She learned that from me

Like Mother Like Daughter

She — the girl closer than my skin, the one I love as deep as an ocean and higher than the mountaintops and everything big and bold and bright — she is so much like me that I ache.

Feelings hurt, she explodes back into the house, taking it out on anyone, anything, screaming to diffuse some of the pain twisting her heart.

She learned that from me.

Proud of the outfit she put together, she marches into the van for school, sparkly sequined hat and all, and then just before we pull up to school dropoff she pulls the hat off, casts it aside, smooths her hair, wary.

She learned that from me.

Asking tentatively, because she’s already put it on, if she can wear eyeshadow today because “I want to look pretty today, mama,” and my heart breaks open and I even get a little angry as I repeat “You are ALWAYS pretty, honey,” and not today.

She learned that from me.

And just tonight, when I encouraged her to eat her last bites of dinner because she’s growing and I don’t want her to be hungry later, she says she needs to lose weight because her tummy sticks out too much.

My heart drops completely through the floor, my protective instincts rear up and I want to defend her from this lie, from whoever told her this, from the evil lurking, from the cynicism and pain that’s already knocking at her door — and then I realize that it’s me. It’s me she needs protection from. I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned my desire to drop these extra 20 pounds in her presence, because I’m fairly careful, but even if I didn’t say those words, I know:

She learned that from me.

And it all crystallizes: I cannot give her what I do not have. What I do have, I pass on to her whether I mean to or not.

The hardest part? Is that the solution can’t be motivated by her. I have to cultivate self-love and self-compassion from within, and it has to be directed within. She can inspire it, but it can’t be about her. How easy that would be — I would scale that mountain in a day if I knew it was for her. But for it to really be genuine and true, it has to be for me. For me, in me, so that it can naturally flow out of me.

So that when I see her show such amazing empathy for people around her, I can say

She learned that from me.

When she becomes bolder in her choices and surer of her own likes, I’ll guess that maybe

She learned that from me.

When she cares about health because of a respectful relationship with her body and with food, oh how I long to be able to say

She learned that from me.

This — this learning self-love because I cannot afford to be selfish about not caring anymore — this is one of the hardest things I will ever do. But I’m inspired by the love I have for her, and pushed on by the love I see in all of their eyes, love for me, acceptance of me, embracing of me, and I know I’m on step one of a marathon, but I will keep going,

And then the perseverance, the hope and leaning into the pain

She can learn that from me, too.


Linking with Heather and Emily.

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29 comments on “She learned that from me

  1. Sarah says:

    Kim, it’s so hard being a parent, isn’t it? Always questioning ourselves asking if we’re doing the right thing, saying the right words, showing a good example and then they do something that reminds us of ourselves and we cringe because we know they learned that from us.

    I’m glad you are able to recognize the wonderful things she has learned from you! This was a great blog post and a fantastic reminder that little eyes and little hearts are always watching and learning from us!

    Thank you!

  2. Sarah Bessey says:

    This is one of the hardest and truest parts of mothering, isn’t it? This is brave and beautiful, Kim. I remember the day that I realised that they are learning from who I am *right now* instead of who I wish could be. And because it’s in the home, they see the “real us” too, don’t they? Argh. I’m so right there with you. But just so you know, I’m figuring out the grace in all of this too, the grace of how God leads us and is gentle with us as we grow up right along with them. And there is grace that I’m not their only conduit of the Spirit – they have others in their life, whether it’s grandparents or aunties or friends or my friends or Sunday school and all of it whirled up together – to help and to follow and to learn from as well. It’s not all on us and that is both terrifying for the loss of control and freeing for the very same reason. You’re an excellent mother and every word you’ve written here, is in my own heart, too. Thank you for this.

    • Yes, I’m growing up right along with her, and thank God — and oh, God — that there are other influences outside of my brokenness.

      Here’s the other thing I realized after posting this morning: How I deal with the shame I felt as she said those words is part of the healing process, for her and for me. That I’m naming the shame I felt, blogging about it and letting it go, is building my resilience and loosening the grip of the shame that clenched around my heart.

      At first I was going to comment and say the shame that was there is part of the problem… but no. Seeing it and standing up in it is part of the solution. It’s so subtle, I feel like I’m learning a new language.

  3. Kim. This is raw truth, which is often the most beautiful.

    I think what Sarah said is important: Grace covers our brokenness, and the more we live in it, the more we create a foundation for what our daughters (and sons). Because even if we were perfect, they will have their own battles. In a way, giving them the tools and teaching them how to fight back and listen to truth is the best we can do.

    Hugs to you, sweet lady. (When are you coming to the Twin Cities next? I want to have coffee.)

    • Yes, Kelly — thank God I’m covered in grace, and there is grace enough for all of us, many times over. She’ll learn a lot of things from me, intentional and not, but I need to put grace at the top of my ‘intentional’ list.

      We need to have that coffee! I’ll email/twitter msg you. 🙂

  4. Beautifully written and thought-provoking. Thank you.

  5. stacey says:

    I have to smile because I wrote a post about my Evie being like me a few weeks ago. I appreciate your words and honesty, like always.

    I have been struggling through and learning right along with you. I think blogging about stuff and letting it go is part of how I heal, too.

