You are not who you were.

Dear Sweet Girl,

Back in the olden days, there was no internet. If I were the praying type, I would fall on my knees and thank the good Lord for that piece of divine providence. I sometimes imagine situations I was in while in my teens and early 20’s that, if they were up on YouTube, would completely have ruined my life. Love, please understand this truth: The internet is FOREVER.

But let’s also get another thing straight here: you are not who you were. You are you, and you are fine, and you are good. Your life does not need to be “tainted” by things that happened in your youth. I am a person that had a youth and young adulthood that is miles, leagues, eons away from where I am now. I did good things and I did bad things. I had fun and I got hurt. I hurt others, badly. I was bullied and I was the bully. I feigned teenage angst and arrogance like I was gunning for a scholarship to Asshole University. I spent time with people who were good and bad. People who cared, and people who couldn’t have cared less about the world and the people around them. Some were seriously great companions. Some I can’t even remember the names of. I see some of them on Facebook and they are still talking about the same parties, and listening to the same music, and hating the same people. Are they bad for that? Not in a million years. But what it is is that so many have decided that those years were the absolute best they’re ever going to have. There’s no use in even trying to get better than that day.

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I am not who I was then. A lot of who I was came from dishonesty and the need to fit in somewhere. You will also, at some point, likely compromise who you are and what you feel in order to please someone. I can tell you that you shouldn’t do it, but you probably will anyway. I had a “friends” who actively mocked me for being Jewish. Like, they called me “heeb” and “kyke” and then hugged me and we’d have a beer. They didn’t really mean it, they’d say. And I would laugh and the shame would stay on me all day. They were joking! They were so funny! And I’d think “I have to get the fuck out of this fucking place”. And I did.

When you grow older, you will always be at the mercy of your former self in some way. You can jump a million miles away, and you will still be compared to the person you were once. Especially by people who really truly think they know you. And then you’ll come to a point that you realize that even those people don’t know you at all. I promise you, you can forge ahead and be a person you want to be, and find friends and partners who love you for your true self.

Don’t let who you were – at ANY point in your life – dictate who you want to be. Who you could be. You can reinvent yourself as many times as you need to in order to fully realize your potential as a person. You might disappoint a lot of people in your life, but the worst person you can disappoint is yourself. Constantly work on making yourself proud of your constant forward march. We’ve talked about this a lot in the past few weeks: everyone deserves another chance in our hearts.

Love,

Mommy

Daddy Issues

Dear Sweet Girl,

No one, except *maybe* Chris Farley, can match your father’s physical comedy. True, he doesn’t mean to be funny, but when he hits his head or stubs his toe or stabs himself in the hand or has another not truly serious injury, he can make Chris Farley look like Sir Lawrence Olivier. The falling over, the crashing into things, the yelling profanities (our neighbors probably think that we’ve named everything in our home “Goddamned Mother F#&*ker”, which of course were your first words), they’re all classic moves that we’ve come to love in our family.

Outside of your dad’s penchant for colorful  language, he’s also done something that I’ve never experienced: he’s a true caregiver. I mean, I’ve seen this happen before: my brothers are caregivers, but I will guarantee that wasn’t emulation. Your dad was (is) lucky enough to have grown up with a father who also cared for his children. I want you to understand how lucky this makes you.

Dad's really CAN do it all? Really?

Dad’s really CAN do it all? Really?

This may sound odd to you, but there are fathers out there who don’t care for their kids. In that they don’t actually do things to ensure their children have basic necessities, support and tenderness, or even a relationship. I’m not talking single moms, divorced parents. I’m talking people-living-in-the-same-damn-house. You are lucky. Moreover, you’re not only surrounded by YOUR engaged father, you’re surrounded by your friends’ engaged fathers. I mean, these dudes are completely on the Dad Train. Grocery shopping, kid-dropping-off, play date hosting, soccer coaching, dinner cooking Dad Train.

All of this said, why do they feel like they’re treated like bumbling idiots? Why, in your books, are the dad’s always silly, stumbling bozo’s who can barely boil water? When your friends’ Daddy asked me this the other night, after he and your daddy prepared dinner for all of the kids, I couldn’t think of a really good answer. I am really stumped to find a *GREAT* and *REAL* dad in media for young kids. He pointed out The Berenstain Bears dad being a buffoon, and I didn’t remember that being the case until I went back and re-read some of them.

