Questions I hate to ask.

Dear Sweet Girl,

Normally, I have very little issue asking people direct and inappropriate questions. I’ve asked people about money, sex, ex’s, tons of things I shouldn’t. If someone tells me that I shouldn’t ask that, I’m totally fine with that. If people tell me that I shouldn’t bring up something to their husband/wife/friend, I’ll generally abide. But I’m more or less ok putting people on the spot, as long as it’s not cruel or hurtful. For the most part, I think that as adults who so easily hide behind our blogs, and Facebook and Twitter accounts, we have lost the fine art of question dodging. Politicians still tend to do it well, but they speak more publicly than you and I.

Aw, isn't that precious?

Aw, isn’t that precious?

Which brings me to a question that I hesitate to ask. It’s not that I don’t want to know the answer, because I do. It’s just that I absolutely despise having to ask it. I never thought in my life that this would be an issue, yet it is. I’m trying to craft it in my head so I don’t scare people off, and make you into a kid who can’t do what other kids can, but it jumbles up on me all the time. How do you politely ask other parents “Do you have firearms in your home, and are they loaded? And where are they stored?” without sounding accusatory?

Baby, if you look at 2008 and 2009 and how many kids were killed by guns, you could fill up 229 classrooms. That’s 5,740 children. From that same year, the number of preschoolers killed by guns was double the amount of law enforcement those years killed by guns. If you want to look at how many were injured? 34,387*. I just can’t bring myself to be ok with you playing around these things.

We live in Texas. Texans, democrat and republican alike, love their guns. You play in homes where people have firearms. I know these people and have had conversations about it, and I trust them with you. But how do I deal with a new friend? A play date? A parent I don’t really know? I’m scared of this, because I hate it. I hate the guns, and I think they should be banned for civilians, and I don’t believe that the 2nd amendment is a good amendment. And I hate that people say “It’s our right! It’s in the constitution!” when they know damn well that so was prohibition and so was the three-fifths compromise and it’s just not always right. Because of this. And this. And this. And this. And this. And this. And this. And this. And this. And this. And this. And this. And this. And the other 700+ more since Sandy Hook that I don’t have the heart to even read. This is a great/terrible tool if you want to see for yourself.

So what do I do, love? How do I ask this question? Right now, I have to mull this one over. I’m working on it.

Love,

Mommy

*All stats taken from The Children’s Defense Fund.

Today, we vote.

Dear Sweet Girl,

When I was a young girl, I would go with my mom on election day to the junior high school in town where we’d pile into a little curtained booth, pull a lever for the curtain to close around us, and she’d flip all sorts of levers and switches. I loved this process, mostly because I couldn’t do it and that was allure enough. The first election I was old enough to vote in was a gubernatorial one in New York where George Pataki was ultimately elected. The first presidential election I voted in brought Bill back for another four. The first protest I was a part of was against the invasion of Iraq. The first time I realized that people who *don’t* vote, yet complain about the state of affairs weren’t thinking clearly,  I was in my late teens.

Image

This was something we saw this weekend. We had a long talk about why they were doing this, and why they were wearing masks. You were awestruck.

“One vote doesn’t count!” you’ll hear. Well, maybe in a presidential election you might have a point, but in local elections? Nope. No ma’am. Your vote counts so much. Presidential elections are fancy, never-ending, years-long affairs of bullshit upon lies upon shit-talking. Local politics is about you. Personally, not in some abstract “We the People” sort of way. It will effect everything, everyday. From the potholes (I’m looking at you, Dallas) in your street, to the sanitation, to the schools funding, to whether or not the person representing you in Austin or Washington will stand up for your rights.

It matters. Very, very much.

Here’s what does not matter: people who tell you how to think. The loud-mouthed, blabbering, ill-informed radio hosts. The sensationalistic cable news channels. Anyone who puts opinion to “news” without labeling it “opinion” or “satire”.  Actually, just don’t listen to talk radio or watch cable news. Public broadcasting, NPR, actual newspapers with journalists who want to tell the real story? Good. But don’t base your politics on what other people tell you to base it on. There’s always an agenda. Don’t give people that power over you.

Today, we vote. Remember when we talked about Susan B. Anthony after I gave you a coin with her profile on it? She’s one of the ones that helped make this possible for you and me. And we are still suffragettes. And we are still feminists. And we will always be, until the whole world sees us as equals. Don’t ever forget it.

Love,

Mommy

10 tips for not being an asshole.

