Dear Mom and Dad,
Happy Valentine’s Day.
I don’t tell you often enough how much I love you and how grateful I am to have you as my parents. It’s easy for me to say “I love you” when we talk on the phone, to send you a quick e-mail when I read a new tidbit about the UConn women’s basketball team, or to think of you when I sing “A Summer Song” to the kids. But I want to put into words – because I am a writer, and because you both supported me unconditionally when I got the crazy idea two years ago that I was going to become one – just how much I appreciate you, and how much becoming a parent of three – just like you – has helped me understand how lucky I am to be your daughter.
Mom, I learned everything I know about being a mother from you, though I rarely do the job with as much grace as you always did. You are the most patient person that I know. I remember lots of things from my childhood – walking on your back, you brushing out my waist-long hair every morning, watching The Price is Right and Guiding Light together during the summer – but I don’t remember ever seeing you yell. Not once. I watch you now with the kids, them spinning around you like ill-programmed satellites; me at the outskirts, my blood pressure rising, trying to will order onto them; and you sitting on the floor in the middle, placid, smiling. (How is that possible? To rule through sheer force of calm?) You are a model of generosity and selflessness. You are as good a friend as you are a mother and you’ve taught me how to extend kindness even when – especially when – it’s not so easy to do so. I’ve always felt like the best version of myself when I look at myself through your eyes. You make me feel smart and strong and beautiful; I only hope I can raise my children to feel as good about themselves as you’ve always made me feel.
Dad, for as long as I can remember, you have made me understand that I could do – that a girl could do – anything I set my mind to. You taught me how to dribble, then to make a layup, then to shoot a foul shot, and helped me learn that the only way to get some boys to pass me the ball was to run up and take it from them. You’ve taught me not to be afraid of achievement, to be proud to excel, and to speak up – loudly. But I also credit you with laying another foundation inside of me: you taught me through your example that trappings of success don’t matter, that being comfortable with who you are and what you’re doing matters in ways that name brands and fancy cars never will. You’ve passed on your love of big, fat books and all the facts inside. You gave me your memory – and very likely made me a history teacher. You made sure that I saw this vast country of ours – I know I’ll make it to Oklahoma and South Dakota some day – and that I understood where I came from. You’ve always told me that you’ll support me in whatever I do – and, better yet, you’ve meant it. I’ve never doubted how proud you are of me; I only hope I can always make my kids feel that same brand of unconditional love.
I am the woman I am and the mother I am because of you. I love you, Mom and Dad. I hope you always know how much.