Category Archives: Letters to a Daughter

Time’s a River

Dear Wren,

It is 10PM on a random Wednesday in May. You will be five weeks old tomorrow. I am holding you wrapped up in a grey blanket that a good friend made for you. Your head is tucked up against my shoulder. Your little hands are balled up in fists up near your face. Your shoulders line up with mine. You’re tucked up in a ball with my hand under your rump. You are so small that your entire body is right there. From my breast to my shoulder with a heavy little head covered in fluff.

I sniff your head and almost inhale your hair. You smell amazing. I close my eyes and try to memorize this.

I know I won’t be able to. I’ve already lost the earliest moments and how you felt when you were just born. Every moment is overwritten by the intensity of the next. Every moment you are a new person, and so am I. We are growing together.

Your little hands. The way it looks like your fingers shouldn’t quite all fit onto them. The funny shaped newborn fingernails. Yours have a bit of dirt under them. I’m not sure how. I know that it refuses to wash off, and that I’m waiting until they’re long enough to snip them off with baby nail cutters.

Mundane details.

Your arms move and your body twists in a very particular way. You stare at me with an expression that is completely and uniquely your own. I have taken some videos, but I know from experience that those videos won’t show me what I see right now.

You see. When you were born I didn’t know you yet. But love came roaring in full force. Intense and crazy. Giddy. Glorious. Gleeful.

I look at you and I laugh with joy.

I look at your siblings that way, too. The way they are now. Today. The way they have grown to be.

And I try to memorize the details of them, too.

Life is so full. So full of moments to remember. Details to try to hold onto. Many of them will slip away, replaced by the newer things. The new giddiness. The new joy. The new shape of the love that you were born into.

I snug you close. I forget about trying to memorize things.

I can’t.

I’ll let them shape us instead. You and me. Our relationship. Who each of us will become tomorrow, and in the days and years to come.

Time’s a river. Each moment is a drop of water.

We’ll be floating along together for good long while.

<3 Mama

What I Want My Kids to Know About Movies and Relationships (Fifty Shades of Whatever)

RealLifeRelationshipsFifty Shades of Grey? What do I want my kids to know about movies like this one, when they’re older? Dating? Grown up? Honestly, I can’t think of a movie that portrays what I would consider a healthy relationship. So I’m not even all that alarmed about Fifty Shades. At least it is obvious that the relationship that it portrays is less than ideal. Much of what you see about relationships in movies is less than obvious. It’s insidious.

There’s a reason for that. Movies and novels are written by writers, from their imaginations. They’re not actual lives lived by happy and contented people. They’re imaginings. Fantasies.

Most fantasies aren’t going to make good relationships.

I have a few fantasies. Mostly revolving around a husband whose hobbies include a deep love for washing and polishing the floor, and that has mind reading capabilities. And the ability to make the perfect chocolate mousse on demand. And teleport it to me from work.  Fantasies may or may not evolve over time and depending on circumstances.

I’m sure that my partner has fantasies as well. Or things that I could do differently or like better or spend less time on or more time on.

Instead we have each other.

We have a real life that looks… Well.. It looks like two people. With assorted other small people, the kids. Living together as a family. And real life is gonna look different from relationship to relationship.

What does it look like? It can look like a lot of things. Too many things to list. Too many things for a single person to imagine.

Real life looks like dancing with your wife when she is in labor and holding her up during contractions when she hangs from your shoulder. (The curve from my partner’s neck to his collarbone is still one of the most deliciously comforting places to bury my face.)

Real life looks like sitting by your husband’s hospital bed after he has had emergency surgery and helping him use the bathroom.

Real life looks like partners discussing whether they want to have children, how many children, and sometimes it looks like them disagreeing. Discussing. Resolving. Trying to understand what the other person is experiencing.

Real life looks like being there when your partner is hit by waves of grief after a death in their family. About trying to understand what it is that they need to make it through.

Real life looks like two partners wanting to two very different things. And trying to figure out the logistics of the in-between.

