t about me. She wants to be heard.

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So I take a breath and listen.

She tells me she worries because she doesn’t like to dress like a girl all the time or do her hair fancy. She doesn’t like the same things as other girls. Dragons are her favorite animals and she would rather do karate and hold a snake than dance and dream of unicorns.

“Nobody is ever going to be my best friend,” she sobs. “I’m so weird.”

Her body rocks as another round of hard sobs course through her. I let them come.

“Do you think I’m weird?” she finally says.

Her eyes are so intense and sad. I don’t know what to do.

“I love everything about you,” I say. “Do you like you?”

She blinks up at me and she stops crying.

“I think so,” she says.

“What do you like about you?” I ask.

She stares at me and I can see her face change.

“I’m funny and I am special because I don’t just do what everyone else does.”

“What else?”

“I’m kind and I give good back massages.”

“All true.”

Smiling she went on.

“I’m really good at round-house kicks, my sensei told me so.”

“Yep.”

“I bet I will find someone who likes all that stuff, huh?”

“Maybe, but they don’t have to like all the same stuff. They just have to like you.”

Her face becomes intense again and she says, “Do you really like me mom? Like, for real?”

“More than you can possibly understand,” I tell her. “You’re my girl and I can’t imagine you any different.”

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We end in kisses, cuddles and hugs. Her brother, who overheard it all, comes in to tell her how much he loves her. Summer sister gets in on the action too and soon the night ends in a ridiculous love fest.

Learning to love this girl and letting her find her own answers is the hardest thing about being her mother.

My heart wants to fight away all things that come in her path and protect her from all sadness.

That’s wrong.

She needs to find her own strength and it comes from letting her feel pain.

I can’t fix things. All I can do is Listen and Love.

That’s my job.

Listen. Love. Repeat.

Thanks for the lesson, my dear girl.

Related post: To My (Maybe) Daughter

About the writer

Bridgette White is a stay-at-home mother of two who lives in Sacramento with her husband and two guinea pigs. She is the author of BridgetteTales.com, a blog about depression, self-discovery and parenting. Bridgette worked at the Sacramento Bee for 7 years and was featured as part of the inaugural Sacramento cast of Listen To Your Mother.

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stephani 8 months ago

Tears. Pouring down my freaking face. You wrote that so beautifully. I could absolutely put myself in your shoes. I too only want to raise my daughter as a fearless, independent, kind young woman. I struggle constantly with not feeling good enough for my daughter, but you’re so right. All we can do is love and support them unconditionally.

Kimberly Davis 8 months ago

Thank you. Love this more than you could know. From a mom of an Aspie girl! It can be hard but she is sooooooooooo worth it!

Cicisbeo Insolente 1 year ago

Thank you so much for sharing. I’m crying now. I’m an Italian mom with a five years little girl and a 2 years little boy. My daughter is asking me often about Death. And I’m scared of death. Really. But. When she asks me something about that I try to breath and I listen. It’s hard. But it’s true…it’s our job. A very big and difficult job. But the most beautiful I have ever wanted.

Jennie Reis 1 year ago

Thank you for sharing. I don’t have a daughter but have the same fears and worries for my son.

Lynn 1 year ago

I tell me daughter she is weird and goofy all the time because I think its good to be different. She now laughs when ever she does something especially silly and says I’m so weird. She asks me if I’m weird and I laugh the weirdest. I want her to think everyone is a little weird in their own way and its ok. Just another take on the word.

Kim 1 year ago

Kudos for not following for your first instincts. It is so hard to do that, and it doesn’t stop when they’re 5 or 15 or 25! When they are hurt and broken into pieces, although you want to lash out, your response works far better immediately and in the long run.

chill 1 year ago

Thank you for this. I have a girl just like yours. She likes chess, Star Wars and Pokemon. Fortunately she mostly doesn’t care that she’s different, but recently she’s been wondering why she’s not “popular”. Breaks my heart and makes me irritated at the same time. I keep telling her that she’ll find more people with similar interests as she gets older. I didn’t have the heart to say it would most likely be in college.

Crystal Goode 1 year ago

This reminds me of my 5 year old. Love love love

Shanan Peterson De Wever 1 year ago

me too!

Sarah Sanchez 1 year ago

Love love love

Meg Sanity 1 year ago

Beautiful.

Gemma Hoffman 1 year ago

This is exactly what I needed to read today…

Kendra Michelle 1 year ago

Beautiful!

Heather Reid 1 year ago

This really hit a nerve in me because my oldest daughter is only 3 1/2 and has just begun to experience things in the world without me by her side to protect her and stand up for her. In the last 6 months she has been taking part in some of the ‘on your own’ programs with the rec center (meaning mummy drops her off for a couple of hours). Sometimes when I pick her up she is in tears, other times she is fine and had a great time. She wants so badly to make friends but unfortunately most kids her age aren’t really at that point yet. So there is a lot of disappointment and hurt. This really breaks my heart. Your words express what I fear for the future but at the same time it is beautiful to read of the love in your family. I know these fears are natural for any loving parent however it doesn’t make it any easier. :) Sorry for the ramble!

Rebecca Piper 1 year ago

LOVE this. Single Mum to a 9-week old daughter. Want her to carve her own path and he strong and independent, will definitely be taking this approach.

Rachel 1 year ago

Perfect. Just perfect! I’m saving this for every time I feel I have to step in. Thank you!

Kristine Garrett-Mckeever 1 year ago

Love

Mandi Alt Rashleigh 1 year ago

So well said. You articulated my thoughts exactly. Thank you for sharing. Sniffle sniffle.

Amanda Kelleher Mincavage 1 year ago

Reminds me so much of my almost 12 year old daughter :)

Connie Elliott 1 year ago

Thank you that was so perfect!

Adanna Moriarty 1 year ago

I love this, it’s totally what I think about with my daughter.

Katie Chapman 1 year ago

I… Seem… to Have something… In my eye!

Ali Mac 1 year ago

Crying over here! Love love love! I hope one day I can answer as beautifully as you did if my little girl asks me a question like this!

Louise Lee McEvoy 1 year ago

LOVE LOVE LOVE!!! Thank you for sharing.

Stephanie Salehi 1 year ago

This is really sweet.

Joy Muskovin Bauman 1 year ago

Love this.

Lynne Tessier 1 year ago

You can only do your best

Kelcey Roberts 1 year ago

LOVE.

Victoria Bryce 1 year ago

Beautiful story. I have the same fears for my own daughters

Sheila DeStefano 1 year ago

Wow. What a great story

Shaunacey 1 year ago

well you got tears from me on this one… I always worry I won’t be all the mother I want to be or that my daughter deserves but I do my best, and I just pray that’ll be enough.