This one’s for all of you. Sit down. I’m serious, Maelle, sit down. SIT DOWN. Thank you.
Girls are…mysterious creatures. And the older you get, the more complicated this landscape looks. We talk a lot, the four of us. I’m proud of that…let’s never stop that, ok? I may give you this look:
but it doesn’t mean that I’m not listening. I’m listening. I’m always trying to be a better listener. Your words are important to me…the only things more important are the words you never say but the ones I can see written on your face. I lead an interesting life before you three got here and changed the game for the better. I’d like to think that gets me some brownie points, but who are we kidding? In any case, I’ve learned some things, and I’d like to impart my wisdom to you. stop snickering, Annika.
1) It’s ok to be weird. If you’re different, it’s fine. It’s better than fine. It’s interesting. And you know what? Your weirdness will ensure that your friends are really your friends. If you’re cookie-cutter and perfect and never living outside the box, life is actually much less fulfilling. I tried to be the same as everyone else in my high school for like…a minute. I tried to dress like them, I tried to talk like them, to like the same music, to dislike the same foods, to lust over the same celebrities. I can’t even really tell you who “them” are, that’s how much of an impact they didn’t have on my life. I have since found some of my very biggest cheerleaders, some true friends, some kindred spirits- all because I’m a little different than most. There is very little outwardly that makes me odd, but the quirks are what make me unique & I embrace them in myself and encourage them in you. This brings me to my next point…
2) Be authentic. You can’t lie forever, you’ll get caught. I’ll catch you. And then I’ll give you the disapproving look of shame. (girls, we should really do things like this. like a trademark ‘disapproving look of shame’. it would be so fun. we could say stuff like, “stop. look of shame.” like “stop. hammertime.” and we would laugh and people would be so confused and we would laugh…I’m just saying. think about it. get back to me.) If you’re honest with yourself and have confidence to just be you people will be drawn to you naturally. Similarly authentic people. I know that’s such an abstract word, like what does it even mean? To me it’s like…listening to that voice in your head telling you that the thing you’re trying to force into existence isn’t right & that thing you’re kind of afraid of admitting you like? That’s probably right. Being authentic means trying out the things that you’re passionate about. Bella: join the art club, you would be so.damn.good at it…join it even if Chloe and Lila don’t. And then call them later and tell them about it. Nika: try out for the debate team, you’d be so.damn.good at it…sit beside that kid with the glasses and the argyle knee-highs and strike up a conversation with her, she’s probably interesting. Mae: audition for the lead in the school play, you’d be so.damn.good at it…and if you don’t get it, volunteer to paint the backdrops, immerse yourself like only you can.
3) Everyone has a story you will benefit from hearing. I heard someone say once that everyone loves to hear their own name. I definitely believe that. And I believe that the quickest way to make a friend is to listen to their stories. Lying somewhere in the details you don’t care about (was it Tuesday night or Wednesday night? did they order Heavenly Hash or Moose Tracks? who the hell even cares?) is a gem of knowledge and insight that you will take away from that story. I guarantee it. And as a bonus? When someone describes their perspective to you, it so often translates into the seeds of a friendship. So let people talk, ask people how they’re doing and really listen to their answers. You will find out so much about life…and about real life. And it will teach you infinitely more than any book you will open.