Real life eventually looks like the unromantic aspects of getting old. Arthritis. Incontinence. Mysterious health issues. Figuring out how to get things done when they’re harder to do.

Real life doesn’t look like the movies. It shouldn’t.

If you try too hard to find your examples there, you’ll end up nothing but confused.

It’s simple. In a real relationship you’re in love with a real human being who is probably going to be very different from you in a lot of ways. And your partner is also in love with a real human being that will be very different from them. And both of your wants and needs and desires and hopes and dreams are valid.

So what do you do with that?

Certainly not what you would see in Fifty Shades of Grey.
And not what you would see in the movies.

You sit down and you talk. And you figure things out. Because a relationship isn’t about fulfilling any one person’s fantasy. It’s about two full independent human beings that are trying to build a life together.

Do you want to be tasked with fulfilling someone else’s fantasy at the sake of yourself? Would you want someone that you truly love to give up themselves to fulfill yours?

No.

That only happens in movies. Where actors are given the scripts to act out the fantasy that a writer has created.

Real life isn’t scripted. Real love isn’t scripted.

It plays itself out moment by moment over the lifetime of the people involved.

And it lasts a lot longer than a 125 minute movie.

DoAsIDo

Do As I Say! Or Else.

DoAsIDoDear Kids,

There are phrases that we hear that stick with us in one way or another.

“Do as I say! Or else”.

It means that there will be consequences, usually. That the child will face punishment unless they follow directions. But then there’s also the saying “Do as I say, not as I do.” Adults often see themselves as people to instruct, not to model. But when an adult does that, they ARE modeling. They are modeling how to be impatient. They are modeling how to bark orders. They are modeling how to /really/ live behind the words that they try to get a child to follow. And when I say “they”.. In all honesty, I mean me, too.

But I am trying to change. Just as I tell you, “learning does not look like doing it perfect the first time you try”. I make mistakes and I keep trying. You will make mistakes, and you will keep trying.

As I grow as a parent I am starting to see things very differently from how I used to see them. As I kid I saw adults telling kids what to do, even if they never did it themselves. So I thought that was the privilege of a grownup. I think differently now. “Do as I say” has come to mean to me that *I*  must do as I say. *I* must model what it is that I am trying to teach you. I cannot tell you “say please!” when I never say it. I cannot tell you “Say good morning” to a person that I never say good morning to. I cannot tell you to use your words when I fail to use mine. I cannot tell you “I cannot read your mind. You need to work with me so that I will understand.” If I do not work with you when your understanding falls short of what I imagine it should be. I cannot ask you to help me clean while refusing to ever help you clean. I am ultimately what you copy as you learn how to be.

So now I ask myself, and I ask others in your lives this:

“Did he invent that behavior or is he copying something that he has seen?”
“Do you behave the way that you are asking him to?”
“Do the adults in this house do those things and use those words that you want to hear her say?”

And I try to do as I want you to do. I try to let them know that they are right. That is how people should behave. And I make the commitment to them and to you to try and model the behavior that they are asking from you. I also ask them to do just that. Model the behavior that they want you to copy. Be more of the person that they hope for you to be.

<3 Mama

Out-Tantruming a Tantrum is a Silly Notion

The only path to peace is through making the personal choice to be peaceful.

I can’t out-tantrum your tantrum. I can’t out-hit your hit. I can’t shame you into being any less sad or any less angry. That is suppression. Things that are suppressed and held down and intimidated into hiding… Still exist. They eventually come out.

No. If I want you to grow peacefully I have to be that peace. I have to show you that this is what people grow into as they grow bigger. Quieter. More calm.

I can’t stand there angry at your anger and insist that you stop being angry RIGHT NOW. I might as well stomp my feet and slam the door on the way out. I don’t need to show you that adults have tantrums too. Either tantrums are something that people can control, and I can show you that by controlling my own and understanding that is something that you are growing into…

Or tantrums are something so seething and wild and beyond our self control that even I, as a grownup, will throw them. If that’s the case what… the… heck… am I doing standing here as a grownup and looking at you, a two year old or a four year old or an eight year old and telling you to control yourself?

