Thursday, July 25, 2013

Labels Are For Jars

The One Spot in Target; a girl's best friend.
Almighty treasures, grand junk, and plastic ridiculousness, for the win.
Month after month as inventory is swapped in and out, the Lil' Dude finds something she needs. Like, need-needs. And month after month, I relent and comply because dude. Life is short, plastic is rad, and what's another $1 or $2 on top of an already atrocious Target bill?

This week's amazingness included a whole slew of these plastic glasses- total hipster, total Russell Westbrook slash NBA, total trend and oh so needed. Yes, add them to the cart!

The label said, "Nerd Glasses" ... oh, Target, why you gotta be like that? Nerd is a label. So is hipster. And trendsetter, which is implied, and so is Russell Westbrook in all honesty. Why couldn't they be simply called "Faux Glasses?"

And my kid, super pumped about her new spectacles, and slowly becoming the lusts-for-words girl her Mama is, asked me what the label said. She wanted to read. I had to tell her they said ... nerd.

Like the candy? She asked.

No, like the insult.

Definition of NERD:

       : an unstylish, unattractive, or socially inept person; especially: one slavishly devoted to intellectual or academic pursuits
       - Nerd-i-ness   noun
       - Nerd-ish   adjective 
       - Nerdy   adjective 

-Webster's Dictionary, 2013

Slavishly devoted to intellectual or academic pursuits? I'd call that a rockstar. Granted, that was never, ever me in any part of my life, maybe aside from learning all the lyrics to TLC's Creep in 1994, but it's something I would support in my daughter's life, obviously. With great pride.

When I was a kid, my Dad forbid my brother and I from saying three words ... aside from the standard vulgarity already discouraged in children by society, and those words were stupid, retard, and shut up.

Naturally, telling my baby brother to Shut up, you stupid retard! really meant two things- one, I was deliberate and intentional in my anger, and two, I was about to get in the most trouble you can get in as a juvenile. That was for the jugular ... and my Dad would go for mine.

But he made his point by the labels we used and misused. He taught us early about acceptance, ignorance, and slander. He also supported us in our own labels as we grew into ourselves and flew whatever flag we chose.

I already love my daughter's stark independence and comfort in her own skin. I didn't realize upon motherhood that it would begin at such an early age, but I've always been consistent in my observation and commentary about how she dresses, moves, accepts, questions.

A part of me, probably the biggest, hopes she always the tye-dye in a sea of neutral. I'm that way- and it took me about 30 years to get that way and be 100% okay with it. And in general, humanity has evolved that way naturally. Not without resistance, of course, think same-sex marriage rights, think Augusta National Golf Club, think Boy Scouts of America. I know in her kindergarten class there will be kids with pink hair and Mohawks and when I started school in 1995, there wasn't any of that. Just paste eaters, and maybe the occasional kid with a single parent.

Labels are for jars, not people.

Monday, July 22, 2013

It Was Me

This post was influenced by a piece of writing Tina Fey did on raising daughters- I actually posted it here last year On Raising A Daughter because of all the crap I read, and I read a lot of crap (meaning quantity and not necessarily quality- but sometimes), her piece is one of my favorites ever. It's stuck in my craw and my memory place because I literally could not have said it better.

Dear Kid Rock-

It's late on a Sunday. The windows are open because the humidity here in the Midwest is finally below tropical unbearableness. I know you'll remember this summer as the summer you lost your first tooth and finally went to Kindergarten, but I will remember this summer as the summer where I stopped washing my hair once and for all. We all have our memories, and that will be mine because, damn.

The windows are open and it's late and quiet. You're asleep in your tiny neon underpants, mouth open, in a tangle of bedding and stuffed menagerie. The summer's tanlines crisscross your tender skin; your hair puffs in and around your mouth and back out as you exhale through sleep, one giant, unladylike breath at a time.

Your Dad has already done his sweep through the house at his bedtime. Garage doors shut, lights out, TV's off, lunch notes placed on the counter for leftover remembrance. He was already in to whisper to you, to turn off your music, crank up your fan, and prop open your door with a random stuffed animal. That's a preventative measure against the late-night vortex caused by the open and airy house, so it doesn't slam your door shut, waking you with a rude BANG and forever causing the Beagle to dive into ridiculously small spaces with the inability to emerge for hours.