4) You cannot be the keeper of all the secrets. You cannot know all and say nothing…it will crack and break you and make you bitter. Be the person that your sisters trust. Be the friend that friends count on. But don’t allow yourself to be the neighbourhood whisper tree. It puts you in a very awkward place & doesn’t give you any room to explore your own feelings.5) Online friends are real friends too. There are women & men in my life that I call my friends whom I have never touched. These are some of my biggest cheerleaders & a few of them have become that person I will go to first with a problem I’m having. Likewise them to me. Trust me, this does not make me a creeper…well, not this alone. The internet has made me feel less alone than ever. One day in my recent past I would never have admitted that out loud, but now it’s literally just a part of my life. There are exchange friends of mine I haven’t seen in years, and only spent about 2 weeks on a bus with. I creep their Facebook status updates like a champ and still feel like we’re ‘connected’ somehow. I fail to see the major difference between them and my Twitter friends. Find a community…wherever that community happens to reside makes not a difference to me. If you feel connected to them? You’re better off. If all they do is cheer you on and never criticize? Good. You need people like that in your corner. If it’s superficial and never goes beyond 140 characters? Good. It gives you an outlet. I’m eternally grateful for this blog. For the outlet it’s given me, for the community it’s given me, for the memories it’s let me preserve, for the dialogue I’m having…even if it’s only with myself. Don’t disclude something or someone just because other people don’t understand. If you make a friend on the internet and you want to call them your friend? It’s exactly what they are. (just promise me that, before you jump on a plane to go meet these people? you’ll tell me about it and let me check them out. Momma’s intuition & all that. Hmkay?)
6) Don’t forsake each other. Sisters are weird. Already I can see this little language you each have with each other. I talked about how I envisioned your relationship before I even had all of you and I see that dream becoming a way better version in reality every single day. I have to admit, I’m slightly envious of you. My greatest, most consistent wish for you all is that you stay close to your sisters. When you’re conflicted on who to call when you break up with your boyfriend, let the conflict be which sister to call first. When you can’t decide who to ask for your maid of honour, toss a coin between your sisters. When you have some juicy gossip, tell your sister. When you want to complain about Mom & Dad, sit on your sister’s bed and have an I-hate-them slumber party. Covet that relationship that so few people ever get. Nurture it, make it your most obvious love…but never flaunt it. Let it be a quiet confidence you get to carry around. Don’t brag about it, except to each other. Tell each other everything, make sure you tell each other “I love you” and even “I’m mad at you”. Communicate, always. If you can say nothing to anyone else, say it all to each other.
7) Don’t forget about us. You know, people think your Mom & Dad are pretty cool people. It’s true. stop snickering, Bella. We have lots of friends, lots of people who count on us. We have good educations and good jobs. (I sound like I’m at a job interview for cripessake) In short: you can talk to us. I can’t guarantee I’m always going to understand or give you the benefit of every doubt. But my intentions are always pure with you. Both your Dad & I want you to tell us when something is bothering you. (maybe though, girls, we can leave some things off Dad’s radar…mmkay? He won’t react well to your news of ‘becoming a woman’, trust me.) We know we won’t be your first choice, and that’s ok. But let us in occasionally and we’ll be less afraid of all we don’t know. It’s tough to be a parent, trying to figure out how the decisions we make now will affect you in 20 years. We’re doing our best and we hope that you always feel 100% confident and comfortable at home.
8) Listen to yourself. That little voice inside your head is your conscience. Ladies, it’s quiet and it’s unassuming and you’ll grow used to hearing it’s clues & signals your whole life long. I get that you would become complacent with it. Don’t. Trust me on this one. That voice is your smartest ally. When it grows louder & louder and protests you even considering ditching your friend for that boy? It’s right. You know when you’re laying wide awake in bed at 11pm & somewhere in the distance you can hear yourself say to yourself: “ohmahgah go to bed already or you will hate yourself in the morning”? That’s you. That’s the little voice in your head telling you to do the thing you know is right. And sometimes the thing it’s telling you to do is very hard. Sometimes that thing is the worst of two choices. Go ahead and try the easier road…I can almost guarantee you’ll only try it once. You are smart…you are each SO smart. I’m amazed at your intelligence on the daily. Don’t ignore it. Try your best to listen to yourself. I know mistakes will happen & for the most part I’m glad for them. But some of those whopping-bad-moves can be avoided if you listen to yourself.
