Monday, October 2, 2017

Face Fear

(I used Face instead of another four-letter F word)

You’ve never been a scared kid. You’re so anti-fear that when you actually tell The Dad and I that you’re scared, we scoff at you, and admonish your feelings. We just assume you’re bullshitting us as a default. Rock solid parenting right there.

But you’ve always just been full-throttle, wide open on the highway of life.
And maybe fear comes with age and exposure. You simply might not be scared because you don’t know what to be scared of yet. That makes sense. Fear is commensurate with experience.

What's So Scary?

I think of the things in your decade of life that to outsiders could be scary.

  • Getting eight stitches in your tiny cheek. You heard there would be Popsicles post.
  • Riding the school bus. You only cared that your BFF would sit with you.
  • Hearing that your Grandma G. had cancer. You simply wanted to know who would buy groceries when she was sick.
  • Going to your great-uncle’s funeral. You said you wanted to sit between Grandpa and Grandma in the chapel and brought tissues to share.
  • Saying goodbye to your dog. You only wanted to know how Daddy would handle it.
  • Cliff diving. You actually had zero questions about this.
  • Trying out for basketball. You just needed to know that we’d wait for you outside the gym.

Girlfriend. Looking at your history, where the perception of fear has emerged, you handled it with aplomb. In most of those scenarios above, your mother was in fact losing her own shit, fear bubbling beneath my surface, sure to come out at any moment, preventing you from experiencing any of those things.

Then again, I’m quite a bit older than you and I know what’s scary.

And I for sure will never, ever cliff dive.

Why am I Talking About Fear?

Because for the first time in my life, I can see the world embracing fear more than any other emotion out there. Humans are scared, and rightfully so. I won’t get too much into politics or racism, feminism, or any other hot button topics, because that’s not what I want you to remember. I want you to remember you have a choice.

I remember a few bad things that evoked fear in me as a kid, but nothing so overwhelming mundane or seemingly everyday like it happens in 2017.

When I was a kindergartner, the Challenger blew up.
I was a freshman in high school when the Oklahoma City bombings took place.
I just got my license when the Atlanta Olympics bombings happened.
There was Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan.
And then Eazy-E, Tupac, Notorious B.I.G., and Big Pun died.
Columbine happened when I was a freshman in college.

That shitty timeline played out across my entire childhood, while today it seems like your childhood is experiencing tragedy, despair, malice, and hate nearly everyday. The fear is there, alive and well across all of our lives. You’re aware of it because our house watches the news and discusses social awareness as an everyday part of life. Not to be afraid or fearful, but to be aware. This is not the time for ignorance; there is no bliss in that state of mind.

Parenting Through the Pain

It’s important for me to manage parenthood in this day and age as realistic and delicate as I can. I can’t protect you from the garbage, but I can expose you to it so you too can give it a name. You can recognize the obvious good from the bad, and choose yourself where to shine your light. Just as the newsreel fills with more anger and devastation, I fill your feed with stories of good and people in the literal streets post-storms scooping up puppies and grandmas and bringing the good to the darkest places. I live that way so you may, too. It’s not easy, choosing positive over negative every single day or shrugging off fear or complacency instead of embracing activism.

Fear, if you let it, will creep across everything holy and good. It will leave you empty and sad and a shell of the bright, beautiful girl you are now. It leaves a bitter aftertaste, and hardens you against all of life’s flowers, rainbows, and unicorns. It has a place in the world, of course, and will always present itself. Let it live there on the periphery, never giving it enough oxygen to breathe and grow. That is your choice.

And eventually you’ll find yourself amongst people who either invite or invoke fear on their own. Respect them, but choose wisely. Staying will increase the likelihood that you too will let fear be part of your life. I’m giving you license and permission to walk away, even if those people are close to you. It’s more fun and easier to coordinate outfits with the people who root for the same things you do, Kid Rock. Trust me on that.

Fear is a Liar and Fear is an Asshole

And you certainly don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.

Be awesome.
Mama loves.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

September 5th, 1989

September 5th, 1989

That was my first day of fourth grade and I remember it quite well. I remember it because it was one of the best days of my life. You see, I was entering a new school in a new town. We spent the summer moving and getting situated and living in between houses as we waited for ours to sell in the Metro, and ours to be ready in Brainerd, which is my hometown.

