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The original essay by Natalie can be found on the Military Moms Blog.


Dear Mom,

From the moment I can remember, you have always kissed me goodnight, goodbye or even good luck. I have ducked, dodged, avoided and even (gasp) brushed off your kisses. They were a mushy show of affection that only a mother could give, and since I was a teenager, I have hated the impending doom of having a peck planted on my face.

I can still recall growing anxious thinking of creative ways to say goodnight without getting close enough to risk being caught in another kiss on the cheek. All of this makes me sound like a pretty terrible kid, maybe even an ungrateful daughter. But, let me assure you that my avoidance was not time wasted.

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You see, after years of evading your affection, I finally get it Mom.

For the first time, I can truly put myself in your shoes and it has taught me a priceless lesson.

It’s difficult to imagine now, but I was once your delicate, precious, vulnerable little human who so desperately needed your love and protection. You gave up your sleep, your body, and your freedom to see to it that I was safe and loved.

You kissed me because you couldn’t help but have love overflowing so much that the physical expression of this love became your gentle kiss on my cheek. It wasn’t a choice you got to make, it was an instinct you had to follow.

As I grew up, eventually moved away, got married and we both aged several more years, your kisses turned into something of an endearing novelty. I actually began to appreciate that we had fewer of these kisses ahead of us than we had behind us and that was an emotional realization. Yet, even though I no longer fought off your affection, I still wasn’t fully on board with receiving it either.

Until late one November night, a tiny baby girl entered the world and when she was placed on my chest in that delivery room. I instinctively looked down at her downy baby curls and planted a long-awaited kiss on her precious little head.

It was the kind of kiss only a mother could give and that’s when it hit me.

This tiny being was the exact same thing I was for you decades ago, long before I grew an attitude, an opinion and my independence.

There it was—the veil of understanding was lifted in an instant. It took more than 30 years and finally having a daughter of my own to fully grasp the weight of what has driven you to love me all of these years.

I get that now. I truly understand. I just wish I had appreciated it sooner.

Looking back at our relationship through the lens of my newfound mom-perspective, I am struck with both joy and pain. I delight in the fact that I am following the same pattern of outpouring affection on my baby girl, as you still do for me. But, it pains me to think that one day she may recoil from my love as I once did to you.

I’m guessing this description isn’t far from what you once felt, and likely still do feel, for me? Is that why you still say, “Miss you” when we hang up from our calls, despite having just spoken the day before?

When will it end? Will I ever regain control of my senses and my emotions? Probably not, as evidenced by your enduring care, concern, and devotion as my mom even to this day.

As I stand on the other side of the divide between what I once believed and what I now know, I see the valuable knowledge that I will hopefully carry with me in the decades ahead with my daughter. If the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, she will more than likely start ducking and dodging my kisses one day (too soon I’m afraid).

But I also know that the greatest gift I can give her is the consistent reinforcement that she is loved beyond measure.

It’s ultimately not up to me, it’s my heart that’s leading the way, and I am at its mercy to try and keep up.

So, despite my many years of stubborn refusal, thank you for showing me how much I am loved and how to show that love to my own children.

I never knew something I hated so much could actually be something I loved.

xoxo

Me

P.S. I’m really sorry I hated your kisses.

Military Moms Blog is a national parenting website written by military moms for military moms. Our mission is to connect, support and uplift military parents around the world, including all branches of military, spouses, active duty and retired; to provide information and parenting perspectives unique to the military community, and to help promote businesses and brands that are perfect for the military family.

We are a collaborative blog that covers everything from moving, travel, employment and parenting to coping with deployments, finding military deals and navigating military acronyms. In short, we are the one-stop resource for moms raising kids while balancing military life.

When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.

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The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.



As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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