Category Archives: Letters to My Sons

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

Dragonflies Will Sew Your Mouth Shut if You Lie, and Other Convenient Untruths

Dear Mister Four,

You recently stopped picking up the toys in the bathtub and frantically putting them away as the bath drained. Inconvenient, yes. But a step forwards in understanding the world around you. For months you would cry if anyone took out the drain plug before the toys were put away. You didn’t want them to go down the drain.

It would have made my job easier to perpetuate this myth. I mean. You cleaned up the toys every single time the bath was over.

There are a lot of lies that parents tell children to get them to do the things that they want them to do, or to discourage the things that they don’t want them to do.

Your grandmother was told that dragonflies would sew her mouth shut if she ever lied. The day that she told me about that we were sitting on a wooden foot bridge across a creek that I loved. Dragonflies were darting through the air. I thought that they were beautiful and pleasant. I was in my late 20’s and your older brother was not yet a year old.

I was sad when my mother told me this. Sad that she still got uncomfortable when the dragon flies flew too close. Sad that these pretty iridescent bugs were tied up in memories of being lied to and manipulated.

I was glad, though. Glad that she told me that story. Because often people fall into patterns without really thinking through to the long term consequences of what they are doing. It’s fast and it’s easy and everyone around you is doing it. It seems to be effective and hey- maybe it’s even cute that the kid believes something silly and unfounded. Maybe they’ve come up with something all on their own, and it’s just convenient for us as a parent.

Hearing her story made me recognize the long term of those cute little “tricks”.

No, child, the dragonflies won’t sew your mouth shut. The consequences of a lie don’t come in some mystical form of Santa Claus bringing you coal. They don’t come from insects or from any of those things. They come from the sadness of knowing you have been less than honest. They come from a loss of trust.

And that is why I tell you the truth even when it is inconvenient. That is why I admit my honest mistakes even if it’s scary to do so. That’s why I don’t pretend to be blameless when I am to blame. Why I don’t say that you broke the glass that I dropped. That’s why I showed you that the bath toys don’t fit down the drain.

Because lies have consequences that aren’t worth it. Because I value your trust just as you value mine.

You no longer pick up all the toys in tears and worry. Instead you pick them up because I ask you to please pick them up and put them away. And I give you a huge hug afterwards.*

No lies needed.

<3 Mama

* You aren’t perfect at the picking up on request thing yet. Sometimes you won’t, or you get distracted and start to play again. But you’ll get there eventually.

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 Bigger than You. (Big Like a Mountain in a Hurricane)

Dear Kids,

One of the phrases I hear a little too often for my liking is “I’m bigger than you” and “show them that you’re bigger than they are”. That’s one of those things that can get inside your head and make you behave rather poorly.

I AM bigger than you. Big like a mountain in a hurricane. I’m big enough to understand that nothing you do will hurt me, and that I need to be careful not to hurt you. I’m big enough to stay calm in the face of bad behavior and the big feelings of a little person whose brain is still developing. I’m big enough to not throw an adult sized tantrum while trying to teach you to control the feelings that make you throw tantrums of your own.

I’m not ‘bigger than you’ in a way that makes it so I have to scare you more than you scare me.

I’m big enough to remember that oceans don’t scream at the fish.
I’m big enough to remember that fields don’t yell at deer.
I’m big enough to remember that I don’t need to yell at you.

As long as I am bigger than you I will be mindful of my size and how feeling small makes little people try and puff up like blowfish.

I don’t need to puff up. I need to sit down. To wait for your calm to come back.

You’re so small, there’s no reason for me to try and be bigger than I am. I don’t need to jump around and thump my chest.

I can see that you’re upset. I can shrink down to your size so you don’t have to try and puff up to mine. I don’t need to dominate you. I need to teach you that when there’s a problem we talk about it quietly and we listen and we try to fix things.

Yes. I am bigger than you. I’ve got more self control. I’ve got years of strength to pull from, and all the pounds of my full-grown frame. I’m big enough to catch you when you come slamming into me a wall of fury and upset. I’m big enough to hold you close while you cry about the things that hurt you. I’m big enough to understand that the scale at which you view things is the scale of your own experiences and that you will experience more as you grow.

I’m big enough to understand that I don’t need to make you smaller than you already are. I need to help you grow to be big like I am. And that takes time.

I’m big enough to wait while you grow.

