Priceless

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When my daughter was three years old her father and I got divorced. I'm the one that wanted out of the marriage. I knew that when I asked him for a divorce he would disappear out of our lives for a period of time. That's how he dealt with things. I knew that it would be hard on my daughter, but it had come to the point that I knew staying would be more damaging and so I asked for a divorce.

The next day my daughter and I came home to an almost empty house and he was gone. The last thing he said to my daughter was I will see you tomorrow. In the end there were more than 365 tomorrows before she would see him.

A week after asking for a divorce I lost my job. It's funny how life goes like that. Losing my job was a tough blow. I had counted on the stability of our life and living by family to help my daughter through the loss of her dad in her daily life.

Within a week we were moving to Huntington Beach, California. I had a new job and as it would turn out this job would provide the stability my daughter needed to see her through. It has been 14 years and we are still in Huntington Beach and life is good by the beach.

After Brianna's dad left she really struggled with being away from me. She thought that I wouldn't come back. A fairly good assumption considering what happened with her dad. She started having a lot of anxiety and wouldn't even stay at my moms, a place she had loved to go and spend the night in the past.

I found a counselor for both of us. He turned out to be a pretty amazing counselor and he gave me some advice that has proven to be priceless. He said that I should never talk bad about Brianna's father. She is half of him and if I talk bad about him, then I am talking bad about her. If he is bad in essence, she is bad. He also said that wether her dad chose to be a part of her life or not that I needed to teach Brianna to love him. We should send him birthday cards and Christmas cards even if we didn't have an address.

Love isn't something that is earned, love is something we give. This wasn't about her dad and how deserving he was of love. This was about Brianna and who she was. It was about teaching Brianna to love.

If as parents we are talking bad about our ex's or our spouses in front of our children or to our children we are robbing them of the ability to just love them. Our marriage problems are not our children's problem and we should keep them out of it.

We have to take the good with the bad and I know if I would've spent the last 14 years blaming every wrong in our lives on him and our divorce and what he did or didn't do, then Brianna and I would not be who we are or where we are today.

Rising above my circumstance and taking the high road has given Brianna the ability to rise above it as well. We are not our circumstance but if all we talk about is our sad story and the unfortunate events of our lives... where do you think that will take us or are children. I have some pretty sad stories in my life, but the last thing I wanted was Brianna to feel like she was the result of all that had gone bad in my life.

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The day finally came that Brianna's dad was ready to see her. We agreed to meet at the mall and I thought she would just go with him for the day and he could bring her home. When we got there Brianna was nervous. It had been more than a year and she didn't want me to leave.

This really bothered Brianna's dad and I knew in that moment that if I didn't offer to spend the day with them she might not ever see him again. I could've made this about me and my anger or about him and his inability to show up but this day was about my daughter and her need to see and love her dad.

He was who he was and that wasn't changing anytime soon. I offered to go with them and do whatever he wanted. So we went to a park and I sat on the bench and let them play, we went and ate and then he bought her a pink barbie electric jeep and the rest was history.

There are a lot of things about this whole story that I could've been mad about. There are some very valid reasons for me to be mad, angry, and hurt. I get that. I could've refused to spend the day with them. I could've done and said a lot of things to him, about him and about our failed marriage.

This wasn't about me or about him though this was about a little girl that wanted and needed to see her dad. She needed to love her dad. At the heart of all of this hard stuff was this amazing little girl and I wanted more for her, better for her. I didn't want her circumstance to effect the outcome of her life so I took the high road and believe me sometimes it required a lot of hiking to reach that road.

As my daughter reaches adulthood the biggest lesson I have learned from this road is that you can't teach your children tolerance if you aren't tolerant, you can't teach your children to love, if you don't love, you can't teach your children anything that you can't, don't or won't do in your own life. You cannot give or teach your children what you don't have or don't know or won't do in your own life.

The one thing I always felt in my heart of hearts is that I couldn't ask or expect my daughter to do or live a certain way if I weren't attempting to do it as well. It's easy to say I'm the parent or I'm the adult but before you know it you will have high school children that are adults.