How does it become my hometown if I started school there as a fourth grader? I was born there nine years earlier when my parents were students at the community college. That town has always been part of my story. And now, my story was about to get even better.

I had brand-new black and red Nikes that morning – boy shoes because duh, they were infinitesimally better than girl shoes back in the day. I refused to wear anything pink or purple and Nike had yet to catch on to that little concept. I had a mullet; something my own Mama defends by saying it WAS THE STYLE BACK THEN dismissing my claim of child abuse. I had on dark denim and a denim jacket. I stepped on the bus that morning at my grandparents’ lake house – the very lake coordinates I have tattooed onto my thigh – ready to take on the world.

As a fourth grader.

Just Like You Are Today

I’m telling you this story because that day was one of the best of my life. I would go on from that moment to meet all your aunties and even your Fairy Godmother a few years later. The group of women who have shaped my life in so many rich, hysterical ways in the nearly 30 years we’ve been running and gunning. And, I feel so damn nostalgic (and hopeful!) as you don your own Nike Frees today to take on the universe from your point of view.

I was teased pretty hardcore that first day of school. Not only was I the new girl, which I guess sort of invites the attention, but damn. Is she wearing boy shoes? You’re goddamn right I am. That way I can run faster than you and your little white Keds with their pristine white laces. I’ll run faster, jump higher, and wear them tomorrow to do it all over again. Also? All my friends in the Minneapolis area are wearing these shoes today – that’s right. Even the girls. So I’ll wait until this little backwoods, backward tree town gets up to speed on fashion.

And eventually, it did. Those black and red Nikes morphed into Adidas shell toes, B.U.M. Equipment boots (okay, those WERE ridiculous), Eastlands with the little green tag, Doc Martens, Steve Maddens, and eventually, always back to Nikes. A girl never forgets her first love.

What Does My Past Shoe Collection Have to Do With It?

Because I always wore what I wanted to. And yes, sometimes it happened to be what was in style. But I was unapologetic about the choices I made, and I always stood my ground when it came time for criticism or merciless teasing.

I’ve been thinking about this for a few weeks because you shared a little flash of this with me of your own. Because you are your Mother’s daughter, you’d been begging me to take you school supply shopping since approximately June 15th. I put my foot down and told you to wait until August. That was a fun conversation to have every single day for 67 days. When the time came to hit the pearly gates of Target, you’d been agonizing over your list, circling, adding, rewriting, giving priority number to items, and on and on for months. You had your sights set on all things Yoobi – a new brand of school supplies. Trendy, colorful, with a side of philanthropy. You loved knowing another kid in the U.S. would receive supplies with your purchase. You ARE your Mother’s daughter.

You shopped with a military-like precision while I tried not to sob into my Starbucks. Man, things like school shopping change when you started to read. You even brought a highlighter for efficiency. I was only tasked with being patient, driving the cart, and paying the tab.

You ripped into everything on the short drive home. Couldn’t wait to show Daddy. Spread things out on grand display, ran your thumb across all the shiny newness of untouched pages and fresh tips of wooden pencils, and simply oohed and aahed over your haul for hours.

Yet when I went to tuck you in that night, you whispered to me while clutching your new binder to your chest, Mama do you think my new stuff is lame?

You often choose night time to come at me with unexpected or out of proportion ideas or philosophies. I call that your Bedtime Ambush. That’s a stalling tactic to avoid sleep. But I felt like your question was different on that night.

I perched on the edge of your bed. I asked you if you thought they were lame or silly. I didn’t mention the pencil case you HAD to have was shaped like a giant yellow banana.

No, I LOVE my stuff! I knew that would be your answer. So I asked you why you wondered that. I mean I knew you were mentally taking yourself through your first day of school, unpacking your backpack, and filling up your desk and locker with all your Yoobi newness.

You Were Wondering What Other People Would Think of Your Swag

You didn’t tell me that in the darkness that night. I simply said, “If you love what you have, and are proud and excited, that’s all that matters. Period, end of story.”

You know that. You don’t have to defend or explain anything to anyone, ever. Not even to Daddy or I. We should be the place and people who question or challenge you the least on your own choices. Ever since you were small but old enough to understand language I’d ask you, do you feel good about it? To reinforce your ability to make personal decisions and stand by your choices.

