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A Letter To My Mom: You Should Know You're Not A Superhero

Dear Mom,

There’s something that you should know. You used to be a superhero to me, but not anymore and you need to know why.

When I was young, I saw you as indestructible. You were the person that was always there for me and somehow, you could always make anything better. Whether it as baby powder disguised as “magic powder” or how you always knew when I was lying. You were magic! Even when you were sick, you still seemed to be able to gather your superhero strength and keep going. I can’t seem to remember a time when I was a young child that you didn’t seem to have it all together, meanwhile making sure that we did too. You worked, you managed the house, and you always had the answers. You were a superhero!

Then, I became a teenager. You were my best friend and still a superhero to me, but I started to see you a little bit different. I realized that things were a little different at our house. We didn’t have multiple bathrooms in our house like all of my friends. I was not getting a car when I turned sixteen. We bought off brand cereal. Why couldn’t we have the same things as my friends? I noticed you and dad fighting sometimes. My friends’ parents seemed to have it all together. Why didn’t you?

Then, November 1998, we took you to the hospital. You were 74 pounds and diagnosed and admitted with an eating disorder. For the first time in my life I felt completely and utterly confused; lost. I felt like my whole life was a lie. I didn’t know who you were or how to view you. How could I have missed you deteriorating before my very eyes? Because you were a superhero to me, that’s how. Superheroes don’t get eating disorders or depression. They don’t want to kill themselves. They are invincible. Yet there you were, weak and exposed. I wanted to ask you, “Who are you and what have you done with my mother? She’s a superhero!” For the following weeks, I watched them feed you Ensure while you protested. I answered your midnight phone calls begging me for a Diet Coke. I even went to the therapy sessions where I pretended to listen and engage, all the while feeling like I was in some sort of alternate reality; waiting for my superhero mom to swoop in and save us. I remember even telling people that I was “great” so that I wouldn’t have to acknowledge my conflicting realities. I tried to find my happy place, but my happy place had always been you, the superhero. Now, you were you, but HUMAN.

For the next sixteen years I saw you as human. This didn’t turn out to be such a bad thing. You were still one my best friend. I felt blessed and happy to have you survive, and remain in our lives, beating the eating disorder AND cancer! As I became an adult, I realized so many of the struggles that you faced trying to make ends meet and dealing with adult pressures and relationships. I empathized with you for all of the hard times that we went through. I would even tell the kids I taught, “Your parents are human beings. Give them a break. Someday you will be an adult and you will realize that they are human beings just like you!” I honestly thought of my position, seeing you as just a human being who makes mistakes, but loves me unconditionally, as a very mature perspective.

Then, in October 2014 I became a mother. It didn’t happen right away, but over the last two years, as I have experienced motherhood for the first time, I now see you as a MOM. I see you raising me as a twenty-year old single mother, a college student, wondering how you were going to make it to class with a baby and no childcare. So you took me with you. I see you fighting with all of your own demons. Lying in bed at night crying, but not too loud so that I wouldn’t know your pain. I see you beating yourself up because you compare yourself to all the mothers that you’re sure have it all together, meanwhile you feel like you’re falling apart. I see you crumbling up graham crackers and pouring milk over them to be “Golden Grahams” because you knew that we couldn’t afford the name brand, but I wanted the name brand. I hated those crunched up graham crackers with milk. I’m sure you saw the disappointment in my face and it hurt. I see you lying in bed at night wondering if you were a good mom that day. I see you getting married to the man that I now, and will always call my dad, as something you did, not just because of who he was to you, but also because you knew how much I needed a positive male role model. I see all of the times when things went wrong and you said, “Hey, at least we’re making memories!” You said it with a smile on your face, but I see now that you may have been feeling your lowest, but your priority was to make us laugh and remind us that life is bigger than the current moment. I think of the Christmases that Santa brought us everything we wanted and I see you charging things to your credit card wondering how you will pay it off on a teacher’s salary. I see those mornings when you weren’t sure if you could get out of bed and face what felt like the monotony of life, but you did. Even in that moment where you weren’t sure you wanted to be alive anymore. I see you, seeing me, and making the decision to fight. I see you wanting to rescue me from so many of my adult failures and crying because you can’t make everything perfect and painless in my life. Why not? Because you are not a superhero, you’re a mom. Yes, you are also human, but you are more than that. You are a MOM.

What I see, now that I am a mother, is that every part of your human life since I was born you have carried the burden of motherhood. You got up every day, even on the worst of days of your life and even when I didn’t appreciate you. You got out of bed and you put one foot in front of the other and you made me feel safe and loved. You weren’t perfect and I will be forever grateful for that. I know that you remember the imperfect moments and wonder how your inadequacies affected my life. But the moments you may agonize over are the moments that made me who I am today. Moments that you spent time to yourself, but felt guilty about because I ended up playing by myself. That’s the time that I developed such an incredible imagination as well as the ability to be “ok” by myself. Moving so many times probably made you feel like you weren’t creating a stable environment for me, but it was actually enabling me to be flexible and able to make friends quickly. All of the times that you and dad argued and you stressed about whether or not we could hear it made me understand that no relationship is perfect and that love isn’t a fairytale, but something you fight for and work at. The times when we didn’t have money taught me to value time and people more than things. And watching you struggle with depression and an eating disorder made me empathetic. It made me aware that everyone has struggles that we may not see and it made me want to inspire young girls to love themselves and their bodies. You were enough mom! You were more than enough. I am so grateful, because I am now a mother who feels the burden of being an imperfect mother. You have been a superhero to me and you have been human to me, but never have I loved you more than when you were a mom to me. Thank you for showing me that unconditional love transcends all. Thank you for showing me that everyday that I mother imperfectly matters and that when my son looks at me, he doesn’t see my inadequacies, he sees mom. You are so much more than a superhero. You are more than human. YOU ARE A MOM! And I love you!

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