Be You

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It helps to know who you are. Where your boundaries give, and where they don’t. What you’ll do and what you won’t. It helps to know, but sometimes it will hurt, too. Because you’re not always going to fit in, sometimes you’ll go it alone. But deep down? All that matters? Is that you know who you are.

 

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My daughter rushed in from outside with red cheeks and rainstorm eyes. “They don’t want to play with me!” she shouted as the tears took full sail and tumbled headlong to her chin.

 

Who?” I put my arm around her shoulder, not wanting to give the moment too much power, because downplaying the gut-rip of how people hurt you seemed sensible.

 

She threw herself face down on the couch and ignored my question. “What do I do?” she managed through muffled sobs.

 

Tell me what happened.” I rubbed her shaking back. “Who doesn’t want to play with you?”

 

The boys.”

 

Ah.” I couldn’t think of something other to say, so I continued to soothe with my hands.

 

She wasn’t having it.

 

I have a Nerf gun and everything. They just told me I wasn’t old enough.”

 

I knew that wasn’t it. She was seven and so were many of them.

 

Sometimes people aren’t nice, honey. I’m sorry. But you need to keep being you.”

 

I rolled my eyes at my insignificant words; words that were like band-aids on a missing leg. I suspected I was failing miserably at this whole “learning talk” endeavor.

 

“What do you mean?” She pushed the couch pillows out of the way and waited in a “tell me more” position.

 

I searched for the right thing.

 

Not everyone is going to like everyone else. And sometimes it’s for silly reasons, like maybe because you’re a girl or you’re too young, and sometimes you just won’t know why, but it’s always important to stay who you are, and find people who love you for that.”

 

She remained dubious.

 

I tried again. “Who are you?”

 

The tears kept falling. “I don’t know.”

 

You’re funny, smart, sweet, imaginative, and silly. You are a good friend. You like to read. You…”

 

She hugged me mid-sentence.

 

I pulled away for a brief second. “I want you to know who you are, OK? Because people might try to tell you different. But if you know who you are on the inside, it doesn’t matter what other people say. So…who are you?”

 

I am…”

 

At that second, the doorbell rang. I heard giggling. I jumped up to open the door, not altogether surprised to find the boys at the threshold. The tallest one spoke up: “Can Toots play?

 

My eyes narrowed. Was this a joke at her expense? I didn’t know if I could stand watching those tears again.

 

My daughter joined me at the door. “What do you want?” Her eyes weren’t even dry.

 

They looked a little sheepish, God bless them. “We want to play hide and seek and need a good counter and runner.”

 

She didn’t close the door behind her. “I am…” she shouted for me to hear. “A good counter and runner!” And off she went.

 

I followed her out to ensure everything was on the up and up; no one would tease, or lob hurtful words her way. I stayed on the fringes, watching carefully, feeling the full weight of parental responsibility and heartbreak at not being able to orchestrate happy endings for my daughter every time.

 

All the while certain I didn’t have control over every outcome, and hoping that if there were one thing — one! I could ingrain in her deepest deepest self, it would be to know who you are.

 

5 Things I Want My Children To Know & Believe, Part Deux

The other day, I received an email from someone who told me they enjoyed reading the post I’m about to re-publish here. In truth, I’d completely forgotten about it, but think now would be a perfect time to revisit it seeing as I need a parenting status check. I’ve been — um — challenged by my daughters lately and it’s important that I remember my “mom mission statement,” which is, in short: don’t eff them up too bad.

 

I wrote today’s post awhile ago, in fact it was one of my first on San Diego Momma. In looking at it now, I realize that I still believe it as strongly as I did almost three years ago.

 

Also, and finally, and in summation, I want to offer a PROMPTuesday based on this rehashed post: What five things do you want your children to know and believe?

 

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1) Popularity isn’t worth it.

If I have any regret in my life, it’s that I spent so much time and worked so hard to be popular. It consumed me. In fact, I have a whole section in my adolescent diary devoted to “How to Be Popular.” (An especially lame, but earnest tip was “Take Shower Every Day.”) This goal was informed by the Sweet Valley High book series, and once I realized the dream and it was just as I imagined (parties! football games! Prom court!) I didn’t see until much later, that I’d wasted the opportunity to nurture the other things in my life. I lost time with my family. I didn’t pursue my interests, I didn’t personally develop. So many of my “other” interests – writing, for one, sat in the back seat while I focused on which Esprit outfit I’d wear to the Friday night dance. Truth be told, I still have and cherish several of my high school friends, but I wish popularity hadn’t been everything to me. It stilted my development. I didn’t become all I could be. I was too busy shopping.

 

Most likely, my girls will feel the pull to be popular. I wish with all my heart that they’d know it just doesn’t matter, that what you’re left with is yourself. So work on that instead.

 

And as an addendum to this point: Be fully yourself. Don’t try to be anyone else because you think it will get you liked, or admired, or laid. Really kids, It’s a waste of time to be anyone but you. Use that time to grow into yourself.

 

2) Everything always works out.

We play “Three Little Birds” at home a lot. Its key message – “everything little thing is gonna be allright” – is something I want to burrow into my kids’ brains. Because not everything is going to feel allright. But it is all part of the path – even death – and when you’re in the flow of life, you know you’re right where you need to be. I want my kids to truly believe that everything that happens to them are pieces of the mosaic they are becoming, and to know: Every little thing is going to be all right. (Doesn’t mean it won’t hurt sometimes though.)

 

3) That loving feeling in your heart? That’s God.

Don’t you love how it feels when you’re on the couch, with one kid snuggling next to you, the other curled up to your husband/partner/dog/cat, whose feet/socks/paws you’re touching with your own? That feeling is holy and sacred. I want to teach my kids to nurture that feeling, share it, make other people feel it. That’s God in the everyday. I want my kids to recognize that feeling. Trust in it. Rest in it. Share it.

 

4) The hard things are worth doing. So are the easy things.

I want to be a writer. But it’s hard – (there’s all the writing, for instance). Writing needs to be done everyday to grow the craft. But what’s the alternative? Wishing, hoping, waiting, regretting? Now that’s hard. So do what you want to do. Work at it. It ain’t gonna be easy. But either is regret.

 

Then there’s the easy things. Some people are just lovely to be around. Some wonderful things are effortless – maybe writing comes easy to you? (If so, please just shut up about it. Go write your book.) If any of these things give you the happy, peaceful feeling inside, do them. It’s worth it.

 

5) It’s OK to ask for help.

This is my observation: there’s a shortage of community these days. The connection to church, extended family, neighbors, is frayed. Support networks are hard to find. We can often feel alone with our anxiety, depression, fears. Sometimes it’s even hard to find someone with whom to share our happiness.

 

So, I search support out. I want my kids to do the same. I want them to know they can always talk to mommy, but if they feel they can’t, I want them to find a pastor, a supportive teacher, a friend’s mother. Someone they can trust.

 

Also, don’t forget that friends can be a gift. I love my book club, my mom’s group, my small circle of longtime girlfriends to who I can tell anything. You need to tell everything sometimes. And things won’t feel so bad.

 

Because very little thing really is gonna be all right.

 

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Also…I was inspired to re-post this by the current SITS Girls “Back to Blogging” event, where they encouraged folks to re-publish the first post they’d ever written. Read more about the weeklong event here.