To be quite honest, that’s always been my biggest … challenge or blessing? in motherhood. Raising a girl who is confident. Raising a girl who isn’t a carbon copy of someone else. Raising a girl who has the voice to defend who she is, even in the darkness.

Raising a girl who knows she wants a yellow banana pencil case, and raising a girl who proudly owns one.

I hope fourth grade is as good to you as it was to me, Kid Rock.
I’ll tell you the same thing I’ve told you for the last six years.
Work hard and be nice.
And – don’t forget to be awesome.

AND if some little insecure punk says ANYTHING about your yellow banana pencil case or your shoes or face or ANYTHING … let me know and I’ll kick his ass. And his Mama’s too.

Just kidding. I don’t condone violence.

But if he does or she does, walk away. Head held high.
Think of the lyrics of our favorite summer song – our anthem from all our days in the sun:

Raise a cup up for all my day ones
Two middle fingers for the haters
Life’s only getting greater

Mama loves.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Second Grade Diaries

Lots of mommy bloggers write soul-baring admissions of truth. Truths about parenting, shortcomings, fears, failures, and absurd dreams. That’s exactly what this whole blog has been about. Because at the end of the end, I want her to know who her mother was, and how she viewed parenthood. I never sugarcoat, and I certainly don’t shy away from the raw, bitter truth when the moment calls for it. So, this post, having risen from the blog ashes of say, oh, the past six months or so, is just another admission from my soul. I won’t be heralded for bravery or honesty. I won’t get a day off or even a free latte.

But that’s okay. I get to be her mom every single day and that’s pretty great.

Kid Rock,
You are being an asshole.

Second grade hasn’t been cherries and glitter.
And I’m kinda pissed about that, because here I thought I had an easy kid, and this whole parenting thing will be so effortless for me. You are proving my life’s vision of motherhood to be a bit less … shiny and amazing. What if you hadn’t sleep through the night, every night forever, instead of being a pain in my ass now? That’s what I wonder. Did I count all those chickens before they hatched? I got cocky. That’s what happened. I got complacent.

This conversation is stemming from the phone call I got yesterday from your principal.
The assistant principal, but still. I remember when I was a kid and your Grandma G. (who, to this day, still scares the shit out of me) telling me she had better not EVER have to field a phone call from an adult whose care I was in while away from her, to report my assholery. I think that’s an awfully great life motto: don’t make your problem, my problem. Anyways, your assistant principal called and left a 2:12-minute message regarding An Incident.

(When she initiated the message with the word incident I waited to hear how bloody you were, or which ER you were en route to. When she went on to explain it was behavior-related, the air whooshed right out my lungs; proof I do love you very much)

Disobedience. Misbehavior. What have you. Regular ol’ elementary school shenanigans. Would you just get off the monkey bars when you’re told, sweetheart? That’d be great. But you didn’t. Of course, your story differs slightly in that nothing was your fault and … I tuned you out. You said you were stuck, you were scared, and no one would help you.

Just like me, and motherhood.

You are becoming very, very independent. I mean, you always have been, but you’re taking independence to a whole new level. I remember thinking when you were a newborn with your giant lemur-eyes as I laid you in your dark, empty crib wide awake … she’s just going to do this herself? And yes. You did everything by yourself and for yourself. I think that’s great. I always have.

But now … you’re a little girl who grew into her eyeballs, but haven’t really grown out of that highly intact independency thing. You’re your mother’s daughter so you possess some spunk and spitfire. You’re also your father’s daughter so you possess some of his zero-f*cks-given attitude. There you go, assistant principal. Blame genetics.

You’ve had to work extra hard in school this year, you my mighty girl who has always had everything come easy to her. Which means by default I have had to work hard to accept this and be patient with this process. You are not me. That’s the best advice/insight I have ever heard in regards to parenting (courtesy; your Papa) and it’s something I cling to everyday. I mean just this morning you went to school dressed like Rizzo from Grease because you’re on bit of a Grease kick. We are definitely different people.

And things are hard. They are hard in second grade. We turn in science projects late and lose library books and have to talk to you about racism in 2016. We forget picture day and try to remember when you wore last Thursday. I suspect you’re still eating high fructose corn syrup on a daily basis even though I’m quite vigilant about that particular issue. We lose, we yell, we stop, we hide.

Yet everyday, I am the last person to touch your face and search your eyes when you leave your home. I grab your chin, my very favorite chin, and kiss your lips. I tell you the same thing everyday. I love you the most. Be a good friend. Be respectful. And, don’t forget to be awesome.