It's a slippery slope when we tell our children not to do something and then we do that very thing. Drinking is a perfect example of this. It's hard to tell your children not to drink as they watch you. You can't give your children a list of should's and then go off and do the opposite no matter what it is. Our example of tolerances teaches our children to be tolerant. Our example of sobriety teaches our children sobriety. Our example of love teaches our children to love. Our example of doing hard things teaches them they can do hard things. Our example of all thats good and all thats bad is what is teaching our children. Our example is so much more powerful than our words.

The gift of allowing my daughter to love her dad has been priceless. Allowing her to form her own opinions and judgements about the situation has given her strength and courage in her own life. My daughter, her dad and I still hang out together when she see's him. We go to dinner, shopping whatever. He opens the door for me when I get in the car, we talk, we laugh, we have a really good time. She loves him. She needs him. She needs the time we spend together. For those few hours we are a family and it is good for all of us.

I Believe In You

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Today my beautiful daughter Brianna turns 17. It is a day full of bitter-sweet for me. I'm so proud of her and thrilled to see her growing into this beautiful woman; yet it is also sad because I know that my days with her in my home are numbered. One day, she will leave and build a beautiful life of her own. I remember when she was young and my friends with teenagers would say, "Enjoy it--it goes by way too fast."  At the time, I was recently divorced with a toddler and it didn't feel like it was going by very fast at all.   In fact, some days felt like they would never end. Yet here I am on my last year and believe me when I say, "Enjoy it--it goes by way too fast." Once Brianna leaves my home it will never be just the two of us and it will never be the same again.

When I had Brianna it was at the tail end of about a decade of very difficult times. Life hadn't gone according to plan and I made a lot of poor choices and was struggling to figure things out. Yet I was smart enough to know that this little girl was a miracle and from the day that she was born I have treated our life together as such. I had my share of regrets in life but one regret I wouldn't have was how I raised my daughter. I have based every decision I have made in raising her on what was best for her. My decisions haven't been about what I needed or wanted. They have always been about what she needed. I have made a lot of sacrifices on her behalf. Every sacrifice has blessed my life a million times over. Brianna has grown into this amazing woman. She is beautiful. She is smart. She is wise beyond her years. She has this amazing laugh. She is athletic. She is a leader. She has such self-confidence and she knows who she is and what she wants in life. She is full of life and lights up the room. She is the one her friends turn to when they have a problem. She loves babies and would do just about anything to hold a baby. She is a light in world of darkness. She is all that is good in this world and more.

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The other night as I watched Brianna sleep I shed more than a few tears.  At 17 she is the same age that I was when I got raped. I realized just how young and innocent I was when life went so bad. My heart hurt for me and all that I had gone through at such a young age. My heart hurt thinking about Brianna's life ahead and knowing that along with the good there would be bad. You can't have the joy without the pain. I would do absolutely anything to save Brianna from the hardships that this life holds for her but I also know that some of my best qualities and greatest strengths have come as a result of hardships. Sitting on the bed crying and watching Brianna sleep I wished that I could hold her in this time and this place and protect her from the world that awaits. Knowing that I can't and that I have to let her go live her life in spite of what might happen I realized that the best gift I could give Brianna was to let her know I believe in her.

There is great power in having someone believe in you. Just one person is all it takes. This world would be a better place if everyone had someone that believed in them. When life knocks us down the first thing we question is ourselves and our belief in ourselves and our ability to pull through. Having someone that believes in us gives us that safe place to figure out the hardest of days. So Brianna on your 17th birthday I want you to know that I believe in you. I have always believed in you and maybe that's part of why you are who you are today.

I believe in you on your best days, but even more so on your worst days. I believe in you every day for the rest of your life. I believe that you have inside of you all that you need to see you through in this life with all that it holds. I believe that you have what you need to be able to make the decisions that will best serve you and someday your own family. I believe that no matter what hardships you experience that you will always rise above them. I believe that you will do amazing things. I believe that you will be an amazing wife and mother. I also want you to know that I am always here for you. There is not one thing that you could say or do that would change the way I feel about you or how much I love you and believe in you. I will hold your hand when you go off to college, get married and when you have all of your babies. I will hold your hand on your best days and I will hold your hand and wipe away the tears on your worst days. I believe in you and who you are and who you will become.