Sunday, April 23, 2017

Happy Birthday, Happiness

Dear Darling Daughter,

You were wearing a new dress the other day paired with gold high-top sneakers.   You loved how you looked and strutted with confidence. We walked by several girls we knew and one of them yelled out "you look nice in that dress!"  You said a genuine "thank you" in reply and kept walking towards our car.

The exchange gnawed at me for 10-15 minutes until I finally couldn't take it.

"Do you think she was sincere?" I asked while driving.

Those girls have been mean to you, off and on, for several years.  While this one girl seemed genuine with her compliment, the others appeared to be smirking and hiding their faces during the exchange.

You shrugged.  "I don't care if it was or not.  I don't let them bother me."

Honestly I, and many other adults I know, need your assurance, bravery and cavalier outlook.  You have a confidence that just floors me.

Your pediatrician has often said that you are going to be fine as an adult, that we just have to get you through the teen years.

I'm starting to think you're going to be just fine as a teenager too.

Happy Birthday to you, my teenage daughter.  I think 13 is going to be a lucky year for you.

I love you,

Monday, August 22, 2016

Love, more

Once again I return to this completely ignored space to acknowledge my twin boys' 16th birthday.  This is a long post but they each deserve their own letter. 

August 22, 2016

Dear son,

You are 16 years old.  Somehow I couldn't even envision who you would be in 2016 when you were born 10 weeks early and barely 3 lbs. and 12 oz.  You were this fragile thing wearing a mask to protect your eyes as you baked under bright lights to help your body rid itself of jaundice.  Yet your liver eventually figured out how to do its job and after 8 weeks you got to come home to our first floor apartment in a two family house.

It is wild to see you now - all 6'1" of you and still growing.  You can't start braces because the orthodontist says it'll be stealing our money since your jaw will be the last to finish.  So while it is a relief we have a principled orthodontist, it is unnerving that you might be going to college with braces.

You've embraced rugby with gusto, are diligent at your job in the grocery store and chomping at the bit to take your learner's permit test so you can start driving around town (with one of your beloved parents, of course).  You are also figuring yourself out, which is at times marvelous and other times maddening.  

But luckily for me, it is mostly marvelous.

Happy birthday darling son.

I love you,

August 22, 2016

Dear son,

You've stopped acting.  I'm trying really, really, r-e-a-l-l-y hard not to completely lose my sh*t over this.  It isn't because either of us harbored fantasies that you were going to make it big as a song-and-dance man on Broadway but because it was something you enjoyed and were good at.  This spring you were so good as the villainous and heartless Bill Sykes in a local production of Oliver! that little kids ran out of the theater out of fear and at a few shows the audience applauded your demise.  But you won't darken the door of your school's theater and are not interested in participating in local productions.

Darn it.  You are growing up and wanting to do your own thing.

You have found in rugby a sport that "clicks" for you.  You are getting more responsibilities at your grocery store job that require codes and keys and the authority to make overrides.  Pretty heady stuff for a teen.  You had a heart-to-heart talk with your godmother this past weekend about how to manage people that are creating roadblocks and not let those individuals make you stumble. 

So I'm going to shut up and let you be you. 

Happy birthday.

I love you,

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Happy Birthday, Happiness

April 23, 2016

Dear Daughter,

Today you are 12 years old.  Still not a teen but at 5'11" you are often seen as a high school and a few times as a college student.  You seem bemused by the misunderstandings.  I don't find them nearly as funny.

You started at a new school this year and for the most part it has been a wonderful, lovely fit.  The teachers challenge you and marvel at your work ethic while the students are mostly kind.  Except this is that wondrous time of life when all children between the ages of 11-14 seem, at times, to get all Hunger Games on each other.

You have been in the sights of the "Queen Bees", as you call them, twice this year.  Early in the fall someone said something to you that upset you so much, that tipped the scale for you, that you stood up in front of hundreds of other students in the dining hall and yelled at her.  Told her to back off and stop her behavior.  I could not be prouder of you to stand up and yell - loudly and in front of middle and high school students - that you were being hurt.  Clearly telling off your twin older brothers on a near daily basis came in handy that fall day.

As winter ended you were part of a larger formal class discussion about body image and food and you were telling your classmates that you eat more than them because you are bigger than they are and you are hungry.  Then you cried recounting that some classmates had on several occasions whispered and pointed at how much food was on your plate during lunch.  This led to a heartfelt conversation about judging one another, about being comfortable in your body and taking care of oneself.  Other classmates thanked you for your candor, for saying what they felt and for showing that whispering and shame really hurts.

Which, by the way, are pretty great things to be talking about as 11 and 12-year-olds and I am grateful that you attend a school that addresses these issues head on, without sugar coating them and in real time.  I know a few too many people in their 40's who could benefit from that conversation, both as the perpetrators of unkind words and those who are lacking support.

