DEAR DAUGHTER: A LETTER TO THE MOTHERLESS

She came up to me with her purse on her shoulder: Mama, she said, I want to go on a date.

If you know her, you can imagine the voice—the strong "t" sound at the end of want, the monotone dictation, conflicted by a sweet high tone. I oblige (gleefully).

We walked downtown, got three macarons to share and pulled out the blocks she packed in her purse. I started to affirm her—she doesn't understand really what I am saying today, but I do. And something in my heart tells me that her heart gets it, too. 

"Baby, you know that you are so loved by Mama?" 
"Daughter, you are so fun to spend time with." 
"Sister, you are so helpful. You are such a big girl. I am so proud of you. I enjoy you so much." 

More seasoned parents than I have warned against the "self-esteem" movement. I get it. Don't over-congratulate your kid on things that don't need be praised. But my gut says, screw it—every single thing she does is magic and she needs to know it. 

In high school, my psychology teacher gave us an assignment where we asked our parents what we were like as babies and toddlers. I still don't understand the purpose of the assignment—it felt like a cruel joke. All I remember was the feeling of dread met with the inevitable answer: you were awful. High-tempered. Crazy. Scary. The list goes on, and I cannot remember most of it. My dad answered completely different, from a place of kindness—according to him I was a quiet girl, shy, afraid of people. So I'm really not sure who I was then. But I get glimpses and can put pieces together based on the girls I have now.

Maybe I was a high-tempered, angry little girl. That's ok. We call it spirited, strong, passionate, and assertive (none are negative) in S. It's the fire in me that energizes me against injustice and unfairness. Yes, it gets me in trouble sometimes, but I am not afraid of the fire in my soul. 

Maybe I was quiet and reserved—praise the Lord for the gentleness in me. It's taught me to listen well and to hold dear all kinds of people; to be slow to judge the battles others maybe facing, and to not withhold the glory of grace from anyone, no matter how differently they fit the mold. 

Having the girls has awakened me to this seemingly widening gap of what I've lacked my whole life, really. A mom. My mom. She wasn't all bad—just...mostly. She was kind of like Ms. Hannigan in Annie. She was cruel (I am unafraid to say this anymore). Her punishments bizarre and not disciplines of teaching but rather tortures to ruin; she wanted to let no good thing flourish around her in me, as it pained her to see me grow. She was destructive to my life—making me tell teachers it was my fault I was late to school, covering her mistakes, making me call voice teachers for her to say I didn't want lessons anymore (when the truth was the cost of booze outweighed them in priority). It was a gnarly road. And I live with it, still. 

But as we walk down Main Street, her little hand in my guiding one, I'm amazed at how lucky I am to be hers. How lucky I am that she's mine. That she is all that is strong and gentle and thoughtful and fierce—all the dichotomies that come with toddler-hood. I get the front row seat. And as I enjoy, I am rewriting my own narrative. 

HEY MAMA: A PLAYLIST

For when you're about to lose it all with your kid(s) and just need to dance it all out. 

 

I have a confession to make: I've become a gleek. I don't know how it happened, but amen for Netflix because, man oh man, does that show feel like a lovely spritzer at the end of a long long day. I'm not sure if it's the nostalgia of my youth, since the show is my entire high-school experience wrapped up in six seasons; or if it's the feel-good-lump-in-your-throat kind of scenes when I just need some sprinkles of light-hearted good...but one thing I have rekindled with recently, through my new friends (Glee), is that music is powerful in dealing with the world and our emotions.

Our perfectly sleep-trained, angelically-happy, smarty pants baby has turned into a self-biting, over-exhausted, "mine (with a 't' at the end)"-screaming toddler. The reluctant transition to toddler bed has been nothing short of horrible and I don't think Will or I have slept since May. This morning, Scout arrived at the foot of our bed at 5am, proceeded with a pitter patter of tiny feet, and a mousy, but strong, "Hi! I awake!" And I laugh until I'm crying come noon. 

When 10am hits, and the no-sleep-Scout is too tired to stay awake but it's too early for the nap, the tantrums come. And, here's the thing, the controlling-parenting style is just not working for this strong-willed babe and her little mama. So, I've compiled a playlist (two actually) that I can throw on in an instant and trust an instantaneous dance party to rise up. Most songs are inspired by the way Scout says words and the phrases she likes to say 96758694739068 times a day (example: Turn Down For What is inspired by "MY TURNT").  Warning mamas, some songs are explicit. 

Here's the thing, only I can give my kids a happy mommy. I believe in structure and rhythms, but I also believe that sometimes, you need to pull out your inner Meredith and Christina (Grey's anyone?) and dance it out. Dance it alllll out. Let the babe dance it out with you and let your own tears of frustration and overwhelm flood then laugh, mama. Laugh laugh laugh. 

So I've made a playlist for you that I've called **Dance With Me Baby (survival)** and one more called dance with me baby (mellow). One for the days of four cups of coffee and not leaving the house and forgetting to brush everyone's teeth; and another for those slower moments where you want to sing and remember, your babe is a treasure, after all. These playlists will be updated regularly as Scout and I learn each others' steps in this season and get our bearings on what life together looks like. And hopefully as she starts sleeping.