The Parent Hood

A letter to my firstborn daughter on the eve of her wedding

KatieandScottIt’s not really the true eve of her wedding.  That will be Thursday night, but we’ll be all rehearsing and offline and since I know she reads my blog at work (like mother, like daughter…) and she’s off work from Wednesday onward, I’m writing this now.  It’s the eve of the eve of the eve.

Dear Katie,

I have read that good mothers will pull their daughters aside prior to the wedding date to explain to them all the important things about marital intimacy, the birds and the bees.

I considered the prospect of you and me having that conversation and then couldn’t stop laughing.  I don’t think we’ll go there.  Though if you have any specific questions, I welcome you to ask them so I can blush and quickly change the subject.  Plus – these days, people have the Internet for all those answers and also you’ve probably figured all that out by now.  (And if that’s the case, do you mind if I ask you a few questions??)

It is funny thinking about the taboo subject here.  I’m not sure if I did an adequate job imparting information to you in that area, but I tried.  In fact, a few of my most favorite Katie stories involve the topic of the birds and the bees.

When you and your sister were fairly young, I bought the book Where Did I Come From? and the two of you sat on either side of me that first time so I could read it to you.  It was all illustrated and stuff.  Remember?  I really should have pre-read because even though it was said to be age appropriate, I found myself getting embarrassed and I tried to sneakily skip pages, but NOOOOOOO… there you were “Mom, you missed a page.  Mom, you missed another page.”  Not sure how I got through that, but I remember handing you the book afterward and saying “Here, you guys can just keep this up on your bookshelf in your bedroom and look at it whenever you want.  You can read well enough now – it’s all yours!”

There must have been some intervening discussions here and there, right?  I’m sure there were.  (If not, don’t tell me.  I’ll just feel guilty.)

The next time I specifically remember the topic coming up was at dinner one night many years later – all of us assembled, including Bill and his dad.  Do you recall – you announced that you were officially the last virgin in your group of friends.  I don’t remember if my reply was shocked silence or hysterical laughter.

It wasn’t long after that we were getting you ready to go away to college.  You were 18 and we shopped for all the things you’d need.  I insisted on sending a big box of condoms, no questions asked.  You had only been at school for a couple of weeks when you called to say “Hey, Mom, send more condoms.  That first box is already gone!”

You have always – always – made me laugh.  I’m pretty sure you came straight from the womb with a fully formed sense of humor.  (Don’t listen to your father – you get it from ME.  I’m the funny one, dammit.)

I can’t believe you’re getting married.  I mean, I totally can, of course, but jeez – it went by so fast!  Well, it sort of dragged in the middle there, but other than that – lightning fast.

I feel like I ought to impart some wisdom to you, but the coffers are low.  Plus, really, writing about it here on my public blog is more about exploiting the whole thing in exchange for ego-stroking comments.  Being an over-sharer and an attention whore yourself, I’m sure you can understand.  (If not, shoot me an email and I’ll delete this whole post and replace it with a knock-knock joke.  Or even better –  how about this:  Why wouldn’t the baby shrimp share his toys?  Because he was a little shellfish.  Get it?  Selfish/shellfish?  Funny stuff, huh?)

In the absence of wisdom, you get this instead:

Traditional sentiment:  Never go to bed angry.

Mom wisdom:  Going to bed angry is preferable to murdering your spouse.  Weigh your options carefully.

Traditional sentiment:  Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Mom wisdom:  Under normal circumstances, I would agree with this.  But if there is ever a time when there are infants not sleeping through the night and toddlers in diapers drawing crayon murals on the walls, well, then absence just makes the one left at home homicidal.  I think what I’m saying is this – if you ever find yourself in that situation, make sure you’re the one sleeping diagonally with twelve pillows in a comfy hotel bed far away.  You’ll get more sleep that way.

Traditional sentiment:  Home is where the heart is.

Mom wisdom:  Sometimes, your heart may be at  a beach far, far away or anywhere that is NOT home.  Hopefully, in those cases, your finances will cooperate and you can leave home far behind for awhile and go hang out with your heart and your husband and maybe some margaritas on the beach for awhile.

Traditional sentiment:  The best gift a man can give his children is to love their mother.

