Monday, August 20, 2012
We went to the park last night; just you and I. And the anxious Beagle. You told me you learned how to do the monkey bars in Daddy's hometown over the weekend with your grandparents and were excited to show me. We couldn't get there fast enough.
I stood there, camera poised, dog on leash, waiting for you to scale the ancient playground equipment. You hung there, bony frame swaying back and forth, not making a move for the next bar. Squinting against the sun, you swung and swung, fingers gripped tightly, feet making repeated contact with the bar below. You were not crossing any monkey bars. I backed off and found a bench.
The entire 30 minutes we spent at the park you didn't try to reach that next bar. I kept my mouth shut. It was your feat, and your ability. Not mine.
Not long after I settled onto that bench, a little girl with a curly red ponytail bounded up to the monkey bars, too. She swiftly crossed one time, and returned again. Arm after arm, she whipped through. As you watched her, I could see your face start to crumple as you jumped down and ran for Mama.
I can't do it, you cried. I can't be like her.
I paused for a minute. You've been emotional the past few weeks, I know this via the Daycare Lady and her quiet 5pm reports, and Daddy's stories of you two when I was in New York last week. I accidentally made a promise to you Saturday evening, and when I backed out, you cried your face off and ripped my heart to shreds. I get you, now, I really, honestly do. I promise. I am a girl too, and emotional most of the time. It's harder than hell being a girl. I won't ever lie to you about that.
But it kicks a lot of crazy ass too. Your shirt, for example, you wore last night to the park? Says;
Your Grandma G. bought it for you. Because, HELLO, you're rad!
And who cares if you can't be like that redhaired girl on the monkey bars. Judging by her height, I'd guess her to be five or six. With age usually comes ability. Hey, just last summer you couldn't even crawl onto those stupid monkey bars let alone reach that first bar! Look at you! I bet she can't sing the words to that Cher Lloyd song "Want U Back" that I didn't know existed on the radio like you can. There's no way she can remember exact routes we took to parties two years ago. She doesn't have the heart for putting beloved packs of stickers in her bestie's mailbox like you do, nor can she probably Superman sleep in 14 hour stretches like someone I know can.
She's no you, lil' dude. There's no you who's youer than you!
We as a human race, and even more so as females, constantly compare ourselves to others. It's brutal. If I can do anything to alleviate that for you at your age, I want to. I try every. single. day. to do that in my own life. Notice I said try. At age 32, I am still trying to not be like other people on the monkey bars in my life.
And I am proud of you no matter how long it takes for you to cross those monkey bars. You might never cross them; I don't care. Ask your Grandma G. how much she loves me- her daughter who has never, ever not even one time, learned how to do a cartwheel.
A cartwheel! Who cares.
Wednesday, August 8, 2012
You know your Mama's obsession with words. I have written ... however many blog posts from the very heart of my hearts. And in this season of life, when you've got your barrel pointed at five and increasingly remind me I am raising a girl-child-human and not a drooly baby pet, I am devouring words with a fervor. I have quoted lots of my favorites on this blog, both mainstream and notsomuch. I have another excerpt for you, sweet girl, from a book called Tiny Beautiful Things, written by Cheryl Strayed. This book, combined with The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan are my favorites of 2012. You do know when you graduate from high school I am going to give you an armoire of books, right, and not a cute sports car? You'll thank me some day. Back to Cheryl:
Part Five: Put It In a Box And Wait
You give a lot of advice about what to do. Do you have any advice about what not to do?
Don't do what you know on a gut level to be the wrong thing to do. Don't stay when you know you should go or go when you know you should stay. Don't fight when you should hold steady or hold steady when you should fight. Don't focus on the short-term fun instead of the long-term fallout. Don't surrender all your joy for an idea you used to have about yourself that isn't true anymore. Don't seek joy at all costs. I know it's hard to know what to do when you have conflicting set of emotions and desires, but it's not as hard as we pretend it is. Saying it's hard is ultimately a justification to do whatever seems like the easiest thing to do- have the affair, stay at that horrible job, end a friendship over a slight, keep loving someone who treats you terribly. I don't think there's a single dumbass thing I've done in my adult life that I didn't know was a dumbass thing to do while I was doing it. Even when I justified it to myself- as I did every damn time- the truest part of me knew I was doing the wrong thing. Always. As the years pass, I'm learning how to better trust my gut and not do the wrong thing, but every so often I get a harsh reminder that I've still got work to do.
