As I was going to sleep to the sound of giggles and music from downstairs, my first thought was how amazing it is that I can go to sleep before my children are in bed. I never thought that day would arrive. My next thought, though, was how little time we have left together as a family. In just a few months, M will leave for college and just three years later A & D will follow. [Ok – if you know my family – you know that M is already in college. I wrote this a while back and just didn’t get around to doing anything with it until now…] This fact always brings very mixed emotions to the surface. While I am incredibly proud of the young women you have become and continue to become, I will miss having each of you around and part of our day-to-day life. It all makes me wonder…
Have I taught you well? Have I taught you to be too cynical? Too naïve? Too driven for perfection? Not persistent enough? Did you learn enough about health and nutrition and budgeting and … cleaning? Did I model good character? Was I there enough for you? Did I do too much for you? Did you watch too much TV and eat too much junk?
Obviously I was not and am not a perfect mother. But one area I know I’ve been terrible about is self-loathing. I know all the reasons and statistics for never calling yourself fat in front of your daughters (and now you are each laughing because you know I do this all of the time). Somehow I always justified it by saying “I just want to be healthy, not skinny.” What I hadn’t really put together until recently was that it’s not really about weight at all. It’s really about accepting myself, and therefore, teaching you to accept yourselves, and treating yourself as well as I’ve taught you to treat others.
So in a classic “do as I say, not as I do” move… here’s what I should have been modeling to you; and what I will try very hard to model from now on.
There is a huge difference between being your own best friend and being self-absorbed and self-centered. I want you to understand that when you look in the mirror, it should make you smile. Not because you love what you see, but because you love who you see. No one knows you better than you know yourself. Loving yourself should look very similar to loving your best friend. What would you say to your best friend if she did something stupid? Would you call her names? Of course not. Would you comfort her and tell her she’ll do better next time? Probably. Remember that the next time you look in the mirror. That person whose reflection you are looking at needs you to care about her. She needs your acceptance. She needs your love.
Another important side effect of learning to love yourself is that you start to develop incredible confidence. You would never allow someone to push around your best friend, right? If you love yourself, you are much more likely to recognize when someone is mistreating you and put a stop to it. You don’t have to ask yourself if you somehow deserve this kind of treatment.
I know you’re probably all thinking right now, “but you’ve always said that we should put other people ahead of ourselves… Love God, Love Others” and that is true. I still believe that. But being your own best friend doesn’t mean you come first. If you are talking to your best friend and another friend has an emergency – will you run off to help them? Yes, I think you would. And your friend would understand. In fact, in order to love others “as you love yourself” you need to know how to love yourself. Having a great relationship with yourself allows you to love people without an agenda. You don’t have a pressing need to have them love you back. You don’t need other people to give you assurance and acceptance because you already know you are worthy of love.
I’m so grateful that you’ve had some awesome examples of completely unconditional love in your lives. I’m also very sorry that you have had to witness so much hypocrisy especially when it comes to those who claim to love God. I believe this all has given you the ability to recognize genuine love and caring in people when you see it, though.
Some days I see glimpses of the young women you are each becoming. I know at your core you love each other and want to use your abilities to make this world a little better. If you just continue in that direction I will feel like I did my job well.
But please … always remember…
what you do and how you do it has no bearing on how much I love you. My love for you is completely unconditional. If I have done anything right, I hope it is that you know absolutely that there is nothing you could ever do that would make me love you any less.