Dear Mom,

I never realized how hard it must have been for you until I became a woman. I still don’t understand the extent of it. One day, when I’m a mom, I imagine I’ll still only grasp a fraction of it.

Twenty-five years ago, you became a mother. To society, your identity would forever be Mother before it would be Woman. You were alone, through no fault of your own. Then suddenly you weren’t—I was there. Together we faced the world: me and my dumpling, baby skin and you and your stiff determination. I know that the first few years were hard. I wasn’t easy. If I could, I would go back and change that for you. I would release you from not only the stress of being alone, but the burden of being lonely. I’d be there for you the way you were there for me. I would ease the hardships I placed on you, say thank you for every meal you plated, every car ride to and from school, and every Christmas full of rainbow lights, bright red ribbons, and pile of presents to unwrap.

I’m grateful that the universe placed me in your hands. You always had a stubborn and fierce love, a steady heart with a lot of room, and a gentle patience in the face of a world that wasn’t so kind. Gratitude pours from my eyes when I think of all of the late night dinners after your college classes, all of the hugs, laughter, dollars spent, opportunities that were put before yours, words of encouragement, and acts of protection. After years of teenage angst and brattiness, I can look back and know that you loved me through all of it. I know I could lose everyone but still have my mom. I know that in times when you could have chosen yourself, you chose me.

I’m sorry for the past full of stubbornness and bickering in the mornings before school and complaints about this not being enough or that being too much. If I ever made you feel that I didn’t love you, if you ever had to wonder if I was okay, and if you ever thought that I didn’t appreciate it, listen to this: I do. I always will.

Mom, thank you for everything you’ve done and everything you will do. Growing up with you taught me more about womanhood than anything else could. I learned to be strong, to be kind, to be patient, and to be resilient. I learned to question the world, to challenge the world, and to cherish the world. Some days are harder than others; on those hard days, I think of you and what you would want me to do. Because of you, I am proud to be me. I’m excited to be me.

Thank you, Mom, for being you and letting me be me.

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