Man_walking_away_pe0058192

Today I watched you grow up a little bit more. That’s how it seems to happen. Not in gradual ways that seem to slowly evolve, but in quick and sudden bursts. Shocking me each time you enter a room and seem completely different from the boy who walked out of the room moments earlier.

Today I watched you walk across a stage and say good bye to Middle School. They said your entire name with emphasis on each word. Giving me a little shiver as I thought of your uncle Todd who is your namesake. I watched you accept your certificate with a firm handshake, the handshake of a confident man. And you sauntered back to your seat with a quiet and easy smile on your face. Your gold tassle honor roll chord draped around your neck. My heart was full of pride and my eyes were full of tears as I swallowed nervously and tried to keep my emotions in check.

In the past year I’ve watched you grow roughly five inches in height and miles in maturity. I’ve seen you develop close friendships with some really nice kids. I’ve watched you shrug off the trappings of popularity in exchange for real friends. I’ve seen you offer to help around the house and help take care of your little sister. I’ve watched you take responsibility and ownership of your school work. The honor roll tassle you wore on graduation day was earned all on your own.

I’ve seen glimpses of the man you’ll be.

And he’s amazing and beautiful and good.

I’ve watched you get angry at the injustices that flash across the evening news. I’ve seen you question things that are happening in the world. I’ve seen you take an interest in things well beyond the little bubble you’ve been so fortunate to inhabit all these years. I’ve answered your thoughtful questions about these things. Questions that speak to your depth of understanding and your concerns. I’ve seen you care about things and people you’ve never met and who are different and far removed from your world.

And I couldn’t be more proud.

But I’m also scared. In a few short months you will be taking a huge step to more independence and autonomy. You will be walking through the halls of high school for the first time. You will getting your driver’s permit. You will be starting to plan for college and life beyond that.

And you will be coming up against some pretty big road blocks. Temptations. Peer pressures. Stress of tests that carry more weight than ever before. Girls. Love. Heartbreak. All of these will be distractions from everything you’re working towards. Some of them are worthwhile distractions. You should have fun with your friends. You should start to flirt a little with romance and love. You should push the boundaries a little. Just a little.

As you start to move a little more away from your dad and me, as you start to become a more independent person making decisions big and small, I’d like to share a few things with you. Before you shut out my advice and my words, please listen to a mother’s desperate attempt to squeeze all the wisdom and love and fear and happiness she is overwhelmed with, into a few words.

Remember what matters. You are the only one who can decide what matters to you. And once you do, don’t let anything get it the way of that.

Listen to your gut. It will never lead you astray. If you can tune in to what it’s trying to tell you, even in the noise of life and temptations and pressures, you will find a built in compass that you can rely on for the rest of your life.

Know when to make your voice heard. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind or stand up for what you believe. But also learn when it’s a waste of energy and time.

Always open doors for others and give up your seat for others. 

Don’t be afraid to feel. Life will hurt sometimes. But don’t let that be a reason to go numb or shut down. That never works and it will come back to you sideways and cause more pain. Feel all the stuff and let it happen and move on lighter and happier for it.

Being vulnerable is ok. In fact, it’s good. But only when it’s with the people you trust. Sharing your thoughts and your pain and your fears with the people who love you will ease your burden and allow people to be closer to you. It will be the greatest gift of intimacy you will someday give the person you spend your life with.

Work hard. But work smart. Quantity of time working doesn’t always equal quality. Figure out what methods work for you and employ them. This will serve you well in life and work.

Be a good friend.

Let go of perfection. Perfection is boring. Mistakes will happen. Twisting and turning in an attempt to avoid mistakes is futile. Do your best and accept the mistakes as lessons and grow from them.

Don’t be afraid to fall in love. It’s the most beautiful thing you’ll experience. It will sometimes bring incredible pain but you will get through that. It is worth it and life without it will be less rich.

Be patient with a mom who struggles with the emotions of watching her little boy grow into a man.

Find your passion. It may be your career. It may be a hobby or another enterprise. But find it and find a way to nurture it.

Work for money and for joy. Find a job you love. Find something that doesn’t make you dread Monday. But also find something that gives you some comfort and stability in life. Find the balance of the two and live there. Money doesn’t buy happiness but a life of poverty and hardship is not an easy road.

Don’t text and drive.

