Wise Beyond Your…Year

Dear Soph-
Happy Birthday! Today you are one. I really don’t understand how that happened. I mean, just yesterday we were driving you home from the hospital – playing “Coming Home” by Diddy featuring Skylar Grey – because, you know, we’re cool like that.

What a year it has been, kid. You are no longer a “baby”…you are becoming your own little person. And, though bittersweet, it’s pretty awesome to witness. I love watching you learn and grow. Everything is new to you…literally…everything. And that is just so cool to see. What a privilege I have been bestowed to help you discover the world around you.

And with all things I may have helped teach you throughout this past year, I also see that you have taught me just as much – if not more.

What Love Is
Oh the love. It’s indescribable, really. I haven’t found the right words…I don’t believe there are any to do it justice. It did not happen overnight. It has grown – exponentially – over this past year. And just when I think I couldn’t possibly love you any more than I already do, my heart grows a little bigger, and I find myself tearing up just thinking about it.

It actually hurts sometimes. It has made me so incredibly vulnerable. But with that vulnerability has come a strength I never knew I possessed. What started out as daunting – the thought of being responsible for someone else’s well being, their growth, their happiness, their dreams, their fears – has now become something that I wouldn’t trade or give up for anything in this world.

Spirituality and Gratitude
The whole concept of having a baby – that I carried you for nine months – you grew from cells into a human. It’s a miracle. It truly is a miracle. We created you. Mind. Officially. Blown.

And the way I look at it is this: God chose me to be your Mom. He has given me the greatest privilege. And with this privilege he has made me realize how unbelievably blessed I am. I have a healthy, happy, thriving daughter. I am surrounded by the most amazing family and friends. I have my own health. I have a warm, loving home. I have a great job with the most supportive boss.

I have truly been blessed much more than I deserve. When you were born it was like a light bulb went off…and those things that I once took for granted are now the things that I stop and thank God for every single day.

So that’s why I pray. Every night. I have a ways to go…I’m still not in church every Sunday (as Grandma Barb can attest to!)…but I make it a point to pray every single day. And when you are a little older, I will be in church on Sundays and you will be there with me. I want to instill that sense of gratitude in you.

Patience
I’ve never really thought of myself as a patient person. And while I think you will continue teaching me this lesson as you grow up, there is no doubt in my mind I’m becoming more proficient as time goes by (don’t get me wrong…I have my days).

This includes patience with myself. As I continue to grow in this role of “Mom,” I’ve learned to not be so hard on myself. I’ve learned that “this too shall pass” and to understand that every day is a new day.

Let it go
This is something that your dad has helped me with over the years. The old adage “water off a duck’s back” (as I often heard my uncle saying). Your dad has helped me become more lighthearted. He’s taught me that I don’t need to let everything get to me…some things you should just let go. You’ve brought this concept to a new level for me. Looking at you, it’s easier for me to see what’s important and what’s not. What’s worth my time and what’s not. Who is worth my time…and who isn’t.

You’ve helped put my world into a different perspective.

Fun
I will do anything to see you smile. That includes dancing like a crazy person in the middle of Michael’s Craft store to Kool and the Gang’s Celebration. Or cha cha-ing around the dining room while you eat breakfast and we listen to Paul Simon’s Late in the Evening. I can make a complete fool of myself. But if I can elicit a smirk, a giggle, or a belly laugh you better believe I will keep up my antics.

Your dad and I always have fun together…we can make each other laugh easily. But you’ve upped the fun factor, kid. For both of us.

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So in your short time on this Earth, you have become quite the professor. I am not the same person I was a year ago and I have you to thank for that. I am so excited for the next year…and the year after that…and the year after that…

To borrow a lyric from one of my favorite musicals: “Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?”

Believe me, kid, I have.

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