To My Daughter
I hope you enjoy reading this piece. It comes in the form of a letter Jeanne wrote to her daughter. I found the words beautiful, and I can’t help thinking how helpful this advice is. Not only for marriage but also all the other significant relationships we enter into and want to maintain.
A Letter to My Daughter, On the Eve of Her Wedding – By Jeanne Darling
Several years ago, I wrote a letter about relationships. I addressed it to my daughter on the eve of her marriage. Since then, I have thought about sending it to her again. Like when she feels overwhelmed with the hard work of balancing her career and family. My daughter now has two children, a full-blown career, a new house and an ambitious husband. They all demand attention, and this is made harder with Covid. Yet, as the mother of a mother and a mother-in-all, I know I need to step back and let my daughter carve out her solutions.
I recognise that my daughter’s letter to her daughter may read very differently in years to come. Nevertheless, I still stand by what I thought and felt and wrote in my letter. Indeed, even more so under current circumstances. My husband and I are now trying to carve out retirement under Covid conditions, facing the ugliness of cancer and struggling to get old gracefully. Abiding relationships – the kind we hope for when we pledge ourselves to another are not easy. But they are possible.
My dear daughter,
I feel I should be imparting some wisdom – isn’t that what mothers should do on the eve of their child’s wedding?
After all, I may not get the chance in the future if I am to be a well-behaved mother-in-law! But I don’t feel too wise, and I don’t know how to prepare you for this adventure. It is too individual, too personal for me to tell you how it will be. I can only share some of my lessons over the many years of marriage to your father. And I hope you will indulge me this one last time.
When I stood before a young man as a young woman, I did not dare to speak the traditional wedding vows.
I had to write my own. I could neither foresee nor control what might happen in our future together. So, I could not promise everlasting love. What I did vow was – to try to the best of my ability, and with all my heart and mind, to resolve whatever issue we would face together to preserve our partnership.
It is a vow that has seen us through all these years. For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. And it may well continue “till death do us part”.
The fact that we are still together after all these years is not necessarily because we have led an exemplary life of wedded bliss. But because largely, we have been privileged in not being strained beyond our mental or emotional resources. Additionally, we did not have to face tragedies, broken dreams or ill health. Consequently, we were able to fulfil our dream of watching our children grow into successful adults.
The years were not always smooth, and we sometimes had to sit and re-assess our status.
In essence, we had to stop and think – and re-commit ourselves to our partnership. Remarkably, the question we had to answer each time was not about the partnership but ourselves.
“Who do I want to be? What do I want in life?”
We had to answer these questions even before “Do I take this person to have and hold?”
We have consistently urged you to look within yourself and decide what is best for you.
That is neither selfish nor narcissistic.
It is crucial to make all the sacrifices. Put in the hard work and make the compromises needed for a career, life with another person, and someday perhaps, children. But knowing that you willingly choose your life with another frees you up to dismiss petty annoyances and disagreements. Or the inevitable friction that arises when family cultures, values and upbringings clash.
It would help if you had a deep commitment or desire to forge a life with another person. Otherwise, you will find it easy to throw up your hands and give up. A committed partnership is a guarantee “for better, for worse.” It doesn’t mean that you won’t ever feel like giving up. Nevertheless, you will weigh the option with enormous care. And you will find yourself doing everything in your power to overcome obstacles before making a final decision.
I have no regrets that I took on the intimacy and complexity of a relationship with your father.
It seems trite to say that my life is far richer for it on balance. But the measure of my marriage is indeed not only in what I gave to it but what I received as well. And clearly, one of the true gifts of our life together was you.
Your father and I have learned so much about ourselves and our role as parents from you.
Now, as a mature, independent woman, you have made a choice. Among many other options, to move forward with your life at the side of someone you love. And so, on your wedding day, now and forever, we will be there, standing behind you – and if there are tears in our eyes, they are tears of pure pride, happiness and deep, abiding love.
Your mother – till death do us part.
The BCT Blog is incredibly grateful to Jeanne for her generosity and ongoing support of the BCT.
Jeanne Darling is a retired educator, having taught children for over twenty-five years in Basel. She continues working with children, offering “Story Times” and workshops at several schools and libraries. She also wrote the children’s illustrated book “Basel’s Hidden Stories”.