Know that confidence will come and go. It will sometimes be out of your grasp. This is normal. No one feels confident and self assured all the time. Some of us are just good at faking it. 

Be aware of toxic people and learn how to spot them. Don’t let them infiltrate your life and corrupt you or suck out all the life and joy. Darkness is a hungry beast and toxic people will try to bring you into their disfunction. Don’t let them.

Remember that you have an army of people who are rooting for you to win, who are here for you, who love you. Your dad and me, your siblings, your grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins. You will have this core group of people in your corner for life. That is a gift and a blessing and it will never fail you.

Give your mom a hug once in a while.

Treat the women you will one day let into your life with respect and honor. Don’t ever minimize their feelings or their voice. 

Remember that your dad and me will be here for you for anything and everything. There’s nothing you can’t tell us and there’s nothing that will ever make us turn our back on you. There’s nothing that will ever take away our love. Ever.

Enjoy the ride. The ups will be amazing and the downs will be hard but it’s a beautiful and glorious ride.

I’m so proud of you. I know you will do right. I know you will do good.

And if you remember nothing else, remember this…

Take care of yourself. And have fun.

 

 

 

 

Who Me???

That’s what I thought when the incredibly talented Hasty Words asked me to do a guest post. Hasty is a poet, an artist and writer who’s words always leave me a little breathless and I am honored to be a guest over at her blog today.

Click on the link and read all about why I want my kids to be rebels…

“Your Rebel Heart”

(Comments will be closed, but head over to HastyWord to tell me what you think!)

IMG_6061 

“You are the most beautiful thing, I’ve ever seen. You shine just like sunlight rays on a winter snow.

I just had to tell you so. 

Your eyes sparkle as the sun, like the moon they glow. Your smile could light the world on fire, or did you know? 

Your mind’s full of everything that I wanna know,

I just had to let you know.

You’re my butterfly… Fly High… Fly Fly Fly…”

-Lenny Kravits, Butterfly

I get nostalgic and weepy on my kids’ birthdays. I remember every stage of labor…  This time, 11 years ago, my water broke. I watch the clock and think about that day. I drive my kids nuts with my reminiscing. Because I don’t say these things in my head. I say them out loud. To my kids. All day. Every year. They don’t love it.

But this is what moms do, right? We relive moments and cling to our babies at the very moment that we should be letting them go. Because my baby is actually not a baby. She’s 11 years old as of yesterday.

And she’s almost taller than I am.

So I guess I can’t call her a baby anymore. (Though I will. I always will. But that one I’ll do silently in my head.) The little girl who’s turning into a young woman in front of my very eyes. In spite of my holding on for dear life, she’s growing up.

***

She was born an old soul. We could just tell. They laid her on the scale and she stared silently into my husband’s eyes. He still gets emotional if he talks about that moment. The nurse swaddled her up and brought her to me. I wiped my eyes of the tears that were a combination of joy and pain. I held her and started to meet her. Examining her tiny hands, her sweet lips, her intense eyes. They gazed at me in studied  concentration. Searching my eyes. Holding my gaze. She was meeting me. She was checking me out.

She rarely cried. She was a content baby, easy to please. She would wake up in the morning and just hang out in her crib until I would hear her cooing and gurgling over the baby monitor. Her older brother would clamor into her room with me and greet her with his marble mouthed “Hello sunshine.”

I loved her with everything I had. But I didn’t feel like I knew her. She was a mystery to me. I would stare at her, watching her, trying to figure out what was going on inside her head. I had a sense that there was more going on than was obvious to the rest of us. I spent those first few months nursing her, playing with her, singing her songs. Trying desperately to understand her.

This may sound a little crazy. But I need to know my kids. I need to understand them. I knew how my son’s brain worked. I just knew him from the moment he was born. I was struggling with the fact that it didn’t come as easy with my daughter.

At three months old she got sick. It started as a cold and developed into something worse. I couldn’t sleep because I was worried. Something didn’t seem right. She was still smiling, still happy, but her breathing seem labored. One afternoon I watched as her breathing became more raspy. “She’s wheezing!” I yelled to my husband. I packed her in the car and headed to the pediatrician’s office. My heart was starting to race and I was on the verge of panicking. I drove, watching her in the rearview mirror. She looked blue to me. Her breathing was getting worse. Much worse. I made a sharp u-turn and pulled into an Urgent Care.