That is teaching you nothing.

I understand that you’re angry, child. I know what anger feels like. It’s not a comfortable feeling. It is okay to be angry and you can learn how to calm that feeling.

You may not always get it perfect. I still slip up at 34. I am trying hard to change that, though.

Manipulation is a Cloth Woven From Ordinary Feelings Warped by Bad Guesses

Dear Kids,

A random ordinary thing happens in our lives. You react. With joy, with glee, with sadness, with anger, with fear, with uncertainty, with hesitation, with upset, with confusion, with jealousy, with assertiveness, with argumentativeness, with a refusal to budge.

A memory pops into my head. A memory of being small. Intense. Vivid. Photographic. All the details are there. I remember feeling that feeling that I see on your face. But I was your-size not my-size. I was small and tiny and this memory is long ago with me surrounded by adults that reacted in many different ways.

I want to tell you about how I discovered some important truths about the perceptions of adults and how self fulfilling prophecies about manipulation and manipulators come to be. The truth, kiddos, is that manipulation is a cloth woven from ordinary feelings warped by bad guesses.

I’m deaf. I have a reverse curve hearing loss. This means that the low sounds disappear and the high sounds are what I can hear clearest. Most deaf people hear low sounds better than the high ones.

When a thing doesn’t conform to what people know about a thing, they make many bad guesses. Especially when combined with the assumption that children are manipulative and liars.

My experience was driven by ever-rising pure tone beeps blasted in to bulky headphones in a soundproof booth full of toys. Little dots etching out a curve that contradicted what people knew about “deaf”. A little piece of paper showing a curve that labeled me as deaf without the words to explain to the every day ordinary people that I would interact with as a child.

Then when I left that booth.. When I walked into the real world where I could hear the hiss of a car’s wheels through the pavement but not the roar of its motor. When I walked into the real world where I could hear the ringing that a jackhammer made when it struck against stone, but where it was otherwise almost silent. Where I responded to quiet sounds but seemingly ignored a person speaking to me across the room or even just behind me.

I remember as a child having to learn that people made bad guesses. That I would be called a liar when I was telling the truth. I remember being caught between desperately wanting to conform to expectations that I physically couldn’t meet. I remember pinballing to the other side of not caring. Not really “not caring” but trying desperately to not care.

As a child this made me aware of the assumptions that people made. I think that most kids learn that they are manipulative. I learned to watch myself. To take snapshots of what I was feeling and experiencing. To try and piece them together later.

What I learned from this experience was that I was not trying to manipulate anyone. I was trying to meet a need that I didn’t understand. Sure, I was making bad guesses sometimes.

I was six years old. Seven. Eight. Ten. Fourteen.

As an adult I am able to understand my needs better. I’m able to dig down deep and figure out what it is that I’m feeling and why and what I can do about it that will actually help.

I couldn’t do that at six. I couldn’t do that at four. I couldn’t do that at two.

I could only make guesses.

I see my children making those guesses today. I help them dig around and  figure out what is really happening.

So instead of getting angry because my child is throwing a fit over a doll in a store.. Instead of thinking “YOU ARE MANIPULATING ME AND EMBARRASSING ME IN PUBLIC…”

I think “You are upset because you are tired. You saw a doll that you really really want and you’re upset that you can’t take her home with you today and you can’t play with her because she’s in a store and we’re not going to buy her. The upset feels REALLY FREAKING HUGE because you’re tired and you’re stressed out and you’ve had too much big stuff build up inside of you without the rest and reset that you need. So you are crying. And I’m sorry. I know how hard it is to deal with disappointment when you’re not at your best. Let’s go someplace safe away from bad guessers and we can get you the rest that you need.”

I understand that you’re making two-year-old or four-year-old or seven-year-old sized guesses about the reasons for the strong feelings that you’re having.

I don’t need to make thirty-four-year-old  bad guesses that draw on years of hearing terrible negative things about children. I can make my guesses from a place of understanding your developmental level, your stress levels, and by believing that you are fundamentally a rational whole human being that simply hasn’t experienced everything that I have just yet.

