Written by Maralee Bradley
Photos by Rebecca Tredway
You are just a little bitty thing. You won’t sleep without your favorite stuffed pig, you cry if Daddy leaves for work without giving you a kiss, and when your brothers mistreat you, you punch them and then come tattle. You are a treasure. You are at once every bit a little lady with your love of hair bows and Easter hats for all occasions but also tough and independent. You tell me you are too big for naps or to have to hold a hand in the parking lot (but I make you do both), but you tell me you are too small for spinach or to go to bed without being tucked in.
I love to see how God has uniquely gifted you. Some moments it’s hard for me to picture how all those personality traits and talents will come together to form the woman you are becoming, and sometimes it’s crystal clear. I know you will be strong. I know you will be vulnerable. I know you will love passionately and possess a strong desire to be loved and accepted. I know that whatever choices you make, I will love you.
I imagine that someday you will become a mother yourself. I don’t know if I will be with you in that first year after your baby is born. I’ve learned not to hold the future too tightly. I also know that as the years pass from these days when you are so little yourself into your blossoming womanhood, there is much I will have forgotten about what it’s like to be a mom of little ones. Even now I see how it starts to seem so rosey in my memory, but it’s still close enough that I can recall the reality.
So if you’re scared, just know I was too. If you agonize about every little choice because they seem so big in your mind, it’s okay. You feel that way because you love this little person and it matters to you to do it right. That is beautiful. The best thing you can do is surround yourself with people who love you and your little family and have some wisdom and support to offer. Learn from the women who have walked this road. Be humble. But also know that YOU are this baby’s mother. Other women may have raised wonderful children, but God gave this baby to you. There is no parenting book that can tell you exactly what your baby will need in all the unique situations you will find yourself in. So learn to pray. God loves this child more than you do and longs to see His love expressed through your tender actions of mothering. And your consistent discipline, too.
I also know that if you and I continue to grow in closeness and if I continue to obey the Lord in being the best mother for you I can be, there may come a moment in your parenting where you feel you can’t live up to what you remember of your childhood. I know that moment well. I love my mom and have often felt that I can’t be what she was.
I am thankful that my mom gave me such a beautiful childhood. I am thankful now for her wisdom and for how well she loves you and her other grandchildren. But this is what I’ve learned: God gave me different gifts than he gave my mom. He made me a different kind of mother and he gave me different children with different needs. He knew what he was doing. I hope you will let me talk with you about the problems you will someday face as a mother, but know that the wisdom God gave me for my children may not be what you need for yours, but he is sufficient for your needs, too.
And if you think I always knew what I was doing when you were little, it’s because I made a lot of mistakes before you came along. . . and because I got really good at faking it. There were times I was so exhausted I cried. Sometimes I would use the bathroom just to get away for a second. I said things that weren’t kind.
I made decisions I wasn’t sure were best, but I stuck with them. You’re going to do that a lot, too. It’s a really big part of being a mom. We don’t know if we did the right thing until so far down the line. And the stakes feel SO very high. We want our kids to know they’re loved and feel safe and empowered to make good choices of their own when the time comes, but in their toddler years I think all children look like tiny sociopaths and their mothers feel like the prison warden. Don’t ever think that you are alone when you feel that frustration or confusion.
Or maybe instead you’ll remember my failings all too well. Maybe you’ll agonize about becoming the kind of mother I was. You grew up feeling stifled by my routines or you didn’t think I embraced your creativity and emotions enough. I know I’ve made many mistakes and I’ll make many more before you’re grown and gone. I hope you’ll have grace for the ways I may have failed you. And I hope you’ll be able to learn from them and be a better mother than I was. You don’t need to feel trapped into making the mistakes I made or the mistakes your birthmother made. You are a beautiful soul and you have your own strengths and weaknesses. You don’t have to make the mistakes I made, but you will make your own new ones. And that’s okay. There will be grace for you, too.
Although you and I are in very different stages of life now, motherhood is a great equalizer. And outside of God, you, and your husband, nobody will care more about your precious kids than I will. Help me to have a good relationship with them by being honest with me and establishing the right kind of boundaries. I imagine that will be hard, but it’s important to me and to you and your kids that you are in charge. And if you decide you never want them to have candy or plastic or McDonald’s or their feet touching the floor, I will do my best to support whatever it is you want for them because I want to raise you to be the kind of woman I would trust to make those important decisions.
I love you, Little Miss. I look forward to the day we can celebrate Mother’s Day together—just two moms swapping stories about our kids. I know this Sunday you will give me a little something special you colored with me in mind (because you are incapable of keeping secrets and I love that about you), but I hope you know that YOU are the best gift. YOU are the reason I am a mother and I feel silly about taking a gift from you when I know that without your little life, mine would be pretty empty. When the hard and awkward times come, I hope these years when we have been “the girls” (as you love to say) and snuggled cheek to cheek for story time and painted toenails together and done Dora puzzles side-by-side will help see us through. As I tell you every day, I am your mommy forever. Nothing will ever change that or my love for you. And I am forever thankful.