I ran into the building clutching her baby carrier “I need help, I don’t think my baby’s breathing.” The receptionist stood up to peer over her counter and took one look at my daughter and called the nurses to come get her. As the nurses whisked her into the examining room, I followed in a state of disbelief. I was worried, that’s why I’d brought her here after all. But seeing the concerned look on the nurse’s faces was freaking me out even more. As the doctor whipped past me to assess her, I pulled on his sleeve. “Is she going to be ok? Is my baby going to be ok?”

Her oxygen levels were low but not dangerously so. They wanted to send us to the hospital for chest X-rays and a flu test. They wanted her to stay overnight and be monitored. They offered to have an ambulance transport us but I told them I would drive. They admitted that the ambulance was more for me. They were worried that I was too upset to drive.

X-Rays, tubes down her nose to extract fluid, blood taken. My calm, serene baby was now screaming and flailing, fighting to break free. I held her arms by her head and whispered words of comfort to her.

Soon we were in our hospital room, waiting on a diagnosis. All of the scary tests came back negative. The diagnosis was R.S.V. A respiratory infection. She would be ok. The told me she’d need breathing treatments with a nebulizer. OK. That we could do. They told me that each time she got a cold we would likely have to do the treatments. OK. They said it was not serious and she would outgrow it. Thank god. Relief flooded me.

The doctor and nurse left us to rest. I finally let myself relax a little. I started to come down off of high alert. I was breathing again after holding my breath for hours. I felt the fear start to drain out of me, exhaustion taking up residence where adrenaline had been.

As I was unpacking the diaper bag I heard a noise. I looked up and my daughter was staring at me. Looking me steadily in the eyes, she was struggling to form words. I could hear her little voice, for the first time. Beyond the coos and the gurgles. I could hear her experiment with sounds as she rolled her tongue around and moved her lips. She was trying to talk. She had a look of amusement in her eyes. My three month old baby stared at me and babbled for 10 minutes.

I started to laugh. I walked over to her and caressed her head with both hands as she continued to stare at me and babble. I was laughing and crying with relief. I was weak with gratitude. I responded to her through salty tears. Urging her voice and kissing her forehead. I felt like we had been through a battle together. Just the two of us. We had just experienced some scary moments. And we came through it together.

I cried and laughed. I felt different. All of the questions, all of the searching for the last three months, trying to figure out my daughter. None of that mattered. I knew that she was a part of me. She had a hold on my heart and that was unbreakable. I didn’t need to understand everything about her in that moment. I just needed to know that she was ok. I needed her to know that I would stop searching and would just be. I would let her be and grow into whomever she was supposed to be. I was ok not knowing how that was going to play out. All that mattered was that she was ok and that we would go through the journey together.

***

My daughter just turned 11 yesterday. I’m still trying to figure her out. She’s still a little bit of a mystery to me. I have to be patient with that. She’s brilliant and beautiful and funny and creative. She’s so much more than I ever imagined her being. She’s who I want to be when I grow up. She’s her own person and she doesn’t need me to “get it.” She just needs me to love her. To support her. To be there to guide her when she needs it. And to back off when she doesn’t need it. And to be patient. To be patient with the fact that I’m still figuring her out. She knows that. She watches me. And every once in a while I get that intense soul gazing stare. When I “get her,” when I understand something about her, she gives me that look. It’s her way of saying thank you. It’s her, knowing that I understand one more piece of her that I didn’t get before.

I’m ok with not knowing everything about how her mind works. I don’t think I’m supposed to. I’m just walking through life with her – now just one step behind – letting her make her own way. But I’m watching. Closely. I’m still studying and still trying to figure her out. Only now with more patience. With a little more understanding than yesterday. Some things you have to wait for. Some things, often the best things, you have to wait for. I’ll be waiting and watching and guiding. And I’ll never stop.

Happy birthday to my artist, to my old soul, my pajama pant wearing, book devouring daughter. My “I’m not a princess, I’m an artist”, “I don’t have time to brush my hair”, my laugh at any thing with the word “balls”, dry humored,  crazy girl. My beautiful spirit, my sweet girl, my baby. I love you.

IMG_0248

Man_walking_away_pe0058192

“Before you cross the street, take my hand

 Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans..

