The heart of the matter.

Dear Sweet Girl,

Wow, what a nice break, huh? We spent the holiday’s doing the best thing ever: intensive, restorative, giggling family time. We got people from around the world that we love and put them in our home and we cooked and laughed and ate and drank and sang. I haven’t seen you that happy and full in a long time. I mean, you’re always happy, but when you have a full house of people you absolutely shine.

The other night while your dad was out of town, I told him on the phone that although I hate (HATE) his travel schedule, it does give you and me some bonding time that makes me so happy and connected to you. You are growing into a person who is funny and smart and can hold up a pretty decent conversation. You’re crazy and scared about a lot of things (you wouldn’t let the dog in the other morning because you were concerned he may have turned into a wolf in the preceding 8 minutes, and you didn’t want to have to deal with the pain of realizing your sweet dog is now a wolf that you can no longer cuddle with. I swear this whole conversation happened.) but you can rationalize things pretty well. I have to keep reminding myself that I can’t turn you into the person you should be. You are already that person. I’m just giving you pointers and nudges.

Sweet Girl helped me last week with a shopping list. Girl knows her stuff.

Sweet Girl helped me last week with a shopping list. Girl knows her stuff.

Last night, you and I went grocery shopping together. It was a fairly quiet night there, so I let you weigh and label all of the veggies and fruits. You did most of the picking out too, and I saw you do what I do: you picked up each thing, checked its heft, turned it in your hand to make sure it looked good all over, and gently put it in the sack. Baby, when I saw you do that I almost cried. Actually, tears welled. I realized at that moment that you are absorbing lessons at an astonishing rate. You don’t let anything go unnoticed.

You are so like me in so many ways –  despite that and because of that – I know you’ll be fine. You’ll be better than fine. Your ability to flesh out the heart of the issue will keep you able to relate to so many things. You can pick out veggies at five years old. You know when saying sorry is the right thing, even when you don’t think it’s your fault. You value your family and friends above things. These are the lessons you need. I didn’t have to tell you this.

Thank you for this amazing holiday season. I promise I’ll write more often, sweetheart.

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.

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.

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

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