Posts Tagged ‘daughter’s’

what on earth is going on
to make this feeling surface again
pushed it back for so long
but to the surface it madly spins
so much strength to carry on like this
the flood gates are opening within
so numb nothing hurts
even where the flame turns blue
the courage to hold your heart outside
everyone can see all the scars
the relief of honesty
the walls tumbling tumbling
what on earth is going on
to see all these images again
learning how to feel
how to exhale the pain
how to embrace the joy
how the heart can be opened to capture everything at once
not running away but standing still
there’s more courage in healing
and feeling for once
have it all piercing the soul
what on earth is going on
just emotions
take a breath and dive in

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Why can’t I tell my daughter she’s pretty?

Will that make her believe her sole worth is tied up in the beauty I see in her face? Will it ensure that she develops an eating disorder or a personality complex or make her vain or narcissistic? Will my name come up all too often in future therapy sessions because I told her she was pretty and that somehow manifested itself into me being a mother who put too much importance on her physical looks?

I was shopping for clothes at the local second-hand store with my kids and had two simultaneous realizations that… I suppose, are very much related.

My oldest daughter (who will be 16 in a few weeks), was drawn immediately to the rows of shorts — micro-mini-shorts. I said, “no”, without so much as a look in her direction. Then, her logic hit me… with overwhelming force, as most teenage logic does.

She stared deep into my eyes and asked, “do you think I’m a slut if I wear short shorts?”

 “No!”, I vehemently denied, without hesitation.

Of course I don’t think my daughter is a slut… what I was thinking about was if others would think she was a slut. The visions of Rush Limbaugh that floated through my mind at that very moment sickened me.  

Her words stopped me from traveling down a path that too many use as an excuse to defile girls… it made me remember this post I read a while ago about the amazing Eve Ensler. Our clothes and our looks should not define how we are treated by others… but often, it does.

This realization hit me like an elephant kicking me in the gut… how easy it was for me, a strong-willed-out-spoken-independent woman to fall into the trap of blame and shame.

My other realization was with my youngest daughter (8). She is, in childhood terms, chubby. I’ve been watching her gain weight the last couple of years… I changed her diet, began telling her the importance of eating fruits and vegetables, cut back on the high calorie meals, and cut out visits to fast food restaurants. Still, she steadily has gained weight. Her clothes are too long in length in order to get them to fit the waist. I worry and plan and worry some more.

Let me not fail to mention my son (13) — he went through a couple of years of chubby and now is thin… maybe too thin. I read an article on the growing number of boys affected by eating disorders. So, now I have my girls and my boy to consider with each word and glance and misplaced sigh of disapproval that escapes my body. I have to make a conscious effort to not fall into that trap of societal pressure — am I complimenting their brains enough, am I telling them how nice they are enough, am I encouraging their creative talents… enough?

So, here I am, in the middle of the consignment shop being questioned by my oldest as to if I think she is a slut for wearing certain types of clothes, ruminating about the food that I should and shouldn’t allow my youngest to eat, and wondering if I should be concerned about my son’s weight loss.

My horror at myself came when I grasped the uncomfortable fact that I was concerned about the perception of others… in some cases people I didn’t even know and probably wouldn’t want to know. I was concerned about how all of this would look reflected on me as a mother.

Later that day, when the stress was far behind and we had all retreated to our corners of the house, I googled “the best way to help your child eat healthy”. The first thing that popped up, surprisingly, was a direct answer to that question — “the best way to ensure your children make healthy choices in life is to let them see you make healthy choices”.



Somehow it always rolls back around to being the mothers fault.

Now I realized I needed to focus attention away from my worries about the kids and look at myself… never a fun task. I had been eating healthy for over a year, my kids don’t even ask to go to fast food restaurants anymore, we have salads and fruits and lean meats. My oldest and I are currently practicing pescetarianism… the other two aren’t far behind. But, admittedly, I’ve been lacking on a steady exercise routine — this is where I needed to focus my change.

