In April, my daughter will celebrate her 11th birthday—the milestone I’ve anticipated since she was born. This May will mark 33 years since my parents died in a car accident. I was 11. In the past year, the build up toward this day and the expectations of who I might become in the face of this moment have prompted me to go inward and sit with my fears.
Intimate knowledge of an 11-year-old mind and heart will make me realize how unformed I was.
I will discover there are parts of me that won’t heal.
I won’t know how to parent a child past the age I was parented.
In the past year most of my conversations around my lingering grief have come to the surface via this topic, this experience that has yet to happen. With friends, a support group of motherless mothers and with my husband—there was a knowing that an expected bolt of lightning was about to strike. And I was waiting. While I will never know if shining a light on this moment changed my experience of it—now that I’m here—I’m in awe of how completely different it is than the visions etched in my mind.
Instead of seeing an 11-year-old who is unformed, there is a young woman who is capable, expressive, curious, confident and strong. Even if I had a fraction of the will and hope she has, I get why I would have made it—and did. We have a love for writing in common, and with every poem she weaves and then reads aloud to me (for the 27th time), I realize I was lucky to have a way to channel my feelings and thoughts and fears, beyond the emotional readiness of my friends.
Living with an almost 11-year-old is reminding me that there are parts of me that have yet to heal. This is a moment to use my compassion for both of us to tend to this part of the wound. While I wasn’t truly parented after age 11, I was loved. And that love may be just enough to fill the deficit so I can create something completely new when it comes to being a mom to my girls. I’m doing it my own way, which given my personality, is how I might have done it no matter how my life unfolded. But now that it’s the only path forward, it feels like a way to carry my parents with me as loving witnesses instead of the knowing guides that others may have. Looking at my almost birthday girl, I know this plan has worked pretty damn well so far, so I’m in.