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*GUEST SUBMISSION* Letter 68: You’re About To Break Your Mama’s Heart

24 Oct

Amber writes:

Dear me at 12,

You are about to break your mama’s heart, and I wish you wouldn’t.

The Author (right) at 12

Things are getting harder with her, I know. You’re almost a teenager, and no one gets along with her mother during middle school. But since your dad is trying to convince you to move in with him, it’s going to be harder than usual. And when you decide he’s right and you begin a two year custody battle… oh honey. You’re in for some heartache.

I know the grass seems greener at Dad’s house. Your stepfamily is super cool, whereas your mom is cramping your style. You don’t understand your new stepdad’s humor. You have to share a room with your little sister since your big sister moved back in, and your baby nephew cries a lot.  Compare that to Dad’s promise of your own room and a puppy if you moved in with him. You’re forgetting something big when you make this decision: Your dad and stepmom can be cool and permissive because they parent you every other weekend. They can’t be that cool all the time.

This is also important, and I don’t think you realize this, but your dad is kind of manipulative. Dad always says, “I never talk bad about your mother, BUT YOUR MOTHER…” and describes some horrible thing she did.  Despite his claim, he’s *always* talking bad about your mom, and usually, in half-truths at best.

Now, I don’t want to talk bad about your dad, but I won’t lie– I’m going to talk bad about him. Just listen to logic instead of arguing, pretty please. Your dad likes to have his way, and manages to get it most of the time. (This is something you get from him– try to use this talent for good, not evil.) Unlike you, however, he doesn’t mind hurting your mom, and he’s using you for that purpose. When this awful custody ordeal is finally over and he loses, he will be hurt instead. You’re going to see an ugly side of him. He and his wife will lash out by screaming obscenities at you. The worst of it will be you can’t protect your little sister, who they insist needs to hear all the screaming and cussing.  Thank your lucky stars that the judge knew what he was doing and saw through the manipulation.

You and your mom will be fine. When you realize you’re turning into her, you smile. You will cover your mouth in a horrified giggle when you automatically blurt out one of your stepdad’s jokes, and you’ll call him your hero. You’ll treasure your sisters, sharing a room or otherwise. Your nephew will grow monstrously huge, but he will still look up to you, as will his sister later on.  Your dad and stepmom G, however, are a little less sturdy. They’ll divorce, he’ll remarry (and divorce again), you won’t talk to your stepmom again after your stepbrother’s graduation party. Your relationship with your dad will never be whole again, but you’ll at least be on speaking terms.

Please ride this out. Give you and your mom time, and whatever angst you have will turn into a beautiful friendship. She loves you, and you love her back. (You know you do.)

Amber, 27, is an educator in East Tennessee. She loves reading (classbookworm.wordpress.com), crafting, and being with family (especially her husband and cat, Cat).

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Letter 50: How To Freeze Time

9 May

Dear me at 17:

You’re doing it again.

Sitting in class, wishing away the minutes. Wishing away the hours. Wishing it were next week, next month, next year. Wishing that time would start moving faster and take you away to the next best thing.

I’m writing you this Letter today to tell you that, as it stands, time moves way too quickly. It might not seem like it now, trapped in one of those signature teenaged moments, waiting for your life to start. But believe me, in a few years, you’ll be wishing with all your might that everything would begin to just slow down a bit.

Ten years from now, you will be writing this Letter while your daughter naps upstairs. She will be turning two years old in just a few days.

Two. Years. Old.

Thinking about it, it will be hard to believe that two years have already come and gone. It will feel like moments ago that you felt her kick inside your growing belly. Stretching her legs out, getting to know her limbs. Hiccuping tiny little hiccups that felt like little tickles near your hip.

It will feel like moments ago that you went into labour. You had rushed to the hospital only to spend the next thirty some hours awaiting her arrival. Nervous and excited and hurting like hell, trying any precarious position that might ease a pain so great you thought you might not be able to do it.

It will feel like moments ago that you witnessed her sweet little lips take their very first breath. That you met her for the first time. The doctor placed her on your chest, blinking hard, already surveying the room around her and trying to make sense of the incredible journey she had just begun. You placed your hand on her teensy little back for the very first time and whispered “Hello, sweet girl”. Your life had changed forever, in an instant.