Mom wisdom: I’m not saying that this isn’t a good gift, but I’d just like to encourage the man to consider the gift of boarding school in addition.  Those two things together?  Pretty awesome.  Well, I’d imagine them to be pretty awesome is what I’m saying.

Traditional sentiment:  The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.

Mom wisdom:  Uh, no.  Wrong.  I won’t even bother to correct that explicitly because we all know the true way to a man’s heart is generally a little lower than the stomach.  (Actually, I believe there are two ways to his heart:  #1 via the bits in his pants and #2 straight through his chest cavity.  Which route you choose depends upon what effect you’re attempting to have on his heart.  Choose wisely.)

Traditional sentiment:  Choose your battles.

Mom wisdom:  Choose your battles, sure.  But also:  plan your strategy, bulk up your arsenal, raise your army, and attack when his defenses are down.   If you’re choosing your battles, you ought to optimize your chances for kicking ass; that’s all I’m saying.

Traditional sentiment:  Honesty is the best policy.

Mom wisdom:  Too much honesty is enough to get your ass kicked, and rightfully so.  Especially if you have PMS.  Trust me – it’s better to bite your tongue until it’s bloody than to honestly share everything that is on your mind.  Learn from my mistakes, I beg of you.

Traditional sentiment:  Love is never having to say you’re sorry.

Mom wisdom:  Ha.  Haha.  HAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.  When you’ve really messed up, apologize profusely; crawl on your knees in contrition.  Promise things you said you’d never do in order to earn forgiveness.  Say you’re sorry a million ways.   And mean it.


On a more serious note, just do your best.  It’s all anyone can do and it’s usually more than good enough.  Take every opportunity you can to laugh – nothing diffuses anger more quickly than a good one-liner.   Walk away when you need to walk away, but not for too long – make your way back together.   Bend, but don’t break.  Never give up the essence of who you are.

Most importantly – name your first born after your mother, even if it’s a boy (it’ll help him build character).

You two will be fine – you’re both awesome and funny and smart.

And loved.  Very much.

Congratulations and best of luck as you take your first steps together in this new chapter of your lives.



ps:  Tell Scott to call me Linda.  None of that bullshit about what to call the inlaws here, OK?  Promise?  I’m going to test him on that.  He won’t get away with “Hey, you…” or anything like that.

pps:  Maybe he already does call me by my name – I can’t recall what he calls me.  But now that I’ve drawn a line in the sand, I’ll be paying attention.

ppps:  Three days!!!


By |August 30th, 2010|Indiscriminate Drivel, Married Life, The Parent Hood|Comments Off on A letter to my firstborn daughter on the eve of her wedding

For little girls, it’s time for bed

Last night, my youngest daughter – the only one who cannot read yet, not fully – brought me her bedtime story book.  It was Dr. Seuss’s Cat in the Hat and I thought to myself about how much I hate that stupid book, how many times I’ve read it over the years to each of my five daughters.  It occurred to me that my youngest was on the verge of being able to read for herself so perhaps my time of having to read that was near its end!  Yay!

And then I realized that perhaps my time of having to read that was near its end.  And suddenly my emotions were completely juxtaposed from where they started.  That was the inspiration for the poem I wrote, which brings a little tiny tear to my eye when I read it or contemplate this reality.

As parents, we do get sick of doing this or that when we feel we have to do it so often, when it seems an imposition or a mind-numbing repetitive task.  But if we contemplate never doing it again – having the need for it behind us – it does rather put that particular thing in a new light.

I will miss reading stories to my children once this last one becomes a full-fledged reader.  So for now, until that day comes, I will embrace reading even the most annoying of stories to my little girl.

For little girls, it’s time for bed
But first a story to be read
Come on, Rae, pick out a book
It’s getting late now go and look

Your sister’s reading Little House
Perhaps you should choose City Mouse?
Oh, Funnybunnys? One more time?
You love the ones all full of rhyme

Anything by Dr. Seuss
My budding little Daughter Goose
Tonight we’ll read Cat in the Hat
There’s nothing more inane than that

I’ve read this book for years and years
To many little daughters’ ears
You are the last to bring a book
And climb up on my lap to look

At all the pictures while I read
“Just one more time” you always plead
Sometimes I’m stern and I say NO
I point upstairs and say “Now go!”

