Tonight my precious daughter hugged me tightly.
She was watching her Mama cry tears of sorrow, because I lost my friend Amanda, who went home to be with Jesus today. And even though she didn’t remember meeting Mandy, Natalie used her empathy skills to console me. She then started helping around the house, without being asked to.
After I had composed myself (a little, anyway) I thanked her for being such a sweetheart.
She nodded and said, “I did such a good job I think I earned some homemade cookies!”
We don’t have any in the house, but if we would have, I would have given her the whole lot.
I dropped Amy, our oldest, at the movies with some friends, thankful to have a few moments in the car alone. I went to the store, and grabbed a few items. Then I went to the refrigerated cookie aisle and picked up a package. Because I was determined to bring that little girl some cookies.
As I got in the car, my heart heavy with frustrations and sorrow, I cried. I prayed and asked God to comfort me. And the still small voice inside me asked one question.
“Is she WORTH cookies?”
Before the horrible parent police show up at my door, I want to assure you- this question is not what you think it is. But I think a letter to my daughter would best explain what I mean.
I want more than anything to give you cookies. Sweet, just like you, and so delicious. There have been many times in my life I earned cookies too. Sometimes other people gave them to me, especially when I was a kid. As a grown up, living on my own, I got those cookies myself. Even though I shared them with you kids a lot, there were many packages of cookies you never knew existed.
Any time I felt extreme feelings, ranging from happiness to crushing sadness, I had cookies. And chips. And cakes. Those things made the feelings I was experiencing seem a little more tolerable. They moderated the extremes in my life.
And you saw the result. My body 3 years ago was proof that I had been “feeling” for a long long time.
Natalie, you are one of the most precious children I have ever met. And I know it’s tough for you being the middle kid. Amy gets to do everything first, and you often get her hand-me-downs. Tim gets to do other things because he is a boy. He gets clothes nobody else has worn, because he doesn’t do pink. So you kinda get the short end of the stick. And I know that.
And while you asking for cookies seems like such a small request, so insignificant, so easy to just let you have-
I’m going to say NO.
Because you are WORTH MORE THAN COOKIES.
You don’t deserve a life that bases your feelings or your worth on food. You deserve to be taught appropriate ways to self-soothe, a skill your Mama has been lacking a very long time. As much as I want to give you cookies today, I don’t want you to struggle with wanting cookies tomorrow.
This doesn’t mean you can’t ever have cookies again. That’s the joy of this- if you learn to enjoy them in the right way, they will taste even sweeter.
I wonder where my life would be today if I hadn’t abused food. Granted, this blog would never exist, but what else could I have achieved in my life if food hadn’t been an issue? Would I have pursued my songwriting career? Would I have moved to Hollywood? New York? Paris?
I will never find out what my life could have been, but my daughters (and son, of course) deserve to find out where their lives can go. I cannot pass on my broken habits to them. I want to give them every opportunity to learn to be the most complete and whole humans they can be while under our roof. They will move out and make their own mistakes, I realize that. They will have their own struggles, but I don’t want one of them to be food. Because that one comes straight from me.
Tonight, as I struggle with more than my children will ever realize is on my proverbial plate, telling God I can’t handle ONE MORE THING, and another thing falls on my head and heart- I am left with the question.
Do I finally realize that I, too, am worth more than cookies?
Am I ready to use my faith to self soothe instead of calling on the disciples Ben and Jerry? Am I willing to deal with the feelings instead of shoving them down with food?
I think that I am. I’m going to do my best.
Because I AM WORTH MORE THAN COOKIES.