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Lessons From My Mother's Journal on Being a Mom

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When I became a motherless daughter at the age of 18, I decided I would never have children. There would inevitably come a day when I'd lose them or they'd lose me and all I could see was heartbreak. It wasn't worth the risk. But if there's one thing my mom taught me, it's humility, and so I must say I was wrong -- so very, very wrong. It's been almost seven years since she died a few days after Mother's Day, and this Mother's day I'm a mother to a beautiful baby boy. And no matter what the future holds, this motherhood thing is worth every second. My son, Cody, my sunshine, may break my heart in a million ways, but he's also made it fuller than it's ever been before. I'm now a motherless mother to the sweetest boy my mom will never get to meet. But she lives on in me and in him; she has never truly left. She shapes and inspires who I am as a mother and who I aspire to be. Here are a few of the lessons I continue to learn from my mom about being a mother...

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1. If not now, when?

My mom was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer at the age of 45. Time was not on her side, but she was determined to make the time she did have count by communicating her feelings to the people she loved. She started a journal in which she wrote to my brother and me, expressing her love, lessons, and hopes for us. This journal is like a life raft to me now, and I hope that my words can be the same for my son someday when I'm no longer here (though that day better not be for a long -- and I mean long -- time).
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2. Let it be

In the words of my mom's beloved Beatles, she "Let it Be" when it came to my brother's and my preferences and passions. Sure, my mom knew that my "goth" phase would be short-lived, because the Wednesday Addams look was not a good one for me (a fair skinned, natural blonde). And yes, she knew that majoring in theater meant I'd eventually have to either marry rich or go to graduate school in pursuit of a new profession. But did she tell me any of this? No! She let me follow my heart and make mistakes and learn an awful lot about myself along the way. For that, I'm forever grateful.
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3. Let kids be kids

I spent most of my senior year of high school out with my friends, while my mom was at home dying. Then she died and I spent years punishing myself for that. I still don't know that I'll ever be able to forgive my adolescent self, but I know that my mom always has. She understood that developmentally, I was in the stage of separation, individuation, and so much denial. Not only did she accept that I could only handle so much, she encouraged me to be a teenager and keep on living my life, despite the circumstances. This made her feel like she'd done her job as a mother. And she had.
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4. Life's not fair

For the 20 months my mom battled cancer, it was always terminal. From the moment she was diagnosed, she knew that she would die from it, and sooner rather than later. It was unfair and unfathomable and there was nothing she could do except handle it, which she did with grace, a tremendous amount of courage, and a heck of a lot of humor. Her raunchy jokes and crackling wit carried her and her family through the worst time of our lives. My son has already learned that life's not fair -- the first time I gave him a bottle instead of the booby -- but I will also teach him what is perhaps my mom's greatest lesson of all, that laugher is by far the best medicine.
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5. You are beautiful

After my mom died, I was convinced that my looks had drastically changed. I barely recognized the reflection staring back at me and I hated what I saw. It took me a long time to realize that my appearance hadn't changed; my face was the same face, my body the same body -- I just didn't have my mom here to tell me how beautiful it was. In her eyes, I was the most "pretty" and "stylish" girl there was, and she never hesitated to let me know. In doing so, she gave me the greatest gift: the ability to see myself through her eyes.
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6. The World Is Your Oyster

My mom always said that one of her biggest regrets was believing she couldn't do something. That's why she cautioned me every time I said I was bad at math. Now, while I still don't think that numbers will ever be my thing, I do think she is right -- attitude is everything and I never want my son to get in his own way.
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This post is part of HuffPost Parents' Mother's Day series, exploring the lessons our moms taught us about parenting.