Last night, I returned home from a 5 day trip to New Orleans just a little bit after midnight. The kids were all fast asleep in their beds. That didn’t stop me from heading to each of their rooms to see their most beautiful faces. I tried to wake Gabby up, because she had made me promise to wake her up when I got home. She wouldn’t budge. So, I kissed her forehead and headed to the kitchen for a glass of water before I went to bed.
At the edge of the sofa, I noticed a piece of paper covered in familiar hand writing. I picked it up and began to read. I can’t stop looking at your fase. How precious, I thought to myself.
I turned the piece of paper over to see if she had written on the other side.
She kept that photo close to her while I was gone because she missed me. She couldn’t stop looking at my face.
It feels good to be loved like that.
“Did you see the picture I made for you?” my daughter asked.
“No, where is it?”
“Mom! It was on the driveway! I made it so you would be surprised when you came home.”
I had noticed the scribbles on the driveway when I had pulled up, but didn’t pay attention to what it was. I ran back outside to look. I had parked the car right over the beautiful picture she had so thoughtfully created for me. I went back inside, grabbed my keys and moved the car.
It was a beautiful picture of me and my daughter, holding hands. Next to the picture, she had written the words “Love is made to be shared.”
I stood there, looking at it, taking in every detail. My daughter’s love, poured from her heart, through her little hands, laid there in the driveway for me to see. And I had parked my car right over it. Because I was too distracted by life to notice it.
Through that simple act of love, my daughter has reminded me to slow down and take time to appreciate the beauty in the small things. To absorb the love that surrounds me, and to then pass that love onto others.
For weeks, my daughter has been asking if she could “please make some strawberry juice out of real strawberries?” And for weeks, I have been telling her “no.” Mostly because I knew that strawberry juice would taste gross and then I’d have to deal with the drama of Strawberry Juice Gone Bad. (And I know, I could totally google a recipe, but you know, LAZY.)
“But mommy!” She’d whine. “It won’t taste gross! It will taste good! Why won’t you let me try?”
Yesterday, I decided to stop being such a Mean Mommy! And let her try to make some mofo strawberry juice.
The thing about my daughter is that she doesn’t need help doing anything because she can do everything all by herself because she’s “strong and she’s brave.” In fact, she’s SO strong and brave, that the other day she was all “dude, you have no idea how brave I am. I’m not even afraid of aliens with the big black eyes. Except for when they touch me in my dreams.”
Not afraid of Aliens with big black eyes, dudes. She most certainly can make her own damn strawberry juice!
She gathered all of the things that she would need– Strawberries, a cup, a strainer, a spoon and a paper towel– and then she went to work, squeezing the crap out of those strawberries.
She worked so hard, getting as much juice as possible, all the while with a smile on her face because her strawberry juice was going to be SO DELICIOUS! She just knew it.
When she was finished, I suggested she add some water. She did not like this suggestion. She was all “Mom! I don’t need your help! And I don’t need water! It’s strawberry juice!” I pointed out how thick the juice was and, even though she did not like it ONE BIT, she agreed to add just a little bit of water.
She was ready to taste her strawberry juice.
She took a sip.
She made a funny face. Then her funny face morphed into an Angry Face.
“I TOLD YOU WE SHOULDN’T ADD WATER! IT TASTES SO GROSS!”
There I go, ruining my kid’s lives again!
The look on her face was one of pure disappointment. She had been so sure that she was going to make the best strawberry juice anyone had ever tasted. But it wasn’t. It was so bad (thanks, Mom!) I knew what was coming next… The Tears. All of her hard work had been ruined by me and my stupid ideas! She put her head down and closed her eyes and then, it happened.
She burped so loud!
She looked at me, then she smiled.
“Wow, mommy. My strawberry juice tastes DELICIOUS when you burp it up! I TOLD YOU, I could make strawberry juice!”
Gabby totally wins at making strawberry juice.
A few months back, I had a conversation with my daughter about stretch marks. She had walked into my bedroom as I was changing. She noticed my stretch marks and she asked me about them. How did I get them? Did they hurt? I’ve been terribly ashamed of my stretch marks. I’ve written more than once about the hatred I have towards them. But I wasn’t going to tell my daughter that. What if she gets stretch marks? Do I want her to feel the way I do? Absolutely not.
I explained the marks to her. I told her they were called stretch marks. I told her I got them when I was pregnant with my children. I told her that I loved them. “These stretch marks remind me of when you and your brothers were in my belly. They remind me of how happy I was to have a little baby in my tummy. Every time I see them, I think of my little babies.”
This afternoon, my daughter sat down next to me on the sofa as I worked on the laptop. She lifted up the bottom of my shirt and looked at my belly.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Just looking at the marks on your belly.” She looked up at me and smiled. “You love those marks, don’t you mommy? “Because they remind you of your little babies and how much you love us?”
She does not look at my stretch marks with disgust. She does not find them to be ugly. She views them as a symbol of my love for her and for her brothers. Where I see ugly stretch marks, my daughter sees the beauty of a mother’s love.