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful,

beautiful boy…”

-John Lennon, Beautiful Boy

I like to think I’m a creative person.  I used to lay in my room for hours on end, on the floor with earphones on, music blasting, daydreaming.  I used to lay in bed at night long after everyone else was asleep, imagining crazy “What ifs”….  what if I’m lying in a coma right now and everyone and everything I see and know in my life is just in my imagination, one long weird coma dream?  I spent a lot of time in my youth thinking of alternate realities and outlandish ideas.

I have found that while I can imagine far flung scenarios and crazy hypotheticals, I can’t seem to imagine the most basic, impending life events.  I spend a lot of time trying to imagine the next thing, the next milestone, the next phase in my life.  When I was engaged I spent a lot of time wondering what married life would be like. When I was pregnant with my son I could not picture myself as a mom.  This baby that I so desperately wanted, was so excited to be having, seemed like a figment of my imagination.  I actually thought I would “wake up” and not be pregnant, not be in that life.  I almost expected it.  I almost expected to wake up and be in my childhood bed and realize that it was all a dream.

I did get married, I had my son and then two daughters. I didn’t wake up and have it all taken away from me.  Now I am the mother of a 13 year old boy.  I am the mother of a teenager.  Now I can’t imagine what this life is.  Not the future.  I don’t have time to consider him at 18, 25, or 30.  I am still trying to grasp the now.  I am still trying to reconcile the boy who is growing and changing and becoming someone new right before my eyes.

I am really proud of myself that I didn’t dissolve into an emotional puddle on his birthday.  I am usually pretty emotional on my kids’ birthdays.  I relive the days they were born…  This time, 10 years ago, my water broke…  This time 4 years ago, I wept with joy when they placed you in my arms….  I didn’t do any of that on my son’s 13th birthday.  We celebrated, we opened gifts.  I didn’t cry or get emotional.  I think that my brain was in protective denial mode.  I didn’t really think about the milestone we were celebrating.  My son’s first steps into teen-dom.  The beginning of him evolving from a boy to a man.  He is doing exactly what he’s supposed to be doing.  He’s finding his own way, finding his own voice.  He’s becoming his own person, separate for the first time from who my husband and I are.  He’s not emulating us or trying to be like us.  He’s figuring out who he is.

I don’t think anyone really prepares you for this.  You can read countless articles about parenting a teen.  The lamenting of the loss of innocence, the stress of keeping them safe from bad influences and dangerous situations.  You hear parents talk about the moodiness, the attitudes, the back talk.  Those are all things I expected to have to deal with.  I have been mentally preparing for all of those things.  How to squelch the bad attitude, how to prepare him to avoid danger and fight urges that are risky.  I really wasn’t prepared to see him differently.  He is still my baby, the little boy that would try to hold doors open for me as a toddler, the little boy who would climb on my lap and rest his head on my chest.  He will always be the little boy that was protective of me, who would often say, “Be ‘tareful Momma.”  The little boy who pointed out every god- forsaken truck we saw driving down the road.  In my mind he will always be that little boy.  But reality is smacking me in the face too.

I see him asking insightful and thoughtful questions about current events and injustices  around the world.  I see him taking interests in music and becoming a sports stats enthusiast.  I see him branching out and making new friends.  Friends outside our little bubble of a world that he has safely been cocooned in for over a decade.  He’s developing a whole life separate from my husband and I.

My natural instinct is to resist this, to keep him close to home, close to us.  But I know that I can’t do that.  It wouldn’t be fair to him.  He would likely rebel.  He would likely resent us.  So I find myself walking a on a very shaky tightrope.  Trying to grant him some freedom and independence while also keeping him completely connected to our family unit.  I want him to develop his sense of self, learn to navigate all of the tricky twists and turns on his own.  I am trying to do this while letting him know that we’re here to help him if he has questions about which way to go.

This is the hard part.  It was hard seeing him walk into the doors of Kindergarten, it was hard watching him take off to ride his bike around the neighborhood for the first time.  It was hard letting him go to his first sleepover.  But none of that compares to this.  Those were controlled situations.  I was able to be involved and monitor and manage all of those situations.  Now, I have to hold my breath and hope.  Hope that the last 13 years of us teaching him values will stick.  Hope that he will listen to his gut if he feels unsure about something.  Trust that he will make more right decisions than wrong ones.  And keep my fingers crossed that even though he’s going out into the world a little more and venturing into unchartered waters, that he’ll still want to hang out with us, that he won’t dread family time.