    • Part of grace is that we learn things together, side by side, at the same time, don’t you think? I’m always amazed at how my struggle, which seemed so personal, turns out to be so universal. We’re all fighting a great battle, and it’s sweet relief to look over and see so many brave, beautiful women fighting right alongside me.

  6. Elaine A. says:

    You are so right, we have to start by loving ourselves, for them. This is beautiful.

  7. these lessons. these hard truths, being spoken right back into our open mouths… man. you are brave and beautiful in my book, Kim. Always. Your daughter will learn this from you as well. Keep this honest conversation for her, for you, for us all. xoxoxo

  8. CJ says:

    We can love them with all that we have and all that we are, but they will grow to think of themselves the way we think of ourselves. But even in this, I find a gift. If I can’t love me for me, I can love me for her…..the means justify the ends!

  9. brian miller says:

    smiles…our kids do pick up on everything that we do…and we have to be intentional in our own lives so that they can…learn that from us….it is eye opening sometimes to realize some of the thing they have picked up…i am glad though that you acknowledge as well the good things she learned from you…and where you are going…smiles.

    • Thanks, Brian. Yes, my default is to notice all the negative habits or thought patterns they may be picking up from me, but part of self-love, actually, is to notice the good, the beautiful and the true that they’ve learned from my heart, too.

  10. oh, this is poignant and a little too close to my heart. i see my follies mirrored little and my breath catches and it does ache.

    “i cannot give her what i do not have.” i am tucking away this truth and challenge.

    • Yes, Suzannah — sometimes it feels like a twinge, sometimes a socking punch to the gut, but it’s always breath-catching and it always aches. Thanks for your kind words. It’s beautiful to know that we’re in this together.

  11. Ostriches says:

    Oh my. This was…amazing. It sums up my parenting troubles. My sins and weaknesses that I hand down all day long. I want so much better for my children. I want Christ for my children.

    • That’s really the truth, isn’t it? How can I be Christ to them? And Christ loves me in a way I cannot fathom, yet to be faithful I must live out that love, live in the truth of it, drink it in so I can pour it out.

  12. This piece broke my heart just a little as I thought about the things my daughters learned from me that weren’t always good. I pray that they learned some good things also and these are the things that will remain. Beautifully, beautifully shared.

    • When I posted this on Facebook, one of my dear aunts (who has four daughters, my fave cousins ever) said that there are so many things she sees in her daughters now that she admires, that she knows they didn’t learn from her. There’s still grace to cover us, and there’s more of it than we know. That was very comforting for me, and a good reminder: It’s not just up to me. Thank God it’s not all made, or broken, on my shoulders.

  13. oh my goodness. this speaks right to me. having battled anorexia i have so many fears of passing on my insecurities to my children, and even though i want to have a daughter one day, i’m glad, for the present, i don’t… because of this. kim, i would love to highlight this post, either at my eating disorders blog ( or in a book i’m writing called “mom in the mirror” with dr. dena cabrera… woudl this be okay with you? if so, could you email it to me? thank you friend. xo

    • Emily, yes, maybe so! Let me give it some thought and I’ll email soon. xo — thank you for your sweet comment and for featuring me in your ‘featured links’ post. I’ve been constantly linking to your stuff on my FB author page, but I don’t know how to tag you from that one so you probably don’t see them. But I do! You’re writing some really beautiful stuff lately, as usual. much love to you, friend!

  14. r.elliott says:

    This is just wonderful…I struggled with so much self image issues…my first born was a great motivator to allow God in to heal…I so did not want her to learn these things from me…God is faithful…my daughter has a very healthy self-image…He is bigger than our short comings…just keep praying and let God teach you HIs ways. Blessings as you continue to mother well~

    • Thank you so much — you’re right. He’s bigger than my failures, and his grace is enough for today, for that situation, for everything I need in this moment.

  15. Janelle says:

    Oh thank you for baring your rawness and realness and truth. For it’s my truth, yet I’m not brave enough to admit it to the world, even if I know it myself.


  16. sarah says:

    There are so much in our kids that says “she learned that from me.” All too often, I asked myself if I have done the right thing,,made the right choices . But each and every time that I tell my kids that I am not perfect , and they try to understand, I feel so loved believing enough that I may not be a bad parent after all.

    • Yes. Even with this post, I know I’m focusing too much on striving, figuring out how to be better, fixing something, when I know — grace covers it ALL. Thank God. It doesn’t get made or broken based on my ability, because there is enough grace. Sweet relief! (And yes, I’m not so bad after all… I’m getting to the point of believing that one. Some day.)

  17. kara says:

    This is wonderful truth with some hard transparency, I’m sure. Thank you, Thank you!! for sharing it and so beautifully crafting it with these words.

    My favorite: ” And it all crystallizes: I cannot give her what I do not have. What I do have, I pass on to her whether I mean to or not.
    The hardest part? Is that the solution can’t be motivated by her. I have to cultivate self-love and self-compassion from within, and it has to be directed within. She can inspire it, but it can’t be about her. How easy that would be — I would scale that mountain in a day if I knew it was for her. But for it to really be genuine and true, it has to be for me. For me, in me, so that it can naturally flow out of me.”

    Regina Franklin wrote a book: Who Calls Me Beautiful?” This reminds me of that.