I wrote the letter that follows today’s entry, to Juliette, exactly five years ago, one day before her 11th birthday. It’s interesting to look back to see what’s changed, what hasn’t and what will likely never change.
There’s so much in the past five years, no one could have ever predicted, but we walk through and not around. This is something I so love about you and our little family.
You are without question, one of the smartest, most empathetic and beautiful human beings I know. I’m not even being biased about it because I’m your Mom.
Tomorrow, you turn 16. This is an age I’ve been warned about from many sources. I don’t know, but I am really enjoying this time with you and witnessing all of the many ways you’re blossoming into an extraordinary young woman. (Okay, but you still live under my roof and follow the rules!)
While you’ll always be my baby and the one who made me a mother, I respect the very mature young person you’ve shown yourself to be.
And I won’t even get started on your singing. Your vocal gifts blow my head off of my neck. When others compliment you, believe them.
I love you endlessly and this is something I know you know. I’m so grateful that no matter what doubts we may have, we never doubt that one essential fact.
Happy Sweet 16! I hope our homemade Ramen and purple cake will bring you joy. You know that experiences are everything and stuff is just, well… stuff.
The past several weeks have been rough. Without going into detail on what’s happening in my little family, I’d rather focus on what this time period has evoked:
Are we safe?
My daughters and I have openly discussed safety, identifying safe and unsafe scenarios and spaces, not compromising our safety, so that someone will like or accept us, and finally, how we practice self-soothing when we are afraid. Like any parent, my daughters’ safety and empowering them to know how to get/stay safe, are of the utmost importance.
While in the midst of walking through private issues over the past several weeks, epic mass shootings, scores of hate crimes and the disastrous fires in California, also plagued our country.
After the shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill, PA, like so many of us, I was shocked. No matter how many times I hear about or experience anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism, homophobia, transphobia, etc, the shock value never, ever lessens.
My daughter and I discussed the Pittsburgh tragedy after a few days had passed. I couldn’t believe how matter of fact she was about it.
I fervently exclaimed,
I absolutely refuse to let this be the new normal!
She responded to me very calmly,
Mom, we’ve been having lockdown drills for as long as I can remember. At first, when I was little, they were really scary, but now, this IS our normal.
My mouth was agape. I felt like I couldn’t breathe…
I had the “aha” moment I have never wanted to have.
I went on to validate what she’d said to me. I told her that her response made me sad and then, she said,
It is sad, but it just is. Mom, we have to live with what is.
A part of me wanted to argue against what she was saying, but I didn’t. The truth is, I was in awe of my daughter’s composure and graceful example of how to live life on life’s terms.
Just this past week, I came home from work and as I prepped dinner, I shared with my daughters that ORT’sKfar Silver Youth Village had to be evacuated because there weren’t enough (or close enough) shelters, for the kids to be safe.
At dinner, my daughters were wide-eyed and glued to everything about Kfar Silver. They wanted to learn more about the “really cool” place the Kfar Silver Youth Village is.
My daughters asked so many questions:
How can these kids ever feel safe with rockets being launched nearby? How can they not have enough shelters? Do adults help them feel safe? Who helps the adults feel safe? How can the world be this scary?
And then, the same daughter who told me about needing to “live with what is” said,
Yesterday, I posted some photos of my daughters on social media. They’d been out of the country for a few weeks, so when they returned a few nights ago, I posted their photos like the insanely thrilled mom I was, to see them, spend time with them and hug and kiss them.
Aside from my two daughters encompassing inner beauty – depth, compassion, philanthropic awareness and serious smarts, they are also beautiful on a base external level. I don’t think I’m biased just because I’m their mom, I’ve noticed that the physical attributes of my daughters receive a great deal of attention from a large and diverse audience.
For every compliment on their physical appearance Ireceive, (which has little if anything to do with me), I just smile and try to say, “Thank you,” without saying,
Their looks aren’t what’s most interesting about them and I wish more people would focus on who they are from the inside out.
And things like,
They’re going to drive the boys crazy.
LOCK HER/THEM UP.
These generous complimentary people are kind and very well-meaning and most of them, I love and respect very much. Plus, I agree that my daughters are physically beautiful. I also realize that if photos are posted by me, I expose people to their physical looks and not their clever wit, charm, genius brains and huge hearts. Their compliments are lovely, but I don’t share any of them with my daughters and that is intentional.
I never want them to think their value is tied to their physical appearance. Our society dictates enough of this. Let me be a safe haven from that.
When people kvell over my daughters’ looks, there are times, where I find myself wanting to scream or at the very least, protect them. For far too many years of my life, I became almost totally reliant on my outer shell. So much so, that my innards became atrophied. This is something I intentionally stress with my daughters because I know how empty it feels to think being attractive is the most important part of me and if I lose my looks, I am nothing. or, a man is only interested in me because:
He thinks I’m pretty/cute
I have a flat stomach and 9% body fat
I am a dancer and contortionist
All of the above
My youngest daughter is comfortable with who she is, and my teenager, continuously finds the flaws in her skin, hair, body, etc. It hurts me to the core when I hear her saying negative things about her physical appearance. The rub is that I totally understand it and empathize with her. While I was considered cute, or pretty or whatever, I never actually thought it about myself. I never felt thin enough, my nose wasn’t perfect enough, and my hair was enormous and curly, etc. So basically, I put all of the weight of my own self-value into something, (my outer shell), I didn’t even find all that pleasing.
When my teenager beats the crap out of her looks, I often find myself thinking, “I wish you’d put this energy into apologizing to your sister for being mean to her.”
Now that I’m older and definitely wiser, I understand that I couldn’t really appreciate my outer shell because my insides were totally stunted. Now, my insides are pretty great and my outsides have shifted and aged. I feel more beautiful today than when I was seen as really beautiful. I’ll take it any day over how I felt as a young person.
Several years ago, a blog post changed my life and how I parent my girls. If you have daughters or people in your life who struggle with their self-worth, I highly recommend you read this and then practice at it. It literally changed how I talk to my own daughters and frankly, how I talk to myself.
Lately, I’ve been extra depleted physically, mentally and emotionally. This is not a complaint, but is provided as a frame of reference for the possible drivel I’m about to write.
While in this diminished state, I considered writing 100 things I love about my Mother, but the truth is, 100 isn’t nearly enough. I have way more than 100 things I love about my amazing Mom.
Instead, I thought I’d fantasize about 100 Mother’s Day gifts and/or events I’d absolutely love. Some are real, and some are imagined. Most are imagined, but I hope they’re real someday. Continue reading “The Mother Load”