At Sammy’s graduation, I was given the chance to speak to her and share what it meant for me to be her mother. I have decided to put my speech here so that I may have my words for the future and in case it may encourage other mothers as they navigate the sometimes difficult road of parenting.
What can I say about Sammy Joy, my baby? She has taught me so much about myself and what honest love looks like. I had two, very good girls when Sammy came into our family. And because my two girls behaved as they were “supposed to” and did everything at the “right” time and in the “right” way, I was confident that I was a good mother. Sammy would teach me that a good mother has nothing to do with the actions and behaviors of the child, but the consistent love of the mother.
When she was a baby, her feeding time was at the same time as our church service. I would sit in the nursing room with her and several other mamas and their little ones. All of the babies would nurse in a sweet, delicate way while Sammy sounded more like a hungry Texan devouring a large steak. At first, I would sit there wishing she could nurse in a more quiet way, but I learned to not care what other relationships between mothers and babies looked like and not to care what other mothers might be thinking about my children. I learned that my relationship with my children would look different and that it was ok. It was more than ok, it was perfect for us.
As she reached toddlerhood she would share everything that was on her mind. And while that was a lot of information, the number of questions she would ask usually doubled her time speaking. I loved listening to her talk. Not only were her ideas and point of view fantastically broad, she had a darling little accent. She sounded like a little girl straight out of Boston. I remember one mother commenting on if I was going to do anything about her speech impediment. I was shocked. The mother’s words bothered me for days. I remember the morning of her going on and on about one of her many pet insects. And as each vowel was said with some laziness and each R sound had that perfect Boston flare, I smiled and saw she was perfect just as she was. I knew that pointing out the small details of her speech would stifle her speech and make her talk less. Sammy taught me to listen to people, really listen. Sometimes they can’t say it perfectly and it might even sound a little broken to some, but if you listen carefully you can understand and better love the people around you.
As she grew into a little girl, she became independent and seemed to naturally live in the freedom of herself. I was stunned by her courage to always be exactly who she was without changing because someone else might not like what they see or how her freedom makes them feel. I learned to not only protect her freedom but to create that freedom in my own soul. She taught me that not everyone will like me, but that should never change who God created me to be. She taught me that it wasn’t my job to make myself easy to love, it was my job to love easily.
As she grew into a teenager, I watched as she became aware of her and other’s more difficult places to love. Sammy has taught me what it is to be brave. I used to believe that bravery was without fear or acknowledging any fear. Watching Sammy navigate the more difficult places of herself, fully acknowledging her brokenness, fear, and weaknesses have shown me what true bravery is. She feels each step. She feels the fear. She feels and mourns her own brokenness. She sees her weaknesses and instead of trying to hide it, she allows others to see it and expects the love and grace all of us deserve. This is true bravery. To allow others to know us fully, expecting love and understanding in return. Sammy, you have taught me to be brave and to allow others to love me honestly.
The last three years, I have had the honor and pleasure of Sammy being my only student. These years have helped me see how she is no longer a child, but a woman. She has been my constant companion and friend. And while we sit here today to celebrate all that she has learned and accomplished, it is me that has learned so much from her. Thank you, Sammy Joy, for helping me love myself and others better. I can’t wait to see what God has for you. I know you will change lives with your powerful, honest, consistent love and acceptance.