A Letter to My Daughter on the Week of Her Fourth Birthday

lala bdayTo my sweet little girl,

It is with a bittersweet heart that I am writing this letter to you tonight. In just a few short days you will be four years old, and I have to admit it’s crushing me. For some parents, the fourth birthday is probably just another in a string of character-themed pizza parties laden with decorations and gifts and too much cake. But to me it’s so much more than that. (Well of course, it’s that too!)

This week, my sweet baby girl, marks the end of an era—one through which you toddled quite innocently, seemingly unaware you were clutching us all in the palm of your tiny little hand. It’s been that way since your very first breath and likely won’t change anytime soon. But you will change, baby girl. Now as you teeter on the brink of girlhood, it’s become painfully evident that your toddler years will soon be as distant a memory as your chubby cheeks and baby giggles.

Already your days are spent in school, learning the ABC’s and 123’s you’ll find familiar from the countless books we read together and the Mickey Mouse cartoons you watched every morning. Now in the morning, instead of our usual breakfast and cuddles, I leave you with someone else for a whole entire day to make friends I never met and eat snacks I didn’t fix and create projects I won’t see until the last day of school. My faithful and silly sidekick is no longer glued to my hip, tagging along on our daily errands or following behind as I clean the house and cook meals, asking hundreds of questions about every little thing (funny questions, ridiculous questions, and at times surprisingly profound questions).

While I know I still have a few years until the dolls and stuffed animals and tea parties are replaced by makeup and crushes and cell phones, I’m sure I’ll barely blink an eye before those years arrive. If there is anything being a parent has taught me, it’s how quickly our precious time flies by. You have to hang onto every moment.

I look back on these past four years and can’t help but wonder if I’ve done an adequate job preparing you for what lies ahead. They say the brain is still developing in these early stages, and I question whether I’ve helped the process along as much as I could have. I wonder if we read enough books, sang enough songs, played enough games.  If we danced around in our pajamas to pop songs on the radio enough. If we went out for ice cream enough. If I answered all your questions enough. Did I spend too much time working? Did you spend too much time watching the Disney Channel? What else am I doing wrong? How will I ever know? I don’t get a redo, there are no second chances here.

Sometimes I see the way you look at me, your eyes wide with the most unconditional love in the world, and it breaks my heart because I know that look won’t last forever. Someday you’ll learn that I’m nowhere near as perfect as you think. And someday you’ll learn that not every problem is quickly erased with a kiss and a hug from Mommy.

I have my own memories of being four years old, bits and pieces of moments forever etched in my mind, and I hope the ones you begin to collect will be better than mine. My happiest memories were often overshadowed by my anxiety, even at such a young age. I pray, oh how I pray, you aren’t plagued by those same anxieties that inexplicably tainted my childhood. I will do absolutely anything in my power to keep you from feeling that pain. Please don’t ever forget that. I am always here for you, my girl. Always.

You’re just four years old and already one of the most beautiful little girls I have ever seen. And not just outside but inside as well. That is such a cliché, I know. But with you it’s an undeniable truth. Yes, I am your mother so of course I am biased. But I see the way others react to you, my sweet girl. You’re positively mesmerizing. I hope you know what a wonderful person you are and will surely grow up to be. I hope you have the confidence I never had, and I hope you’ll use it to do great things. I look at you and your older brother, my world and absolute everything, and I know you’re both destined for unbelieveable things. All you have to do is stay on the right track and I’ll guide you there as best as I can. I may be getting ahead of myself, you’re both still so young. But this stuff is important and you need to know now.

Maybe you’ll understand someday when your own youngest child emerges from toddlerhood.

In a few days I will kiss you goodnight as you drift off to sleep as a three-year-old for the last time. I will hold back my tears and welcome the next phase of your life, our life, with open arms. You’ll blow out your candles and rip open your presents, and you’ll experience the unparalleled joy of a child on her birthday, and again I’ll hold back my tears because I will experience a joy similarly unparalleled. Seeing you happy, seeing you healthy, and watching you grow into this amazing little person, well, it’s a feeling like no other. I can’t thank you enough for giving me that joy.

Happy Birthday, my sweet girl. I love you to the end of the galaxy and back.

Love Always,
Mommy

10 Mommy Mantras: The First Year

Today we’re making Highchairs & Headaches history with my very first guest blog post.  How freaking big time am I, having guest bloggers and stuff?? And it’s an awesome post from a really talented writer, too!  Fellow mommy and humor blogger Marcia Rosenberg is sharing her no-fail secrets for coping with the craziness of baby’s first year.   Don’t forget to check out her hilarious blog, My Own Decade.