You’ll get there. Even if most adults sometimes seem like they never made it there.

If I view you as manipulative instead of trying to help you learn to organize your thoughts and feelings.. You’ll just learn that you have to learn to be a better manipulator if you ever want those needs of yours met.

I don’t want to teach you that. I want to teach you to understand your feelings, to live with them, to cope with them, to embrace them, to understand them, and to build your own road-maps to feeling okay.

It is okay to be angry.
It is okay to be sad.
It is okay to be frustrated.
It is okay to be upset.
It is okay to not understand why.
It is okay to struggle.
It is okay to have a bad day.

Slow down. Spend some time in your moment. You’ll find your way out.

Manipulation is a cloth woven from ordinary feelings that are warped by bad guesses. It is a self fulfilling prophecy. A child has a feeling. Makes a bad guess about what that feeling is and what the solution is. Asks for the solution. The adult gets angry at the child. The child never learns where the feeling came from or what the real solution is, just that they have to lie and manipulate in order to get what they assume (often incorrectly) will make them feel better.

Why would I teach you that when I can teach you that feelings are okay, that feelings are not always a reaction to what has happened but sometimes they are a reaction to ourselves.When I can teach you that you can survive the intensity, ride it out, come out on the other side.

Why would I teach you that you should just suck it up, that your feelings will make me angry, and that the only reason you have them is because you’re hoping to make me a puppet that will dance on your strings?

Your feelings are real and valid things. You’re learning to understand them and control them now as a child so that you won’t have to spend years struggling as an adult.

<3 Mama

“Just” for Comfort

Dear Daughter,

Sometimes you nurse “just” for comfort. Just. Because at two you “shouldn’t” need this anymore. Because the nutrition that you get from food, from meals cooked at the stove and from snacks picked from our garden, from the farmer’s market organic grass-fed milk.. Somehow renders this other milk, this mother’s milk, the milk made just for you.. Unnecessary. Placed below the devalued “just” comfort. Not even meeting the bar to be included in “just”. So inessential. Not even needed like water, a substance it is sometimes compared to once society has run out of the desire to feel that what you say you need is really a need and not “just” a desire.

Just comfort contains a lot of things in this case. Amazing fats, lipids, antibodies, vitamins that absorb better than vitamins from pretty much any other source. Stem cells, probiotics. And yes. Comfort.

We don’t value comfort in this society. We value “luxury”. Luxury cars. Luxury cruises. Luxury vacations of excess. We don’t value comfort in this society. We value deluxe. We value sexy. We value exotic. We value the uncomfortable headiness of early love over the comfort of waking up in the morning next to a human that we know inside out. We value new and shiny, or sometimes the very rare antique.

What is it with our desire to play down comfort? To uncomfortably accept “comfort foods” as the junk that we eat when we’re mourning the loss of our latest and greatest love. To accept “comfort spending” and other vices. But to reject the things that actually provide comfort in a wholesome and healthy way?

“Just” comfort. Just a pair of arms to hold onto you in a sea of emotional chaos.
“Just” comfort. A hand to hold while waiting to hear news that may turn your life upside down.
“Just” comfort. A shoulder where you can bury your face and sob, not worried about snot or tears.
“Just” comfort. A pair of hands that hold your hair away as you heave over a bucket when you’re sick.

Just. Just comfort.

Because if we were truly big enough and strong enough, we could rock this toddler thing like James Bond. All cool in a slick sports car

Because if we were truly independent we could do something mature like shove our feelings down into our size six toddler shoes like a pair of rumpled up socks, and we could deal with all this stuff all on our own.

I don’t know. Seems kinda silly.

Yes. I’ll nurse you “just” for comfort. I’ll smile. Yeah. Maybe it is “just” comfort right now. I’m fine with that. I’m fine with teaching you that comfort is a thing you find in the arms of someone safe that you love.

Maybe if you learn this now, when you are little, you won’t spend your whole life looking.

