Dear (Younger) Me,
First, I want you to know that you’re doing a good job. You really are. I know it feels like you’re phoning it in most days, and that your girls would do better with any other mom on the block (especially that super social one who speed-walks to school, and still wears heels…often at the same time), but you were hand-selected to parent your kids, and the older they get, the easier it will be for you to see that. But knowing you as well as I do, these reassurances mean less than nothing. You want a list. Something concrete to compare your progress against, and check things off of. The good news is that the Slightly Older You has fantastic hindsight, and has therefore prepared one, numbered just the way you like, and filled with details.
1) Let them see you cry. The sooner the better. Look, I know you’re embarrassed that commercials, children’s books, and cheesy movies make you weepy, but they do. Accept it. But before moving on, let them see the tears and ask you about them. It’s perfectly reasonable for you to lose it during Annie. It was your favorite childhood movie, and you played the record so many times you killed it. So when they love it, beg you for the soundtrack, and sing “Maybe” while doing homework, let the tears flow in plain sight. It’s okay. What you’re really doing is giving them permission to have their feelings. Also? I’m really sorry to say this, but your “not crying” face, looks like you’re eating a lemon and taking a dump at the same time. They love to tease you about it. And they always know when it’s coming because–newsflash!–THEY KNOW WHAT MAKES YOU CRY. They’re just wondering why you need to hide it.
2) Disney happens. Wipe it off the bottom of your shoes and keep going. If nothing else, it will give you ample opportunities to discuss “real” vs. “fake.”
3) For heaven’s sake, stop hiding your tampons and just tell them what they are. And while we’re on the subject, please tell them how babies come out. They’ve made their own assumptions and when you find out what they are you’ll wish you’d just told the truth. Here’s a way to get it over with quick – ready? Once a month a woman’s body gets ready to have a baby. If there’s no baby in there, some blood comes out. It’s healthy, and it’s okay. You use the tampons and pads just to keep things from getting messy. They don’t like messy, either. They’ll get it. And they won’t ask more until they’re ready. And here’s how to answer how babies come out: THROUGH THE VAGINA. It stretches. It’s created for this very thing. That doesn’t mean you use it as a toy box, it just means…well, you can take it from there. And guess what? Once you tell her the truth, she shudders, shrugs and moves on to more interesting things.
4) The sex talk – don’t stress. Your husband accidentally blurts it all out. Everybody lives. All you have to do is prepare yourself for the follow-up questions. Which are hilarious and worth the pain it takes to get through them.
5) When it comes to questions, even if you need some time to think of how you’d like to answer, just say, “That’s a great question. I need a little time to think about an answer because I want to make sure I remember everything I want to say.” Or, “Let’s look it up together.” The point is, don’t deflect. It’s okay to not know the answers, or to need time. It’s not okay to encourage a habit of asking someone other than you.
6) This one will always be hard for you, but don’t engage in their battles. You’ll lose. We all know this. That’s why you’re always under fire. Here’s something to say that–eventually, and with great perseverance–works: “I’m done. If you’d like to stay here and continue this argument, that’s fine. But I’m moving on.” And then move on. I know you suspect this, but allow me to confirm: She can go forever. You can’t.
7) Don’t fall for, “Why don’t you trust me?” If you let this line into your house it will never leave. What it really means is, “Why won’t you give me what I want right now?” (BTW: the answer is: “It’s not my job to trust you; It’s my job to keep you safe. I take my job seriously.” It’s also a good time to keep working on, “I’m done. If you’d like to stay here and continue this argument…”)
8) I know you’re worried about the lying. You’ll always be worried about that to some extent. But your idea for creating a consequence-free place for blurting out the bad stuff will make a difference. Don’t give up on it. It will take a long time for your kids to start catching themselves in lies, and confess the truth instead. And probably that long for you to prove your home is safe and worthy of their truths. But they’ll surprise you. I promise. And it will make you cry. (Please refer back to number 1 at this juncture.)
9) That “me time” you miss? It comes back. But sometimes you’ll miss out on it because you feel guilty for not doing everything you think you could’ve when they wanted more of you. Just so you know, you never could’ve given them “enough” of you. Kids always want more. It’s in their nature. And as they get older you’ll see that setting limits, and teaching them to play, imagine, and read alone has given them the gift of “me time.” The very thing that can help them de-stress for the rest of their lives. Don’t let guilt steal yours.
10) And finally, I just want you to know (before you start obsessing) that they’re not showing signs of introversion because you’re one. They already are who they are. They’re just learning how to be with themselves at a younger age because you’ve made it okay to be introverted in your house. But you know what else? They’re theatrical and creative because that’s also in their blood. They’re even athletic, and there wasn’t a drop of that in your blood, but that’s okay.
It’s all okay.
(The slightly, but not too much older) You
©2013 CEK. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.