You had been given a gift more precious than any you had ever known. A beautiful, healthy, baby girl. But not just any baby girl. You will soon find out just how bright, sensitive, strong, determined and loving a little girl she is. You could never have imagined the kind of admiration and respect you would have for this tiny little person. When you had envisioned motherhood, you had always thought about all the things you could teach her. What you couldn’t have predicted is the many things that she will teach you, and all the ways you will wish that you had but one fraction of her inner strength and independence.

In two years you will watch this beautiful little person grow and grow and grow. As is typical of her personality, she will meet all her milestones according to her own timelines and plans. She will skip crawling and go straight to walking. Without even practicing, one day, she will just start to walk. She’ll look at you as if to say, “What are you looking at? By the way, I can walk now”.

You will watch her make little friends of her own and form intense bonds with them, far beyond her years. You will see how deeply she cares for these other little babies, and her immense excitement in sharing her time with them.

You will watch her develop interests of her own, far different from yours. She will be the toughest little baby girl you know, choosing trucks, motorcycles and trains over baby dolls and princesses.

You will watch in complete awe as this tiny little person forms a personality larger than life, right before your eyes.

And as much time as you spend with her, regardless of the fact that you spend your days playing with her, feeding her, taking care of her, you will still feel like you are missing it all. Like time is slipping through your hands like water, and no matter how hard you try to catch it and pick it back up, it just keeps dripping away.

And, though you will be incredibly excited about all of her birthday gifts and celebrations (perhaps a little too excited?), there will always be a big part of your heart that will lament the passing of each year that her birthday marks. Each year will take her further away from you and closer to her own life. Closer to her first day of school. Closer to her first job. Her first apartment. Her first child of her own. These are firsts that will bring you immense joy. But you can’t help but wonder whether you will always just wish you could take it all back in time and hold her in your arms once again. Kiss her little baby forehead. Smell that sweet baby smell at the nape of her little neck. Stare into her eyes, and see her staring back at you as though you are the most important person in her little world. Because, back then, you were.

And so, my dear girl, here is your task: Learn how to freeze time. You are a very smart girl and I’m sure if you study hard enough now, you could figure it out in time for the birth of your baby girl. Then you’d be able to savour those sweet baby moments for as long as you like. And maybe you might not feel as bittersweet when you help her blow out the candles this weekend.

Stop wishing so hard that time would move faster. Because, believe me, in a few short years, your wish will most definitely come true.

__________________

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The Hindsight Notes: Parental Beef

22 Apr

The Hindsight Notes is a recurring section created for all you readers wanting to participate in THL, but lacking time to write a full letter. Each Note is composed of a question. All you need to do is answer it, in the form of a comment (below).

This week’s topic is: As a teenager, what was your parents’ biggest complaint about you? 

Let’s be honest here: We all drove our parents a little crazy during our adolescence. Most of the time, we were probably little cranky pants or bossy boots with a big time ‘tude. Blame it on hormones if you wish, but our parents were the ones that most often had to suffer the wrath of our mood swings and temper tantrums.

So, what would you say was your parents’ biggest beef about you as a teenager? Were you constantly late? Did you have a potty mouth? Never did your homework?

As always, I’ll start us out:

If you liked this post, you’ll surely love this one and this one!

Letter 28: On Being Home

6 Dec

Dear me at 17:

I’m going to give you a radical suggestion here:

Stay home.

That’s right. You heard me.

Stay home. Skip the party. Skip the movie. Skip the concert, or whatever else you had planned and stay home. Not because you’re grounded. Not because you’re being punished. But because this is the only time in your life where you will be able to do it.

In a few years you will get married. You will start a family. You will have a home of your own, decorated just the way you like. A place to put all your books. A place for your sweet little daughter to sleep. A place to snuggle with your husband.

You will love this home. You will feel completely comfortable there. It will be a place for you to call your own.

Your parents’ home will become just that: theirs. It will not feel like yours anymore. And that’s okay. But there will always be a piece of you that longs for that very distinct feeling of being “at home”, at 17, in your parents’ house.

If you stay home tonight, you might spend some time with your brother. Your little brother, who is actually still “little”. He is still playing with Lego and wearing superhero pajamas. He is still small enough to look up to you in a way that he won’t for much longer. Very soon he too will be very busy and very important.

