There's a part of my oldest daughter's bedtime routine that I look forward to everyday. It involves brushing the many tangles that develop throughout the day out of her beautiful, long hair and braiding it before sleep. But it's so much more than that. In order to get her to sit still while I brush, I tell her stories. While it began as a ploy to stop her from moving and screaming "Ouch Mommy, that hurts!" whenever I brushed her hair, it has evolved into something more meaningful.
She asks, "Mommy, will you tell me a story?"
"What would you like the story to be about?" I reply.
"Tell me 'Once upon a time' when you were a little girl...."
And so I indulge her. I tell her stories about school, my first puppy, when I had lice (true story!), camping trips and more. Lately, whenever I finish a story she wants to tell a story too. Her story is usually a summary of the story I just told, only with her in the lead role and me as a supporting actor. She takes some creative liberties, but for the most part the original story remains. I found this very cute and amusing for a few nights. Then, one night it hit me. The reason she keeps inserting herself into my stories is because she can't imagine our lives without her in them. This same reason is why she asks "Where am I?" whenever she sees our wedding pictures, or pictures of Joe and I before she was born. She only knows life with us in it.
I lived a lifetime before she was born, and that is hard for her to understand. She's beginning to grasp the concept, but not entirely. Which made me think of all the things I still have to tell her about myself. There is much she doesn't know. Many things will be hard and painful to explain. I'm waiting for the day when she asks me, "Mommy, why do you only have a Mommy and no Daddy? Where is he?" How do I tell my darling, sweet girl that her grandfather, my father, chose the bottle over a family? Where do I begin to explain the challenges that I faced as I grew up in a single parent home with 4 brothers and sisters? Amidst the hardship there is joy, I know. The joy will not be difficult to share. It's the pain that will prove arduous.
There will be healing in the telling of these parts of my life, I know this. However, many things in my past weren't property dealt with, simply because I couldn't dwell on them in order to survive. So, this re-telling will require some re-opening of wounds. It will be tough, but it will show my daughter that difficult circumstances can make you stronger. She will see that her mother endured (as her grandmother did), and so when she faces adversity, she will also endure.