Today is my daughter's seventh birthday. I should be filled with joy, right? I should be scrambling around, cleaning the house, baking cake, and blowing up balloons. But instead, I have found myself struggling most of the morning with the simple fact that she is seven now.
I was seven when my parents chose to send me away to boarding school. I was seven when my innocence was first stolen by a monster. I was seven when that monster's wife scolded me for crying when I missed my parents, and even spanked me for it sometimes. I was seven when she told me that if I wrote anything negative to my parents in a letter, I would be hindering the work of God. I was seven when I was beaten for not being able to sleep, for not making my bed properly, and eventually, for no reason that I could understand.
I was seven when I started to grow old.
My daughter. She is extremely intelligent, spunky, creative, loud, and such a beautiful creature. Sometimes when I look at her, I see what I could have been. Sometimes when I look at her, I grieve quietly for the me that was lost.
Today I was filled with this creeping dread, this thought that she will be crushed now, because she is seven. I told myself, "She is not you. She is she, and she is amazing, and she is safe. Nothing will happen to her." And this dark part of my mind said, "You know very well that you just can't KNOW that. Anything could happen to her. She might not be safe." The logical part of me knows that her life is not mine, and that we are not doomed to travel on parallel paths. But there is a feeling that looms, a fear and uncertainty for her, and it sits heavily in my heart.
What I've come to is this: I cannot fully protect her from bad things, but I can do whatever is in my power.
I cannot use my daughter to grieve for my own lost childhood and innocence, because I feel like that would be wrong, and somehow damaging to her. But, I can make her childhood as wonderful as possible, and in doing so, repair some of the lost me's damage. I can love her, and hold her, and listen to her, and enable her to grow in all the ways she is.
I can find my own redemption, just by being here for her, just by being her mom. By watching her thrive, watching her have joy, watching her experience life to the fullest.
So, here I am to tell myself, "Self? This year is not a year of doom or grief. This is a year of beauty and growth. Live it, and let your daughter live it, too."