Why parenting is awful but incredible

Dear Daughter,

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. One of my favorite holidays! It’s nice that there’s a whole day dedicated to the most important job in the world.

A friend of mine, who is in a long-term relationship but not yet married, has said recently that she doesn’t know if she could be a mom. She hears the stories of kids throwing temper tantrums, pooping or peeing in places they shouldn’t be, monopolizing their parents’ time—and their sleep!—and she thinks, “I don’t want that!” Based on that information alone, I don’t blame her.

So much of parenting is unglamorous, sure. But it’s what’s on the other side that makes it worthwhile. In the movie The Back-up Plan, a man describes parenting like this:

Comical, yes, but the most accurate summation of parenting I’ve heard. I don’t want you to worry about the “awful” moments. Because the incredible moments somehow make those disappear.

I love being your mother because I love seeing your smile of delight when you learn something new. I love when you curl up next to me on the couch. I love hearing your belly laugh. I love the silly pranks you pull, and the thoughtful gestures you do that take my breath away. I love seeing your talents develop. I love watching you grow into a beautiful young woman…

I could go on and on.

I’m so proud that you’re my daughter, Daughter. Thanks for making me a mom.

Love,
Mom

Advertisements

How to help a friend

Dear Daughter,

You know, there are a lot of really good people in this world. We mostly hear about the bad ones—and there are a lot of them as well—but don’t let anyone tell you that there is more bad than good in this world. Because I truly believe that it’s just the opposite.

In the weeks following the birth of the baby, so many of my friends and family members stepped outside of their comfort zones to lend a helping hand. They made us dinners, cleaned the house, and offered to help me with anything I needed. We even had to tell people to stop making us food because we had too much! I was overwhelmed by their generosity, and even felt a little guilty for it. It’s not like I was sick. I’d had a baby, which is a tremendous gift in and of itself. I was blessed enough to have a new child, let alone people begging to feed and serve me!

For some reason, all of my life, loved ones have gone out of their way to help me with things. I’m not sure why; it’s not like I’ve been dealt a rough hand. I think there are just a lot of giving people in my life, people who delight in helping others. And during the times that I did need help, I humbly accepted it.

It’s recently dawned on me, however, that I haven’t returned the favor as often as I should have. I don’t help my family members as much as they help me, and I don’t reach out to my friends in the way that they reach out to me. All of this time I’ve been receiving, receiving, receiving (always gratefully, but still…) and I’ve done very little giving, giving, giving. I like helping people by listening to them and giving advice but I’m not so good at the real-life, practical, everyday stuff. Sadly, it usually doesn’t even occur to me to do such a thing.

Daughter, I encourage you to open your eyes to the needs of the people in your life. Pay close attention to what might be lacking in their current situation, and figure out a way in which you can fill that gap. Help them with their schoolwork. Give them your dessert at lunch. Teach them how to play a sport. When you’re older, offer to cook for them, or watch their kids for a few hours so they can get some rest. Be acutely keen to their needs and offer to help. Don’t wait to be asked for help, because they’ll never ask. Just stick your neck out there and do whatever it is they need. They’ll appreciate it more than you know.

Love,
Mom

Starting with a clean slate

Dear Daughter,

I suppose I should make the above subject plural—Daughters—because there are two of you now… a fact that both thrills and frightens me all at the same time. Little girls are wonderful. They’re pretty, sweet, and have cute clothes. I understand girls. They make sense to me (as opposed to boys, whose affinity for dirt and destruction baffles me). But I think—and I’m just presuming here—that parenting a daughter is much more nerve-wracking than parenting a son. Because while girls are pretty, sweet, and have cute clothes, they are also emotional beings who wear their hearts on their sleeves. They’re prone to get hurt, both physically and emotionally, more easily than boys are, and that is sometimes too much for a parent to bear.

The whole reason I started writing this blog, these letters to Daughter, is to help my daughter (now daughters) and other young women make the right choices, to warn them of what obstacles might be ahead of them and to guide them in navigating those obstacles accordingly. I don’t have all the answers myself (far from it!) but I do have some expertise on the matter. Because I am a girl. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I’ve gotten hurt, both physically and emotionally.

One of the most fascinating things about having a baby is that, once they enter the world, they are a clean slate. They haven’t yet been jaded by the reality of life. They haven’t yet learned what they can get away with or what influences might harm them.  So at that moment when the baby is pulled out of the womb, parents are given the opportunity to do things right, to discipline and guide their child in the best possible way. And while it will never go perfectly, because no parent is perfect, it is the hope and intention of most parents that the baby will grow into a caring, respectful child and later into a sensible, hard-working adult.

Similarly, every time I write a new letter/post here, I have the opportunity to help guide my daughters and others to a more fulfilling life. Every blank screen is a clean slate that, when filled, might help others—and myself!–see things in a new way and become better people for it.