I have made it my mission to find some great books that depict dad’s the way they are to you and your very lucky friends: they’re men that are present in all things, loving, positive forces in your lives. Your relationship with your dad will have SO much to do with your relationships with all men throughout your entire life. And if you can find a partner half as good as your dad, you’re on the right track, love.

And for my friend, The Potato Fluffer, here’s some books to hold you over: 20 Children’s Books Featuring Fathers.

Love,

Mommy

Don’t let the man keep you down.

Add a crown and a stethoscope and this is my Sweet Girl.

Add a crown and a stethoscope and this is my Sweet Girl.

Dear Sweet Girl,

You are so very trusting. Trust like yours comes from a life of being able to depend on people around you, and you’ve been lucky enough in your life so far to have people who have come through in a pretty big way. You believe every single thing I say, with such fervor. If I tell you that I’m going to take us all to live in the mountains and live off the land after I read a horrific story on the news, you run to pack your bags. If I say, “I’m gonna kill that guy!” when someone crosses me, you’re out in the yard digging the hole for his body. I love you for that, my little co-conspirator.

But there’s going to come a time where you realize that I exaggerate a little (read: everything) here and there (everywhere), and that I’m full of shit a good portion of the time. I really say a lot of things for the reaction, honey. I see that you’re starting to do that too. I’m going to try to reel that back a little, because it’s gotten me in some trouble in the past. I don’t want that to happen to you.

However, I want you to know that I am NOT kidding when I tell you that I want you to succeed in doing what makes you happy. While it may seem like a bad thing that your parents don’t have money, a very fancy education (or any, in my case), pedigree, or anything remotely approaching high standards, it’s actually going to be great for you when you’re choosing your path in life. There is no bar that we’ve set, at all. Remember yesterday when I was reading about some amazing scientific breakthrough? And I said, “You should be a scientist! Look how awesome this amazing thing is!” and you said “MOM DON’T TELL ME WHAT I’M GOING TO DO WHEN I’M A GROWN UP THAT’S MY CHOICE CAN I HAVE A SNACK?” What did I do? Did I push the topic? Nope. I gave you a granola bar and wiped my hands of the situation.

I’m fine with your career choice of Princess Animal Doctor Superhero. I feel that it’s what you were born to do. I will support it. Don’t let the man keep you down, honey. Be what you want. I know you were crushed when I told you that Princess wasn’t a real job (sorry Kate), but that the charity work she does IS real, and you can choose to help people like that for your job if it makes you feel good (and you don’t want any money). I would love that.

Just please follow this advice that I wish I would have been smart enough to follow: do what makes you feel good about yourself. Go to bed each night knowing the aches in your back are from something worthy. Make your mark on the world, even in the tiniest way. This has been the hardest thing for me, and I’ll write more about it to you soon. For now, keep on doing what you’re doing. Your path is well-lighted.

Love,

Mommy

Find your God.

Dear Sweet Girl,

You may have noticed by my funny accent that I’m not from around here. While I throw a “y’all” down often, I do say “coffee”, “water”, and “chocolate” much differently than the folks ’round these parts. I hail from the far off land of Long Island, made famous by Linda Richman of “Coffee Talk” and by some guys cousin named Patrick Sullivan (seriously, I’ve met like 50 people in my post-NY life that have said “OH! My cousin Pat Sullivan lives on Long Island! Do you know him?” People, Long Island has 7.5 MILLION PEOPLE. If it were a state, it would be the 13th most populous, after Virginia, and 1st in population density!!! And I bet every single person who grew up on Long Island knew someone named Pat Sullivan.)

Ok, so Long Island has been full of people for a long time, many who have moved from the city (Manhattan) and the boroughs to a more suburban, kid-friendly area. Lots of Catholics, and lots of Jews. Lots. I have the double whammy, having a Jewish father and a Catholic mother (I prefer to be called Catholish or a Jewlic), which is a common enough combo there. We were a secular family, though, and other than a quick visit into Catholicism in my tweens, I’ve been happily not religious. You are also not religious, have no idea what religion is, don’t know about God, Jesus, Allah, or any of the other players in the scene. Is this good? I dunno. I can tell you this: we’re good people, us. We treat people fairly, we do our best to think of others, we work hard to instill a sense of community and charity into you. Really, other than the fact that we rely on science for most of our moral and ethical decisions, we’re giving you the same lessons. But we do live in Texas, and some people might try to make you feel terrible for this. Here’s where you throw down some biblical knowledge on them and be all “Matthew 7:1, bitchez!” We’ll go over that soon.