I know I’ll see him mess up.  He’s human, he’s still learning.  I know I’ll see him fall.  He’s going to get hurt.  It’s going to kill me to see that happen but we’ll be here to get him through it.  I haven’t even tried to imagine any of this.  I haven’t tried to tap into my creativity to think of the scenarios and try to prepare for them.  That would be a fruitless endeavor.  I have to let go of the reigns just a little and hand them over to him.  I have to let him have his own journey.  This is his time, not mine.  Not my husband’s.

I know that we’ve raised a good kid.  He is a sweet, caring soul.  He is smart and funny and I know he wants to make us proud.  That is the warm blanket of comfort I will wrap myself in as he makes his own way.  I still see that little boy when I look at him.  I still see the little boy I carried on my hip.  His eyes are just as big and brown and sincere.  He still has the same smile that can light up the room.  But I also see a young man.  A young man that will be taller than me in a matter of months.  A young man that could pick me up effortlessly.  A young man who seems capable of more than I’m willing to admit to myself.  I will let him go, just a little, because it’s what I’m supposed to do.  But I won’t stop mothering him and I won’t stop worrying.  When he walks out the door, I’ll still whisper to myself, “Be ‘tareful, son.”

“You are the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.  You shine just like sunlight rains on a winter snow.  I just had to tell you so.  Your eyes sparkle as the stars, like the moon they glow.  Your smile could light the world on fire, or did you know?  Your mind’s full of everything that I wanna know.  I just had to let you know.  I just had to tell you so.  You’re my butterfly, fly high… fly fly fly.”

-Lenny Kravitz, Butterfly

Do you remember who you used to be?  Do you remember a time when your only care in the world was to taste life and revel in the simple joys of just being? Do you remember the” you” before life happened?  I never really gave it much thought.  Not until recently at least….

We were done having children.  That’s the decision we came to.  Right before we found out we were having a baby.  I knew I was pregnant, even when the tests came back negative.  I was like a crazy pregnancy test hoarder, buying as many as I could at a time without garnering weird looks from the cashier.  I took six tests that came back negative.  I wasn’t taking all these tests because I wanted a positive result, I really just wanted confirmation that I wasn’t pregnant, even though my body was telling me otherwise. I woke up early on a Saturday morning and realized I had one more left at the bottom of my bathroom drawer.   While Joe was still sleeping I snuck in to the bathroom to try one more time.   I was greeted with a little pink line.  Very faint.  Oh no.  I ran into the bedroom and woke Joe up and shoved the test in front of his bleary eyes.  I’m not gonna lie, it wasn’t the best reaction.  He ran his hand through his hair, he was speechless, but his face said it all.  He looked stressed.  We had come up with all these practical reasons why we shouldn’t have one more child.  We had agonized about this decision for two years and wouldn’t you know, we finally make our decision and apparently the universe had other plans in mind for us.  Our panic began to dissipate as we wrapped our brains around this news.  Obviously it was meant to be.  By lunchtime we were on board, we were excited.  We told the kids right away.  We told the rest of our family later that day.  We’ve never been good at secrets… everyone was thrilled.  We began planning for our new future.  The two older kids would share a room, I would take HypnoBaby classes to deal with my “Holy Crap” night sweats over having to go through labor and delivery again.  Plans for an anniversary trip to Wine Country were put on hold.  Our lives were turned upside down, and we were thrilled to accommodate the changes.

I had a sense of who she was before she was born, my daughter, my third child.  I experienced this with each of my children.  I know that sounds crazy, but I knew their personalities and temperament, I knew who they were before I officially met them.  For some reason I had a sense of apprehension with this pregnancy.  Nothing awful, just this feeling of “What if she’s like me?”  I’m not even sure where this came from or why that would be a bad thing.  I am not filled with self-loathing, I am perfectly ok with who I am, at least I think I am.  I am a generally happy person.  Being happy and upbeat has always come easy to me, it’s my default setting.  So this fear of my child turning out like me kind of threw me.  I chalked it up to hormones.

