I Am THAT Mom

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Dear Soph-
I saw a sign outside of your daycare room when I dropped you off this morning asking parents to sign a form if they wanted their kids to wear sunscreen when playing outside.

Naturally, I immediately tracked down the Director of the center and requested a new form, where I could write in the exact brand of sunscreen I wanted you to wear (rather than have them use whatever they stock up on at the center). Not only did I write down the brand, but – being the long-winded type of gal that I am – I took it a step further and used all of the extra blank space they so kindly left at the bottom to elaborate on exactly what I expected whenever you are taken outside. Part of those instructions included that you are to wear a sun hat at all times when out of doors. Sorry, kid. I am that mom.

Your dad took one look at the form, laughed, and said “After reading this they probably won’t even bother taking her out.”

While I hope that’s not the case, I admit I went overboard on my instructions. I own it. But I don’t feel bad about it at all. There are certain things I am particularly sensitive about when it  comes to your care and sun protection is very high on my list. I am that mom.

So I thought I should prepare you, kid. Here is a list of some additional things you have in store for you as you grow up:

I am that mom…who will probably tear up (or weep openly) when I watch you do something you love, or achieve something new, or learn how to read, or go to your first school dance, or…you get the picture. Have the tissues ready because I can be an emotional gal.

I am that mom…who will act like a total goof in front of your friends because, not only do I think it’s funny to embarrass you ever so slightly, I’m also hoping it will ensure you don’t take yourself too seriously.

I am that mom…who will make you write thank you notes after receiving gifts – for any occasion. Because, gratitude is important.

I am that mom…who will not let you stay home from school unless you are REALLY sick. I come by it honestly, kid. I grew up with an ER nurse for a mom – an ER nurse who worked the night shift – so unless I had a disturbingly high fever or a much-needed appendage dangling by a tendon, I went to school. As my mom always used to say: “The walk to school will do you good.”

I am that mom…who will arrive an hour early to your recitals (or performances of any kind) to ensure I am seated in the front row, on the correct side of the stage (or sports field?) so we have an optimal viewpoint of my baby girl. In dire situations, when I’m concerned about jockeying for the best seats, I will not be ashamed to have my mother fake a minor asthma attack – as she had my grandmother do – to allow us even earlier entry than the rest of the parents so your dear sweet Grammy can sit down in a comfortable chair to rest and catch her breath. And if that comfortable chair just happens to be stage right in the front row, then so be it.

I am that mom…who will not allow you to have a cell phone before junior high (I prefer high school, but I realize I must pick my battles), nor will I really believe that the absence of said cell phone is costing you friends.

I am that mom…who, upon hearing you have been invited over to a friend’s house for a party, will call your friend’s mother to thank her for having you over and to ask if you can bring any refreshments – no matter how many times you INSIST your friend’s parents are aware of the shindig and will be home to supervise. My sister was caught many a time with this little trick I learned from my mom.

I am that mom…who will insist on family traditions – like bedtime rituals, game nights, Christmas Eve activities, secret handshakes with your dad, summer reading competitions and the like. I love thinking back and remembering things we did as a family when I was growing up and I want the same memories and traditions for you to pass on.

I am that mom…who will make you volunteer when school is out for the summer. Nursing homes, hospitals, animal shelters – you can pick the what and the where, but it’s happening.

I am that mom…who secretly wishes you grow up with the same passions that I did – playing the piano, singing, writing, reading – and I may ask that you TRY some of these things, but I will be your biggest supporter no matter what strikes your fancy.

I am that mom…who will never let a single day go by without telling you – out loud – how proud I am of you and how much I love you.

Love, Mom

Consider the Source

Dear Soph-
As much as I’d like to keep you little and protect you forever, I realize there will be times as you are growing up where you will have your feelings hurt. Someone might insult your appearance, or your work, or your character. And instead of hunting that person down and kicking the crap out of him or her, I will offer up a piece of advice that my mom often said to me when I was growing up:

Consider the source.

I’ll give you a (simple) example: I came home from school upset because Joey told me my art project was ugly.

