When I was asked to contribute a piece as part CTWorkingMoms gratitude series, I leapt at the chance to write this letter to honor the one who has most shaped my parenting.

I was pregnant when I realized that I will forever be a better parent for having you in my life.  You didn’t exactly choose to unofficially adopt a teenager craving more nurturing than one person could ever give, never mind someone with whom you had no relationship, history or obligation.  Our paths crossed with me in great need, and you with great patience.

No matter what I faced, I drew so much comfort from simply knowing you were out there: caring, believing in me, and genuinely excited for my future.

Out there, caring, and believing in me would become the cornerstones of all I needed from you, though I needed it in grave proportions over and over and over, like the child, and soon two, about to enter my world.

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Because I learned to trust through trusting you; I am trustworthy for my children.

Because I learned to hope through holding onto yours; I can forever hope for bright futures for them.

Because I found your acceptance; whether in joy, pain, peace or fear; I can accept the enormity of their feelings in their little bodies.

Because I could experiment with being simply myself, without façade or pretense; I can embrace their uniqueness and their challenges.

Because I could push and fight, and still find you there with open arms; I can give them brand new beginnings in an instant, harboring nothing but my love for them.

Because I could speak my truth to you in your imperfections, and watch you grow and change; I was able to learn the art of forgiveness, and how to forgive myself my short-comings.

Because you taught me that no one is an island, and interdependence is strong; I am a better partner to my spouse as we navigate these waters together.

I have found my courage to experiment and live large, because I know I can retreat to the safety of you for reprieve.  I have found my strength to let go, because you taught me to hold faith.  I have learned that acceptance and surrender are not defeat, but an opportunity to live in the moment; the only moment that is truly real.

If you told me that I was an adult in need of parenting, I would have likely scoffed and walked away.  Yet because I didn’t know it except to feel it’s gifts, I was able to take in every lesson, absorbing each teaching like I would water in a dessert.  I make mistakes often, and amends for them too.  I am not only more the parent I wished to be, but also more the person I am proud to be, because of your gentle, patient presence in my life.

In thinking about how to say thank you, I daringly asked my friends what they saw in me as a parent.  They brought me to tears with their words complimenting my patience, love, teamwork, playfulness, and respect for the world in which we live.  I wonder if they know how much each of them are mirrors, seeing in me what they also have and share with their own kids; like you being a mirror for me, reminding me of my goodness, my loving nature, and my gifts when I was unable to see them myself.

I forever hope that our family’s joy, our peace, our wonder and our everyday courage forever honors all the ways you’ve helped us to live this “wild and precious life” (Mary Oliver).  I hope to forever emulate the mirror of transformation for others that you have been for me.  We all have it in us, if we bring it, forever imperfectly, towards the light.  You taught me that too.

You have my love and gratitude, always,

Sharlene