Inspired by Sarah Kay’s If I should have a daughter…
From the moment we learn how to walk, we learn how the world can hurt us. Sidewalks with crooked and bumpy pathways, uneven roads, we traverse terrain we don’t know—trip and fall and get back up. From the moment we learn how to run, it all speeds up.
We fall for ideas and wake up with cuts and scrapes.
Do you remember when you told me that I would understand what being a mother is like when I have a daughter? Because I do.
I remember the nights when I thought you would come back to me; I would watch the lights that slid across my wall from my window and wait for the ones that stopped in the center and slowly rose to my ceiling. I would crawl up to the window and investigate the driveway, thinking that your car would be the one that finally came back in the ungodly hours of way-past-my-bedtime. I wrote little wishes on top of boxes, like diaries that could hold something important, in childish colors and childish fonts.
I would write “10:00? That’s too late? You should be home by now???” But empty boxes do what they do best and hold nothing at all.
You weren’t always banned from our house. There was a time when you lived with us, I remember that. When Junior decided to cut all the hair off my Disney princess doll, you were there to spank him and coax me. That was the one time that it felt like you really had my back.
When Junior and I used squirt guns to eliminate imaginary enemies inside the DVD player of the TV, you and dad took as many things away from us as you could, and we stood facing the wall until you declared that we learned our lesson. That was one time you and dad actually worked together to show us right from wrong, with achy knees and sore legs.
There was a time when I thought that I was more important than your job.
I selfishly attached myself to the belief that spending every summer with you in New Jersey with no friends and barely any other family, except Junior, would be the necessary trade-off to spend time with you until you quit being in the military. Of course, you had dreams I did not understand, and a picture I came late to realizing, that I had no place in.
Do you remember what it was like to want to have a daughter? To have someone that you could show the world to and give the solutions to your mistakes; to have eyes that look through you and find someone they can depend on, regardless of how well you think you perform as a parent?
You like phone calls and pictures, tangible items that hold intangible things; you used to take every phone that you gave me, away from me, because I did not want to call you. You still to take millions of pictures with cliché poses and framework smiles, to give the impression that everything is always happy and worth remembering. And then you store these pictures in envelopes that you would eventually stop looking at because life got in the way—
So much for memories.
From the moment I learned how to walk, I learned how much you could hurt me. I traverse terrain I don’t know, without your help—trip and fall and get back up. From the moment I learned how to run, it all sped up, and I unintentionally began doing sports and academics just like you, without wanting to be anything like you.
You fell for the idea of having a daughter, and I woke up without a mom.
I still spend years trying to find ways to forgive you, promising myself that I will do so much better when I am not only a mother and soldier, but a full-on officer and mom. I can’t wait for the day that her beautiful eyes open up to mine for the first time, and I stare at a reflection of myself that I will never try to live my life through, knowing that she will be everything and have everything this world can offer.
That if those eyes cry, she will know that I am not a phone call away, but across the hallway of our home, instead of an entire country. That if those eyes roll into pain, she will know that I can read her anger like a book, comprehend every emotion and hold her until the bomb diffuses. You don’t always need to stop her from hurting; I understood how to be happy by first being sad. And I understand how to love by feeling the lack thereof.
So if my daughter roams this earth one day, she will never need to question if I am going to be there for her, every single step of the way. I will not fall for the idea of having a daughter; and she will not wake up with the idea of having a mother. No broken promises on empty boxes, no staying up late; no phone calls and meaningless pictures.