<3 Mama

In the Real World I’ll Want You to Know I’m Here For You

Dear Kids,

Eventually you’ll be going out in the real world more and more. And you’ll discover that sometimes people are really mean. In theory I should teach you to deal with this now by being really mean to you. In reality I’m not going to. Because when you’re out in the real world I’ll want you to know that I’m here for you.

I also want you to know that there are certain basic ways that people treat each other, and that even if you’re out in that real world of ours and people are not being nice or fair or even half-way decent, I want you to know that they’re being WRONG and UNFAIR and that yes.. Sometimes we have to deal with wrong and unfair people. But that we are accountable for our own behavior and that we are big enough to deal with all that wrong unfair stuff while staying internally consistent.

It’s called behaving well.

I could teach you that you’re all on your own and no one gives a damn if you shed a tear. That’s not the lesson I want you to learn. I want you to learn that tears don’t change things, calmly explaining yourself sometimes does. Anger doesn’t change things. Road range doesn’t change things. Fights don’t change things. Listening, understanding and discussing things calmly changes things. And sometimes you’re really gonna be upset and you’re going to cry. Not because you’re trying to change things, but because you’re UPSET. And that’s fine. When you’re upset you find a safe person that loves you and you bawl in their arms.

I’m not going to teach you that “life is unfair” by being unfair to you, because then you just learn all those things that make other people be unfair to each other. You learn that just because you’re bigger you can be a jerk. You learn that it’s okay to “teach your little brother how it feels” by kicking him as hard as you can just like he kicked you. You learn that it’s okay to lie, to steal, to cheat. Because you’re going out into a big crappy world full of jerks that lack a moral compass so you might as well be the grabber and the taker and the bigger and faster one.

I’m not going to be a bully because I don’t want you to be a bully.

Yes, the world out there isn’t very nice. People don’t like to listen. Often people don’t really care.

That’s why you have a family to come home to. A safe place to seek refuge. A person to listen and to try and help you find your way calmly.

I can teach you about the sad and unhappy without roughing you up and making you sad and unhappy.

I can tell you all about the real world. And I can show you how I expect you to behave when you go out into that real world. I can tell you that I expect you not to absorb the bad behavior of others, because then you’re a part of the problem not a part of the solution. I can tell you about all the angry sad people who don’t understand how to be nice because no one ever taught them. But I don’t have to teach you to not be nice when I have the choice to teach you to be better things.

When you’re out in that real world I want you to know the difference between the people that you can trust and those that you cannot. How can I teach you this if I teach you to just never trust at all? If you don’t know what trust feels like? If I try to toughen you up from birth rather than allow you to grow an understanding of how people should be treating you? How can you learn what to look for in friends, in a mate, and in yourself?

I’m not “making you soft”, I’m giving you the chance to learn about trust in a positive way before you have to deal with all the negative.

<3 Mama

Motherless

Dear Kids,

Since you were born two of my mom-friends have passed away, leaving behind young children. Motherless. Adult friends have grieved the loss of their own mothers. My mother’s mother has passed away.  Your father’s best friend passed suddenly and unexpectedly. When someone you love passes away you often sort through their things while you miss them, and try to learn more about them as you can only learn from what was left behind. You crave a message from “beyond” so to speak. Some last few words. Something that you can hold onto for a little bit longer. You wonder why they didn’t leave something behind with you to hold onto.

My letters to you come in part from my seeing that wanting in others.

One day I am going to leave you motherless.

That’s a fear in every mother’s heart. It ranks right up there with the fears around losing a child. One day you’ll be motherless. Hopefully a day way far into a distant future when I’m old and gray and you’ve had a chance to come to terms with mortality and you’re a bit old and gray yourself.  Sometimes it happens sooner, though. And the thought of that makes me cry, because I’ve lost.. And loss hurts.. And Iwant so much to be there for you to teach you that it’s okay to grieve, to question, to mourn and then to move on. I hope to be there for you for a very long time to come.

That’s what mothers hope for. They hope this so very much that often they try and hide from the other possibilities. They try and say to themselves that it’s a long way off. They don’t leave behind letters to tempt fate or to raise questions. They don’t want to think about it just now. Maybe they’ll leave a will which is scary all on its own but at least it carries the calm of being just a responsibility to do, a duck to line up in a row. A checkbox to tick off.

I want to leave behind a letter about being motherless.