I can only hope that through the example that I am trying to set, my daughter will be as kind to herself and her changing body as she grows. I know that as she moves through life, she will develop insecurities along the way. But I will be here for her to help her through those difficult times. And I will do everything in my power to teach her to embrace her perceived imperfections. Because I never want my daughter to feel shame about who she is, or the body that her beautiful spirit lives in.
When G was writing her letter to Santa, I asked her if she wanted a new bike.
“You’ve grown so much, you should ask Santa for a bigger bike!”
She looked up at me and said “But Mommy, I don’t even know how to ride my little bike without training wheels yet. I’ll ask Santa for a new bike when I learn how to do that!”
I was overcome with guilt. I taught both of her brothers to ride sans training wheels when they were just 4 years old. It’s not that I haven’t tried to teach her- I have. But teaching G how to ride a bike was a completely different experience. I told myself “She’s just not ready.” The truth was, I lost patience and gave up.
I promised myself that I would teach her how to ride her bike after Christmas.
On Tuesday afternoon, I was inside the house, cleaning up the kitchen. My phone rang– it was Tony. “Come outside, your daughter is learning how to ride her bike without her training wheels.”
I grabbed my camera and ran outside.
I saw my beautiful little girl, in all of her princess glory, sitting on her princess pink bike with the biggest smile on her princess face.
“I’m not scared to learn anymore, Mommy!” She said. “Aren’t you proud of me?”
I watched as she pedaled and wobbled from side to side while screaming “hold me, Daddy! I don’t want to fall!” I watched as my husband ran alongside of her, holding her bike with his hand because he didn’t want her to fall.
I watched as my husband let go of her bike, but stayed close by. I watched as my daughter pedaled all by herself, without realizing she was riding her bike without being held up. I watched as she realized it and as she screamed with joy. “I’M DOING IT ALL BY MYSELF! WEEEEE!”
I watched as my husband ran behind her, letting go at times, holding her tightly at times. And I started to weep, because of I was proud of my daughter, but also because I was witnessing what being a parent is all about right before my eyes. Learning when to let go, when to hold them tight and always being there to help them up when they fall.
Two days ago, my daughter couldn’t ride her bike without training wheels. Today, she can ride as fast as she wants.
Looks like she’ll be getting that bigger bike very soon.
Yesterday was my sister in law’s wedding. I wasn’t sure which dress I wanted to wear, so I put each dress on and asked my husband and my daughter for their opinions.
My daughter loves to give fashion advice and it’s usually better than any advice my husband gives me. (Which is usually something like “I don’t know, if YOU like it, then I guess it looks good.” Or “I bet it would better on the floor so take it off and let me see!”)
While I was modeling the different dresses that I had bought, my daughter made a suggestion.
“Mom, you should try wearing a shirt that shows your belly! Those kinds of shirts are so pretty.”
(I’m getting more and more concerned that she may actually follow through with her dream to “work at Hooters” when she’s a teenager because “they wear really short shorts!” )
“NO way!” I responded.
“But mommy, why won’t you wear shirts that show your belly?”
I stopped myself from opening my mouth. I thought carefully about how I would answer her question. Because this was One Of Those Moments That Mattered.
Before I read the Life Changing Words, I wouldn’t have thought twice about my answer. I would have blurted out something like “Because my belly is fat and ugly and there are stretch marks and I hate it so much!”
But I know better now. I know my daughter is listening, watching, learning from from me about how how she will relate to her body. I understand that the way I speak about my body will have an impact on how she feels about her body.
Just as I was about to answer her question, she followed her question with a statement.
“Your belly isn’t ugly, so I don’t know why you don’t want to show it!”
I didn’t argue with her. I didn’t try to convince her that my belly is ugly. I just smiled and said “I know it’s not ugly, I just like to keep my belly private. Some girls like to show their belly, but mommy is shy about showing her belly.”
“Ohhh.” she said, as if she totally got it. “Well, I’m not shy about my belly and when I’m a teenager, I’m going to wear shirts that show it.”
I smiled. I smiled so hard.
Later that night, as the music played and the lights flashed, I watch my daughter glide around the dance floor, paying absolutely no attention to what anyone thought of her as she ran and twirled and rolled around on the floor.
“Just like her mama.” people said.
I can only hope that I can continue to be a positive influence to my daughter as her image of self continues to take shape. I can only hope that she always dances.
And I hope that when she’s old enough. (30? 40?) she still feels confident enough to wear a shirt that shows her belly.
My daughter. Oh, my daughter.
Just 6 years old, but ready to take on the world by herself.
Her independent spirit is both a blessing and a curse. It’s been challenging as a mother to learn when to step in and say “enough- you NEED HELP” (usually when we are running late and there isn’t another minute to spare for her to figure shit out) and when to step away and let her work it out.
Another challenge I face is the “is it too soon for her to *fill in the blank*?” You see, she wants to do things that I do not feel she’s ready for at 6 years old.
There is one thing in particular that she wants to do and has been begging me to allow her to do for the past 2 weeks.
Walk home from the bus stop all by herself.