If you stay home tonight, your Mother might order big, cheesy Reuben sandwiches and french fries from The Pickle Barrel. Your Dad will undoubtedly order Lox and Cream Cheese on a bagel, and also undoubtedly share a large portion of it with you, even though you originally claimed that you wouldn’t want any.

If you stay home tonight, you might watch a movie with your whole family. All together. You might all decide on a Michael Douglas thriller, because your Mother loves them and everyone knows that she has ants in her pants and won’t sit through a movie unless she is 100% interested. At the most suspenseful parts, she will shout out her predictions for the plot, which are inevitably correct, and you will all groan and laugh at the predictability of it all.

The things that now seem mundane to you will be imbued with a certain nostalgic magic as you age.

You will remember the cozy feeling of lying on the couch in the living room, curled up under your favourite dark green velvet throw. Your mother interrupting whatever television show you’re watching to ask if she can bring you tea, or a snack, or to tell you some long-winded story about socks, or your brother’s socks, or your brother’s friend, or some other thing you think you don’t have time for.

It might seem like a bother now, to be interrupted. In a few years time, you will be the one in charge of taking care of everyone else. You will be the Mommy. It will be your job to interrupt the program to deliver tea or snacks. Although your tea will never be as good as when your Mother makes it. And you will often think how nice it would be, during your busiest Mommy moments, to have your Mother bring you a cup of tea. To have someone take care of you again for a couple of minutes.

You will remember the sound of the garage door opening as your Father returned from work. You will remember that no matter how old you got, you always had a surge of residual “Daddy’s Home!” excitement carried over from your childhood. You will remember the smell of his cologne mixed with the fresh, cold, winter air as he kissed you hello. You will remember how you spoke of these moments in the Eulogy you gave at his memorial service. You will be reminded how even the most simple moments with him, the ones you could never have appreciated at the time, are the ones you now long for the most.

So, go cancel your plans. Stay at home. Eat some smoked meat and watch Michael Douglas do his thing. At the end of the night, give everyone an extra cuddle. And when your head hits the pillow, take a moment to listen to the sounds of the house. Your Mother still milling about. Your father flipping through his book. Your little brother, fast asleep in his room. Take a moment to reflect on how safe you feel, tucked away in your bed, everyone together under one roof.

You can always see your friends tomorrow. But for tonight, just revel in the comfort of being at home.

 

_______________

If you liked this post, you’ll surely love this one and this one!

Letter 10: Go.

3 Aug

Dear me at 17:

It’s Friday.

You’ve got plans. You’ve always got plans. Your Dad knows this.

Your Dad has plans too. Nearly every weekend, he packs up the jeep and heads to the lakehouse.

Even though he knows you won’t agree, every weekend that he goes, he asks you to join him. He says “You know, you can come too if you want”. And, “I’ll even let you pick the movies” (as if that isn’t always the case).

You always ponder the decision for a while, weighing your options. But instead of going with him, you choose to stay in the city. You choose to go see a show, or go to a party, or visit your friends. Your Dad goes up to the lake, watches his movies by himself, and waits patiently until the next weekend to ask you again. The eternal optimist, your Dad.

Me at 17, with the greatest Dad ever.

I am going to give you some advice:

Go.

Pack up your overnight bag, bring your cd case and get in the car. It will mean more to you, and to him, than you could possibly know.

You are seventeen. You think that opportunities course in continually like waves, and that if you neglect to seize them, there will be many more to follow. You think that you are, and everyone around you is, immortal. You think that you will have plenty of time to spend with your Dad when you are older and more boring and don’t care so much about your social life. How I wish, with all my heart, that this were the case.

In eight years time, you won’t have the option to hop in the car with your Dad and take him up on his offer. You won’t be able to share your latest favorite song with him on the long ride to Muskoka. You won’t be able to listen to him tell his story about Louis Armstrong’s freezer full of ice cream for the millionth time (“Ugh, Dad, I know- you’ve told me this one!” “I know, but, isn’t that just great??”). And, you won’t be able to ramble on about whatever is the latest dramatic conflict in your life and have him listen, and genuinely be interested, and give you the best advice imaginable.

No matter how strongly you wish otherwise, your time with your father will have come to a close.