Sunday, August 5, 2012
You can blame or thank Proctor & Gamble's Olympic commercials for this post. All those teary, emotion-packed scenes depicting mothers and children pursuing excellence through the most mundane of tasks. Cracking eggs. Washing uniforms. Driving in the rain. Bandaging feet.
Lil' dude, your Dad and I are competitive people. We love competition, both in it and as bystanders. We love athletics. I love music. Hell, even Daddy likes watching competitive barbecuing shows on TV. You've inherited this spirit from an early age, even if we didn't push it. You think everything is a race, you're always looking over your shoulder to see how close someone is to to you. I winned, you losed! Right or wrong, you're racing. It makes me smile. It makes me smug. It makes me ... speculate. I just can't wait to see where your race takes you.
That race might take you nowhere. You might not do a damn thing competitive besides shopping lower priced detergent at one store or another. You might think the mere idea of wearing any team color unacceptable. You might sing at home, journal in your room, and run in the park alone. You might cheer all your friends on in their activities for a lifetime. I hope you know that's fine.
I trust you'll at least join some sport, some team, in the next few years as you already talk about it. Currently your obsession is swimming. The fact that it's summer just might have everything to do with it. Your parents' (and worlds') obsession with Michael Phelps might have the rest. Every single day, it's all you want to do. Two weeks ago on vacation, you really learned how to swim without that life jacket. Each afternoon in the 15' feet of Birch Lake water, you'd make Daddy and me get further and further apart from each other so you could swim between the two of us, chin high in the air, legs furiously kicking, arms scoop, scoop, scooping. It didn't even take a full afternoon for you to learn if you swim under water, you go faster. You keep your eyes open so you can "see how my arms move" and no longer swallow buckets of water in the process. Your tanlines perfectly outline the tiniest of Speedos.
And yes. As your Mother, I love thinking about the possibilities of your future kicking ass at anything, swimming presently and firmly included. It's fun to take a millions pictures and narrate video as you learn and become good at something, wondering, honestly, what kind of highlight reel they might someday be included in. We're not helicopter parents or Dance Moms, I promise. We're just your parents. Cheering you on. Bragging about our only child because it's our right. Wondering and perhaps hoping in the future because that's humanity, especially during an Olympic year.
I want you to know, to remember these words as I type ... hope does not mean expectation. Never confuse the two, ever. What I hope for you never leads itself to expectation. I don't care if you stop swimming tomorrow. Or when you're seven or a freshman in high school. I will crack your early morning eggs, make sure your suits are dry, wear huge photos buttons of you on my turtlenecks, and comment on the current swimmer you want to be just like, beat, or date. Until you're done with that, then I will be too. When you want to quit because it's your decision.
America's current darling, Michael Phelps' mother Debbie has this to say; "Children have to do what they enjoy ... You have to let your kids find what's best for them and what their own niche is."
Now, admittedly, easier said than done. I remember the conversations I had with my own parents about the same topic. There's a degree of ... what is it? Guilt? Responsibility? Failure? My wish for you, lil' dude, is to never feel that way when you're wielding the same power over your own life. May there never be pressure, besides that you put on yourself. May there never be doubt you're capable of making your own decisions. May there never be expectation mistaken as hope.
My hope for you is always the same, it has been since you made me crave spaghetti for nine months straight in utero; the same since I ransacked your crib in the pitch black looking for your pacifiers; the same it has been when I dropped you off preschool; and the same it always will be:
Be brave. Be bold. Be true.