<3 Mama

Sex and Love

Dear Kids,

When you get older and all your friends are driving, maybe one of them will have a car and will say “let me show you how to drive!” I’ll expect you to say no. Why? Not because I never want you to get behind the wheel of a car. But because there’s a time and a place and a way to learn safely and a time and place and way to make really bad and dangerous mistakes that can put you and others at risk in ways that I want you to be aware of.

Part of that will be getting your learners permit. And part of that will be taking a defensive driving course. Part of that will be a series of conversations that you and I will have where we talk about the risks and consequences of certain behavior and of certain mindsets.

Sex is like that.

When you get older your friends may be experimenting with sex. Maybe you’ll be under pressure. I’ll expect you to say no. Why? For the same reason. It’s not that I want you to NEVER HAVE SEX or even that I want you to wait until you’re married. Sex is a choice that ultimately belongs to you. I’m not squeamish about that.

BUT. Big but. There is a time and a place and a way to learn safely and a time and place and way to make really bad and dangerous mistakes that can put you and others at risk in ways that I want you to be aware of.

I want you to understand rape culture. I want you to understand consent. I want you to understand inebriation. I want you to understand all of the different reasons why a person might engage in sexual behavior, and I want you to understand the difference between good and bad reasons. I want you to be aware of the fact that sometimes people agree to have sex not out of desire but out of fear. And I want you to make sure that you never accidentally take advantage of someone who isn’t into it wholeheartedly. I want you to understand that boys and men can be raped just like women and girls can be raped. I want you to understand that you need to actually know a person in order to be sure that they are on board. I don’t want you to ever get kicked in the gut as you realize that someone you were with feels violated and used. Not all people feel safe or okay with saying “no” or “stop” or “don’t”.

I want you to understand sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy and life and what condoms and birth control really mean, and the fall-out of “safety” not always being 100% safe. I want you to understand what abortions are, and that they aren’t an undoing of a mistake. They are a huge hulking looming decision that has all kinds of consequences. I want you to understand the crazy emotional fall-out that happens when both people aren’t on the same page about the “right” choice to make. I want you to understand that the whole idea of adoption isn’t a quick fix, either. That it’s emotionally complicated, often comes with postpartum depression, almost always comes with questions and grief and regret. That after you give up your baby you bleed for six weeks and your breasts fill up with milk and your eyes fill up with tears and that it’s not like anything from a movie. That you’re left with all the what-if’s and the missing and the sadness and the regret even when you know it was a good decision. That it’s seldom done in a way that is fair to everyone, and it is a beautiful and sad and wonderful but horrible choice all at the same time. I want you to understand that when you have a child you don’t sleep for more than an hour or two at night for two or more years. That having a child before you’re ready comes with tremendous changes to your life and that it teaches you a level of responsibility that makes all the responsibilities of sex and relationships and abstinence and homework dog walking and litter box cleaning look silly small.

That sometimes when you have a child you end up raising that child all on your own. That other times you end up in a relationship with someone that may not have been the right person. That sometimes you end up going to court with a person that wants to take your child away from you and that will go to the end of the Earth to do so.

I want you to understand trust. The type of trust where you communicate and share thoughts and feelings and words and truths as openly as you are thinking about sharing your body.

I want you to understand that sometimes you will trust someone so completely and then learn that you gave your trust poorly and that you will have to live with the fall-out along with heartbreak.

I want you to understand what pornography is before you view it. I want you to know that it is not what real sex is like.

I want you to understand that the “love” and sex that you see glorified in movies… Is not real love or real sex and that you don’t see real relationships in movies. At all. Ever. For example, you’ll never want to kiss passionately first thing in the morning because everyone’s breath is going to smell like that chipmunk that got killed by the cat and that rotted away under the deck. And that morning breath really isn’t sexy no matter how much you are attracted to a person.

I want you to understand that full-body tingle that feels like real true love? It is going to disappear after you’ve been with a person for some time. It’s replaced with other things. One of those things is annoyance about silly little things. I want you to know that you shouldn’t mistake the disappearance of that tingle for the disappearance of love any more than you should think that just because the water in the pool doesn’t feel as cold after 20 minutes that you’re no longer swimming.

