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

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

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.

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.

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