A letter to my daughter

Me and my girl

Me and my girl

Addison takes a lot of flak from the common folk in our house for her diva-like behavior and natural aptitude for dictatorship.  But really, there’s so much more to her than a proclivity towards reigning supreme over the world around her.   

I recently came across a letter I wrote to her three years ago, on the eve of a vacation the rest of the family was taking to Colorado.  We were leaving Addison in the capable hands of Grandma.  But being a mother that can go from skinned-knee to amputation-worthy staff infection in less than 60 seconds, I was worried.  What if…I mean just what IF something happened?  How would this (then) 18 month old baby know how it felt to love her?  

I know it’s crazy.  But hey, that’s how I roll.  So I did the only thing I could do short of cancelling the flight and peeling my husband down off the ceiling:  I wrote.  

Reading it now, I realize that every word is as true today as it was three years ago.  So in honor of Mother’s Day and the very special relationships women have with each other everywhere, I wanted to post it.   

Random, semi-associated thought:  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could extend to ourselves the love, acceptance and generosity of spirit that we all feel for our daughters?  What kind of women would we be?  And what kind women would we raise?   They are important questions worth considering.  Happy Day to all you Mom’s out there…   

Addison, age 1

Baby girl,  

Mommy, Daddy, and Griffin are leaving for Colorado today.  We’ll be gone for a whole week.  That seems like such a long time to be away from you.  But Grandma has volunteered to be here with you so that you can stay on a schedule and not get sick on the plane.  You’ll probably never read this letter because I’m sure we’ll all come home safe and be together with you again, but there are some things I want you to know, just in case.  

You are beautiful. I put this first not because it’s the most notable thing about you, or because it’s the most important, but because women (yes, all women) have a tendency to wonder about this throughout their lives.  People stop me all the time to admire you and tell me just how lovely you are.  

Addison, age 2

 You have countless exquisite physical attributes, but you have been especially blessed with what your daycare teachers fondly refer to as ‘junk in the trunk.’  Who knows if you’ll keep that gorgeous booty, or just walk it off and become a skinny mini like your brother.  But remember, attractiveness isn’t just about what you see in the mirror.  It’s about what’s on the inside.  Whatever your body looks like in 15, 20 or 30 years, I hope you find a way to see the beauty that others will undoubtedly always see in you.  You are the total package, baby.  Listen to Mama, I’ve learned a few things over the years. 

Addison, age 3

 Addison, you are my wild thing — free, spontaneous, outspoken, funny and loving.  From the moment you were born, you knew what you liked and didn’t like…wanted and didn’t want.  You eat life up, you love it so.  Trust your instincts and you will always be OK.   

And another thing…have as many experiences as you can in life.  Try everything at least once. (OK…almost everything…we’ll talk more about this later.)  Don’t waste your time worrying or trying to do everything exactly right.   Happiness is not a place you end up someday, it’s a series of choices that you make.  You can start making the choice to be happy any time you want.  

Finally, you need to know that loving you and your brother and being your mother is the most wonderful, important thing I have ever done in my life.  The two of you…you take my breath away.  Nothing in my power would ever keep me away from you.  You are a miracle.  I loved you the moment I first saw you, all pink and covered in gunk.  Even if you can’t see me, I will always be with you, watching over you and loving you.  Be good, sweet girl.   

Hugs & kisses,  

Mommy  

Addison, age 4

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Alpha Dog Seeks Kinder, Gentler Handlers

There has been a mistake. My daughter is sure of it.  Maybe at the moment of her conception, the Fates were having an off day.  You know, the kind where inexplicable distraction drives you to do horrible things you can’t take back?  Like hitting ‘Reply All’ on an email detailing the many ways in which your boss has lost her mind.  That kind of day.

In at least one of her past lives, I’m quite certain Addison was a serious, ass-kicking monarch.  Like Cleopatra — powerful, idolized and obeyed.  There was no one yanking her chain, incessantly attempting to enforce strange and unreasonable mandates like an 8:00 PM bedtime or three more brussel sprouts.  And there was undoutedly no one who dared raise their voice in defiance or disagreement.  Bottom line, in her last life, Addison was in control. She knew it.  Her subjects knew it.  And all those dudes trying to move in on her stash of coal eyeliner definitely knew it.  Addison was a Hellenistic rock star.  Full stop. Move on, people.

Imagine the injustice of it all.  There you are in the reincarnation line plotting the takeover of your next kingdom, mentally redecorating the pyramid, and wondering why they still haven’t opened a ’20 lives or less’ lane, when BOOM, some idiot pushes the wrong button and you find yourself emerging into the world as the youngest child of two common people who clearly did not get the memo on your past achievements, refined tastes, or highly detailed needs.  ‘Bummer’ does not even begin to cover your disgust. 

Since she was able to form words, our little princess has been amping up to break out and find her real people.  Several months ago, after an exhausting day of trying to make imposter Mommy understand that she couldn’t possibly go to preschool in anything less than a tiara and pink satin, and throwing play phones at ignorant classmates who refused to move promptly to the next activity, she broke it to me:  “You ruin my life.  You’re a ruiner.  And I’m going to find a new family…FIRST THING IN THE MORNING.”