Dear Sweet Girl,

Not all of the advice I give you is going to be lovey-dovey sage wisdom. Sometimes I will tell you things you don’t want to hear. Actually, I do that all the time. You’ve mastered the brow-furrow when I do this, and it makes me really want to tuck that whole “no spanking or slapping upside the head” rule into my pocket for a sec. Today, love, I will give you a few one offs to ensure that you’re the least annoying person you can be.

1. If you chew gum, no one over 6″ from your mouth should hear it. It’s gross and makes you sound like an idiot.

2. If you wear perfume, no one over 6″ from your body should smell it. Don’t make people smell you if they haven’t signed up for the privilege.

3. Don’t tailgate ever. This means on the highway or in line. Give people their space. It’s so obnoxious otherwise. Don’t frontgate either. Close talkers are creepy and it’s more annoying when there’s alcohol involved. Throw out a “this is my dance space, this is your dance space” reference if needed.

Personal space, people!

Personal space, people!

4. No one wants to be the victim of your poor choices. Think carefully about your decisions and how they affect others. You are not the only person in the world. I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve spent with the same friends crying about the same thing that they keep doing over and over and over. There’s only so much a friend can take.

5. For the love of god, please learn how to figure things out. You will get angry at Dad and me often because we will not help you with things – I see it already – but trust me when I say we are there with a net if you fall. You have to be able to do things for yourself: cook, clean, change a tire, figure out how to take a train from Bucharest to Munich, or fill out an application. All are important, and those basic skills will be far more important in your life than most anything you’ll learn in school. Those are called “life skills”. Learn. Them.

6. If you don’t learn to laugh at yourself, you will go crazy. If you take yourself too seriously, life will eat you up.

7. Don’t brag. It’s unfriendly and unkind.

8. Don’t lie. It’s not worth it. Well, sometimes it’s worth it, and you just have to, but never big lies and never to your friends or lovers. Or your parents (mostly).

9. Travel as much as you can. We’ll take you where we can afford to take you while you’re a kid, but when you hit adulthood you need to RUN! Far away. Eat street food in Cambodia, and borsht in Russia. Sleep in a tent on a mountain in Peru, or on a beach in Indonesia. Just go. It will make you whole. And less of an asshole*.

10. Hold off on handing your heart over completely until you learn to love yourself unconditionally. You need to teach someone how to love you properly, and only by example.

I love you so much. Please don’t become an asshole.

Love,

Mommy

*I mean that in the “you’ll be more open-minded” sense. You may turn out to be one in the “I’ve traveled a lot and am more worldly than you” sense, though. Careful.

Your body, your self.

Dear Sweet Girl,

The other day when I was getting out of the shower, I caught a glimpse of my naked self in the mirror. My belly, while never flat, was hanging in a way that made me want to scream. I thought: that pouch, where I carried you for 9+ months, is flabby and hang-y and I hate it. I was so focused on my stretch marks that your voice startled me when you spoke from my bed where you were lounging in your undies. “Mama,” you said, “you look so pretty now. I love your hair when it’s like that.” Not one teeny hint of sarcasm, or falsity, or smoke-up-the-ass-blowing in your statement. You saw me; you thought I looked so pretty. The end.

chub

At least we can shop at normal stores now.

Girl, I have to tell you that it has been SO hard for me to not speak about our bodies, as humans, in anything other than positives. You have never heard me speak about my weight issues, or the fact that I am fat by many standards. We never talk about food being fattening, or watching our weight. We talk about healthful eating, and types of things that keep us full of energy, and things that make us feel yucky. But I want to crawl inside a stick of butter sometimes SO BADLY. And to you? It’s normal. All very normal.

There will come a day, my love, where people will tell you that you’re ugly, or stupid, or fat, or too skinny, or too tall (we’re dealing with this one already, huh?). I want you to understand something very important: it’s not about you. None of what those people are saying has anything to do with you. If people ever make you feel badly about the way you look, fuck ‘em. Fuck ‘em all to hell. If a man tells you that you’d be perfect if you’d just {enter anything here}, please run as fast as you can in the other direction. If your friends tell you that you’re almost the right size for anything, find new friends.

Because, baby, the truth of the world is this: you will spend most of your young life trying to find your way. If you feel, at age 20 or even 25, that you have found your way, then rest assured you are wrong. Your way is a journey that will take you through a lot of life’s little hills and valleys. Stay on the road, and find the right people to ride with. Sometimes you might need to let go of the steering wheel and take a few detours. But I will tell you right now, love, that when you look back at the road, it should be littered with those people who didn’t love you for who you are. And you know what? Fuck ‘em.

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