I‘ll never forget the day my mother told me that she worried about me because “you’re only as happy as your least happy child.” I could have lived a lifetime without learning that phrase. As any mom knows, children aren’t always happy, and the chances of having eight contented children at the same time? Let’s just say the chances are slim unless maybe you’re all in a happy place in the middle of Disney World. Except we’ve never been to Disney World.

Parenting a pre-teen or teen can feel like mothering Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at the same time, and goodness knows you’re never quite sure which one you’re going to get. If hormones could make me vomit, sleep all the time, and other behaviors associated with pregnancy, it’s no wonder they produce dramatic results in my kids at this age. Sometimes it’s this thought alone that has spared the life of a wayward child.



My pre-teen daughter and I head-butt a lot; from her point-of-view, everything I say or do is designed to persecute her. I know it’s the age, but that doesn’t make it any easier or less discouraging and I’m sure that how I’m feeling rarely enters her mind.

But on those rare occasions when it does . . . 

Last summer she wrote me a letter that I call the Sorry letter. It begins, “Dear Mom, i’m so sorry for allways being so rude and mean,” and ends with “all I’m saying is i’m sorry, and i hope you will forgive me!” followed by two checkboxes, one for yes and one for no. The two page letter contains the word sorry twelve times. Twelve. Sorry for being a bad sister, lazy in school, whining, being disrespectful; she even says she’s sorry for not always eating the food I put in front of her.

On those days when motherhood is rough, when I want to toss in the proverbial towel and quit, this letter makes a difference. I don’t have to open and read it anymore; just seeing it is enough because I know what’s in it: evidence of a contrite heart and a repentant spirit. 

Knowing it’s there—no matter how deeply buried—enables me to push through the muck. I’ve glimpsed what shines beneath, waiting to emerge someday on the other side of puberty and hormones and mother/daughter clashes.

And it’s worth the wait.

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