Monday, April 19, 2010


It's our youngest daughter's birthday today. She's 19.

Brita sucked her thumb for a little longer than usual because she was home educated and didn't have the peer pressure to make her stop. If there's hair in the food or a shell, she'll get it. She liked her bed more than snuggling after nursing. Her words are a grand mixture of Shakespeare and Kelley Clarkson.

When she finds a gift for someone it is perfect in every way because she has spent a lifetime observing that person. Her artist's eye for detail and color make her our consultant on several fronts. She knows how things go together. When she tells a story or mimicks people, she nails it dead on. Lines in movies get a new twist when she repeats them.

This woman child is generous with us. She's loving, affectionate and helpful. Because she is stubborn and strong, I need her many times to get me through a project. We enjoy her so much. She makes us howl with laughter, often.

This hasn't always been so. Even though as a teenager she didn't struggled with moral issues or addictions, her emotional and relational skills made for some hard moments. She hated me at times and let me know. She spent 4 years being cranky, moody, unhappy, discontent, uneasy, and frustrated. A few things in her life were hidden and secret.

When she was about 16 our mother daughter relationship deteriorated. Craig had to remind me often to take the high road, as I was the parent. Even this last year things haven't been the best.

Finally, I had to tell her that she was disrupting the peace and harmony in our home and our responsibility for her was over. She was 18 and could do as she liked, but not at our house. I suggested she find another place to live where she would be happier and not poison the atmosphere.

We let her know she was wanted and loved, but her behavior was unacceptable. When a child refuses to be grateful or thankful, they need jolted. Reality is their best friend. It was a shock. She knew I was serious. Done. Tough love was needed if I had her best interests at heart.

There were many good times tucked in between these hard years, of course. One time, she broke down admitting she didn't want to 'be like this' anymore. I assured her that now we could start again fresh once more. She sobbed in my arms and told me she didn't think I could keep forgiving her another time. Sort of worried she had used all the tickets up. I reassured her that there wasn't a limit on them - they would never come to an end. She is ours. A gift. Taking ownership and asking for forgiveness gave her the ability to receive an endless supply. I secretly wondered if the roll of tickets had an end. :)

My point isn't to expose Brita. It is to give hope. Kids have to separate so they will come back and relate adult to adult instead of continuing as parent/child. They have many ways to do this, some more destructive than others. Some with dire consequences.

When I lost heart or became discouraged, Craig reminded me of these things and I got a new surge of desire to try and reach her heart. I missed the intimacy of when she was a child. I missed being connected. We forgot how to enjoy each other.

It has happened. We all still live together. The future is bright. There is no collateral damage. Nothing in a heap that hasn't been repaired. We haven't scarred each other or burned any bridges. We decided to stay, and keep trying to figure out how to love each other. Since we are so much alike, it has been a roller coaster of a challenge.

At every crossroads, we decided to love and forgive each other. And try again.

Today I feel honored to call my daughter my friend. She's beautiful and talented. May the circle be unbroken. Not only do I love her dearly, but it is wonderful to be loved by her. Again.

This is an old picture before the hard times began. This girl is back - a lovely, spirited, captivating woman now. Her eyes sparkle again. She's dreaming big dreams. Her heart is open and generous.

I think of two songs often. They help me stay and love. 

Sarah Groves' Loving a Person and Merle Haggard's Leavin's Not the Only Way to Go


Maureen said...

You've written a beautiful letter of love to Brita.

A Simple Country Girl said...

Oh, what a beautiful public birthday card you have written! Oh these kids, how they grow us into the children God wants us to be...


Claire said...

The rawness of deep true love, plucks at strings that have not been touched in a while.

S. Etole said...

I always hold my breath a bit until I read the relationship has been redeemed ... your writing frequently does that to me anyway ... what a gift you share

Cassandra Frear said...

What a beautiful story of you and your daughter. It will give hope to anyone with older children.

M.L. Gallagher said...

Oh Kathleen... I understand and i walk beside you. thank you for putting into words such beauty and hope, such joy and sadness. Thank you for paying such a loving tribute to daughters everywhere!


And Happy Birthday Brita!

Your mother is amazing!


Corinne said...

I have tears in my eyes for so many reasons reading this.
Happy birthday to your Brita :)
I am so happy for you both that you have each other.

Anonymous said...

Life is a journey for us all, mother and child. I feel sorry for those who can't grow through the experience. May you both keep growing and loving and forgiving and never, never, never give up on relationships with you and I wish I knew Brita! Happy Birthday Brita!

Russell Holloway said...

Parenting is so hard ... Thank you for your story. said...

Wow. It says a lot for all of you that you can write this so openly now. Thanks so much for sharing your story -- it was a great thing to read as I leave for California to meet my own daughter (21) and help her drive her ancient van back to Shaw Island for a memorial service this weekend. We are close now, too; it hasn't always been easy but it's definitely been worth the struggle.

Melisa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

WOW! That was a Brita I have never seen. I love working with you daughter. She is a delight. Thank you for raising her the way you did. I couldn't ask for a better friend.