To help make me feel better, my mom said this: “First of all, your painting is not ugly. You did a beautiful job. And second of all, consider the source.”

What does “consider the source” mean? Well, in the context above, it meant this:

Joey is a little asshole. What do you care if he doesn’t like your painting? What does he know? Do you like your painting? If so, that’s all that matters.

Consider the source is about putting things in perspective. Taking a step back and looking at the situation and determining if someone’s opinion (or insult, or criticism, or back-handed compliment, or perceived slight) is worth upsetting you. Does what they say (or think, or do) really matter in the grand scheme of your amazing life?

If the answer is no – and take it from me, the answer will most often be no – then brush it off and move on. Why waste the energy on this person? Why let this person’s negativity get you upset? Or change the way you feel about a situation or about yourself?

What you need to do is suss out the people in your life who truly matter. When you get down to it, whose opinion really counts? Whose opinion do you care enough about to let it affect your thoughts about yourself and your outlook on life? Ultimately, this should be a short list. You need to live for you.

And yes, I realize this is easier said than done when you’re in the midst of the minefield that is adolescence. But it’s something you should try and keep in the back of your mind always. Growing up and in the “real world.”

My wish for you is that in the face of criticism or negativity you are able to step back and consider the source…recognize what an amazing individual you are and have the confidence to not let that negativity get under your skin. Always remember that if someone is trying to bring you down, it only means you are above them.

Love, Mom

“Video Killed the Radio Star”…or Technology Killed Imagination

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Dear Soph-
Growing up my parents refused to buy us a video game system. Nor would they allow cable television in the house. Yes, kid, you read that right. Your dear old mom did not have cable. I had a handful of TV stations from which to choose (2, 5, 7, 9, 11, 26, 32, 44, and 50). How about that – I can actually name them all.

Without video games or an endless array of Disney and Nickelodeon characters at which to mindlessly gaze (and long before the advent of the “phablet”), my sister and I filled our days by being kids. Playing with our toys. Riding our bikes. Playing at the park. Coloring. Reading. Making up dances.

Did I feel the absence of this technology? Sometimes. But back then, it meant I was only out of the loop on the newest music video or Super Mario Brothers game. I never felt like it hindered my ability to make friends. I never felt judged or ridiculed.

Why am I telling you all of this?

To prepare you for the fact that you will not have a smart phone or tablet…for a long time. I don’t know when I will let you have one of your own. Or how much I will even allow you to play on mine or your dad’s. I learned a long time ago to never say never, but I can’t help but feel like I’ve made up my mind on this matter.

This may not make sense to you in the moment. It may not make sense to you until you have children of your own. But my reasoning is simple: you deserve a childhood.

A real, honest-to-goodness childhood. Where the only thing you have to worry about is what’s for dinner…or how to keep your balance on your bike without training wheels…or how many more minutes we can play hide and seek before you have to go to bed…or how much money the tooth fairy will leave for that front tooth that you thought would never come out.

And in my book, that honest-to-goodness childhood does not include viewing Nicki Minaj’s underboob or reading about Justin Bieber making a complete horse’s ass of himself (again). That childhood does not include sitting on the sidelines and obsessively checking your Facebook or Instagram page to see how many likes your picture garnered from your “friends.”

I want you to have an imagination. I want you to be able to entertain yourself. I want you to be able to carry on an actual, real-life conversation with people. Real people.

I want you to play. I want you to be able to pick up a Barbie (or GI Joe) and come up with a story in your head. Some adventure on which your toys will embark.

PLAY.

Don’t press play on YouTube.

PLAY.

With actual toys. That you make talk…in funny voices…with crazy names and jobs and likes and dislikes. Come up with a story and act it out. Put on some music and choreograph a dance. Sit by the piano and make up a song. Paint pictures that I will hang all over the house.

I realize this is no easy feat nowadays. And my childhood experience without video games or cable may no longer be a fair comparison in today’s technologically-advanced world.

With that in mind, and technology changing at the speed of light, I promise to be flexible in my views on the subject. I understand I may need to make allowances as you grow up. Again…never say never. But in return, you need to understand that technology is a privilege, not a right. And whenever you are allowed access to a smartphone or tablet of your own – and all that comes along with those devices (Internet, YouTube, Facebook and the like) – I expect you to conduct yourself in a manner that will make me and your father proud. Sitting behind a keyboard does not make you anonymous.

