To My Daughter
untitled photo by PhilBailey Photography
Dear daughter in the future,
You may be a mom someday. (No pressure on this. That may not be God’s plan for you. I am very glad that you have examples in the strong, nurturing, loving people around you who are not parents.) But I am a mom, and you may be a mom, and I’m writing you this for someday, if.
Right now, that “if” is twenty years away, more or less. In twenty years, I think I won’t remember as much about day-to-day life parenting preschoolers. It’s like each memory is a rugged little rock I’m adding to a velvet pouch. After rolling around in my bag for twenty years, they’ll be smooth, weathered treasures. I’ll be able to pull on the drawstring and pour them into my hand, hold their cool beauty and remember. But they won’t be quite the same as they are now, before they knock against each other and the sharp edges turn to dust at the bottom of the bag. So I’m telling you now, when you are our spunky tutu-clad cherub spinning across the living room.
We aren’t very far into our parenting journey, but we’ve learned a lot along the way. Here is what I’d like you to know:
1. When you’re expecting, you’ll probably read a lot and research a lot. After all that work, you’ll feel pretty good about the decisions you make for your child. Wait until you’ve had two or more kids before judging other people’s decisions. After you’ve seen how different and challenging each baby can be, you won’t feel much like judging anymore. (Two examples: I thought I’d never introduce pacifiers until you ended up being a colicky baby, and I thought I’d always breastfeed until I got sick when your brother was born.)
2. The secret truth is that none of us actually has this parenting thing all figured out. Find mom friends you can shrug shoulders with and link arms with, and forge on together.
3. Memorize this phrase and repeat it constantly: “I am not going to feel guilty about ______.” Guilt steals joy. Do your best, love your kids, and choose joy over guilt.
4. The best parking spot is not the closest one to the store; it’s the closest one to the shopping-cart return. (Do they still have those twenty years into the future?)
5. Be OK with being imperfect. I used to think that embracing my imperfections meant making excuses for them and enabling them. I thought chiding and guilting myself was the way to break habits. It turns out that I’m much more successful at bettering myself when I’m being nice to me. (A corollary to that one: don’t wait until the house is perfect to have friends over.)
6. The first few months are insanity. Everyone will ask how you’re doing and you’ll say “great” and you’ll mean it, because you will have the most amazing baby. But life will also be a crazy sleep-deprived cryfest. Expect amazement. Expect greatness. Expect insanity.
7. You will feel like nothing is getting done, especially the first few months after a new baby comes. You are actually doing AMAZING things. You are learning how to parent a very tiny individual. You are learning a new language. You are bonding with your newest family member. You are recovering. Unfortunately those things are hard to remember when the dishes are piling up in the sink and you haven’t washed your hair in two days. At the end of the day, try to name three or four things you did successfully (took a shower, folded a load of laundry, etc). It helps to frame the day.
8. Your kids will want every moment of your time. You won’t be able to give it. You will feel guilty. (See #3.) Be intentional about giving what you can. If you’re having a busy day, carve out a little time throughout the day for a puzzle or a story or a quick ring-around-the-rosy.
9. You will have to say things over and over again. It will be annoying sometimes. Be intentional about repeating the truly important stuff. Tell them you love them over and over and over. Remind them that they are beautiful and strong and kind and you would love them even if they weren’t. Remind them that they are treasures to you. Remind them that they are treasures to God.
10. One of the very best parts of parenting is watching your child sleep. Before you have kids, you may read this and nod your head and think “I can see how that would be awesome.” It’s even better than awesome. Just wait.
Ok. That’s what I’ve got so far. You keep us from ever feeling like we’re experts, but I love learning with you and from you. You’re amazing now, and I know you will be even more amazing by the time you grow up and read this.
All my love,