I want you to understand that everyone has an opinion about sex. That you should do it, it’s no big deal. That you shouldn’t do it at all ever until you’re married. I want you to research and understand those things and what they mean and why people think those ways.

And then I want you to make good responsible choices. Something that is going to be hard for you, considering your facilities for self control aren’t fully developed until you’re closer to 21. Considering that peer pressure can be ridiculous and insecurities can be pretty terrible.

But I want you to try.

Mostly I want you to come to me to talk about things. To ask questions. To share fears and to talk about heartbreak. Not because I don’t trust you.. But because you need someone there to be a safe person. I would like to be that for you.

I’ve been young and I’ve made mistakes. I’ve been stupid and I have done stupid things. I won’t get mad at you if you do stupid things, too.

I’d like you to take it slow and safe, though. Not because I’m squeamish, but because things always work out better when you know what you’re doing and when you’re sure of who you are with. First times are almost always terrible and awkward. No reason to rush into that and have first memories be ones of regret.

When you are ready you will know that you are ready rather than just wanting to be.

Wait for that, at least. It is worth it.

This stuff isn’t as simple as putting a condom on a banana or understanding what stuff goes where. It’s not as simple as getting an A+ in the sexual education class taught by a jaded high school teacher. It’s like driving, like getting a job, like real life stuff. Not like passing a history quiz or cramming for a mid-term.

It’s real. And I hope you understand that before you get involved in all the different details that involve an adult sexual relationship.

<3 Mama

I Am Still Not a Human Pacifier- Comfort Nursing After Two

Dear Daughter,

You turned two this past April. Now it’s June. You are twenty six months and counting. We nursed past the minimum recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics. We nursed past the minimum recommendation of the World Health Organization. There are no more minimums to pass. We’re running out past our goals, past those finish lines. You nurse still, and it seems you will for quite some time yet to come.

When you were three weeks old I wrote you a letter about comfort nursing, about not feeling like a human pacifier.

There is a school of thought that looks down on the idea of mothers being pacifiers instead of the use of plastic pacifiers. There is another school of thought that looks down on the idea of pacifiers at all- human or plastic. I don’t like those schools. I like the one that says it’s okay to find human contact comforting. That comfort is free. That emotions are real. That we are strong enough to deal with them, but that comfort helps make them more manageable. That no, we don’t need comfort. We’re strong enough to deal with a multitude of things all on our own. We’re strong enough to be separated from our tribe, our family, and strong enough to deal with the stress that happens when that occurs. But.. Even though we are strong enough, why? Is it necessary to live out our days being this strong if someone is willing and happy to help, to be our tribe, to snuggle close and be a source of comfort?

You still comfort nurse. It’s not the only type of comfort that you have. We are big on physical contact in this family. We’re big on hugs and snuggles and wrestling. On read-alouds and carrying each of you sometimes even when you’re big enough to walk. Not because you’re unable to walk. But because it’s a form of closeness when you’re feeling small and overwhelmed. Sometimes you want to nurse. Sometimes you want a hug. Sometimes you want to sit across from me and tell me as much of the story of what happened as you have words for, waving your hands about for emphasis, and gladly taking any new words that I have to offer for your experience.

Honestly, you’re comfort nursing less and less. You fall asleep with your head on my shoulder and my hand tangled up in your hair as I rub your scalp. You trace my collarbone with your fingers and watch the ceiling fan as it spins above. Sometimes you pull your head back to my elbow, look up at me, and tell me about something you just remembered. And I listen and smile and respond, then remind you that the sun is setting and it’s the end of the day, and that it’s time to snuggle down to sleep. You whisper “yes” and nod your head, happy with the comfort of the familiar.

I feel no need to wean you from this, as you are weaning yourself. Gradually. Gradually weaning yourself. I could say “Okay, you’re able to take other things that means that you’re done.” and I could push you away from this particular thing. There wouldn’t be anything wrong with doing that. We’ve made the minimum, we all have limits and boundaries that we set as needed.