And please, if you love me at all, use capitalization and punctuation in your text messages.

Love, Mom

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It’s the Little Things…

Dear Soph-
I thought I would devote this letter to some of the basics. Just a few reminders that, upon first read, may not seem like much, but will take you far in life. Especially as you grow up and venture out on your own. It’s about confidence, common courtesy, positive first impressions, politeness, respect and accountability. All traits that I will make it my mission to instill in you.

A Firm Handshake
This is something that Grandpa taught me. Before college interviews, job interviews, or meeting new people, I had his voice in my head, reminding me to offer up a firm handshake. As a manager, he interviewed and hired many people throughout his career and he always used to say that he could tell a lot about a person from their handshake. Don’t offer up some clammy, weak, limp, fish hand. Be proud! Stand tall! Show your confidence and firmly and warmly shake someone’s hand. If ever in doubt, practice on Grandpa. (and don’t feel bad if all he says is “pretty good”…you’re a young girl, not the Hulk)

Hold the Door
If you are walking in or out of a store or restaurant (any public place) and you see someone walking up to enter said establishment, hold the door open for them. It’s the polite and courteous thing to do.

And for the love of all that is Holy, if someone holds the door open for you, SAY THANK YOU. Loud enough so they can hear you and with a smile on your face.

That is one of my biggest pet peeves…when I hold the door for someone and they just walk on by as if I’m not even there. Like the wind blew the door open. Like it was a mechanized door that opened upon their approach. It’s just rude…plain and simple. If this happens to you one day (and it will) you have my permission to loudly call after the person “YOU’RE WELCOME!” It probably won’t have any effect, but, damn it…it sure does make you feel a little better.

Eye Contact
This is simple, but can take some practice. Look people in the eye when you talk to them. There is nothing that makes me more uncomfortable than when I am having a conversation with someone and they look ANYWHERE but at me.

I had a colleague recently who had the habit of avoiding eye contact at all costs. He was the nicest guy, seemed very intelligent, but he would not look you in eye. Ever. It didn’t matter if you talked to him one-on-one or if he was talking in a team meeting. He would stare at the table the entire time he talked. It was awkward. Maybe he was shy, maybe he was nervous…I just found it slightly off-putting.

When you look someone in the eye, you show you’re interested in what the other person has to say. You show that you respect them. And you show that you are a confident young lady. Plus, you have your dad’s beautiful blue eyes…and who wouldn’t want to stare into those?

Be on Time
Punctuality, kid. It matters. When you’re on time you’re telling the other person that their time matters. Late for a job interview? Makes you look unprofessional. Late for dinner with a friend? Just annoying. Arrive late to the start of a play? Rude to the actors and disruptive to the rest of audience trying to enjoy the show. You get the picture. Now, obviously things happen. Traffic jams, car trouble, power goes out and your alarm doesn’t go off…it’s life, and, for the most part, people will understand. It’s when you make a habit of it that’s the problem. So make it a point to be on time. Even better, arrive early.

Please and Thank You
These are the true basics. A simple “please” and “thank you” is something I will expect from you from an early age. But I realize, like everything else, this must be taught. I remember when I was little, after my parents would take us out to dinner, or take us to a movie, or buy us something…as we were walking back to our car, my mom would say “What do you say?” And we would enthusiastically reply “THANK YOU!” This took practice and repetition. But, eventually there came a time when we no longer needed to be reminded to say thank you or please. And, as an adult, it naturally rolls of my tongue. Again, it’s about common courtesy. It’s about being polite. It’s about genuine gratitude.

So there you have it, kid. Some basic advice, but still important. And while I can say all of this until I’m blue in the face, I know that – in the end – actions speak louder than words. So I will walk the talk and live by example for you. And, should that fail, I will constantly remind you… all together now, “What do you say?”

Love, Mom

Dance Like Nobody’s Watching

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Dear Soph-
You will never guess what I did last week. Wait for it… A hip hop dance class.

