Give ’em Back! (A poem for my daughters)

My daughters and me, circa 1992

When I became a mother I worried that I would pass on ‘the worst’ of me to my daughters. I wanted to come into motherhood clean. A fresh slate. New born like them.

But life and children and pretty well everything, doesn’t work that way. The new is built on what was learned from the old. Some good. Some not so good. Some not even wanted, though it seems to come into the new anyway.

And being a mother definitely doesn’t come with a rule book from our mothers and their mothers before them. It doesn’t come with a money-back guarantee that says, ‘Do these 10 things and you’ll never worry or fear or cry for your children. And if it doesn’t work in 25 years, here’s our moneyback guarantee. You can give your children back and we’ll give you back your tearless days and fearless nights and worry-free hopes and dreams…”

Nope, it definitely doesn’t work that way. Being a mother (a parent for that matter- but I’m a mother so use what fits best for me) is about worry and fear and tears. Oh sure, there’s the joy and the love and the sense of wonder at these miraculous beings who fill the world with such light, and promise. But there’s all the rest too.

Because, there’s always the worry and the fear. The tears. Oh yes. The tears. They fall like a rain in autumn. Full of questions… Will it or won’t it freeze? Will it or won’t it turn to snow? And full of premonitions and worries of winter yet to come. Will my child be safe crossing the street? Will they remember the love I feel for them after I lose my temper? Will they know they are miracles when I keep shutting off the light?

Being a mother means knowing the things about me I never wanted anyone else to see, or have, or know, could become part of these miraculous beings whom we love with every fibre of our beings and who are at risk of taking on these things we never intended or wanted for them to be share in.

Sometimes, I don’t even see what in me has become something in them I never wanted them to know or have or be until it’s too late. Until they say or do something and I wonder, where did they get that? Even when I know, they got it from me. And while I smile when I see them carrying what I think to be the best of me, I have had to learn to love the not so best in me through their eyes for to love them fully, I must love all of me, and all of my mother and all of my mother’s mothers before me.

Because being a mother is not a cake-walk, but it has been for me the greatest gift I’ve ever received. In becoming a mother, I have had to see what is not my best and learn to love myself as I am so that I can love my daughters in all their beauty, complexity, tears and fears, joys and failures, and let them go in Love to be their own true selves.


Perhaps it is that my youngest daughter is about to turn 33 or my grandson 4, or that I received a beautiful message from a stranger, a woman who is about to have her first child and who, after reading many of my posts, wrote to voice some of her fears for her unborn child… whatever the source of these thoughts, this poem is what appeared:

A Poem For My Daughters
by Louise Gallagher

I want them back
those things I gave
that I never meant to give you

They weren't meant for you
and never really worked for me
to begin with

I wanted more
for you

I wanted only
the best
without all the messy pieces.

I wanted only beauty
truth, love, happiness
not those things you took
that I didn't mean to give
that keep holding you
from being you

They were me
those messy pieces
I had to work through
to get to be me 
and though some of them
still are
they were never meant for you

Please give them back
and I promise you something
I can't actually promise
but really want to,
if you give them back
you'll be free
to be
without the bits of me
that don't fit well
for either of us.

4 thoughts on “Give ’em Back! (A poem for my daughters)

  1. But that is not how it works. It’s all about balance. If you were to take back what you gave that you wish you didn’t, they wouldn’t learn the difference between the not-so-nice and the beautiful. They got to see that you are human as they are. Life is full of mess and cleanliness 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is so beautiful – it comes to me on a day like today, when a major wave grief overcame me with the thought that I couldn’t be the best mother I could have been, I wanted to give much more and more different, and yet life took over and I used my capacity to the brim. I am not the one to live with regrets, I have gratitude for all that became possible, the grief needed the way out though. I have conveyed to my sons during very good and honest conversations that they will have to rise above all that came to them as a limitation from me.
    Motherhood is such privilege, we do our best 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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