Kelly Corrigan lives in Oakland, California with her husband and two daughters. She recently spoke at the North Shore American Cancer Society Women’s Board Luncheon to a sold-out, enraptured audience.
The following are exerpts from her just released book, “Lift,” which is a letter to her young daughters.
Perfect Love From An Imperfect Mother: An Honest Mother’s Letter To Her Children
Excerpts from “Lift” by Kelly Corrigan, copyright 2010
“Dear Georgia and Claire,
You’re both in bed now. Dad, too. I should be sleeping but I’m wound up…
I don’t know when you’ll read this. Maybe when you’re a teenager? No, probably later, when you’re on the verge of parenthood and it occurs to you for the first time that someone has been loving you for that long.
Maybe (let’s hope not) you’ll read it because something’s happened to one of us – my cancer came back or Dad was reading a text going across the Bay Bridge and cars collided – and you want to piece together what it was like before. No matter when and why this comes to your hands, I want to put down on paper how things started [and are] with us.
I always wanted kids – more than all other things…
So many mistakes [by mothers] are made.
I see how that happens now, how we all create future work for our kids by checking our cell phones while you are mid-story or sticking you in the basement to watch a movie because we love you but we don’t really want to be with you anymore that day, or coming unhinged over all manner of spilt milk – wet towels, unflushed toilets, lost brand-new! whatevers.
Almost every day I yell at one of you so loudly that my throat hurts afterward. That’s why I keep lozenges in practically every drawer in the house. I hold it together and hold it together and then, when the bickering picks up again, I just detonate…
If John Lennon was right that life is what happens when you’re making other plans, parent-hood is what happens when everything is flipped over and spilling everywhere and you can’t find a towel or a sponge or your “inside” voice. But if my temper has made you hesitant or tentative, is there any atoning for that? …
There are other mistakes, less obvious. I don’t mirror your emotions enough, though I can’t say why because when I do, it seems to calm you down. I forget to praise your effort instead of your achievement, I discipline by carrot and stick instead of reason, and I ignore the indisputable research about the benefits of family dinner…
My default answer to everything is no. As soon as I hear the inflection of inquiry in your voice, the word no forms in my mind, sometimes accompanied by a reason, often not.
Can I open the mail? No.
Can I wear your necklace? No.
When is dinner? No.
What you probably wouldn’t believe is how much I want to say yes…
This tug-of-war often obscures what’s also happening between us. I am your mother, first mile of your road. Me and all my obvious and hidden limitations. That means that in addition to possibly wrecking you, I have the chance to give to you what was given to me: a decent childhood, more good memories than bad, some values, a sense of a tribe, a run at happiness. You can’t imagine how seriously I take that – even as I fail you.
Mothering you is the first thing of consequence that I have ever done.”
Photos: Shannon Weasler ACS Women’s Board member and event co-chair of Glenview; author Kelly Corrigan; Megan Galante event co-chair of Glenview. Photo by Rolfes Photography.
ACS Women’s Board members: Jan Evans of Winnetka, Andrea Hurteau of Winnetka, Shannon Weasler of Glenview, Megan Galante of Glenview, Diane House of Deerfield, Susan Felitto of Winnetka. Photo by Rolfes Photography.
Kelly Corrigan, Jan Evans (North Shore Woman’s Board Member) and Make It Better founder Susan B. Noyes. Photo by Rolfes Photography.