Stop laughing.

I went with your Aunt Megan and Aunt Missy. And barring the fact that I may be coming up on being considered old and not, at all, “hip,” I had fun…and picked up the routine pretty quickly.

But the point of this letter is not about my sick dance moves.

The class was crowded…I’d say, conservatively, there were 35 women there. All different ages, shapes, sizes and levels of dance experience. Despite the crowd, there was one woman I could not stop watching. She was about 55, with a slim build…short, salt and pepper hair…and the cutest pair of hot pink workout shoes.

She didn’t know all the moves. She didn’t have the best rhythm. But she was absolutely, positively WORKING it. And I could not take my eyes off her. She was having so much fun. She didn’t care who was around her, who was watching and potentially judging her. She was looking at herself in the mirror, smiling from ear to ear, and working it.

I instantly admired this woman. She lived up to one of my favorite sayings:

Sing like no one is listening. Love like you’ve never been hurt. Dance like nobody’s watching, and live like it’s heaven on earth.

It was a sharp contrast to something I was surprised to be feeling in the moment…self conscious. I could blame it on any number of things. I still haven’t lost my baby weight (in fact, some of the weight I’ve lost, I’ve gained back). My cheeks get so red when I workout (like fire-engine red…like people stare at me wondering if I’m about to pass out, red). My shirt was too short and kept riding up (exposing the ever popular post-baby “pooch”). As a result, I avoided looking at myself in the mirror. I didn’t put all the “oomph” I could have in my dance moves, because I was afraid someone would look at me and laugh.

And while I did have a good time, I had nowhere near as much fun as this woman. And that is unfortunate for me. It was my loss. I let my insecurities rob my potential.

So the moral of the story – the lesson – is something that will only come with time. I pray that you will develop the confidence, peace of mind and positive attitude that this woman in my dance class displayed. Believe me, I get that this carefree mentality is not at all easy when you’re growing up. Especially during adolescence when it seems all anyone does is judge. It’s still hard for me…and I’m in my thirties. But at some point in your life, do yourself a favor and dance like nobody’s watching. Do your very best to not give a crap about who is around you and what they may be thinking about you. Don’t let your insecurities take away from getting the most out of every experience.

And, kid, if you do catch someone staring at you, I think it would be safe to assume they’re taking notes on how to be fabulous.

Love, Mom

“Life’s About Changing…Nothing Ever Stays the Same…”

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Dear Soph-
Your dad did something today that I never thought he would do. He sold his 2002 Pontiac TransAm WS6…with a Corvette engine (dad requested I add that fact in here).

Now, seeing as how they stopped making that car in 2002 and Pontiac went out of business several years ago, this will, most likely, mean absolutely nothing to you.

But let me tell you…this is a big deal.

Your dad loved that car. And when I say “love,” I mean I’m pretty sure there were days when I came in a close second. He only drove it in the warmer months of the year…April 2 to October 2 to be exact. That Spring day in April became like another holiday in our house. We would have a countdown to April 2…I’m surprised a special calendar wasn’t displayed on our fridge. And in the fall and winter I would catch him opening the garage to just take a peek…or sitting in the driver’s seat and revving the engine, no doubt daydreaming about tearing out of the driveway for a joyride.

I must admit the car was a head turner. I felt “cool” riding in it. And I know your dad did, too. Your dear old mom never drove it, as I am incapable of driving stick (a skill you should probably learn one day), but I have many fond memories of riding shotgun as your dad sped around our little town.

While I don’t have an affinity for cars like your dad and Grandpa Don do, I can certainly appreciate the uniqueness of that car. Other car enthusiasts seemed impressed by it when we were out and about…often stopping dad to ask him questions. What year? How much horsepower? What kind of engine? I thought it was cute how much your dad liked the attention.

What I realize now, as I see your dad struggling with his decision, is that the TransAm was a part of his identity. He was a different man when he got it back in 2002. With a different outlook on life, a different job, different challenges and priorities. The car represented freedom and it made him stand out.