I want you to know that if my end was long and hard.. That I was grateful for every moment that I was able to fight to stay with you. That I birthed you, that I passed through that first pain with you, that I fear no pain, that I truly am grateful for every moment. People wonder about that. I don’t want you to. People feel guilty and wonder if their loved one held on and suffered out of obligation. No, sweetheart. If I hold on it is because I want to. Because it is important to me, because I am not ready yet to go. Not because there’s something that you need to worry about or feel guilty about, love.

I want you to know that if my end was quick and I had even a moment to think, my thoughts were not of fear they were of wanting to fight to stay with you. People wonder about that. I don’t want you to.

I want you to know that there was nothing that you could have done or should have done. No guilt. No blame. No matter how or what happened. People wonder about that. I don’t want you to.

I want you to know of all the times I held you in the dark of the night and whispered that I loved you. I want you to know of every day that your little body grew where I loved you dear and held you tight. I want you to feel that love in your body as an indelible part of your soul. Not as something that once was and that passed, but something that grew into you as part of you that you can never lose. You are LOVED. Fiercely. Deeply.

Grief, love.. It means that something important and lovely feels lost. You can’t lose the time that our lives overlapped. The memories that you have and the moments that we spent together are permanent. I will be with you in that way always.  The size of your grief should tell you this. Simple little things aren’t things that we grieve. We grieve the big huge things that etch themselves into our hearts and souls permanently. Because we think that those things can be lost.

They can’t be. They stay exactly where they are. They are not lost. You will simply grow past me and into your own beautiful future, like a vine that grows past the plant. This is okay. It’s okay to outlive me. It’s what I’d want.

I will live as long and as strong as I can, because I want to see you live and grow and etch out your own life. I will live as long and as strong as I can because I want to etch out mine. Because I’m excited and happy for many different types of future that might stretch out in front of us. Because every day is a beautiful blessing that takes place in so many forms.

Death leaves behind many questions. It’s okay to question and to grieve and to be sad and wail and beat the ground and do all of the things to get that sadness out. It’s also okay to find that space to breathe again, to leave me behind in the past after my life has reached its natural end. Ask the questions, seek the answers, but never let yourself question this: YOU ARE DEEPLY LOVED. Not “were”. ARE. Fiercely. Indelibly. Permanently. I gave you this love with every kiss, every hug, every night in the dark when I bounced you to sleep. I gave you this love the first time I held you after you were born. Every time you came home from school. Every time I buckled you into the stroller or the car seat. Every time I nursed you or fed you a spoonful of fo0d.

Death cannot erase love. It can’t. It won’t.

I love you. Permanently. That is simply how a parent loves a child.

<3 Mama

(Rest in peace Bernadette, Milenka, Nora, Tania’s mom, and all other mothers who have felt this deep permanent love.)

Oh Child, You are Testing Me

Dear Kids,

You test me. You try my patience. More words that people say that I’ve instinctively pushed away because the meaning behind those words is generally “you are manipulating me. You are trying to see what you can get away with.” Those words drip in negativity and suggest strongly that I should not respond to your tears with anything that resembles softness or compassion.

You do test me, though. You test me to see if I am trustworthy and if I can handle all the hard stuff that life throws at us. You test me to see if you can come to me when you are hurting or upset. You test me to see if I will offer comfort or push you away. You test me to see if I can recognize the scale of your emotions as they fit within the experiences of your life rather than looking at them from the scale of mine. You’re testing me to see if I’m the type of person that you’ll talk to as a teenager without fear of being made to feel stupid when you’re simply inexperienced. You’re testing me to know if you can come to me with heartbreak, with stupid mistakes that you need help with as you live with the consequences.

Will I be the person to laugh at the dreams that you have and tick off the reasons why they are foolish? Will I talk to you about the steps to take to make things real?

Will I disown you? Hit you? Intimidate you? Pull you near and hug you close and whisper that I love you fiercely and you’ve made mistakes but that we all do, and thank goodness you trust me enough to come to me for help..?

I will do that, you know. I’ll share the stories of my own mistakes, I’ll reassure you that you are human and that I am human and that sometimes mistakes are made. I’ll let you know that regrets stick around forever, but that redemption can be found in making choices that change your course. I’ll trust you to make those wise choices, and when you do I will be so bloody proud of you, just as I am proud of you now when you trust me to help you meet your needs. Just as I am proud of you now when you trust me to help you deal with your strong emotions. Just as I am proud of you now when you come to me with the truth rather than hiding with it alone.

Oh child, you are testing me. And oh do I hope I pass your test.