To My Child

To My Child

I hope you learn that life isn’t fair.  But that that doesn’t mean it is all bad.

I hope you smile at people, even strangers, and look people in the eye.

I hope you chew with your mouth closed.

I hope you learn how to listen – really listen – to others when they need to be heard, and to the quiet beat of your own heart.

Headed down the path together.

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I hope you learn to win and lose with grace.

I hope you love and appreciate the beautiful, intricate, amazing body you’re in.

I hope you can be silly for the joy of it, and can laugh at yourself and with others kindly.

I hope you have good manners and know when to use them (almost always) and when to relax them.

I hope you trust. In others, and in yourself.

I hope you know how to make something with your own brain and hands – a song, food, a painting, a stone wall.

I hope you learn, without too many tough consequences, that attempts to escape problems, hurt, and heartbreak never really work for long.

Flying!

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I hope you pick up after yourself.

I hope you decide that it is wise and healthy to get enough sleep.

I hope you learn how to advocate for yourself without demanding, complaining or whining.

I hope you understand that stuff is just stuff.

I hope you learn you can expect goodness, but not perfection, from other people. Or from yourself.

I hope you learn how to own up to your own misdeeds, mistakes and slights without excuses, blame or deflection.

I hope you keep learning, about the world, about other people, and about yourself.

I hope you work in any small or large way to make your community, corner, city, world, a tiny bit more just and beautiful.

And I hope you know that when in doubt, you should just put stuff in the trash, and not the garbage disposal.

Just a Tiny Bit Magic

He thumps quickly into the bedroom, breathless and scared.

“Mom, I had a scary dream,” he says, voice shaky.

“Oh honey, I’m sorry.  What was your dream about?”

“There was a bad man with white eyes who made me go to jail,” he says, crawling up into my bed and into my arms.

“That sounds very scary.  But you’re safe.  No one is going to take you to jail. You’re safe,” I repeat.

He sighs, his body relaxes, but his heart still pounds.  We snuggle in the pre-dawn light. I can just hear the birds starting to sing.  After a quiet few moments I ask, “Are you ready to go back in your bed?”  He nods.

“Will you carry me?” he asks, voice low.  It is a rare request.

“Of course,” I say as I pick him up and he wraps his thin, strong, spidery limbs around me.

I place him in bed, pull the covers over him, kiss his head and return to my bed.

Three minutes later I hear his footsteps again.

“Mom, I can’t get the pictures out of my head, can you erase them?”

I nod.

He climbs into my bed, and I reach up to rub the back of his head.  I brush his hair from his eyes, and massage his scalp, mumbling as I go, “Yes… got it… right there… this should work.”  This is the nightmare erasing ritual I created a few years ago, based on an improvisational parenting moment (aren’t they all?), based on an idea I had given my little sister post-nightmare, 25 years ago.  It is perhaps a bit dishonest, in the same vein as kissing away the hurt.  But it is a version of the mother/child pact that has probably existed as long as there have been mothers and children.  Moms make things better.

Someday, he will understand that I don’t have the power to erase anything.  That I can’t really fix very much, that I’m not even “just a tiny bit magic” like he thinks I am now.  He will realize that the world can be big, and mean and complicated.  Perhaps he’s started to figure this out already.

But tonight, in the dark, I am his mom, and I have the ability to fix it.  I can heal, I can help, I can calm.  And I can make the bad dreams go away.  I do not take that loving trust lightly.

“That’s better,” he whispers.  And this time, we hold hands as I walk him back to his room and warm bed.

Comparing our eyes.

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Of Long Labors and Crinkly Whales

Recently, I was asked to offer some words of encouragement and advice to a friend expecting her first child. My first piece of advice? Pay no attention to even the most well-intentioned pieces of advice. With that said, here are a few things I’ve learned on my 3 trips to baby town.

 

  1. Doctors don’t want to scare you, so they don’t tell you exactly how long labor will last. But I will. Labor will last a long time. A few days. Yes, days. I know only two women whose first labors lasted less than 24-hours. Two. (I’m not counting scheduled C-sections.) And when you’re 40 weeks pregnant, anxious to meet your little one, in pain, and don’t know what to expect the whole process will seem excruciatingly long, miserable, and sometimes a bit out-of-control, no matter how well you plan. But you will be okay. You will.

 

  1. Get one of these.
rockn

Fisher Price Rock ‘n Play Sleeper

 

  1. People with children who are teenagers or older will tell you to enjoy every minute, that it all goes by so fast. Those people are wrong. You won’t enjoy/savor/cherish every minute. In fact, I think it is far more likely that you’ll find a lot about caring for an infant to be tedious, repetitive, messy, exhausting and not-so-fun. BUT, it gets better, and there are lovely, quiet, rewarding, amazing moments.

 

  1. Sometimes you’ll feel like you’re doing everything wrong. You aren’t.

 

  1. Forget what the books and registry guides say. Children don’t need much: love, warmth, a food source, and when they get a little older, a toy that makes a crinkly crunchy sound. You have enough and you are enough. Get this whale for the crinkly toy part.
Franky the Hanky Whale by Lamaze

Franky the Hanky Whale by Lamaze

  1. Don’t feel bad about asking for what you need. If someone asks what they can do to help, tell them to bring food and hold the baby for an hour while you shower and nap. Never underestimate the restorative power of a shower and a nap. (In the reverse, if someone is over-staying their welcome, don’t feel bad about asking them to leave.)

 

  1. Bring your own pillow to the hospital. The bed is uncomfortable enough. Don’t add to your misery by sleeping on a pillow encased in rubber.

 

You got this, Mama.