There aren’t many things more beautiful than a sun-filled day on the lake. The water — warm and clear to the bottom — lapping on the rocks, the wooden dock swaying, the call of loons echoing off the trees. Catching sunfish and showing me proudly, your hands too tender for the sharp scales.
I hope that you know this. I hope that you have long stretches of summers that feel endless.
Because it won’t be long — maybe seven, eight, nine years — before awareness is awoken in you, and you begin to doubt.
You will feel pressure, daughter. Despite my deepest desires, you will feel pressure from me.
I will want what’s best for you. I’ll encircle you with my arms and sing softly against your cheek. But I will also push you, I know this. I will want you to be bold, to be strong, and even though these are good things, pressure is crippling. Forgive me.
It won’t be only from me, born of love and care so deep I can’t fathom it at twenty-five years old.
You will feel pressure from the world. I still feel it, in my adulthood, but I can tell you honestly, it gets better. It gets lighter. And slowly you find you don’t care quite as much as you used to.
For years, though, be ready to hear those whispers from inside you.
I need to be more beautiful. I need to be smarter. I need him to look at me that way.
I need to be the best.
And even though I feel extremely inadequate to give this advice, darling, because I battle it daily, I know in the core of me that these words are poison.
You will love a boy with your whole heart, and he will not love you back. Or he will, maybe, but not the way you want him to. The thing is, it isn’t like the movies. He won’t mean to hurt you and not even a little part of him will enjoy knowing he caused your pain. In real life, good people hurt us more often than bad people. You might try to paint him in black, but someday you will know: he is good and you are good, you just aren’t good for each other.
I ache for you even now, years before I’ve met you, and I wish I could spare you the ugliness of this world. There’s no such thing, though, as ‘perfect’ — whether in the world or in one human being — and if I want you to fully experience the cherry-popsicle-licking, day-long swimming, cribbage-playing joy of an August day in Maine, I need to be willing to see you get hurt. I need to be willing to let you battle those voices on your own.
Because it isn’t for the prettiest or smartest or funniest that the moon is lassoed.
He has already called you blessed. He has already named you His own. You dazzle Him with who He created you to be, and if you dazzle in Him, every nick and scrape and bruise will be healed.
True beauty is an overlapping of deepest pain with deepest joy.
The moon’s already yours, baby. You just gotta ask.
4 Replies to “Dear Daughter”
Wow, I love that you wrote this so long ago! Beautiful to re-read it five years later now that you are nourishing your daughter in real time.
I know! When I remembered it, I was so curious about what I’d written