Last week I read an article about an article… I haven’t read the original article that seems to have pissed so many off. It’s in the April issue of Vogue and purchasing Vogue isn’t on my budgeted list. The original article by Dara-Lynn Weiss, talks about how she put her 7-year-old daughter on a diet. My dismay (along with others, I’m sure) is the way she went about it. In her own account, she talks about berating her daughter in public and focusing most of their private conversations around her daughters need to lose weight… I did mention she was 7, right?

I’m thinking Mrs. Weiss’ name will come up in future therapy sessions way more often then mine.

But… here’s the thing.

I think my youngest daughter is pretty and I do tell her this, often… physically attractive. I tell her I see her beauty in her mouth and her nose and her eyes that always pierce straight through to my soul. I see her beauty in the way she laughs and cries and screams and flashes those looks of contentment. I also think I need to show her how to be healthy by being consistently healthy myself — not by putting her on a diet or ridiculing her in public.

I think my oldest daughter is amazingly gorgeous — long and lean and silky hair and eyes that are a color that hasn’t been named yet. I tell her this often. She is also a brilliant reader and writer, an amazingly focused student, kind, and funny, and just the perfect amount of smartass to round her out. And I don’t think she dresses like a slut, I’m not even sure what a slut dresses like… a suit and tie, micro shorts, dread locks? I don’t know. And, I’m glad she stopped me as I ventured down a path that pisses me off when I hear others venturing down it — what we wear does not define who we are nor does it invite unwanted advances or unwanted criticism.

And my son… he’s absolutely adorable — long hair, long eyelashes, a smile that makes girls faint. I tell him how cute he is all the time. I tell him how kind he is all the time, almost saint like really. He’s smart and funny and laughs loud enough to catch a whole room on fire with his charm.

So, will they need therapy when they’re older — possibly.

Will they blame a mother who focused all her attention on their outward appearance — hell no.

Back to the article… I’m not necessarily counted in the “backlash” group. I’m not sure there’s an “I concur” group related to this but I’m sure I wouldn’t belong to it either. I’m just a mother who learned from the mistakes of my past and my mothers past and her mothers past. I’m a mother who thinks my kids are attractive and smart and kind and funny — the order of those changes, as it should.

My children, like your’s, are beautiful and have great hair and gorgeous smiles and enough intelligence to take-over the solar system and enough kindness in their souls to warm the Grinch’s icy heart.

I may think I’m shaping them into the adults they will become… but, really, they’re shaping me into the mother I will become.

Why can’t I tell my daughter she’s pretty?

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This is the final poem in the series of three that I am sharing this week, each poem is about one of my children. This one is about my youngest. If you haven’t had a chance to read, “this is about you”, about my oldest, and, “my man”, about my son, then please take a few minutes and read them now.

I go into your room first, always… in the morning.

That’s how I start the day.

It’s so cold out now and so dark, no sun for a while still.

I look at you, your body lying in a position of complete restfulness… I wonder about your dreams.

I can see you, glowing from the lights reflecting off the butterflies draped across your closet. Your cheeks are pink and full, your nose turned up just so, your lips pouty, your breath is deep and constant.

I can see the baby I used to hold while I did everything that needed to be done because that’s what you do when you have kids. I walked around with you so I could feel your breath and hear your heartbeat and we were one person…

I know a day will come when you read these poems and these stories and you’ll wonder about the mother that you’re looking at and the mother whose words are on the page in front of you and you’ll see that they’re the same and you’ll ask me what I was writing about because you’ll be older and you will see reflections of pain and angst and friendships and evolution and you’ll ask me, “what’s it all about?”

I’ll hesitate, because I’m not sure which parts to tell you and which parts to keep for myself because we should all keep a few things for ourselves so I look at you… a woman who can see into my soul because my soul is your soul and I tell you that I was learning to live.

Then you’ll smile because you understand that, all of it, all of the words scrambled on these pages are me learning to live my life out loud, learning to understand the evolution of us… the complicated beings, learning to know love.

But, right now, I see the lights from the butterflies reflecting across your cheeks and I bend down low to your bed and I hover just above your face so that I can breathe in your breath, our noses touch and your lips curl into a crooked smile. I touch my lips softly to your upturned nose and I whisper… barely making a sound, “mommy loves you”, and your eyes slowly open and you flop your arms around my neck and beg for one more minute and I say okay because I need one more minute too. One more minute to look at you… in the morning.