Though, I think I am going to change that last sentence to don’t forget to not be an asshole starting tomorrow.

Mama loves.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Getting It Off Her Chest

It took her nearly eight years, but she finally did it.
She told me last night.
Daddy is my favorite.

The minute she made the admission, her hands flew to her mouth, as if they could redact the sentence.
Daddy is my favorite.

I could see her eyes well up. Hands clamped firmly over her mouth. Terrified.
I put my hands on my knees, getting eye level with her.
"I know he is, sweetheart." I told her, stoic.
It was the least surprising thing I heard in ages.
So I hugged her, made her laugh.
I hope she feels better, to have that off her chest.
I've been waiting for it for years.

I didn't have a favorite parent growing up.
To me, they were parents. Adults. Disciplinarians. Authoritative. I never considered either of them my friend, to be honest. I managed to leave the house at 18 with a healthy level of respect and terror for both of them. God, they were good parents. How'd they do that? I'm scared I won't get there with Kid Rock.

Today is different. They are both incredible people who I like being around. I value their opinions and judgements and unconditional love. Somewhere along the lines I fell in love with them as people. My people. I still respect the hell out of them, but they're less terrifying. My dad is really funny. My mom is really blunt. They're fantastic. And, equally so.

But, the Dad and I, we have one child. And I'm not her favorite parent.

I won't mention pregnancy. The stretch marks. The whiskey or bleu cheese I gave up. I. Stopped. Drinking. Coffee. The high heels that were shelved. The THIRTY ONE POINT FIVE HOURS of labor. Because none of that matters. It's not about sacrifices or what you do in the name of those you love. They'll still arrive at their own conclusions about you as person. That's all them and nothing on you. Try all you want. It's futile.

And truly, this is not a cathartic release of my pretend feelings on the topic in a half-hearted attempt to assume acceptance. I honestly, with my whole heart, knew I wasn't her favorite for many years. There was just always something about those two that were different. I sometimes come up with reasons.

I traveled too much.
I sent her to daycare.
I didn't breastfeed.
I can yell.
I'm impatient.
We're too similar.
I'm a hardass.
I'm too soft.

But in reality, none of those have anything to do with it. The heart wants what the heart wants. And damned if I'm going to stand in its way.

Besides, I'll always be her mother.

And someday when I invite her to the coffee shop, she won't throw herself on the floor in hysterics at the mere thought of how PAINFUL that sounds. Or she'll love shopping a little bit more than she does right now. I always joked that I could be 34 states away from her for a week straight, but her daddy goes golfing for 3 hours and she loses her mind. And maybe someday, I'll be her first choice.

Because right now, and likely forever, she's mine.
And letting her have this, and like this, is proof of that.

Mama loves.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Things I Wish I Knew Before College

When I was 17, I had my first baby girl.

Not really. No Teen Mom status. But my little cousin Magoo (her lifelong nickname I gave her) was born in June of 1997, the summer before my senior year of high school. I remember going to meet this squishy little bundle of pink with the biggest, bluest eyes. My aunt, one of my favorite people in the world, asked me to be her Godmother. I was shocked. I told her I was too young. She said that didn’t matter. I told her I had been Confirmed approximately 12 months prior. She said that didn’t matter. When I held her for the first time, I fell in love with my baby girl and nothing else mattered.

Well, that blue-eyed squishy little bundle of pink started college last week. Somebody hold me. I’m not old enough to have a college freshman! But she drove down her gravel driveway and into the sunset and now she’s living on campus and doing all those big-girl things. It’s wonderful. It’s terrifying.

The relationship her and I have isn’t mother-daughter. It’s big-little sister. I don’t have a sister; so Magoo sort of filled that role for me. Through the years, I held fast to the big sister status and made sure she didn’t view me as another parent chiding her for making mistakes, not making decisions, or being too hard on herself. She has mom and a dad, and a big brother, little brother, and two feisty-as-hell grandmas (one she shares with me) who do plenty of parenting for her.

Instead, I told her boys are idiots.
Men are too, but some are worth loving really hard.
Her hometown is too small.
Life is not.
It all goes fast.
But not fast enough sometimes.
The things that are important to her now, might not be later.
But they’ll always shape her life.
And she should consider taking less duckface selfies because when she gets married in that barn wedding she’s always wanted, all we’re going to have to work with for photos for the slideshow is all those duckface selfies.
Smile more.
Your real smile.

