I spent the day in the kitchen with my first-born, measuring, sifting, mixing, and circulating the sheet pans in and out of the hot oven for about 6 hours. It felt like a dream, seeing her perched on the counter stool, sharing her life with me as we munched ourselves into a sugar coma.

Happy is an understatement.

I remember when I was in her shoes – separated from my parents by state-wide miles of asphalt, making decisions, feeling the burden of juggling life and full-time work, and trying to find my place in the world. The simple pleasure of baking cookies with my mother was limited to the precious vacation time I could carve out for family visits.

I did it, though, pretty much every year, with kids in tow as the years passed. We drove 10-12 hours each way for a week-long visit, which always changed me in some way. Returning to my childhood was complicated, but it afforded me multiple opportunities to heal and grow and learn.

And I wondered how she felt when she pulled up to this childhood home. We had so many over the years, but this one was the last one for her, and by some miracle, I’m still here and her room is relatively unchanged. Did she have regrets or unfinished business? Or did she feel comforted and cared for?

Sometimes it feels weird to be the mom.

As a young mother, I lived most of my life in survival mode (Unwritten, Chapter 1), and as I’ve learned through the years, Fear is not my friend. Surviving isn’t living, it’s managing to keep your nose above the water while you gulp for air and flail your arms and legs until you’re exhausted. It’s hard to think about anything but yourself and that moment.

And so… I wasn’t the mother I wanted to be. I wanted to always say the right thing, to be loving and kind no matter what kind of day I was having, and to support my children with unwavering, unmistakable, story-book love.

Does any mother really want anything different than that?

We don’t set out to create moments that our kids carry with them for years and that land them in therapy. And yet, I can’t think of a family (except the perfect ones on Facebook) who doesn’t have some sort of dysfunction or unresolved hurts, my own included, of course.

As an adult daughter and a mom of adults at the same time, I’m starting to understand that parents are imperfect. (Gasp!) I see my own parents through a different lens, with more compassion and forgiveness. And as I let go of my “shoulds” and wishes regarding my own childhood, I can begin to forgive myself, too, for not rising to the status of Super Mom.

But I have to tell you, seeing that kid of mine all grown up and doing her own thing, my heart swelled, and I thought to myself that surely I must have done something right along the way. She is truly a beautiful soul, and an incredible person, despite her far-from-perfect mother.

Our visit was too short, but it was full of Love, which I bundled up in festive containers and sent back home with her for later.

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