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“Be that girl they sing about”,

I tell you, but only so I can hear.

You’re sleeping, your hands tucked under your cheek as if they were placed there for a painting. Your tattered blanket wrapped gently around your soft brown hair. Your worn stuffed bunny flopped across your feet.

I stare.

I listen to the rhythmic breathing — in, out, repeat. I bend down and I inhale a lung full of your freshly shampooed hair. I press my lips to your cheek and I want to bury my heart right there, forever. Breathe in, breathe out, repeat.

I whisper into your ear, “Be that girl they sing about.”

I stand in your doorway, just looking at you breathe. It’s so strong and sure and alive. Your eyes twitch from the dream you’re having… bunny rabbits or unicorns or maybe, you’re dancing and singing. Maybe you’re walking on the beach in search of the perfect heart-shaped shell. Maybe I’m with you…

I stare.

I whisper before I leave, “be that girl they sing about.”

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… because you’re going to hear that whistle one day,

You’re going to hear it and it will sound different,

it will scream at you, it will plead with you, it will sing to you, it will laugh with you and it will turn its back on you.

“Hop on or lie down?”, it says as it rushes past, I know, I heard it too. It will never slow down to hear your reply… it already knows.

… but this is not about me and what I hear, this is not about the sounds that keep me awake at night. This is about the voice of that boy whispering, “I love you”, in the dark of the night and this is about the test that kept you up worrying and this is about your friend who stopped talking to you when she saw the way you looked at her boyfriend and this is about all the sleepless nights you have yet experienced — this is about you, my precious baby.

… because your phone will run out of battery one night,

the night you need it the most,

the night you pick it up to call me.

I’ll be waiting on the other end but my phone will never ring. I’ll look at the silence trickling off of it and I’ll wonder… I’ll get in my car because I’ll know where you are because we talk like that and you’ll see me driving up and you’ll scream at me in front of your friends but when you get in the car your screams will turn to tears of relief because I could hear you through the unused phone and then you’ll switch the radio in mid-cry as you gasp for more air to let it all out and The Maine will be on and we’ll start singing along and when we get home I’ll hear you skyping with your friends about how your “old” mom listens to The Maine and The Decemberists and all of your music and you’ll smile when your friends tell you you have a great mom because you don’t see me in the hallway,

… but this isn’t about me. This isn’t about the unanswered calls I made and the tears of anger I cried. This is about you. This is about that whistle that will call for you in the dark of the night.

“Hop on or lie down?”

… because your friends will push you to think,

your friends will dare you to move and not all of them will want you to move in the right direction, not all of them will push you to see yourself the way they do. You will have to hear them yourself, my precious baby. You will have to make those choices yourself.

They will compel you to lie and laugh and run and skip and yell and curse and they will watch you stand on that edge… looking, deciding.

They will love you and they will hate you and they will leave you and they will return to you.

They will throw life at you and hope you’re ready because there are no do-over’s.

Your friends will be your world when you think I’m not around.

That whistle will reverberate on your eardrums covering up my voice,

“Hop on or lie down?”

You’ll say, “everything is fine”, but I’ll know it’s not.

You’ll say, “leave me alone”, when I know you need me to sit.

You’ll scream at me and curse me and wish for me to leave…

But I’ll know.

I’ll know you hear that whistle.

“Hop on or lie down?”

But today, today my precious baby.

I hold you and you let me and I see the future because it’s already my past and I’ll beg you to hear me,

I’ll beg you to listen to me because I made those mistakes already and I walked that road already and I lost all my inhibitions around that bonfire and I danced naked in the middle of that house and I pulled my hand back the first time it was slapped and I stood on those tracks and I screamed to be heard… already.

I’ll yell for you to “hop on the fucking train!”

This time, you’ll listen. You’ll stop… and you’ll listen.

This time, you’ll say, “my mother warned me about that whistle in the night.” And you’ll look down at your phone and it’s fully charged but you don’t need to use it, you don’t need to call for me. And I’ll be looking at my phone too but it won’t ring.

And I’ll smile.

And I’ll stretch out my fingers as far as I can but I’ll never be able to grasp on…

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