Each time she has asked me this question (every day, for the past 14 days, multiple times each day OMG.) my answer has been “No.” And her response has always been “but why not?” And my response is always “because you’re too young.” And her response has always been “but I know that I need to stay on the side of the road and watch for cars and not to get in a stranger’s car!”
“Even still… no, child.”
“When are you going to let me grow up, mother?”
Today, I was sitting at my desk, working while Rhianna blasted on my iPod. It was 1:25pm, 45 before I had to leave to pick up kid #1 from school. I thought I heard the door bell ring. I ignored it at first, because I usually don’t answer the door if I’m not expecting someone. But then it rang again. And again. And again.
Ding dong. Ding dong. Ding dong.
Who the HELL?
I got out of my chair, tip toed to take a look through the peephole.
I didn’t see anyone right away.
Huh, I thought. That was weird.
But then the bell rang again. This time, I saw what appeared to be MY DAUGHTER.
I opened the door. Standing in front of me was my little girl and she had the biggest smile on her face.
I was confused for a second or 12.
“I did it, Mommy! I told you I could do it! Thank you for letting me walk home all by myself!”
I didn’t let her walk home by herself. What I had done was forgotten that it was early dismissal because of parent/teacher conferences.
I started shaking and I know that sounds dramatic but it felt dramatic. I had forgotten that my daughter got out of school early and she had WALKED HOME FROM THE BUS STOP ALL BY HERSELF.
Right after it happened, I did what any digital mom would do. I posted about it on Facebook.
My daughter has been asking me to let her walk home from the bus stop for the past 2 weeks. My answer has been “NO!” She’s only 6! Just now, the door bell rang. It was my daughter. Apparently, it was early dismissal & I didn’t know it. I feel like a horrible mother, but she is SO PROUD.
The comments kind of surprised me.
They ranged from “I would need someone to hold me.” And “I think I’d have a heart attack!” to “Free range kids, baby!” And “God took care of cutting the umbilical cord a little more today.”
Which got me thinking… is 6 really too young to walk home from the bus stop alone (the bus stop is around the corner from our street, not far at all.) Or am I being overprotective, smothering mother who is not letting my child be the independent child that she wants to be? Would you (do you) let your first grader walk home from the bus stop all alone?
This afternoon I picked up my daughter from the bus stop like I do every day. As we walked up the driveway, she twirled around and giggled.
“Do you think it’s funny when I do that, Mommy?” She asked as she spun her tiny body around in circles.
“I think it’s silly.” I replied.
“You’re girl is SO silly, isn’t she mommy?” She asked.
I was distracted, my mind consumed with all of the work that I had yet to do. I didn’t respond right away.
“Mommy? Did you hear me? Isn’t your girl silly?”
“Oh, she’s so silly!” I said.
We approached the front door and just as I was about to open it she stopped and gasped.
“OH! Mommy! I almost forgot! I brought you something!”
She reached into her backpack and started to dig around. I could see the panic sweep over her face because she couldn’t find what she was looking for. She dug inside of her backpack.
I became impatient.
“Let’s go inside and you can keep looking in there.”
“No, Mommy! I want to give it to you right now!”
I wanted to get inside so I could get back to work. But I took a deep breath, sighed loudly and waited while she frantically searched for whatever it was she wanted to give me.
“Oh, here it is!” She shouted, joyfully.
She held out her hand. Laying there in her tiny little palm was a small, shiny, metallic heart.
“I found this on the ground at school.” she explained “It made me think of you because I love you in my heart. So, I picked it up and saved it to give it to you.”
I stopped,. I knelt down beside her and looked carefully at the heart. I told her it was beautiful. I told her how much I loved it. She smiled and placed it in my hand.
“Don’t lose it.” She hollered as she skipped into the house.
That little heart is now taped to my computer monitor, so I can be reminded every day that no matter how much work there is to do, I should always make time for those who love me in their hearts.
The kids already have their first day of school off. “Staff development day.” Normally, this would annoy me because seriously, teachers? School just started. But I was looking forward to their day off.. I didn’t get home from a work trip until 1am and I am wiped the hell out. I was looking forward to sleeping in.
But at 6am, I felt a little finger tapping on my arm.
“Mom?” She whispered.
“No. no! Go back to bed! It’s too early!”
She didn’t go back to bed. She went to the couch to try to watch TV, but the batteries on the remote were dead and I only know this because 30 seconds after I had fallen back to sleep, she was tapping on my arm again telling me that the batteries were dead.
I switched out the batteries and tried to fall back asleep. I tossed and turned but eventually fell back asleep.
Except 8 minutes later, my son was standing next to my bed.
“Mom. Gabby just said the funniest thing.”
“Tell me later! I’m so tired!”
“But mom, it’s hilarious.” He insisted that I needed to hear the story right this very minute.
“Fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine.” I said, all angrily while forcing my eyes open.
“She wanted to play with my itouch, but I told her no because I was in the middle of the game. So then she got so mad and said ‘you know what, Ethan? I’m going to do what Lady Gaga said. I’m going to Pa-pa-poke your face pa-pa-poke your face’.”
I know, I KNOW. So mean. So violent. So very worth being woken up for.