Absence makes the heart grow fonder. This statement has never been truer than with my daughter Carol Linn. Actually, absence was absolutely necessary for the salvation of our relationship. Before she moved to the other side of the country, I knew there were wonderful things about her; however, they were clouded by the rebellious teenager that challenged our relationship every breathing moment. I loved the woman she was becoming, but struggled with the child she still was. We needed distance. We needed clarity.
For me, it has finally come, but I’m not sure if Carol Linn has clarity yet. Does she know and understand how much I love her? If she doesn’t, I have confidence that someday she will. Why? Because she is who I was at 18. She is the child who fulfilled my mother’s curse: “I hope you have a daughter just like you someday, so you know how I feel.” I do understand now. I just hope it doesn’t take another 20 years for Carol Linn to love and appreciate me the way I love and appreciate my mother now.
First, I want to apologize to my mother. I’m sorry for the pain I caused her as a teenager. However, I also want to thank her for the blessing she thought was a curse. Carol Linn is and has been a blessing since the day she was born. I prayed that she would be a girl; I was blessed when I held her in my arms for the first time. She was perfect in every way: She had a full head of black hair, perfect eyebrows, big brown eyes, and beautiful fingers and toes.
As she grew, she proved to be a mischievous child, always getting into and out of precarious situations. When Carol Linn was a year and a half she would climb out of her crib after I put her down for a nap and get stuck on the changing table. She would call for me to come rescue her. She seemed to know what she wanted but didn’t know what to do when she got there. She had such confidence in herself, even at this age.
She also had courage. After we said goodnight to the girls, Carol Linn would crawl out of bed, crawl into the playroom to get a toy, and crawl back into her bed, like a little ninja, without us ever knowing or hearing her in the adjoining room. In the morning she would have a bed filled with Barbies.
I think it was this self-confidence and courage that allowed her to verbalize her anger. She was four years old the first time she told me she hated me. I had sent her to her room as a punishment for something. She wrote “I hat Mom” on the wall with a permanent marker. After we made up she crossed out “hat” and put “luv” instead. As funny as that story is it didn’t prepare me for the number of times I heard it over the last 14 years. I didn’t believe that she meant it, but she was pretty convincing.
I know I made a lot of mistakes as her mother. That could be what led her to be indifferent towards me as her parent; she didn’t seem to need me in her life. I wanted her to depend on me, but she never did.
I got so caught up in her disobedience that I forgot the ultimate goal as a mother was to raise an independent woman. Carol Linn was independent already. Instead of realizing that, I battled with her; we despised each other. We hurt each other in ways that made it difficult to find our way back to each other. In February I naïvely thought I would gladly say goodbye to her the day we brought her to the airport. Instead, I cried uncontrollably the whole time.
I didn’t want to lose my child; I just wanted the pain and deceit to end. When she left, the pain and deceit did vanish. None of the past year mattered anymore. But it was too late because I lost my child anyway.
Now, she has the freedom to choose her own destiny; freedom to live her own life, far away from me. She needed distance, so she could test her wings. As much as it still hurts to have lost my precious little girl, it needed to happen. I had to make room for a new relationship.
Carol Linn has been living with her sister Nicole for two months now, and I can truly say I love the woman she has become. I tried so hard to make her become someone she wasn’t that I missed out on the amazing person she already was. I wanted her to be me now, not the me I was at 18. I made so many mistakes at that age; I wanted her to learn from my experiences. Life doesn’t work that way though. She had to choose her own path, her own way, on her own terms, exactly how I did it.
With distance and time I think I have gleaned an understanding of Carol Linn’s frustrations. I tended to point out the differences between her and Nicole. I know how that felt. I could never measure up to my older brother. It made me angry. I’m sorry I did that to her.
All the time I spent being frustrated with Carol Linn stopped me from acknowledging her wonderful qualities: She is kind to people, and she forgives often, but protects her heart. She lends a hand to anyone who asks, even if it’s someone who has hurt her before. She loves to read and write. Carol Linn has always been a very private person, which used to bother me. The truth is I admire Carol Linn for her ability to keep a secret, to keep her private life private. I was just bothered that I wasn’t part of her private life. She has an innate ability to see the beauty around her and to frame it through her camera. I am so impressed with her pictures.
Her sense of humor is amazing. She catches on to things quicker than I ever do. She has great taste in music and movies as well.
I am blessed by Carol Linn because she has taught me to let go of the things and people I have no control over, including the past. I wish I could take back those angry words, but even Carol Linn would say, “Don’t have regrets, Mom. It will be okay. It’s in the past. Move forward.”
She has taught me the true meaning of love. It’s easy to love someone who treats me well. But how do I love someone who challenges me and despises my opinions?
I just love her. That’s all. I love her because she is Carol Linn, that same perfect human being I gave birth to. She doesn’t have to agree with me, think I’m the best mother ever, or believe that I made the right choices for my life. I just have to love her, love the woman she is.
Martina McBride “In My Daughter’s Eyes” Our anthem