9) Speak your mind. Be honest, but be respectful. Understand that not everyone feels the way you do, but that doesn’t mean you should stay silent. Pick your battles- there are some you can never win and some you shouldn’t. Never speak up until you know what you are talking about…it’s incredibly embarrassing to get stuck with no defense. If you’re passionate about it, if you’re confident, if you’re informed…I beg of you girls: SPEAK UP! Never be the wallflower, never wonder what could have changed if you’d just said that one little thing, never sit and stew and blame and question, never assume your opinion is not valid and your thoughts are not important. Perspective is gained by insight. Yours included. Know when an argument has reached it’s peak & take a step back, anger does no one any good and words ring in your ears long after they’ve left your lips. But ladies, if I can use my life as an example for yours it’s in my ability to speak up for myself. I’m a tiny, young-looking girl…with big boobs. This does me no favours when it comes to people thinking I have anything intelligent to contribute. I am intelligent, I am witty, I am perceptive…no one would ever know that if I didn’t gather up all the courage in my body and say the words, “I have something to add…” It’s daunting, even terrifying…but so, SO fulfilling. Speaking up gives me self-confidence like nothing else I’ve ever come across. Speaking up makes me a smarter person, a happier person, a stronger person. Which I can pass down to you, in actions as well as words.
Parenting girls is HARD, yo. It’s really hard.
I want you to be so many things, to be strong, to be independent, to embrace your uniqueness…I want you to enjoy your life, whatever way that looks to you. But I’m worried…I’m pretty much worried all the time. Am I molding you into the little people that will become the big people I’m not scared to send to Europe for a summer because I know you’ll make good choices? (ps? your dad’s never going to let you do this. it’s just a fact. you’ll have to pretty much bind and gag him in the basement. I’m not encouraging this, just making a statement.) When do I know that I’ve done right by you? How can I step in and correct without smothering?
We walk a fine line, between over- and under-parenting. I have to constantly nudge the reminder to Dad, “they’re girls.” (<- this is mostly in regards to the sheer number of shoes we already have. but also applies to being quick to tears, flying off the handle, and multiple outfit changes daily.) We don’t do everything right, some days we do nothing right & we beat ourselves up over it. But some things? Oh some things we do absolutely perfectly.
So Ladies, I hope you’ll accept this blog in absence of a baby book or a scrapbook or a video diary of your every waking move. We’re busy folks and we want to cram as much learning & adventure into your formative years as physically possible. My sincere hope is that you can each look back through these posts and see snippets of a childhood you want to recreate with your own babies. I hope if you’re wondering if we love you, you’ll come here for proof. I want to do right by you- here and off this computer.
The three of you and the two of us.
It’s all I’ve sincerely ever wanted. And already better than I ever envisioned.
Ladies, my Ladies. I’ll hold your hands until you’re ready to walk on your own…and then for eternity afterward.
I wish to tell this both to Annika, and to myself.
The thing about appointments far in the future is that they tend to creep up on you…they start off so far away you can barely squint enough to see them. Then? BAM. Staring you straight in the face. In three weeks, we have a Pediatric Nephrologist appointment at a Children’s Hospital, two hours away. At 9:00am, Annika will be enduring her third renal ultrasound since June of last year, hopefully holding the hands of at least one of her parents…but who knows?
And what will they find? Who knows? I am struggling with this upcoming appointment. I know it’s the best care for her, I am glad that our pediatrician cares enough about her well being to push for better answers. But that doesn’t stop my blood from running cold when I hear the list of medical doctors I can leave a message for at the hospital I’m bringing my daughter to: oncology, cardiology, gastroenterology, neurology… It seems so cruel that “pediatric” can be slid in front of all of these -ologies. And then it hits me that I have it pretty good here, in comparison.
I heard from a friend once that took a course on how women are like spaghetti and men are like waffles. Spaghetti wraps around into itself, the long noodles twist and turn and intertwine with everything else on the plate. Nothing is solitary or stands alone, it is everywhere at any time. Waffles, those rigid square boxes only spill their contents into each other when they are full to bursting. I’m definitely spaghetti.
My thoughts on Annika’s kidney infections are never far from the surface. I worry about the fact that she’s been on antibiotics for almost 6 months. I worry that they’ll find scarring on her kidneys and I worry that I don’t know what that means. I worry about what they could find that isn’t even in my scope of possibility yet. For fucks’ sake, I even worry that they’ll find nothing and I’ll walk out of there on edge, waiting for the next kidney infection, the next hospital visit, the next IV.