Touched by His Noodly Appendage

Touched by His Noodly Appendage

But as they say, love, there’s no atheists in fox holes. When we were going through the battle-for-baby and subsequent IVF(s), we prayed the shit out of things. We prayed together, holding hands, to a god we didn’t know for some help, ANY help to have a baby. All through IVF #1, the miscarriage, the cervical cancer scare, IVF #2, the YOU, the pregnancy, the delivery, the everything. And then, we just kinda stopped. Especially when Papa got sick and moved in with us. Watching my dad die in our house should have made me want to pray. But I was beyond praying for him to get better, because we knew that wouldn’t happen, so I couldn’t very well pray for him to die, which is what he needed. Oh, baby, it was so hard. But while God gives some people so much help and comfort, he became an anvil to me. Yet another person that I had to act a certain way for. And some people will tell you that GOD IS GOOD! and FORGIVING! and LOVES YOU!, that really doesn’t matter. Because if there is a God, and I’m wrong about all of this, then fine. I’ll have that conversation on my own one day. But sweetie, don’t think for one second that the lady in line at Albertson’s gives a fiddlers fuck about you when she talks to you about being saved, and then gets into her car and cuts you off or texts in a school zone going 50 with a pro-life sticker on her SUV. The world is full of hypocrites, love. That’s one of the sad parts.

What you need is to find your own god. He or She or It needs to be where you find your comfort. Imaginary or real, if it comforts you, take it. Because the world can get mighty hinky and yucky sometimes, and sometimes you need to talk to someone who won’t talk back.

Love,

Mommy

Find your Sisters

Dear Sweet Girl,

Something you’ll find out early in life is that the young friendships you make likely won’t last a lifetime. Kids tend to make friends based upon things like mutual like of music, or because you sit near each other, or maybe because your parents are friends. When you get older, making friends will be much harder to do.

You are a girl who wears your emotions on your sleeve. No, scratch that. You push your emotions in a stroller in front of you with neon lights around it and a big sign that says “FRAGILE!” on the top. Oh, it breaks my heart to see your emotional future, love. I know you’ll be fine, but you will get hurt, too. I think that’s ok. You need a little hurt to learn how to work it the next time, right? You have some great friends now that really understand how you deal with things. Friends that will listen – and maybe roll their eyes a little – when you say things like “I really wanted to talk to you about the way you made me feel last week when you said ‘um’ to me. I got kinda sad, and thought you were being rude. I’d like for you not to do that anymore.” I hope you shake the kinks out of the blanket as you grow, and learn what to keep to yourself and what to share. And more importantly, who to share it with.

I look back on some “friends” I had when I was young, and I wish I could go back and slap myself. These people were mean, and cutting, and of absolutely zero support emotionally. I was an equally bad friend to them, because I just didn’t get it. I didn’t know how friends were supposed to act. I never had sisters, or female cousins I was close to, and I was at a deficit. Well, turns out that if your friends – just like your boyfriends – make you feel badly, or say things that are offensive to you, or make you feel unsafe, you just need to walk away.

When you get into your 20’s and 30’s, a totally new thing happens: you make friends based on the things that really, really matter. Your values, your passions, your loves, your hobbies, your beliefs are what form who you are and when you make friends based upon a mutual respect for these things, you have found your sisters.

Your great grandmother and her friends in 1935

Your great grandmother and her friends in 1935

As an only child, you will feel like you’re missing something in life. Your dad and I are lucky enough to have siblings, but that just wasn’t in the cards for you. But you know what? You will find your sisters. I am lucky enough now to have better friends to call my sisters than I’ve ever had in my life. These are strong, magnificent, brilliant women who aren’t jealous of each others success, or critical of each others failures. You will find your sisters to laugh with, and to cry with, and to yell at, and to borrow shoes from.

I have no doubt, my sweet girl, that you will find your soulmate someday. That doesn’t mean it will be a boyfriend or a husband. You may share a soul with a sister you’ve found at work, or in class, or while dropping your daughter at daycare. She’ll be there, I promise.

Love,

Mommy

A Letter to my Daughter about Rape.