Tonight I’m feeling less of that
Tonight I like that tall-hat cat
I’ll read to you when it’s bedtime
I’ll read you books that always rhyme

I’ll read them twice if you just ask
I’ll smile big and do this task
And that’s because I know, my dear,
Before too long you won’t be here

Up on my lap with smiling face
With sticky hands and warm embrace
Soon you’ll be reading by yourself
Old books will draw dust on the shelf

And I will come to miss that cat
That stupid cat who wears that hat
So come here, Rae, and sit with me
While you still fit upon my knee

While you still need your stories read
And on my shoulder, rest your head
And I will read when it’s bedtime
I’ll read you books that always rhyme

I’ll read them twice because you smiled
My youngest and my last dear child
‘Cause time will fly until you’re grown
And reading to one of your own 

reading in the park

By |April 17th, 2010|Indiscriminate Drivel, Mother Goose on the Loose, The Parent Hood|Comments Off on For little girls, it’s time for bed

Karma doesn’t wear a coat

jae and rae in winter coatsIf I think back across the years of being parented by my mother, all the things I learned from her, all the wisdom she imparted, there is definitely one thing that stands out.  Something that she drilled into my head over and over across the years.  Something of import, a thing that every child growing into adulthood needs to learn along the way.

This, then, is her legacy.

The advice is simple and straight-forward.  Eight measly words:  IT’S COLD OUT THERE.  PUT ON A COAT.

My mother has barked this at me as recently as this past winter.  Me, in my 40s.  (People!  I’m in my 40s!  When did that happen?)  I’m pretty sure if she thought she could get away with it, she would clip mittens onto the ends of my coat sleeves.

When I die, my grave stone will be etched with a message done in an 18-point font (probably Pepita MT, because I love that font) that says “Here lies Linda.  She never wore her coat.”

I really hate coats.  They’re such a pain in the ass.  I especially hate traveling with them, having to deal with them in the airports and on the airplanes.  When I’m home, my outdoor exposure is pretty limited.  I go from the garage to the house, from the house to the garage, from the parking lot to the office, from the office to the parking lot.  (If I took Mother-May-I GIANT steps, I could get from the car to the office in about 15 steps.  Mother may I?  Yes, you may.  In fact, you must.)

Occasionally I may have to walk from the car in a parking lot to the supermarket door or the gym entrance or some such.  But it ain’t much.  That’s what I’m telling you.

I’m not doing any downhill skiing.  I don’t have to walk to school uphill both ways in the snow.  EVER.

It’s not like the olden days, the pioneer days.  It’s not like I need to tie a guideline from the house to the barn so I can go out in a blizzard to feed the livestock and find my way back to the house using the guideline, because Pa Ingalls totally knew of a dude who thought he could navigate back from the barn without a guideline and they didn’t find him until the spring thaw.  No, I’m serious.  I read it in a book when I was a kid.  Winters were brutal then – they all totally needed coats.

Good thing I don’t live in pioneer days, huh?  Mostly because I don’t think I could handle the lack of high speed Internet.  Also, slightly less important, because I have no desire to milk a cow and the thought of unpasteurized, unrefrigerated, full-fat milk makes me want to barf.  (Hey, look – my spell-checker didn’t put a red squiggly line under the word barf.  Congratulations, Barf, for making the big leagues!!  I always knew you would find your way up.) ( Ha.  Pun.)

And so I’m at peace with my position on coat-wearing.  Yes, yes, I definitely am.

But these KIDS – these devil’s spawn that I have given birth to!  What is UP with them and the not wearing of the coats?  I mean, sure, we’ve enjoyed some mild winters of late (thank you Global Warming!) but this winter has been pretty cold.  And they’re all “Eh, big deal… I have this here flimsy hoodie on, I’ll be FINE at the bus stop with the wind chill of ten below, Mom.  Quit yer nagging.”

I deserve this.  I totally do.

Let’s just hope I don’t get everything else I deserve in the realm of parenting with Karma at the wheel.

Hold me, I’m scared (and slightly chilly).