10 Mommy Mantras: The First Year

My kid freely rolls around in the dirt and chews on TV remotes, all while I’m writing a book. Here are some coping mechanisms that I discovered to chill out, get shit done, and be the happiest mommy-baby duo on the block.        By Marcia Rosenberg

Mommy's room: playtime aftermath

Mommy’s room: playtime aftermath

Affirmation #1: I Will Embrace the Id in Kid. Kids are funny little creatures. They possess the most sincere intentions and act purely out of impulse. My friend’s kid eats dinner naked, on the couch, with a lap tray. Every night. She doesn’t reprimand or judge. It’s part of her child’s everyday routine. My daughter has had an ear-splitting, tongue-rolling Mexican trill since she was four months old. Every time she cries in public, we get a lot of disturbed looks. I just laugh about it.

Affirmation #2: I Will Have a Common Sense Approach to the Question, “Is This Actually Dangerous?” My daughter hates baby toys. How astute of her. Her favorite activities are: crinkling and punching plastic bags, eating TV remotes and cell phones, licking the tops of beer bottles,  knocking over kitchen chairs, and emptying the refrigerator. Granted, some of these baby pastimes are more precarious than others. If she has a curiosity about something that could potentially present a danger, I’m on her like a shadow. Spending time hovering over her is a concession that I make so that she can learn and have fun exploring. It also helps with our bonding. Of course, even I have limits. Meat cleavers, blind strings, and nails aren’t allowed for play. She loves romping around in my liquor cabinet, though. Is that a bad sign?

Affirmation #3: A Messy Baby is a Happy Baby. I’ve observed that most babies love crud. I always let my daughter’s curiosity be her guide, even though she has some pretty funky habits (see Affirmation #1). Highlights: licking the sweat off of my leg after I go for a run, slapping the toilet seat, and gnawing on the sole of my shoes just after I’ve just been outside. To all this I say: here’s to a healthy immune system! My cousin was in the park with her child on one of the last temperate days of fall. He was mucking it up before bath time, rolling around in the dirt and having a blast, and other toddlers took note. I saw several kids run up to my cousin’s child, wanting in on the action. Yet their mommies whisked them away, cautioning them “not to get dirty.” I felt bad for these kids. Parks are for playing, and small children don’t play neatly. Aside: I don’t go crazy about hand sanitizer either. I do use it, but sparingly. My dirty ways are substantiated by the hygiene hypothesis people!

Affirmation #4: A Messy House is a Happy House. Compulsive cleaning used to be my form of procrastination. I’d put off writing if the glass table had a spot on it. One day, I realized that I Windex-ed my table 6 times in 24 hours. That’s insane. Now I let my dishes stack up in my sink, and I only allow myself to clean up once at the end of the day. During waking hours, my habitat looks chaotic- toys are everywhere, beds are unmade, baby food is all over the kitchen. I try not to think about it, and now I have more time with my daughter (and for myself). Daytime visitors always understand- it’s the power of the Best Excuse Ever.

Affirmation #5: I Will Exercise. Sorry- can’t use the Best Excuse Ever (see Affirmation #4) on this one! I run between 30-40 miles on average per week, whether I’m with my baby or without her. I did NOT do this before I was pregnant. I was motivated to start distance running after checking out my post-pregnancy body in the mirror when I got home from the hospital. It was… shocking. The postpartum blues served to intensify the voice in my head that shouted, “What the hell happened to you, Muffintop?!” As soon as my doctor gave me the go-ahead to start running, I took off. I can now run a half-marathon in a pinch. I lost all my baby weight (35 pounds- plus an additional 15 pounds) in just 7 months. I also found that having a need to incorporate exercise into my routine actually helps me to create a general schedule for the entire day. PS- although I try my best to eat clean, I also indulge (usually daily) in some kind of caloric chocolatey dessert, like this. Being a runner allows you to do stuff like that.

Affirmation #6: I Will Never Look At WebMD. If you’re a self-diagnosed hypochondriac (like me), WebMD is a nightmare. A quick search using the phrase “hives children” produces a page that at first reads CALL 911.  I always ask this to myself at the onset of concerning symptoms:“Has her temperament changed?” Recently she had a rash that was worrying to me, but she was bouncing around as usual. I opted not to call the doctor- and the rash disappeared the next day. I also like this symptom analyzer from the American Academy of Pediatrics. And I no longer consult WebMD for myself.  I used the site to research the cause of my migraines I suffered from during my first trimester, and I became convinced that I had either a malignant brain tumor or an aneurism that was moments away from rupturing inside my skull. I’m fine.