You have no way of knowing now, but your father is the glue in your life. He sits back, supporting you, always there to listen, quietly holding everything in your little universe together. He is not a tall man, but he makes you feel safer than anyone else will in your entire life. This is because he is the only person with the power to make everything okay. One hundred percent of the time.

Eight years from now, you won’t remember the show that you went to, or the party, or half your friends. Your teenaged social life, which seems so important to you now, will be a distant memory, with most of the details blurry at best. This might sound sad to you, but the fact is that as an adult, you won’t care enough to actively try to recall those details. The thirty odd times that you’ve seen The Slackers in concert will all blur into one giant show. And that will suffice.

On the contrary, eight years from now you will so deeply cherish each and every memory of your father that you will spend countless hours trying to recall every detail you can. You will replay his voicemail greeting in your head over and over, because no matter how silly, you’re desperate to hear his voice and it’s the only accurate snippet that you remember (“Hi, you’ve got my mailbox. Leave me a message”). You will pour over photos, emails and book inscriptions on the toughest days, just trying to feel close to him again; trying to imagine what life would be like if he were still there to hold your hand and tell you that everything will be okay. The little details will be all that’s left of this person who, to you, was larger than life.

I don’t mean to worry you. You will go on to live a very blessed life, full of love and laughter, even in your father’s absence. You will have an incredible daughter, a strong, supportive husband and a wonderful mother and brother who all love you very much. The earth will keep moving. Life will go on.

But please, take my advice on this one: Go to the lake. Hop in the car and spend some time with your Dad. Let him pick the movie. Listen to his Louis Armstrong story. Tell him how much you love him, and thank him for being the greatest Dad in the universe.

Just go. You’ll thank me later.

Letter 2: Your body is a wonderland. No, really.

28 May

Dear me at 13:

I know, I know. Your nose is too big. Your legs are too short. Your hair is too frizzy. Your hips are too wide. Your teeth aren’t white. The numbers on the scale aren’t where they should be. Or this is how you see it, anyway.

What you can’t see is that in 12 years time you will undergo a complete paradigm shift in the way you view your body. This will be spurred on by the two most defining moments of your life: Your father’s battle with cancer, and the birth of your first child.

Right now, you view your body as purely appearance. It is something to be looked at, scrutinized, ogled, adorned, and someday touched if you could just get it looking right. You view it as an object. Something thats worth is defined more by other people than yourself. “Why bother liking my body if nobody else will like it?” you might ask.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: Your body is not defined by other people. It’s not defined by how it looks or how much it weighs. It’s not defined by how much boys might like it (boys your age would like it even if it were smothered in sea kelp and a thick layer of fur by the way). Your body is so much more than the sum of its parts. It does amazing things each and every day. And the more you grow, the clearer this lesson will become.

When you are 25 and pregnant with your first child, you will find out that your best friend, your mentor, your hero and your rock, your Father, has terminal cancer. You will watch his body do horrible things to itself. You will see him sicken and wither away. And paradoxically, you will understand for the first time what it means to be healthy. You will begin to appreciate your body in a profound and grateful manner. Most importantly, you will be so, so very thankful for the baby growing inside your belly.

In 39 weeks, you will watch your body change, and grow (and grow and grow!) in complete awe and wonder. Your body will be hard at work creating a whole other person inside of it. A whole other person with little fingers and toes and hair and eyes, and, even more amazing, a whole other little soul with thoughts and feelings and beliefs. You will withstand 30 hours of excruciating pain and will push this person out of you, using strength that you never knew you had. Even though your body will have taken on a very different shape than what you have typically desired, you will never be as proud of, or as happy with your body as you were when you were pregnant. Not because of how your body looked at the time, but because of what your body did.

And as one body passes away, another will be born. One sick and weary and wilted, one new and pure and perfect.

Dear girl, what your body looks like is completely irrelevant. It’s what your body can do that defines it. Appreciate your body. Appreciate your hair and nose and legs- they came from your father. He gave them to you in a process so incredible that even modern medicine will never be able to define all its intricacies. A process that is also so humble and quiet that you might miss its profundity if you hadn’t first learned this lesson.

Unfortunately, this lesson will take you many more years to learn. In the meantime, don’t be so hard on yourself. Appreciate your body. Treat it with respect. Love it regardless of its shape. Nurture it and nourish it. After all, if you’re lucky, you’ll have many more years inside that skin. So you’d best start making yourself comfortable within it.