Having a Daughter

Having a daughter is like having a little broke best friend who thinks you are rich… 

Ah, motherhood. Is there anything more special than the love we have for our kids? Yes, plenty. Wine. Vacation. Sleep. Money. Less laundry. Living through the teenage years. The hope that our sanity is intact when we reach middle age. I could
go on…. 

I was blessed 27 years ago with a sweet red-headed daughter. Mackenzie Nicole. She came into the world on a Sunday morning — you know, “Sunday’s child is full of grace,” and all that. She was perfect. And I was the perfect mother. I chortled at those mothers who couldn’t put their kids down to soothe themselves to sleep – I had no problem with this. I was a full-time teacher and exhausted 32 hours of the day. We both needed sleep. I tsked behind my hand when I saw kids in the store or on the plane “acting out.” I dressed her in all the cute little girl clothes in the hope she would remain my little girl. Ah, gods of fate. The irony. 

The most shocking part about motherhood is just how wrong I was — and my inability to get the parenting thing down right. And throughout the teenage years, there wasn’t a day that went by it seemed when she didn’t remind me of this failed aspect of my very being. 

Mackenzie was a great baby, was a great one and two-year-old, but three? Three, she woke up with horns growing out of her head. I assume the good Lord felt I was too smug up till that point and made the decision on  her third birthday to humble me with a few life lessons that would last well into her early adulthood. I have been humbled ever since. It seems things went downhill after that in my parenting skills. 

I went to great lengths to teach her lessons I felt would be good for her character later. I took the door off her hinges when she slammed it one too many times. She got a mouth full of liquid soap when she lashed out, “ I hate you.” To be clear, she never said that aloud again. We left the restaurant (more than once) before the food arrived, or we took it home with us because of poor behavior. 

There was never ever reasoning, or negotiating, or sweet talk, or a time-out chair. She was raised more like I was – “I’ll give you something to cry about.” She was made to return the candy she stole from the store with me threatening jail time just to ensure she understood the gravity of the theft. 

School of course was paramount, and each year started with the threat (and not idle) that if a teacher ever phoned me about her behavior in any capacity, that her cushy life as she knew it would be over. There were clear expectations of grades and deadlines and time wasted on a cell phone. She got a job in grade 10, and she felt like she was the richest kid on the planet. In great parenting form, I burst that bubble and set guidelines for her to pay for her own cell phone (only mean mothers apparently do this). She was then burdened with the responsibility of her own gas in her car that she had to pay for and insurance. While I was reminded numerous times that no other mother did this, I reminded her that she would thank me later in life. I was met with the proverbial eye roll. Gawd, the teenage eye roll. 

Somehow she had the audacity to grow up and leave me when she reached adulthood — she just left to be that great successful, amazing kid I had toiled for so many years to shape and mould. Not going to lie, it was bittersweet, but dang did it all go so fast. 

Every once in a while, that part of time lost hits home, and I wander down memory lane with the photo albums I painstakingly put together when she was young. I look at those pictures like it is another lifetime. Did it even happen? And of course, why didn’t I enjoy those days more? There are times I am overwhelmed with how fast time is moving, and yes, I do get a little teary-eyed. She was an only child raised by a single mother. Somehow we
both survived. 

I was also a lot skinnier. I should have at least appreciated that. 

She is a great young woman now. Independent, resourceful, pays her own bills, good with money. College educated. She has a heart of gold for all the animals in the kingdom, and bakes and paints the most impressive cookies for sale in her free time that I have ever seen. She is much kinder and sweeter than I. She is a terrible liar, very little sarcasm comes out of her, and she does not have one speeding ticket. 

She does make her way to Texas and Randle Lane at least twice a year for a good visit. Of course, there is a long order of food I have to make for her that seems to be contingent on her purchasing a plane ticket. That’s the trade-off. She has not yet fully come to understand the depth of love and sacrifice of a mother’s love — she will when she has her own kids. I am waiting for that phone call. I think when that happens, I will be able to die in peace. You know, all the things we hope for our kids. 

A year ago, my own mother — Virginia May, for whom the B&B is named — passed away at the age of 93, two weeks before Mother’s Day. She was a little spitfire of a woman towering at 5 ft nothing, who raised her own spirited blonde-headed girl. Shockingly, I also had the teenage eye roll down pat, and she lived through my teenage years and beyond, much like I have with Mackenzie. She and my father had this amazing 70-year marriage before he passed 13 months before her. They were full of love and fun and laughter and raised me and my two older brothers in the typical fashion of the time. 

Oh, how I have quietly grieved for her this last year. I felt like I didn’t get to say goodbye. That was the plan. Just one more time. I see her name every day, and so much of my kitchen is hers. Some days I want to phone her, and for a moment she is alive in some part of this world. Other days, the tears start at the thought of her absence and the knowledge that a phone call to Heaven is just not part of my cell plan. I am grateful she was around for 93 years, but death is so final. 

And so, I am reminded that “tomorrow is not promised.” And while I am here taking the world by storm, I remind myself to enjoy all the bits, to slow down and appreciate the present. In my lawn chair. With a glass of red in hand. Or if it is June to September in Texas, a really
great margarita. 

Happy Mother’s Day to all the great moms out there. We got this. 

Colleen McCullough is the owner of The Virginia May Bed and Breakfast at Eagle Mountain Lake. You can follow the B&B on Instagram and Facebook @thevirginiamay

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