But I think he has realized that, over time, he has taken on a new identity. He has grown up and changed in so many wonderful ways. He has different priorities in life…different interests. And there are so many other things that represent the incredible man he is today.

There is something to be said for nostalgia…for holding on to our past. For holding on to the good memories and a piece of that person we were. There is a comfort in it. A type of security blanket.

But there is also something to be said for looking ahead. Making hard decisions and choices to benefit the new life you’re living and the wonderful new direction you are headed.

Change can be scary. But change is a part of life. It’s necessary, though uncomfortable, at times.

You will be faced with so many choices in your life. So many decisions to make. Some will be effortless and some will really make you think. But don’t shy away from those hard decisions. Don’t shy away from change. And hard or scary as it may be, don’t let nostalgia stop you from moving ahead.

I am so proud of your father.

Love, Mom

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My Views on Make-Up: Less is More…and Sometimes None is More

Dear Soph-
One of my absolute favorite things to do is kiss your cheeks. Especially when you are sound asleep in my arms. They are the cutest, chubbiest, smoothest, most perfect cheeks I have ever seen.

You have such beautiful, smooth skin. It’s amazing. It’s so soft! It’s so blemish free!

It so does not need make-up.

So here’s the deal. When you – inevitably – come to me in junior high (hopefully no sooner than that) asking me to buy you some foundation or eye shadow or mascara, I will tell you what my mom told me.

You don’t need it.

And be glad you don’t need it. Because there will come a time – way down the road – when you actually will need it. But what’s the rush? Milk this time for all its worth. You’re young. You should look young. You have the rest of your life to be a grown up and look the part. It is such a privilege to be a kid…and I will do everything in my power to make sure you have plenty of time to just be a kid. And that includes not letting you clog up your pores with unnecessary make-up. Or make yourself up to look any older than you are.

All it does is cover up your natural beauty. You’re perfecting what’s already perfect. And that’s just a waste of time.

That being said, I will (as my mom did) make exceptions for special occasions…school dances and the like. But, please, no black lips or overuse of eyeliner. You are a young lady – not a raccoon.

Consider this fair warning, kid. Please don’t beg me in the aisles of CVS to buy foundation. I won’t do it. Because you don’t need it. You are flawless without it. You are a natural beauty – inside and out.

But I will meet you in the middle and buy you some tinted moisturizer…with SPF 30.

Love, Mom

Getting Your Priorities Straight

Dear Soph-
One of my favorite quotes is from Mark Twain: Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option.

Take a minute and let that marinate.

Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option.

I found this quote when I was about 23. Living on my own, done with college, working my first job in marketing. I loved living on my own. I loved my apartment. I was (and still am) a very independent person and was thrilled to be in the real world. I was dating someone at the time who didn’t put me first. I was the option. And I was doing everything in my power to make him the priority. And you know what? It got old. I started resenting the way I was being treated. But I held on for a little while, thinking…hoping…that he would change. That one day he would realize how awesome I was and start making more of an effort. Start doing things that I wanted to do. Start wanting to really get to know me. But it didn’t happen. And I put forth all the effort. And went out of my way to make him happy. And it was never really reciprocated.

So I decided one day that I would rather be alone than be an option. If I was going to go out of my way to make anyone happy, why shouldn’t it be me?

This is so true for any relationship you have in life. Friendships and romantic relationships. Don’t allow yourself to be the option. And if you do find yourself as the option, I pray you find the strength and the confidence to make a positive change and walk away. You’re better off by yourself, finding ways to make you happy. Exploring the world around you and discovering what makes you tick. What you’re passionate about. What makes your life worth living. Because when you do find that someone, then you’ll know exactly what you want from them. And why waste the energy on someone who can’t find the energy for you?

So please remember that you are quite a catch. Anyone would be privileged to call you a friend or girlfriend or wife. Don’t waste your time or your tears on anyone who does not see that or who doesn’t fall down in prayer, thanking their lucky stars that you chose them.

Because I thank God every night that He chose me to be your mom.

Love, Mom

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A is for Attitude

Dear Soph-
There are two things hanging in my cubicle at work that have followed me since I left college.

