Things I wish I had told my daughters when they were little

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We drove home along the country road, fields flashing past the window and the sun hanging low over a winter sky. For once you were quiet; sleeping seemed to be the only time you weren’t jabbering away, giving me a constant kids-eye critique of what you saw, heard, touched, held. A stream-of-consciousness toddler’s insight into the joy and wonder with which you beheld everything that happened all around you; the never ending commentary on the details of your day that never stopped, even now when you’re 11.

As the wheels turned and you slept and I took a moment – a quiet moment to just breathe, remembering what this headspace felt like and how precious it had become since you came clattering into our lives with your noise and love and newness – it washed all over me and took me by surprise all over again.

Does anyone ever expect this? Can you ever really explain it? That despite the tiredness and the noise and the relentless everything; among the chaos and the out-of-control and the days when you slid down the wall and cried hot tears of wondering: am I really ever going to get through this? Can I do it? Am I enough? – there is this. This stillness. This quiet love that comes – mostly when you sleep, I must admit – and I am again overwhelmed with love.

I drove home and promised myself that I would write it all down. And when your sister arrived a year later, that I would write you both a letter, each and every year, marking the milestones and the dizzying passing of time. But the years flew by and now you are grown and I never did get to put those precious words down on a page for you to read in years to come. So many things left unsaid, unrecorded.

I tried to write them later, but the words came out untrue. It felt contrived to backdate the memories, the emotions; like they were validated only by being spoken then and there in the hubbub of those toddler years.

I wanted to tell you how much it all meant. That despite the overwhelming feeling that I was getting it wrong most of the time, and the frustrations and the tiredness that boiled over far too often into harsh discipline and hot words, that I loved every second of it. That it was – and is – my greatest privilege to be your Mum, and not one single day goes past that I take that for granted, despite my words and my attitude sometimes.

I wanted to tell you that I’m thankful to you for letting me experiment with you. So many firsts. So many late night discussions and how-do-we-deal-with-this? The not knowing is perhaps the hardest thing – how will this turn out? Have we made the right choice? Will they one day thank me for what they hate me for right now? I guess that bit never gets any easier, but despite the look in your eyes that sometimes tells me you don’t think that it’s true, every decision we ever make is only ever intended to nourish you, protect you, grow you into the amazing human beings that we know you were created to be. And every time we get it wrong, know this: we’re sorry. Today and yesterday and for always – I am sorry for the times we’ll get it wrong, the pain we’ll inflict when we’re trying to love you, the times that we miss the mark when we’re trying so hard to protect you.

If I could tell you one thing, it would be this: you are amazing. Without us and in spite of us and 100% of your own volition: You. Are. Both. Amazing. You have qualities and talents inside of you that could change the world. And in this world, you have a sea of opportunities from which to choose. I hope that we have done enough to help you choose wisely. To be brave and courageous, especially when courage means walking hand-in-hand with fear. When it’d be easier to sit still, keep your head down and not risk. I hope that we have given you enough to know that you have it in you to do more. That it isn’t about friends, or money, or success or fame; but about doing what’s right, loving kindness, and walking humbly with your God (Micah 3:6). Putting others first is always the source of life’s richest blessings.

And above all, I would tell you this: we love you. And even more than we love you, God loves you. So whatever happens, whatever mistakes you make along the way, we’ll always be here, and so will He.

So go get ’em. We’re right behind you.