I feel for her.  It must be hard to go from pharaoh to filthy peasant.  And so, because I love her with a fierce and mysterious intensity, I have taken the liberty of enclosing a classified ad I hope will help her find just the right kind of environment to prepare her to fulfill her true destiny.  We will miss her deeply.  Well, her father and I will.  The jury is still out on her big brother…

 

WANTED:  Former dictator in search of real family.  Grave error made in central processing.  Likely candidates include presidents, kings, or really indulgent rich guys.  Must be currently childless and in need of small, beautiful, but strong-willed little girl to lavish with all of life’s luxuries and mentor to wildly successful business or political top dog.  World leaders with net worth of less than US$2.5 billion need not apply.  Must have fleet of impressive cars, access to or willingness to procure pretty pink ponies, and aversion to brussel sprouts.  Interested parties should forward resume, references and notorized financial statement to wrongmommy@theuniversebitthebigoneonthis.com.  Please reply ASAP; fake family is seriously cramping my style.

The perfectly-attired child

Addison at age 3, letting Mommy have her way for family pictures on the beach.

My four year old daughter departed for preschool this morning in an outfit of her own design: a pale pink skort, a short-sleeved grey t-shirt emblazoned in hot pink with the words, “Daddy’s girl,” white ankle socks and beat up brown tennis shoes.  “Not bad,” I thought.  Ah, how times change.

Prior to having children of my own, I assessed many cape-, tutu- and tiara-clad toddlers in malls and movie theaters.  And while I appreciated that their mothers afforded them a semblance of autonomy and the opportunity to creatively express their individuality, I determined that my own children would venture into the world suitably attired in comfortable, yet stylish outfits that provided me with the flexibility to confidently move them from preschool to a dinner out or an extended family function. Ha.  Ha-ha-HA.

The operative phrase here is, “prior to having children of my own.”  This is a critically important series of words that denote early onset of what I like to refer to as Delusions of Grandeur.  We’ve all been that person.  The one quietly wondering what kind of mother lets their kid go out in Spiderman pajamas and duck slippers.  Incredulous that a grown woman can’t get a grip on a two year old throwing a full-on tantrum in the cereal aisle or remember to carry one of those little travel packs of tissue for the five year old with the face full of green snot.  “It’s ridiculous, rude and gross,” we thought.  “A rational adult should be able to handle that situation.  That’s what being a parent is all about.”  We were smug with the certainty that when our time came, we would manage in an all together more efficent and effective manner. 

Yes, before kids, it’s easy to judge.  To see the clear and obvious path to the perfect solution. To concoct cute fantasies in our heads before we are actually face-to-face with a small, but freakishly defiant person determined to be Cuckoo for Coco-Puffs or venture out to meet the world attired in their best, pretty-pretty princess dress and black flowered cowgirl boots. 

My own children, ages 8 and 4, have done much to help banish my delusions as they soldier on in their quest to break me like a wild, but clearly misguided, mother mare.  Under their unfailing tutelage, I am learning to pick my battles.  A case in point from last summer:  It is early morning.  I am standing next to my own bed, where my daughter lounges, waiting for me to help her get ready to face the day.  I am holding one of the aforementioned comfortable, yet stylish outfits up for approval.

“I don’t want that shirt.  No one will like it,” she says.
“But it’s cute,” I insist.  “It matches your pants perfectly.  See?  It’s got pink on it.” 

Pink is very important these days.

“No, no, no.  Go pick another,” intones my little Lindsay Lohan protege.
“OK, well why don’t you go pick another?” I suggest.
“No, you can do it.”

I sigh and pick up the shirt, along with her PJs and night-time pull-up.  Not wanting to instigate a full blown tantrum at 7:30 AM, I shuffle back to her closet and select two shirts, thinking naively that providing options will enable me to gain commitment on two garments I obviously know are not on the list of Top 10 favorites.  But I’m trying to get some mileage out of all these clothes before she outgrows them so I  give it a shot.  This is my first, but not last mistake of the day.  As I hold them both up, I say,

“Here.  Which one would you like?  They are so cute.  One has a poodle on it and the other one has a kitty.”

My son, bless him, tries hard to back me up. 

“Yeah, Addison. They are really cute.  See?  You can pick a cute doggie or a little kitty.  And they both have pink.” 

She turns from the TV and places her hand thoughtfully on her chin.  After three seconds, she screws up her face and with a wave of her hand says, “No.  People will think these look silly.  Take them away.”

Unwilling to believe my four year old has just waived me off like Paris Hilton’s top stylist, I dumbly reply, “What?”

“They won’t work.  I SAID, take them away.” 

As I take her hand to lead her back to the closet to make her own selection, I wonder for the three thousandth time how I ever thought this parenting thing might be easy or even remotely straightforward.  In my head, I apologize to all those mothers I so glibly judged. And as I survey her final look, I consider it a victory that she more or less matches. After all, at what other time in your life can you rock hot pink short-shorts, frilly socks, patent leather dress shoes and a green seahorse tank top and still look pretty cute?  If she likes it, who am I to derail her inner fashion diva? 

Go ahead, work it girl.  I’ll find bigger, more important battles to fight.

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