One is a picture of a beach in Hawaii overlooking the ocean that I tore out of Oprah’s O Magazine. I thought it would help me remain calm during stressful times on the job. Jury’s still out on its effectiveness. The other is a quote I printed out by Charles R. Swindoll. This tattered piece of paper has followed me as I changed jobs and changed cubicles because it is such a great reminder:

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Kid, I can’t stress this enough. The mind is a profoundly powerful tool and attitude is really everything.

This is true for any phase in your life.

You cannot control if someone is mean to you at school; you cannot control if someone doesn’t like you; you cannot control whether or not you make a sports team or a play; you cannot control whether or not you get accepted to a certain college or you get hired for a certain job. There are no guarantees in life. The one thing you have complete control over is your attitude. How you choose to react to situations in your life is all on you.

It’s a lesson that I’m still learning and one that I definitely do not have perfected each and every day. Now, I’m certainly not suggesting that you walk around with a smile plastered on your face looking for ways to spin every negative to a positive. You are entitled to bad days and a bad attitude now and again. You’re human. No one is immune to negative thoughts lurking here and there.

But as a general rule, own your attitude. And realize the power of your mind and the critical role that your thoughts play in your outlook on life and your day-to-day disposition. It’s not always easy, but I truly believe that by simply changing the way you think, you can change the way you feel.

Love, Mom

The Art of Fitting In

Dear Soph-
This may come as a shock to you, but your mom was never part of the “in” crowd.

(I’ll pause so you can pick up your chair, which you no doubt knocked over in utter shock and disbelief)

It’s true, kid, I couldn’t be classified as “popular.” And while I can’t exactly say that as a young girl in junior high and high school the thought didn’t cross my mind that being popular had its merits, I never went out of my way to try and be the “it” girl. I gave it a shot, I suppose. I was a cheerleader in junior high and on the pom squad in high school. So I was always somewhat associated with those who ranked higher on the popularity scale. And while I genuinely enjoyed being a cheerleader, I never became real friends with many of my fellow teammates. I was too socially awkward. It felt like a lot of pressure to me. I often found myself trying hard to put on a persona…someone I thought these girls would like or be able to relate to. But, to be perfectly honest, I found that changing myself to try and meld into their world was simply exhausting. And not worth the trouble.

I’ll paint you a picture that sums up your adolescent mom:

There I was in eighth grade. Out of the blue, Pam (a member of the elite) called and asked if I want to go shopping with her, Julie and Rachel. WHAT?! Pam wanted ME to go shopping with HER? At first I thought she was playing a prank on me, but then I thought…Hallelujah! What on Earth will I wear? All was going well on the car ride to the mall, until Rachel noticed that she, Pam and Julie were all wearing the same shoes. Some sort of brown, leather, lace-up ankle boots. Everyone in the car then looked at my shoes to see if I was continuing the trend, only to be disappointed to see my white Keds sneakers. They laughed at me. “Keds? Who wears Keds anymore?” they asked incredulously. Pam turned up her nose as if I had tracked dog poop throughout her mom’s car.

I didn’t quite know what to say…so I said nothing. I was embarrassed. Their scrutiny and judgment made me uncomfortable. I had already failed at fitting in and we hadn’t even gotten to the mall yet. But in that moment, instead of thinking I needed to run home and beg my mom to buy me those leather lace-up ankle boots so as to save me from future humiliation, I thought “well this will be the last time I go shopping with these bitches.”

Ultimately I found acceptance by the most amazing, intelligent, supportive, funny and loving group of guys and girls. I remember high school fondly because of those friends. And while we may not have been the “it” crowd, I think we had more fun.

So here’s what I learned and what I want to pass along to you. Don’t try so hard. You will fit in where you are easily accepted and where you can be yourself. You will fit in with people who are like-minded…who find joy in the same things…whose friendship is effortless. You should not have to jump through hoops or do anyone’s bidding or try to impress anyone into liking you. You are awesome. Period. And if someone doesn’t realize that, then it’s 100% their loss.

You are perfect just the way you are. You are worthy just the way you are.

And no matter who your friends are, popular or not, I will take every opportunity to embarrass the hell out of you when you are with them.

Love, Mom