Big Hearts

Dear Sweet Girl,

Last week, when your Daddy was out for the evening, you and I sat in my bed and I did your hair. I love drying your hair while you sit on my lap. I love the chats we have. I love that every day you say to me, “Mommy. I have a REALLY good question!” and then you ask about how stars are formed, or how electricity gets into our house from the pole, or how we eat green veggies but they come out of us brown. It’s mind blowing.

Well this particular night, we talked about emergencies, and how to deal with them. We went over 9-1-1 and how to call from my passcoded phone, and what info we’d tell the 9-1-1 operator. You thought about it, said the right stuff, and then looked at me with those great big, bright brown eyes with a bit of fear, and welled-up tears.

“What is it, Sweet Girl?” I asked.

“Momma, I don’t want you to get hurt. I don’t want to be alone,” she said. This was after our discussion of what to do if Daddy wasn’t home and something happened to me. “I don’t want you to get sick and die.”

This can be you. With better glasses, and much, much less money. And less testosterone.

This can be you. With better glasses, and much, much less money. And less testosterone.

“Oh, I know, honey. But this is for if anything happened, like I hurt my leg and couldn’t move, or if I just needed more help than you can give me. It’s not just if I died,” I told you. And I saw that didn’t help. The tears just filled your eyes to spilling.

“But I don’t want anyone to get hurt, Mom. No one. Not even anyone. Not you, or Daddy, or any of my friends. Not even robbers and people in jail. I don’t want anyone to need an ambulance. Ever!”

And I know what you mean. I know full well how you feel when the overwhelming feeling of trying to save everyone pushes down on your heart and your chest. And here’s what I told you, more or less:

There will be times, love, that people will laugh at you. People will tell you to worry about yourself. That people need to take care of themselves, and you can’t concern yourself. To them I say bullshit.

And here is the rest of what I want to say: We need people like you, who care and who love and who, despite the odds, try to help people. Maybe you’ll find a calling one day that serves people. And you’ll probably be poor (because helping people doesn’t pay well), and likely will see more than you think your great big heart can stand, and people will turn away. But we need you to care just the same.

For some reason, in this “great” country of ours, we’ve let our most needy fall through our nets. We see people reaching out for help as a drain on society, rather than an opportunity to show what a truly great nation can do for its most vulnerable. We celebrate the vapid and marginalize the poor. And we need people who are strong hearted and strong willed and strong minded to stand up and say THIS ISN’T RIGHT. Why are homeless mothers living in motel rooms with their children jailed for lying about residence so her child can get a better chance at life, but bankers who pulled the rug out from our nation are left blameless? We need to celebrate those who truly care: those who really would shed a tear for the injustice done to the innocent, or to those guilty of only being born in the wrong zip code.

As you get older, you will learn how to take that feeling of overwhelming anxiety and work to make your spot in the world better. To make a mark – even just a small one. Small marks in a great big world are what make up the change we truly need.

Keep thinking big, Sweet Girl.

Love,

Mommy

Choose Kind.

Dear Sweet Girl,

I’ve made decisions in my life that seemed rather insignificant to me at the time, but had such enormous impact on my life. The biggest, I’d guess, is not becoming an expert at any one thing. I didn’t have the ability or want to buckle down and study one thing. I chose not to finish college because it was harder than partying, but blew off the enormity of that decision by acknowledging that I was smart enough to have a good career that paid well without the degree. I will tell you now that I regret that decision immensely.

Sweet Friend and Sweet Girl. Please always be nice.

Sweet Friend and Sweet Girl. Please always be nice.

After that, I became a quasi-expert at everything. Working in a law firm gave me a lot of info on whichever type of law the firm specialized in. So much so, that people in my family would ask me legal questions, and I’d answer them. Expertly*. Working in private equity, I’d get questions about investments. I’d answer them as well. Expertly*. Thank god I never worked for doctors, or we’d have a lot of dead family members**. So while this all might have lead to some bad legal decisions, investments, or whatever else, what it did do was make me feel like I needed to always, no matter what, be right. Ask any of your uncles or aunts and they’ll surely attest to the fact that I’ve been a know-it-all my whole life. Ask your Dad, and he’ll tell you the amount of bets he’s lost over the years.

But lately I’ve been really trying to change this. Because of this one quote that just punched me in the gut when I heard it: “Choose to be kind over being right and you’ll be right every time.” Richard Carlson wrote that in Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff years ago, and shit. He’s completely right. TOTALLY right.

I see in you a bit (a big bit) of me. You told me a few weeks back to remind you to tell your best friend that she was wrong about something she had told you and you were going to let her know. Jeez, you have no idea how that affected me. I realized right there that we have an obligation as parents, and as YOUR parents, to make sure that this gets nipped in the bud right now. So here goes:

  1. There is nothing wrong with a wrong answer. You’ll get things wrong a lot, but you get it right when your mind is open to the right answer. Being pigheaded over something that is clearly incorrect is just awful. No one wants to be friends with that, love.
  2. Unless it’s a matter of life and death, leave it. If you’re arguing with someone who is clearly passionate about his or her stance, and proving them wrong will only hurt their feelings, just leave it. Smile, and walk away.
    1. This will be incredibly difficult when it comes to watching your friends in awful relationships.  Don’t bash. Just love them.
    2. When someone you love is battling an addiction, you can’t force them to win the battle. You can’t really do anything. You might be right, and you will clearly see that, but they will not and nothing on earth will change that. You need to choose to be kind instead. And sometimes that means walking away. I’ll tell you a heartbreaking story about that someday.
    3. There are compromises that will need to be made in every single part of your life if you want healthy relationships. Some of those compromises are so hard to make because you just know you’re right. If someone else being right is going to make the long term easier, make their right (yes, sometimes there’s more than one “right”)  the one you choose. You just gotta sometimes.

Sweet Girl, just choose kind over right. I’ve been to enough therapy in my life to know that once you set your boundaries with people, you can let things fall into place. Don’t compromise who you are – that’s not what this is about – but allow your kindness to open the hearts of those around you.

I see your love for others, and your need to be accepted and praised. Being known for being the girl who is kind is much better than being the know-it-all. I guarantee that it will be your greatest asset.

Love,
Mommy

*Not at all expertly, and quite possibly illegally.

**More than we already have.

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