So the fact that I haven’t written anything in the past couple of months has had a profound effect on me. I’ve been feeling a little bit empty, and incredibly guilty, because I wasn’t using this platform to help you or others. Granted, I’ve been busy! Taking care of a newborn is no easy task, and takes up much more of my time than I had anticipated. But there were times when I could have written but chose not to, because I wanted to take that time for myself rather than for others. And I think I needed that “me” time. I still do… everyone does! But what I also needed was to pursue my passion and my calling, which is writing these letters to you, Daughter.

So I’m going to do the best that I can with this tremendous opportunity I’ve been given. I acknowledge that there will be days when it truly is impossible to write. But I want to make this a priority again, because you are my priority. I look forward to returning to this fun, thought-provoking medium to communicate just how much you mean to me.

Love,
Mom

Why you shouldn’t hate on marriage

Dear Daughter,

We live in an anti-marriage culture. Often, marriage is jokingly referred to as slavery or prison. Some people truly believe it is akin to being locked up, kept from true freedom. Divorces are more common than anniversaries. And everywhere on TV, we see story lines of extramarital affairs, fighting, separation. It’s rare, in fact, to see a happily married couple on TV or in the movies.

I’m not sure how it got this way. I don’t think it’s always been like this but who knows. Some say that people have always been unhappy in their marriages, but until recent decades it wasn’t socially acceptable to get divorced, so they just “suffered” through marriage till they died. How depressing.

I know I’ve only been married for a little over a year now, so I guess I’m still a naive newlywed. But I refuse to fall into this way of thinking… that marriage is miserable, unnatural, a metaphor for bondage. I believe that God created marriage to be a blessing. I, for one, love coming home to my best friend every day. I love having a companion to hang out with all the time. I love that I can make decisions with someone rather than having to decide everything for myself.

Is marriage easy? No, not at all. But I think the challenge of it is what makes it even more special. Kind of like parenting. Nothing about parenting is simple, yet you go through the tough times, figure things out, and then cherish the good times even more. The same can be said for marriage.

I feel it’s premature to give you marriage advice, since I’m so new to it myself, and since you have a long way to go before you’ll need it! But I do encourage you now to avoid falling into the culture’s way of thinking about marriage. In fact, not only should you avoid it but you should defy it. I hope you’ll get angry like I do whenever someone “jokes” about how awful their wife is, or when you hear about yet another celebrity divorce. I hope your generation can turn around the stigma that marriage is bound for failure. Instead of focusing on the negatives of marriage, focus on the many positives, and shout those positives from the rooftops.

Strong marriages equals strong families equals less hatred, violence, crime and greed. Be the generation that understands that equation, strives to make it a reality, and therefore changes the sad state of this world.

Love,
Mom

How siblings make life better

Dear Daughter,

In just a few hours, we will find out if this baby in my belly is your brother or sister. I know that you’re hoping for a brother, so you can fulfill your longtime dream of hitting him in the head with a pillow when he’s 5 years old. But either way, you’re winning the jackpot.

You’ve gone 8 years without a brother or sister, so suddenly having one may be a bit of a culture shock for you. But there is something incredibly special about having a sibling, and I cannot wait for you to experience that.

My childhood was very different from yours, in that I’ve never known what it’s like to have gone without a sibling. My brother is 2 years older than me and my sister is 17 months younger than me. So, until I went away to college, I had a sibling at my side ALL THE TIME, whether I liked it or not. But usually I liked it.

Your siblings are special because they’re the only people in the whole entire world that you’re permitted to love and hate at the same time. (And by “hate” I mean “bicker with,” not actually “hate.”) They will get on your nerves and you’ll get on theirs, but you’ll never want to leave them. One minute, you might be in an all-out brawl with them, and the next you’re laughing together while watching cartoons and sharing a bowl of cereal.

Come to think of it, I wonder if sibling relationships prepare us for marriage… unconditional love practiced in the midst of real life.

I never fought with my siblings much. My brother and I weren’t crazy close while growing up but he was always very respectful to me. He didn’t treat me the way a big brother typically treats his little sister. He didn’t tease me or make fun of me much. It’s like he knew I was too fragile for that. Plus, he’s just a good guy. I always knew that I could go to him to make me laugh or to help me see a different perspective on a situation. I still place a high value on my brother’s opinion.

My sister and I were so close that, growing up, people thought we were twins. We kind of looked alike, but we also did the things that twins do: we finished each other’s sentences and could know what the other was thinking just by glancing at them. We fought every once in a while because our personalities are so different, but for the most part we were BFFs, and still are. She’s younger than me but gives me the best advice because she knows me better than anyone does. Like my brother, she too makes me laugh and has this incredible ability of assuring me that everything’s going to be okay.

Your relationship with your sibling will be very different from the relationship I had with mine, not only because of the age gap but also because every person and family is different. But I guarantee that no one you have ever met or will ever meet will come close to the bond you’ll have with that little brother or sister. I guarantee your sibling will change your life for the better… because that’s what siblings do.

Love,
Mom