I Did Not Break You: a love letter from a mother to her daughter (and her daughter’s response)

Posted December 17, 2015 

I’m honored to present two poems that have touched me deeply this year. Please leave your comments for both authors. I know they would love to hear from you.

I Did Not Break You


Randi S. Cairns

I come from broken.

I come from “be quiet” and “know your place”.

I come from “don’t be seen” and “do as you’re told”.

I come from secrets and broken promises and scars.

And yet there you are.

You live in high volume.

You sing in the shower, and the car, and anywhere your voice will carry.

You dance in public.

You look in the mirror and smile at your reflection.

You paint in bright colors and outside of the lines.

You speak candidly.

You defy respectfully.

You share your heart freely.

I look at you with amazement.

How did you come from me?

You so whole and me so broken?

You stand in defiance to the idea that the universe hates me.

How could a universe that hates me give me such a gift?

I wonder at the magic of all you are and all you will become.

And marvel that all of my dark and twisty places have not diminished your light.

When I have taken my last breath, my greatest accomplishment will be this.

I did not break you.


An Unconventional Love Letter (A Response)


Katherine A. Cairns

You are not broken.

You’ve felt loss.

You’ve been bruised.

You’ve been beaten down.

But you are not broken.

You have given life… and saved it.

You’ve brought college graduates, musicians, and artists into the world.

You’ve given voices to those who could not speak for themselves.

You are not broken.

You have, however, been given a broken ship.

The sails were torn and the bottom full of holes.

You were set to sea in choppy waters.

But this does not make you broken.

With no crew but yourself you have kept that ship afloat.

Exhausted from trying to keep the water at bay?

…A lesser woman would have sunk.

A broken boat does not a broken captain make.

I will be your anchor.

I will be your safe harbor.

For you have been mine.

I was given a mighty ship, but did not know how to sail.

You were my anchor.

You were my safe harbor.

And I learned how to sail by a captain who had been through choppy waters.

With a boat full of holes and sails torn.

A mighty ship and calm waters do not a good sailor make.

You are not broken.

You are fierce.

You are brave.

Your ship does not define you.

I have heard your heartbeat from inside.

You are not broken.

Randi S. Cairns

Randi Cairns is a nonprofit professional, consultant and freelance writer. She is one of the coauthors of Stories Around the Table and a frequent blogger in the military spouse space. She has written for NextGen MilSpouse, Spouse Buzz, Homefront United Network, and the Military Family Advisory Network. While she wears many hats, Randi’s favorite gig is parenting the world’s four greatest children.

Katherine A. Cairns

Katie Cairns in her junior year of college, majoring in Business. She shares her mother’s love of words.

Randi explains why she wrote her piece:

I grew up “hard” and way too quickly. I vowed that when I had children of my own – they’d grow up “easy” and at their own pace. I had no real frame of reference for the right way to raise your kids, but I knew for sure what didn’t work. I created a backwards guidebook and promised myself that if I simply did the opposite of everything I knew, my future offspring might have a chance. Then I crossed my fingers and prayed.

My prayers were answered with four amazing munchkins who every day remind me how blessed I am. No really – every day I hear some version of, “Aren’t you lucky to have us?” I agree with them wholeheartedly. They were the inspiration for the first part of this piece. When I shared what I had written with my first born, Katie, she responded in kind with the most beautiful words I’ve ever read. Her response (given with her permission and blessing) is the second poem.