Today is such a special day. My beautiful daughter, Hannah just turned 17 and I wanted to wish her a happy birthday in a special way. If you have a daughter, you know what a priceless treasure God has given us. I dreamed my whole life of having a daughter, and God has blessed me with two. One of the things I cherish the most, are the lessons our daughters teach us about being real. My daughter the past 17 years has taught me so much about being real, a “real” mom. She has been a joy every second of her life, but it’s the time she’s most vulnerable and open and honest with me that teaches me the most about who she really is.
I struggle sometimes being a real mom. I’ve certainly had feelings of guilt and frustration and failure over the million mistakes (Thank God I’ve lost count) I’ve made as a mom, but my three children keep on loving me despite my shortcomings. The deepest emotion I feel for each of them is love. Real love covers a multitude of mistakes.
For those of you who don’t know my daughter’s story. Hannah was born three and a half months premature, only weighing two pounds at birth. She was a real-life miracle… the kind of miracle that make a lasting impact on the countless people who prayed for our family.
Throughout her 17 years, Hannah has taught me very valuable lessons that I carry inside my heart. I wanted to share with you the 5 things my daughter has taught me about being real. I also interviewed other moms and asked them the same question, what has your daughter taught you about being real?
- Never give up on me.
- My emotions are very real.
- Accept me for who I am.
- I’m not perfect + I will make mistakes.
- My choices are not a reflection of you.
I think one of the best gifts we can give our daughters is accepting them for who they are and not what we want them to be. Sometimes, I wish Hannah would talk to me more or want to spend intimate time with me sharing her feelings and life stuff. What I’ve learned, Hannah needs her space and it takes patience (on my end) for her to open up and have a heart to heart talk. I realize after a long day at school, the last thing she wants to do with me is sit, sipping coffee and chatting about her day. It doesn’t mean she loves me any less, she just needs a break. What she does love, is me being near her, fixing her a snack, and my availability to her needs. I stopped taking it personal. Instead of trying to force her to talk, I wait for her to relax and rest and come to me on her own timing. Honestly, that really takes a lot of effort on my end, to sit back and wait. But, I realize my talking needs are soooo different from her talking needs. I talk to think, and she thinks to talk.
(Hannah & me at an 80’s party)
This year on the mission field, one of my favorite things to do with Hannah was sit next to her (not a lot of talking) and look at her Pinterest boards. It’s amazing how much I learn about my daughter, sitting and looking at her pins. I learn what she enjoys doing, who she loves on television or movies, what kind of hairstyles she likes, what food and music she’s interested in, where she wants to travel. She loves to find quotes and it’s really amazing taking the time to read her heart through her favorite “quotes of the week.” Her Pinterest changes every week, just like my daughter’s emotions and feelings change. Now, that’s real.
My sister-in-law, Erin Smalley shared with me that one of the most powerful lessons her three daughters have taught her about being real, is that emotions are very real, and she’s constantly on her knees, giving up that control to fix things, make things better or easier for her girls. “As moms, one of the hardest things we do (daily) is giving up control to God.” Erin shared such an important insight on being authentic as moms: I’ve noticed a lot of moms, when you get together, “act” like their daughter’s are perfect, never making mistakes. For some reason, we feel like we need to make our daughter’s drama, strong emotions, tears, and poor choices a conversation that is bad to have with other moms. Why are we so afraid, to share the tough stuff with each other? We can learn more together as moms if we are real. Our daughters are not perfect, they will go through pain and trials, but God will grow them. We can allow our daughters to be authentic and real when we take a stand as moms that their mistakes are not a reflection of our parenting … it’s not about us.
I called my mom (Norma Smalley) this morning and asked her what was one thing I taught her about being real. Here’s what she texted me back, “Your heart as a young girl, was to love big, never caring about race or money. As an adult, this just kept growing, taking you to many different countries, bringing home a precious baby girl from Ethiopia .. I found my heart wanting to love orphans because of my daughter’s heart as an example.”
I hope we can continue to challenge each other as moms on our blogs and our conversations, to let go and allow God to grow our daughter’s hearts through the ups and downs on this crazy adventure called life. It doesn’t matter what age your daughter is, we can encourage one another to be real. Never forget .. good girls will have:
- strong emotions
- and make poor choices
Today, we celebrate you, your life the past 17 years. I know the past year has been one of the most challenging years of your life … so much change, but you have handled everything with grace, forgiveness, diligence and the same attitude you had as a little girl – to never give up! We have watched you grow up this year in ways you can’t even imagine. God has an incredible plan for your life and we can’t wait to watch! Thank you for teaching me what it means to be real. I still can’t believe you never slammed the door once the past 17 months that we “ruined your life!” We love you just the way you are and will hold your hand through whatever you face this year!
Happy Birthday, beautiful daughter