I notice the random stuffed animal he chose for said door-propping is Coconut, your blonde teddy bear you've only had since March. Since March when your Grandma G. in all her clearance shopping glory, found for $2 and adorned your twin bed in the sleeping loft at the cabin as a welcome surprise for our stay. You needed another stuffed animal like you need a hole in the head, or like your Mama needs another scarf or tube of lipgloss, but I get it. Your Grandma intended you to love and leave Coconut at the cabin, but you wouldn't hear of it. He would be so cold and lonely and didn't he have a birthday you needed to celebrate back at home with your wooden cake set with faux flaming candles?

You brought him home.

You acclimated him to his new surroundings, apprised him of the natural pecking order of your stuffed beings and there he sat, March-on, in the corner of your bed probably happy to be in a warm home vs. semi-vacant log cabin in the middle of no where, but definitely not the star of your show or stealer of your heart by any means.

But all that changed about two weeks ago.

Since you were tiny, tiny, you've had a habit of waking up and scooping up your NaNa, little Beagle, Lovey, your usual cast and crew, and carrying them with you as you prepared to face your day. Throw into that armful whatever stuffed lovable was new, refound, reloved, gifted, or whatnot. Coconut is currently in his prime with you. He's one happy dude, dude.

So last night, when I saw him sadly propping open your door, right on his side, face mashed into carpeting, it was me who rescued him and returned him to the very valuable real estate that is under your chin, and above your heart. I choose poor Piggy to man your door instead, a fabulous JellyCat-brand corduroy pig I brought you from Ohio when you weren't even two. Yeah, Piggy had her moment in the sun as one of your Besties back in the day, but now it's Coconut's turn. All order was restored in Your Bedroom as I swapped the stuffies out. They get it.

And I knew that when you woke up, an act that isn't highly reviled in this house anyways, and you panicky tore apart your bedding looking for that bear and you instead found him feet away from you on the floor, we'd be at DefCon Level 11 of Insanity & Wrecked Monday Mornings. And no one has time for that. And you'd likely cry-heave, clutching Coconut to your tiny, heaving chest and you would for sure yell at your Mother because somehow, it's always my fault even though it was legitimately your Father's doing this time. And he would feel bad for sure ... because he didn't know. It's just the way it is. He doesn't know.

Because I am the only one who knows. I want you to remember that, dear girl.
It was me.
Remember that when you roll your eyes at me.
When you stomp your feet, or even think of calling me mean, or worse.
It was me when I let you bend the rules in our own secrecy, and nearly cried when I had to reinforce them for you. Remember when you want to stop holding my hand even when we get to the other side of the sidewalk and out of harm's way.
It was me when suddenly, your new friend's mom is so much cooler than your own.
Remember when you think I don't understand or can't imagine life in your shoes or empathize with any appropriateness. It was me when my face flashes in your brain, right as you make the wrong decision. Remember when you want to intentionally wound me- berating me for being a working mom, or traveling or being too present or not present enough or not giving you a sibling, pony, or cat.
It was me when you think you have it the worst. When you want to hurt, or are hurt, or applying hurt.
It was me.
Remember that if you can remember nothing else from your childhood.
It will always be me.

Mama loves.

Friday, July 19, 2013

A Day in the Life

It was a couple days ago, early afternoon.
I picked you up a few hours early, unplanned.
You asked a million questions about why I was picking you up late ... you get early & late confused. I love it because it reinforces you're an actual child, not a blossoming girl-person who can do math and calls me Mother.

"I don't know, babe. I just wanted to surprise you," I said as we headed for Starbucks' drive-through. "Can't you just be excited to have no plan right now?" I rolled my eyes as I said that. I'm the Queen of Plan and spontaneity often makes my skin jump right off my bones. There I go again, saying things to you that are meant for me.

I ordered my usual obnoxiously embarrassing coffee order, and urged you to get a Strawberries & Creme Frappucino ... I had a Treat Receipt for a $2 coffee and told you to order something other than a (free) ice water this time. You order waters because A) it's your jam and B) you like the idea of the logo'd cup. Like your Papa always says, it's better to look good than be good.

Reviews were mixed. You thought it was pretty, naturally, but didn't love it. Or drink it, really. It's still in the refrigerator. But look at you! Trying something new!

From there, we hit the pool. I remember thinking when I was a kid how cool it would be to have my Mom pick me up and take me to where my love language spoke to me. That was either North Long Lake in the summer, or to Ben Franklin in the East Brainerd Mall where I could buy all the Lisa Frank stickers my little heart desired. You know, for my sticker BINDER that I owned and rocked.

Your current love language is water- so we set off to swim.
I floated with my coffee, radio in the background while you dove and jumped, swam and surfaced, and repeat. You were so giddy, and maybe partially hyped up on Frap sugar and full of questions and revelations.