When you are upset you come running for hugs, for kisses, for conversation, for closeness, for nursing. You do not ask for ice cream, a toy, television, or distraction. You look for a safe place to feel. You’re the one to know when it’s time to move past that type of comfort on to other types of comforting things. I’m not waiting on a minimum anymore. You’re two. Now we’re just waiting on you. Happily.

<3 Mama

Note: I know that this is a touchy subject for some moms. Nursing aversion is VERY real and can make comfort nursing into a particular type of hell. Some moms had the goal of two and were not able to make it for whatever combination of reasons. Love to you mamas, no judgement. Sometimes our lives don’t line up with our wishes and desires and best intentions. I find the joy where I can, because there are enough of those things that I wished for that never came to be. That sadness is like quicksand. Try not to be sucked in. <3

When You Were Tiny

Dear Daughter,

Did you know that when you were tiny I’d hold you while you napped? I’d wrap a strip of white fabric around my body and I’d tuck you in to the place where the pieces overlapped, pulling them out over your body to hold you snug and near. Your head right under my chin for kissing. Your hair used to tickle my nose as I’d nod my head down and breathe you in between the chores and the chasing of your brothers. Between the dishes and the laundry. All while you slept.

A little face bordered by dark curls, and huge blue eyes, a rounded little button nose and chubby cheeks that pushed out your little lips in a pout as you went from wide awake to fast asleep. A tiny body that looked odd and out of place when I put you down and you flailed on a flat surface, unable to move yourself. But held near you bobbed your head around and held it up and had little reason to think of the smallness of your size.

You grew. You popped those little arms out of the top of the wrap and leaned around to reach and to grab. I sat you down on the floor and you played with toys until you wanted to come back up into my arms.

You grew. You leaned back and laughed as I kissed your chin and your face. I put you down and you took off like a little scurry-mammal skittering across the floor on your knees, rocking back onto your haunches to look to where you left me.

You grew. You pulled your legs up and kicked. I pulled you out and put you down, feet first. You stood. You ran. You learned to jump and to climb.

You grew. You fussed when you were tired, pulling away from me. So I put you down in our bed and your head would find the pillow. You’d fuss and reach for me and we’d nurse you to sleep. I found myself able to get up and to walk around. To move. To do all the things that I used to have to carry you through.

You grew. You pushed me away when you were done nursing, you crawled around the bed, finally you crawled back to me to nurse again. And in all your restlessness and endless motion, you nursed yourself to sleep.

You grew. You crawled away when you were done nursing, and you found your place. You rested your head, and you slept.

The rains of spring come crashing down and flood the fields. Children splash in puddles.

The summer sun dries up that rain and bakes the dirt with heat. Children play at the beach and swim in the pool.

Fall turns the leaves of summer to brilliant shades of red and yellow. Leaves fall from trees, doing cartwheels in the air. Piles are raked up and children play in all the colors.

Winter comes, snow and cold. Children build snowmen and ride down hills in sleds.

To everything there is a season. I will not rail at the rain that falls in the spring. I will not curse the summer heat. I will not hate the fall for the leaves I rake. And I will not begrudge the winter all of its snow and cold.

And you, little one. Once you were small and I embraced this season of our lives. For just as the seasons of the Earth come to pass, so do the seasons that we spend together.

Now you are two. Seasons have passed, both outside and in.

You grew. You changed.

No tears. No crying. No training. No pressure to speed ahead. You grew.

As I write this, little one, the lights are dim. I rock in the rocking chair, and you lay in bed. You’ve tucked your mouse and your doll into bed, and you’ve tucked yourself in too. You whisper to them while you wait for them to sleep, as I often whisper to you. Soon you will call me over to snuggle with you. Or maybe tonight will be the night that you just put yourself to sleep. Or maybe I’ll just come over and snuggle you before you ask, because I love our bedtime snuggles. I’m not pushing you tonight, I’m giving you the space you seem to want and need.

No rush, little one. You’ve grown. You’ve changed, you’ll grow and change from here as well.