Truth is, I don’t know more than I do know. Is the fact that she can’t seem to get nighttime potty trained due to her kidneys? How long does this take to grow out of? Will she always be susceptible to infection? Have I damaged her fragile little immune system by having her on antibiotics for so long? Are there long-term effects of that I will be kicking myself for later? Does she have a condition? Will we have to watch her get yet another catheter?
So, in an effort to hide my fear from her, we do A LOT of talking. We are big talkers in this house. When they asked me what their grandparents meant by a graveyard, I told them there were dead people buried in the ground. When they asked me why Jenifer brought a new boy to our house, I told them what divorce means. We have private parts named vaginas, that deer Daddy shot is dead & that bacon you’re eating used to be a pig. And no, Annika…I’m not sure if they’re going to put another needle in your arm but if they do you’ll try to be brave and so will Mommy. Because it’s important that you get better and it’s important that we trust the people that can help you with that.
If I believe at all in the quote at the top of this post, I have to trust that all of this is a necessity. This fear and this pain in my heart will teach me…something. I sure as shit don’t know what that is yet. But maybe if we’re all patient, we’ll find out. And maybe when we find out, I won’t be so scared anymore.
But until then? Terrified.
This might not be interesting or funny or endearing to you, but I have to write this down before I lose it completely.
Last night, Ryan & I layed in bed, lazily wasting the remains of the day with Jay Onrait and Sportscentre on TV when we hear a sound through the adjoining wall so distracting we have to mute the volume to be sure of what we’re hearing. Yes. Yes, that’s singing. All the Ladies have been asleep for hours. HOURS. Is someone singing their sleep because ZOMG, SofaKing cute! <giggle, giggle> <turn up volume> <get lost in the nothingness>
Suddenly, two little feet hit the ground running and moments later Ryan has got a pillow over his mouth to smother gut-bursting laughter. I glance over and see just one Annika eye, peering around the door frame, obviously smiling. A giggle escapes her as she climbs over Ryan and nestles herself in between us. We can’t help ourselves, we’re powerless to her charms and before we know it both Ryan & I have flipped toward her and are telling her she’s so pretty, she’s so funny and asking her to sing again.
We chat for a little while, Daddy flips over intent on going to sleep and I find The Blind Side on another channel. I expect Nik to lose interest and fall asleep instantly. She surprises me and snuggles deeper into my arms, eyes wide open and twinkling, thumb in her mouth.
“Did you know,” I say to her, “that before she was Maëlle, Mommy & Daddy named her Kollyns?”
<nods from Midtown>
“Which one do you like better? Maë or Kollyns?”
<she stares into open space, contemplating>
“Maë!” she answers, a little too loud. And I shush her with a giggle.
I tell her, “You were always Annika. Always. We never thought about naming you anything else. Is that what you would pick? Do you think you would pick a different name if you could choose?”
<more contemplation. This time deeper, the thumb comes out of her mouth, balances on her bottom lip & her green eyes squint a little>
“Nika.” she says to me. “I like Nika. It’s me!”
<cue Mommy heart explosions!>
“Annika?” I ask her, “Did you know that I think you are so pretty?” and she answers by nodding and grinning, eyes wild. I tell her all the time, she must know by now. “Did you know that I’m so very proud of how smart you are?” More nodding, she snuggles even closer. “You are my most favourite Nika in the history of forever and ever” I tell her.
She turns to me and she says, “Cause I’m YOUR Nika!” as if she’s revealing some long-held truth of the world.
And, though I hate sharing my bed, last night I gladly let her tiny little body occupy the space between her Dad & I. I let her legs drape over mine, I let her steal my blanket. Because it’s THIS, it’s these little unexpected moments that solidify their bond to me, and mine to them…this is the reason I’m a mom. This is what a childhood is made of. This and million other things, but last night I really felt like I’m doing something right by these little lives.
She’s my Nika. I’m her Mom. He’s her Dad. They are her sisters. The end…forever.