My daughter was born at 12:50 am, after 4 hours of excruciating back labor.  I had been through this twice before and thought I knew what to expect, but I had never experienced this before.  The pain was so intense and searing that I wanted to crawl out of my skin.  I am not a bad ass who refuses epidurals, I gladly would have had one, but I am unable to have one due to back surgery I had as a teen.  She came quickly, the doctor didn’t even have time to show up. The nurses grabbed an intern from the hallway as about six other nurses rushed in to the room.  I had tried to warn her that the baby was coming but she very confidently told me I was only 8 centimeters, that the Doctor would be there in plenty of time.  I really didn’t care who delivered her, I knew this was happening with or without the Doctor.  The instant she was born, I felt a rush of emotions.  And I mean I was sobbing and couldn’t catch my breath.  This had never happened either.  I had always cried a little with the birth of my other two children, tears of happiness, relief, gratitude.  But this was different.  I felt like I was purging.  I had no control over the tears that took over, I had no idea why I was reacting this way.  I was so happy to hold her, to look into her face for the first time.  It all seemed so much easier this time, I had been here before and knew what to do and what to expect, but I had this overwhelming emotional reaction and  I couldn’t put my finger on it.

She was a blessing, as all children are.  Our family felt complete and she brought a lightness to our home, to our family.  I felt settled, content.  It was the easiest post-partum recovery I’d ever had.  I felt great and energetic and ready to take on the world.  I cried tears of joy almost every day for the  first year of her life. The fact that we almost missed out on her, and all she brought to us,  literally brought me to tears every day, I wasn’t exaggerating about that.  I had never been happier, I was so grateful that our stupid, practical reasons for not having a third child were ignored.  I had no idea the things I would learn from her….

I could see that she was a little me.  Not in appearance, but her personality.  I had mixed feelings about that.  She was so much fun, yet she reminded me of me…  why did this seem to be a contradiction in my mind?  My apprehension I was feeling was tempered by the fun I was having with her.  She made me laugh every day, still does.  I joke that I have all kinds of new wrinkles because of I’ve smiled more and laughed more since she’s been around.  Which makes my misgivings all the more confusing.  I felt like I was waiting for her to turn in to a “me” that I wouldn’t like.  And I’m not sure what version of me I was so afraid of. I was so worried that one day I would wake up and she would be un-likeable, that I wouldn’t be able to see beyond our similarities and love her the way I did already.  The realization slowly crept out of my subconscious in to the active part of my mind, the realization that I had been seeing myself as unworthy.  Not the adult me, I’m actually ok with that person.  But the young me, the three year old me… wow.

As I’ve watched my daughter grow over the last few years, I have had a real life glimpse in to the me I used to be.  And I started to see things so differently than I had with my mind’s warped fish-lense eye.   I had a moment a year ago, when it hit me in an unexpected way.  She was jumping on my bed, talking to me excitedly about who knows what while I was getting ready for the day.  I for some reason stopped and looked at her.  Her crazy wild blond hair was sticking out at all angles, her eyes were alight with excitement, every tiny white tooth was visible as she smiled with her whole face.  She was jumping purposefully, getting the most bounce out of each push of her feet on the mattress.  The whole time she’s carrying on a steady stream of chatter.  She was in her glory, as she often is.  I felt a wave of feelings come over me.  I started tearing up, I ran to her, grabbed her in a big hug, burying my face in her wispy wild mane.  I was saying over and over to her, “Don’t change.  Don’t ever change.  You are amazing.”  I finally pulled back to look at her face.  She looked me in the eyes very seriously, “You wanna jump Mommy?”  I laughed then, wiping away the tears.  Maybe she won’t change,  maybe she’ll keep this part of her.

My parents keep telling me she is just like me.   That they feel like they are sitting across from the four year old me when they have her over for dinner.  I have vague memories of being like her.  I remember being completely goofy, unaware of myself.  I remember being carefree, crazy, free spirited.   So what happened to that me?  When did I change?  I’m still a very happy, easygoing person.  But I am not like the four year old me.  Seeing my daughter grow and evolve, I see that this is intrinsically who she is.  It’s the pure core of her.   She is me, I was once her. I was all these things, I was free and goofy and crazy.  I love that she is like this.  At some point I stopped being like that.  I think that part of me is still there, buried under life and experiences and all the baggage that comes with growing up.  I think I am, most of us are, a jumbled stew of all the things we were born being, all the things we experienced, the good and the bad, the expectations, the worries, the guilt.   I choose to be mostly the good ones.  The happy, the content, the optimistic.   All the other things shaped me and there’s no hiding from that, but maybe I can find that part of me that is buried.  The part that feels invincible, the part that doesn’t have time to be concerned with how I should be and just allows myself to be.  What if we could all do that?  Let go of whatever constraints were placed upon us or that we put on ourselves.  Growing up means you mature, but it doesn’t mean that we have to lose the idealistic whimsy that most of us had as young children.