And now that she’s in college, I need to up my game with her. I think about my college experience and how much I loved all four years, even if that was 17 years ago (God; gross). So here is my advice for her, things maybe I wish I had learned, and not the hard way, or had my own big sister to clue me in on.

College does not prepare you for the real world. The only thing that prepares you for the real world is the real world itself. So don’t spend your precious few college years worrying about being a grown-up, because you’ll worry about being a grown-up when you are one.

Plan B. Not the contraceptive.
Well yes, the contraceptive, too. Because no matter what, people make mistakes. No big deal. Zero judgment. But figure out Plan B. Because you can start your college career with your eyes on the horizon, your shiny little plan all figured out until you actually get into it. Then you might want a new plan. Make one. Make 70. Nobody will care except you.

Wear eyeliner. Learn how to be a girl when you are surrounded by them.

You will never need both Oreos and those shitty, neon pink frosted animal crackers in your grocery cart at the same time. In fact, you probably don’t even need either of them.

Drink water.

Don’t drink whatever you can get your hands on. Have some standards, man.

Travel. And I’m not talking Cancun for spring break. In fact skip Mexico because that’s actually not a vacation when you’re 20. Take your girlfriends when you turn 30. Instead, take a roadtrip around the Great Lakes. Visit Savannah, GA, and stay at the Azalea Inn. Go snowboarding in Crested Butte, CO. Stay in a shitty hotel in Seattle and eat your way through the city.

Work your ass off. Work two jobs. Be a hustler like your Grandma S. She raised you to be one, and she’s so proud of you.

Don’t ever, ever smoke. It doesn’t help you relax, focus, get a buzz, calm you down, or make you appear like you’re a badass. All smoking does is give you cancer. And let me get a little Momish on you here, cancer from tobacco use is the only cancer that’s 100% preventable. Don’t. Ever.

Skip class. If you can’t decide whether or not to skip class, just skip it. If you’re already contemplating no-showing, your heart and brain aren’t in it, and you’ll just sit in class complacent, lethargic, asshole-esque, and the students around you don’t need that kind of negativity in their lives.

Your parents no longer are responsible for you.
I should leave that sentence on its own without any sort of supporting content, because that is a big, ol’ nasty one that’s really hard to accept. So if you think you’re sick and legitimately cannot get out of bed, swallow water, or get your temp to drop below 102*, you probably have Mono and you should haul your own ass to health services. That way, your mom doesn’t have to get a phone call from your roommate, leave work, drive 120 miles, and take you to the ER. Be your own advocate because you’re all you have right now.

Buy your parents cliché campus souvenirs for your first Christmas as a college student. Because your dad will wear that crew neck sweatshirt until the cuffs fray off, the logo indistinguishable. Your mom’s mascot coffee cup will be hand washed for two decades, and its handle will be super glued on six different times, but she’ll always treasure it.

The fitness center is free. Your gym membership the rest of your life will not be. Use it.

Don’t forget where you came from. And, don’t forget that you can always go home.

Date. But not exclusively. You won’t marry your college boyfriend and this world is a very, very big place.

You have all the control when it comes to dating and boys in general. Don’t ever, ever let any of them tell/force/believe you otherwise.

Learn how to cook using only real food. What you have in your pantry in tidy little cans, packages, and freezer meals are not considered cooking, or even real food.

On topic, SlimFast is bullshit, expensive, and never going to do what getting your ass to the gym and eating real food will do.

Find your ride or dies. Or a single die. College is full of scary, big, doubting, messy, dramatic stuff. Having your person there makes it … not as much. And be the same for her, or him. Say what you mean, and always, always pick up the phone when they call, day or night, rain or shine.

Be yourself. Yourself is amazing. People will fall in love with that girl, the real version of your very best you. But remember, you're not everyone's cup or tea, or shot of whiskey. And that's okay. Don't even try to convince them otherwise.

Don't drink and drive. Don't get in a car with people who are about to drink and drive. I'm sure I told you this when you turned 16, but it bears repeating.

Call your mom. She misses you. Write letters to your grandmas. They REALLY miss you.

Work hard and be nice.

And, don't forget to be awesome.

Mama loves.