<3 Mama

Knikklebee

One Day Someone Will Tell You That You’re Ugly

Dear Daughter,

One day someone will tell you that you’re ugly. Very few people get to go through life without hearing this one time or another. Not because they are ugly people, but because the world has a lot of ugliness in it.

Before I had children I was scared of this idea, of the hurt that you would feel. Of what I could possibly say. Of the hurt that I would feel at hearing that someone thought something that I loved was “ugly”.

I’m not scared of it anymore, now that you’re here. Each of you.

I’ll sit down with you. I’ll ask you how you feel about what that person said. Do you think that they really think that you are ugly? Do you think that they were trying to upset you for some reason? What kind of situation must there be for a person to say something that they know will be hurtful?

Maybe they really do think that you’re ugly. Let me tell you a secret. Not everyone likes the color yellow. Not everyone likes the color red. Not everyone likes the color green, or brown, or black, or pink. Some people think those colors are ugly. And some people think that they’re the most beautiful thing. There are many people in the world. Too many to be something perfect, because each person is looking at certain things. Some people will think that you’re ugly. Does that bother you? I am sorry. Many people will think that you are beautiful too. And even if you’re the ugliest creature on the face of the planet with every attribute that this society feels is a negative? Physical beauty isn’t the summary of a person’s existence. If you’re really truly ugly? Embrace it and go chase all the ways of beauty that are open to you. Life is too big for there to be one measure of your value.

Or maybe they want to hurt you for some reason. Have you been mean to them? Do they feel ugly? Has someone told them that they are ugly? Has someone told them that you are beautiful, and when they look at you they see their own faults and everything lovely in you makes them feel sad because no one has told them about the beauty that they have? Maybe blonde hair should be jet black, maybe short legs should be long. Maybe brown eyes should be blue, or short lashes should be long. Maybe they have too much of something and feel that means you have too little. Maybe they are caught up in trying to understand what beauty IS, and they need to find one particular thing. Children can be simple like that. They’ll pick a favorite food, a favorite flower, and anything other than what they favor is ugly until they change their minds and love something completely different. Some grown people are like that, too.

Happy people don’t tend to tell other people that they’re ugly. Sad people do. Or sometimes innocent people that don’t think “ugly” is such a bad thing at all, just a simple fact of opinion.

Whatever it is, that word isn’t the huge stabbing insult that I used to think that it was.

In a long ago distant past I felt that a person telling me I was “ugly” was something sad. It HURT. Today? If someone told me that I was ugly? I’d smile gently. I’d tell them that I’m sorry that they feel that way, but that I am happy with how I look and with who I am. I’d tell them that I think that they are beautiful, and that I love the color of their eyes and the softness of their form. That I like how they move when they walk, and how their eyes crinkle up at the corners when they laugh.

Then I’d go and dig in the garden and get dirt caught under my toenails because the joy of being barefoot in the mud is one of the things that makes me beautiful. Or ugly. It really depends on how you view those things.

I like the opinions closest to me, because those are the ones that I will live with every day.

You will hear a lot about “ugly”. It’s this weird thing that we live with. You’ll hear about “fat” and about “stupid” and about “idiot” and a lot of potty words directed at a lot of different people. Look at the person that is using the words. Are they the best judge of these things? Don’t look where they are pointing. Look back at them. Look at the bad driver that is yelling at people on the road. They’re upset because other drivers that are just as bad as them? Make their faults more obvious. Look at the person that talks about how fat everyone is. Have they been told that they are too thin? That they are fat, so they need to point out the people that are fatter?

The ugly things that people might say about you often say more about them than they do about you.

You are not ugly. You are beautiful. As a child you might feel that my opinion isn’t important because I /have/ to feel that way as your mother. I have to say nice things to you and think nice things about you. I’m one of the people that is closest to you, so what could my opinion matter?

With time you will come to understand that those ARE the opinions that matter. The ones closest to you. Those are the people that you live with, that love you, that understand the complexity of you.

Who cares what a virtual stranger or casual friend might think? Do they know you? Or are they trying to summarize you into the box of a single word?