I marvel at how my daughter can take any moment and experience it so joyously.  I always say that she’s squeezing every moment out of life, she is in the moment, happy on a level that is beyond most of us.  She thinks that she can touch sun light.  When she sees the dappled sunlight through the trees she will reach out to it, trying to hold it.  She will hold her palm out and look at her hand as the sun’s rays filters through her fingers.  She will slowly and deliberately close her fingers with her eyes staring intently at the sun resting in her palm.  Other times she will stop in the middle of whatever she’s doing to sneak up on a bird, tiptoeing quietly to try to pet the poor unsuspecting creature.  She’s been doing this for years.  And she’s unsuccessful every single time.  She goes after them every time with hope and conviction, that this will be the time that she’ll be able to touch the bird.  And my little girl loves to chase butterflies.  She crouches down when she sees them resting on a flower.  She talks softly to them and then gently reaches out to try to coax it in to her hand.  Inevitably the butterfly waits until she almost has it, then flies away out of her reach.  She runs after it, jumping and raising her hands to clap over it as it flies ever higher.  She does this with glee, laughing and talking to the butterfly the whole time. She is so in her own little world that she has no awareness of anyone or anything else around her.  She is in the moment, it’s just her and the butterfly and the glorious chase.  There is no frustration that the butterfly always eludes her.  She holds no grudge, she just waits until she sees the next one and tries again.

That morning, the one where she was jumping on my bed- that morning I saw myself.  I saw who I was at three years old.  I realized in that moment that I had been seeing things all wrong, that I had been putting a lot of pressure on the young innocent child of my youth. I had been holding her accountable for things I would never hold my own children accountable for.  This had all been going on in my mind behind the scenes, I had been completely unaware of it until I had to look in to my daughter’s adorable face every day.  In that moment when I looked at my daughter, I felt myself forgive that little girl of my past, forgive her for not being perfect, for not being the cutest or the funniest or the smartest or any of the “-est” words.  My daughter taught me to cut myself a break.  Just by being herself, she taught me let go of stuff I had been holding on to.

I look at my daughter in all her awesome goofiness and I love it.  I love her.  She doesn’t care if her goofy faces aren’t cute, if her crazy pictures she takes with my phone look funny.  She is just herself in all her glorious silliness and that makes her the most beautiful thing in the world.  I hope she never loses sight of this part of herself.  I hope she keeps that free spirit.  I desperately want to jump on a bed with her on the morning of her wedding day.  I want to see her still chasing butterflies when she’s a teenager.  I want to see her show her own children one day how to hold their hands out catch the sun light in their palms….

I don’t really spend a lot of time on self-reflection or introspection.  I have three kids to keep me busy, so there wouldn’t be a lot of time for that even if I wanted to.  But I do try to recognize the little life lessons that pop up at the most unexpected moments.  I try to absorb them, trusting that they’ll eventually make sense.  My sister in law said something recently that really stuck with me.  She said that she tries not to be so hard on herself.  I can’t even remember the context of the conversation we were having.  But that statement stuck with me.  She was genuine when she said it, too.  She doesn’t beat herself up the way so many of us do over …..   I don’t know, everything…. stuff.  She isn’t too hard on herself.  Now I know what she meant, or what it means to me.  I am letting go of stuff.  I learned from watching my little girl that the most beautiful people are the ones who allow themselves to be who they truly are.  They don’t worry about what other people think.  They live in the moment.  They don’t put pressure on them selves.  They are beautiful being who they were meant to be.  You don’t need  a size 2 body for that, or fancy clothes.  You just have to be who you truly are.  You have to find that part of you that didn’t know about expectations or limitations.  Look really hard and maybe we’ll all find that part of us that is convinced we can catch the sun in our hand.  Maybe we can all come to a place in our lives where we let go of everything, take time to just be…  go outside barefoot, let yourself enjoy the moment…  feel the sunlight on your face…. touch the flowers, chase the butterflies… And maybe the butterflies we catch won’t be the ones flitting in and out of the flowers.  Maybe we’ll be able to grasp the ones that reside somewhere deep inside each of us.

IMG_3151