But those were truly the only two days that you left school with difficult tales.  If you have any "drama" to report you talk about it as if you could care less.  With one student you made it clear "we're never meant to be friends and that is fine".  You focus on the schoolwork as well as the students who do make you happy and feel good about yourself, who in turn share with you their trials and happiness.

That fearlessness you had as a little kid, both in age and height, is still there.  New situations don't frighten you and you graciously meet new people - children and adults - with no trepidation.

So that perception of you being older than you are is an honest mistake.  You continue to carry yourself with a confidence, self-preservation and wisdom that is beyond your, now, 12 years.

I love you.

Happy birthday,

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Love, more

Once again I return to this completely ignored space to acknowledge my twin boys' 15th birthday.  This is a long post but they each deserve their own letter. 

August 22, 2015

Dear son,

You walked towards me in the grocery store parking lot, your shirt untucked and black pants covered with flour.  Your black store hat had finger prints where you tugged it with flour on your hands.  The car window was down and I waved to you.  You waved back and our exchange caught the eye of the older man standing by a parked car next to me.  He smiled at us.

He then walked over to our car to tell us that his son also worked at this grocery store starting at age 14.  He went on to tell us with great pride about the son's various jobs at the store and how he saved money to buy special things then realized they weren't all that special.  The gentleman told us he was a salesman and he understood it is long days in the store but it teaches responsibility and the value of hard work.

He clearly loved that his son had worked at this store and asked you about your experiences.  He then said that his son decided as a little kid he was going to Harvard.  "And guess what?" he said as he shook his head, "he got into Harvard!"

Then he pointed his finger at you and said "You can go too.  Do well in school.  Working is good but school is most important."

"Yes sir" you replied followed by "Have a good evening" as you waved.

He waved back.

And you were pretty quiet on the ride home.

You've got the whole world ahead of you.  Make the most of it my six foot tall son.  Who will always be a little man in my heart.

Happy Birthday my son.



August, 22, 2015

Dear son,

As you know our close family friend, who is like an older auntie to you and your siblings, has been diagnosed with cancer and undergoing treatment.  She does not drive so I've been helping arrange rides to and from the hospital for treatment and occasionally driving her myself.  She asked that you and your siblings join her for a chemotherapy session.  So one afternoon last month we sat with her, talked, laughed and told stories to pass the time as an IV dripped medicine into her arm.

A few weeks later it was time to drive her again but your sister and I had to leave the hospital early for a dance performance.  Wonderfully you and your brother chose to stay with our friend until the chemo session was finished and get a ride home with another close friend.  As I was leaving you got up to rearrange the chairs and announced "Dance party!  Where's the disco ball?"

Which made our friend laugh and brought smiles to other patients and staff in the area.  

Keep using your powers for good.

Happy Birthday my son.



Thursday, April 23, 2015

Happy Birthday Happiness

Darling Daughter,

You are eleven years old today.  You are also 5'8" tall (I'm clinging to that 3/4" I have over you) and you carry yourself with a confidence many 21, 41 or 71 year olds would admire.

On the final day of 4th grade last year you excitedly came up to me to say who would be in your 5th grade class.  You mentioned a student's name I had never heard and I asked if she was new to the school.

"No, she's been there since 1st grade" you said matter-of-factly.  "She doesn't like me" you noted as if you were mentioning a grocery item.

I stopped walking and grilled you.  What had she done?  How could anyone exclude you or be mean?

You shrugged off my questions and this student's behavior.  "I don't let it bother me" you informed me and walked ahead.  Clearly if this person's conduct didn't bother you, I should follow your lead.  Not only in this case but in life.  Your confidence and ability to forgive should be bottled and shared with those who could sorely use it. Like your mother.

You've been this way since preschool.  Your teachers told me you decided as a 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old what you wanted to do and if classmates joined you that was fine and if you were alone that was fine too.  You've continued this through elementary school.

This year in your own way you are being a buddy to a classmate going through a rough time.  It reminds me of what I wrote in your Birthday Letter when you turned five years old.
"The teacher reminded me of how you talked about a particular boy a fair amount last year. She then disclosed it was because no one else would play with him. He had a tendency to hit or lash out in other ways. You told him early on he couldn't hit and he listened to you. For a good part of the year you were the only classmate who would play with him. Now he plays fine and is welcomed by the other kids. You helped him figure it all out and welcomed other kids to play with him."
In that 2009 Birthday Letter I asked you to use your powers for good.

I'm glad you listened.


Friday, August 22, 2014

Love, more

Once again I return to this completely ignored space to acknowledge my twin boys' 14th birthday.  This is a long post but they each deserve their own letter.

