The truth requires few words, very few. It is the stories we construct to protect us from having to see or face the truth that require long winded explanations and rationalizations. I wrote the letter, below, to my daughter three years ago, when I was undergoing treatment for breast cancer. It was a time of truth. Illusions had fallen away, the nonsense that seemed important was thrown out and all that remained were the precious few things that mattered to me, two of the most important being my children.
On Mother's Day, we honor our amazing mothers and bask in the affection and gratitude of our children (if we are lucky). But sometimes, being a great mother also means owning the things we didn't do quite right, or might have done better, and showing our children a good example of how that is done. Perfection doesn't exist, but even perfectly imperfect mothering -- or living for that matter -- does not lie in getting everything right,. Rather, it lies in in how we handle what goes wrong. For me, the truth needed just two words. "Me, too."
When we used to say goodnight back when mommy was working long, long days, traveling far away and not able to be home for you as much as you wanted, you used to say you wished I could be home, that I could drop you off and pick you up at school, like the other Mommies.
I answered you with a long list of reasons why we were lucky. I said we should not feel sorry for ourselves for what we did not have. I said we were lucky Mommy had a good job that paid for all the things we needed. I said many people had it much worse. I said there was no good in complaining. I said we should be thankful.
But what I never said was the truth. I never just said, "Me too."
I thought all those explanations were helping you not to feel badly about it. But in truth, I was trying to convince myself that it was OK. Because if I could believe that, I wouldn't have to feel the sadness of all I was missing.
So, honey, let me say it now. I wish it had been me, too. I wish I didn't have to work so far away that I could not be part of your day. I wish I could have dropped you off and picked you up more often. And I am sorry I did not validate your feelings, and mine, by saying the truth. Me too.
I love you, Anna.