Dear Sweet Girl,

Last week, a young woman went on stage and twerked. She shook her rump near a mans groin, and she stuck out her tongue, and looked like an idiot. This idiocy was cited as a reason for rape. This week, a mom blogger wrote an “FYI” to young girls everywhere letting them know that their risque pics, posed in their bedrooms where braless nipples can be seen had no place in her sons’ lives. No second chances, sweetie. A judge just gave a 49 year old man a 30 day sentence for having sex with a 14 year old girl because he felt – though he hadn’t met her, being dead and all – she acted older than her years. And it wasn’t the dirty kind of rape. And you know what?People somehow agree.

Miley Cyrus Not Causing Rape

Miley Cyrus Not Causing Rape

So, love of my life, I will tell you how to get on with these people. I will help you try to make it through life without being raped. This is a secret that not everyone will tell you, dear. This is not something that I’m just making up, this is actual proven anti-rape material here. It’s controversial, yes, and you actually have to get other people to help you to increase it’s efficacy, but once it’s locked in, BOOM!

Are you ready?

Ok, here goes…

The most effective way to not get raped is to not be around rapists. I know! Seems easy, right? Well, love, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Because raping, it turns out, is blamed on things like:

  • low cut tops
  • short skirts
  • a lot of makeup
  • red lips
  • dancing suggestively
  • drinking in excess
  • drugs
  • liberalism
  • sluttiness
  • flirting
  • numerous other things that aren’t someone forcibly or coercively assaulting you sexually.

But I swear to you, on my LIFE, that rape is only caused by rapists. And while a boy might say that your silhouette in the nightie you (very unfortunately) posted a picture of caused him to think impure thoughts, it does NOT, I repeat DOES NOT, give him the right to make you feel like you deserve anything less than your safety, your sanity, and your body to be yours and yours alone. And if his judgmental mother posts a viral rant about your poor choices in her patronizing “bless your heart” tone, remember that only you are in charge of you. And it’s easier to blame “slutty girls” for making boys do bad things than it is to raise good boys who don’t rape. And nothing you do, wear, say, post, or think will ever make it ok for people to make you feel badly.

I will tell you not to wear certain things as you grow up, rest assured. I know men, and I know bad decisions, and I know the two of them intimately combined. I will tell you that the pilgrim dress I choose for your prom will make you feel better about yourself for not having to deal with the degrading catcalls and wolf whistles that less-than-savory people will hurl. Or, you may have another dress or skirt stuffed into your backpack that you will throw on at your friends house whose parents don’t care as much as we do. And you may go to a party and feel that because you’re wearing a short skirt, and you’re partying, and you’re doing things that I wouldn’t approve of, you somehow deserve what comes your way. I tell you, my fine daughter, it is not true. No one rapes because of those things.

They rape because they’re rapists.

I love you. Your good decisions and your bad. I love you more than you love you, and this will always be true. I will defend your right to make those questionable decisions to the death, sweet girl, and I know that as a woman you have the extra burden of always having to be vigilant in your quest to not be around rapists. I will do my best to help you along.

Love,

Mommy

Here’s Whatcha Don’t Know.

Dear Sweet Girl,

I’ve decided rather than write you all of these letters about how you might be able to learn from my mistakes, I’ll share them with the world. Because I can, you know? And what’s more, people are literally clamoring for advice from a mom of one with little experience or marked measures of success. See? That’s sarcasm, love. You haven’t really grasped it yet, but you’re surprisingly astute for a five year old.

I’ll chat with you about all sorts of things that I’m not an expert on. I do have pretty good research skills, and the ability to make people think that I’m an expert through my powers of persuasion and question dodging. Fake it till you make it, baby. That’s my game.

Actually, right now I’m thinking about posting on Facebook about how awesome it is to be so carefree that I’m totally fine with you playing in the yard on your own. You’ve taken some books to your treehouse (not really a treehouse, but a part of the swingset – what do you think I’m fucking crazy?) and are sitting out there reading among nature like a young Laura Ingalls. People really love when they hear how other parents are more comfortable with their parenting than they are. Alas, you’ve come running in because you’ve heard some mysterious noise from the alley (trash bins being rolled in) that you’ve discerned to be wolves (in North Texas). That’s how you roll, baby. Scared the fuck out of that treehouse. Whatever, we’re carefree, right?

Here’s whatcha don’t know: I lived a lot before you came along. You’ll have a *very* hard time tricking me when you’re older (not that I expect that. You’re the worst narc I know). While I may be the model of compassionate and contemplative parenting in the eyes of people who only read my Facebook updates and never actually spend any time with me, I will say that I’ve done my fair share of living in my early years.

I love you, sweets. And I got your back.

Love,

Mommy