August 22, 2014

Dear son,

A few years ago you were in a community production of Suessical the Musical as one of the Wickersham Brothers who are the meddlesome monkeys in the Jungle of Nool.  Clearly this was not typecasting a then mischievous 5th grade boy.

This past spring you were in the Middle School production of Suessical Jr. but this time you were cast as Horton the Elephant, the only story line that isn't butchered by turning the full length play into a one act (the Junior version doesn't even have the General/Bread-and-Butter Battle storyline which makes Jojo and the Mayors' story lines really short and odd).  You were also finishing up 7th grade - that glorious year of growing like a weed, getting serious pimples and being so full of yourself I just wanted to knock you on the side of your head.  If I could reach that high.

So when you sang "Alone in the Universe" in your grey newsboy-looking outfit, holding a pink fuzzy thing that looked more like a poppy than a clover in a glaring spotlight it was all I could do to not start loudly sobbing.  You sang about loneliness, imagination and flying over troubles with conviction and sympathy.

When you sang it at the very last show it was with desperation and delirium.  You had a 102.7 degree fever which came on during call time.  You were fine when you left the house at 5:45pm.  The fever came on like an arson fire.

But not once did you back down from the show.  You channeled what little energy and focus you had and got through it.  You even sat through an awards program when you could've have begged to be let go.

So when you sang, feeling sick, about being alone in the universe just know that you will never be alone.  No matter where you are or what you are doing I am there for you.

Happy birthday darling boy,

August 22, 2014

Dear son,

You are my tough guy.

Yet earlier this month, after we had eaten dinner at picnic tables I turned my head to find you rolling on the grass with your not-quite 4-year-old cousin.  I'm not sure if there was a race involved but I do know that you had her laughing loudly as you both rolled down a small incline.  You smiled at her and she just beamed right back at you.

Earlier in the summer you let your twin 7-year-old cousins both sit on top of you while you laid on your belly.  You chased after their minivan as they drove away with their heads out of the windows laughing loudly.  You never once turned down a request to put one of them on your shoulders.

And we share our two weeks of beach heaven with another family who has a 15-month-old son.  You follow him around, make funny faces at him in restaurants, and give him hugs and kisses.

Because while you are tough, you are also affectionate, loving and kind.  So go ahead and be the tough 14-year-old today.  I know you are quick with a kiss for a little one.

Happy birthday darling boy,

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Happy Birthday, Happiness

Dear darling,

You are ten years old today.

Last month we had our first, real, public this-is-your-life-get-out-of-my-way-mother moment.  For the world to see.  Well, our beloved town and the theater group we're a part of.

You were recently the Red Queen in a local production of Alice in Wonderland.  In this version you start the second act, explain what was about to happen to Alice and generally got the audience back into the groove after a twenty minute intermission spent eating Skittles and brownies, buying raffle tickets and listening to blue grass music.

Let's just say that was a tall order for a then 9-year-old.  Only something a mother would ask.  A mother who was also the director.  A first time director.  So there was no pressure on either of us.

Two weeks before our "paying" shows, the theater company performed a free show for a local autism support network.  Over 60 individuals came and got to experience live theater.  You were just perfect.  You consistently and clearly delivered your lines with a very royal attitude.

And in my mind - the director's mind - you peaked.

Because after that show you started doing all these weird things.  You would pull a Mae West with one line (like you knew who Ms. West was), then go into a Lucille Ball bit, then flail about and suddenly be still. You would drop the last word of a sentence in an attempt to be super dramatic which only made it harder for people to hear your jokes.

You were clearly bored.  You had memorized your lines in January.  It was the end of March and you
not only knew the Red Queen inside and out - you would probably knew what moves she would maneuver on the chess board.  You were bored.

And I was frantic.  As the director - and your mother - you looked like a character mess.  There was no rhyme or reason to what you were doing on stage.  The entire tech/dress rehearsal week was agony for me.  I'd talk to you about this at home so as not to embarrass you in front of the group.  You'd nod, repeat a line as I suggested, and then promptly continue your whack job delivery.

The show opened for four performances and you shined.  Every single person who spoke to me marveled at your stage presence, your "look at me" quality, your funny character.

I've been stupid enough to bemoan to a few friends that you went off the rails as an actor.

The thing is you didn't go off the rails.  You never do.  You are just so amazingly confident that you don't care what 120 people in an audience think.  Or what your mother thinks.  You will just experiment and try new things.

You are by far the most fearless person - man or woman, adult or child - I know.

And being your mother is the greatest gift I could ask for.  A bit of a stomach-turning-will-I-survive?-ride but I would not trade this for anything.

Welcome to double digits, Darling Daughter.