Why do people lie? How many times do they have to lie to become liars?

How come some families adopt, and why do some foster?

How tall will my sunflowers get?

What makes you love music? What is your favorite part to love?

How many until The Beagle dies?

Can I be on the swim team when I am six?

Can I still wear my earrings with my swim cap because if I can't, I might need to wait ... ?

How old were you when you got married? And had me? And why? Was it right?

I am going to name this dive the Cloud Surfer because I am fluffied up like a cloud, and sideways like a surfer.

I only ever want to eat cantaloupe and mac & cheese and smashed potatoes and never meat.

Why are vegetables gross except Great-Grandma S's carrots and pickles?

Blue is my new favorite color- but not like water or the sky or the truck, but regular blue.

What you're doing is not swimming; floating is just not. Why won't you swim? You aren't swimming with me like that. You can't call it swimming if you're FLOATING.


We spent more than two hours just bantering like that. There are days for certain that wearily, I want to lie my head down and just not ... parent, you know? And there are days like this day in the pool that I was just parenting the shit out of you, and being super awesome at it.

What I am trying to say is, I'll probably always remember that day. And I am convinced you will too, because your tiny brain astounds me with what it retains. You'll probably just remember that I picked you up late and forced you to trade water for pink, expensive sugar, and told you that yes, your dog will die someday.

While perfecting your front float.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

I Just Wanna See You {Be Brave}

I had a common theme running through my head when I was writing And I Cried to you yesterday- and that theme was bravery. Sometimes, and probably a lot of sometimes, adults say things to kids because they themselves need to hear it. I know; it's confusing! But being an adult and a parent is confusing- not to mention wicked hard, and often we need to hear the very things you need to hear. Be brave! I was screaming when writing. Be brave.

And then the universe got all awesome this morning when you and I were driving and this song came on the radio and you simply said, this is a really good song, Mama. Make it LOUD. You got it, baby girl. You got it.

Brave - Sara Bareilles

You can be amazing
You can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug
You can be the outcast
Or be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love
Or you can start speaking up
Nothing’s gonna hurt you the way that words do
And they settle ‘neath your skin
Kept on the inside and no sunlight
Sometimes a shadow wins
But I wonder what would happen if you

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave

Everybody’s been there, everybody’s been stared down
By the enemy
Fallen for the fear and done some disappearing
Bow down to the mighty
Don’t run, stop holding your tongue
Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
Show me how big your brave is

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

Innocence, your history of silence
Won’t do you any good
Did you think it would?
Let your words be anything but empty
Why don’t you tell them the truth?

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Three Little Words

I know it's been forever- like, a hot forever.

You graduated from Pre-K.
And I cried.

You were your Godfather's flower girl.
And I cried.

I sold all 4,000 of your baby items on a garage sale.
And I cried.

You rode your bike sans training wheels.
And I cried.

You attended your first funeral (that you'll remember).
And I cried.

You jumped off the diving board.
And I cried.

You lost your first tooth.
And I cried.

And so on. Life is basically just happening over here and we're riding its current. I'm hyper-aware of everything, and immune to nothing. I wanted this summer to last forever, since you're getting on the golden school bus in like, six damn weeks. But, summer is not lasting forever. In fact, it's sprinting toward September with the agility and grace of a marathoner from a third-world country.

Something fantastic happened though a week ago or so.
You were at Camp Grandma, take 2, happily minding your own business and getting spoiled and swimming your face off and buying new shoes and headbands and eating ice cream with Grandpa and going to parades when one evening you told your Grandma, "I Miss Mommy."

Three little words.
And I cried.
But those three little words- And I Cried- shouldn't surprise you or anyone reading this.
Crying? That's my jam. It's my second language and first defense and middle name.
Sorry; not sorry.

But you missed me ... your Mama. It took five and a half years, but you missed me. And since you came home 10 days ago, you really can't get enough of me.

Oh. I am Soaking. That. Up.

It's like you knew I needed you at this stage in my life. Your blond head still fits perfectly under my chin, your chippy-nail polished hands in mine, and when I pick you up your legs clamp around my waist in perfect lock.

We have a few other sweetnesses planned for this Eternal Summer.
I'm going to try very hard to not And I Cried in the back-to-school aisle of Target, but no promises, kid. Don't be embarrassed. Be compassionate and empathetic and quick to suggest Starbucks when I do. Sweetnesses like things we both love ... sun, water, coffee, books, lyrics, whipped cream, shopping, sleeping, yoga, sunglasses ... we're going to make summer last into forever.

Mama loves.