Ladies, my Ladies

Dear Ladies;

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:

side-eye, Momma style (I'm very cool, kids. Honest.)

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.

Movie Meltdown Ahoy?

Last night, I took my oldest two daughters out to Walmart to shop for birthday gifts. Bella had been invited to a friends’ birthday party and needed a gift to bring. In an effort to boost her real-life-human skills, I make her pick out these gifts on her own. Usually this also gives me a good indication of what she wants. In this case, I’ll never know the look on this little lady’s face when she opens up Bella’s gift, because I won’t be at the party. No, we have another, very special, birthday party to attend that night so Bella will be going alone to this party.

Cue heart palpatations.

Now listen, I don’t consider myself a high-strung Mom. I will have no issue with dropping her off, giving the parents my cell phone number and carrying on my merry way. Only this time, after dinner, the party will migrate to the movies. Bella and the movies don’t mix. The thought of her being in a dark movie theatre with only peers and very few parents in charge of that large group of kids…well…cue heart palpatations.

My six year old is scared of movies. I’ll wait for the snickering to subside. As an intensely sensitive girl, Bella pretty much feels what you feel- about 10 times stronger. I know this, because I was this. That scary music that leads up to the principle character getting captured/ maimed/ discovered/ broken-hearted? Bella can’t stand it. Her face contorts, her brow furrows and she starts to look at the screen through the tops of her eyelids. When the villain gets closer to their goal, she bails. Every.damn.time. Nothing we say can convince her that at the end of this cheesy movie their will be an ultimate triumph and the main character will always prevail victorious.

So someone please tell me that The Muppet Movie has none of these sequences? Has no antagonist hell-bent on destroying my girls’ evening with her friends? Cause I’m seriously picturing the girl huddled in the dark aisles of a movie theatre, scared out of her wits, emotional as hell and not wanting to be centred out for crying. And it’s breaking my heart before it even happens. Here I sit, straddling the line between clutching her close to make it all better & letting her do the hard work toward independence. And it’s just a MOVIE for chrissake!

So we sat down in her room, had a lengthly discussion about various forms of coping with her stress at the movies sans parents (she’s decided she’ll sit with one of her BFFs and they will hold hands. the cute, I die), how it would make us so proud to know that she is growing up and can do things on her own, how we would be there waiting for her after the movie was over, how much fun she will have with her friends…yadda, yadda, yadda.

And in the end, she’s fine with it. Friday halfway through the movie may present a different scenario, but for now I feel like we’ve done a slam-dunk job of parenting through this potential meltdown. And then I wonder if our making a big deal of it is actually the part that makes it worse? And without us there will she do the hard emotional work because she has no choice? And isn’t that parenting in a nutshell- what they do without you there?

Please, Jason Segel, don’t be a dick to the Muppets and make my baby cry. Or I will junk punch you.