Affirmation #7: I Will Raise My Daughter to be Independent. I am not a believer in attachment parenting, or whatever this is- even if my daughter still doesn’t have any teeth at almost 13 months. My weaning target was 12 months, but I stopped nursing at the 7 month mark when I noticed that she was regularly holding my boob like a bottle. She still has pretty bad separation anxiety, but one big bear hug and a pat on the tush is usually enough to get her to crawl off and explore on her own. I’m never happier than when she does things by herself for the first time- not only because it will free me up in the future, but because it’s another sign that she’s beginning to feel secure.

Affirmation #8: I Will Continue (Or Start) to be Awesome. I refuse to toss my professional and personal strivings to the wind just because I have a baby. Despite having no hired steady help, I’ve managed to create time for myself. (You can too. You might be arguing with me in your mind, but you can). My momspiration (my cousin) managed to get a masters degree from a top tier school, change careers, travel to at least one third world country, become fluent in a fourth language, and move across the globe within two years from the time she got pregnant. She’s not rich, and she did this stuff mostly on her own. She is a genius with her brain, ambition, and time management skills though.

Affirmation #9: I Will Drink With My Husband (And Whoever Else Wants to Join Us). My parents came to visit us from the East Coast. I handed my daughter over to them, said buh-bye, and went to Napa with my husband for a long weekend. I always make a point to take a boozy break once or twice a week- whether it’s at home sipping some wine and watching Netflix after my daughter’s asleep, or knocking back a few with tranny friends in West Hollywood. For the latter type of occasion, since I have no family where I live, I hired a go-to babysitter whom I trust. It’s nothing new, but she told me that the parents she works with who go on date nights regularly appear to be happier. Amen.

Affirmation #10: I Will Stay Away from Neurotic Moms. I don’t shmooze with other women who give me agita in general, or who make me feel bad about my parenting style. For me, this means that I don’t hang out at Lululemon, or with my own mother. I had the misfortune of crossing paths with a shrew of a woman the other week. She was frantic because her daughter didn’t have the right hair accessory for her Christmas photos that day- it was early October. She asked me for some guidance (“What do you do for your son’s pictures?”) to which I replied, “You’re asking the wrong person. My daughter wears the same stained Carter’s onesie every day, and she doesn’t have a Halloween costume yet.” She grimaced, I giggled. Life is better when you surround yourself with people who make you feel at ease. Relaxation breeds comfort which in turn breeds happiness. If you’re feeling good about the way you parent, your own little breed will feel the same.

About the author: 

marcia2

Marcia Rosenberg is a freelance writer and blogger based in Los Angeles. She really does love her mom. Read more at http://myowndecade.blogspot.com/ and on Twitter: @MyOwnDecade.

Things I Needed to Know at Sixteen

I recently stumbled across a post by another blogger that was basically a letter of advice to her own teenage self.  I loved this idea so much that I’m stealing it for my own blog.  I don’t know if this is a major no-no in the blogging community, as I’m fairly new here, but they do say imitation is the highest form of flattery.  So you’re welcome!

Here is a list of things I wish I could go back in time and say to the sixteen year old version of me, even though I was so brainless and immature back then that I probably wouldn’t have heeded advice from myself.

Little Ms. Clueless

Little Ms. Clueless

  1. Boys suck.  You have better things to do than chase around some idiot boy who DEFINITELY thinks of only one thing when he’s with you.  Stop dedicating every sappy Celine Dion song you hear to this seventeen-year-old asswipe– because he’s probably working out the muscles in his right hand over a stack of old Playboys he found in his basement while you’re home crying into your Discman that you are his lady, and he is your man, and whenever he reaches for you, you’ll do all that you can.  Um, GAG.
  2. Stop complaining about having big boobs.  It makes other girls want to smack you.  Not every girl is blessed with a perky set of 34D’s, you know.  Someday they’ll be nothing more than a saggy nuisance that gives you bad posture and backaches, so enjoy them now while you can.
  3. Drinking is kind of fun; hangovers are kind of not.  One is almost always followed by the other.  Remember this the first time you force down a gross-tasting swig of cheap, corner-store beer because that asswipe from #1 told you it was a good idea.
  4. Every time you feel embarrassed by something, just be grateful that there is no such thing as a camera phone in 1998.  Otherwise, pictures from the time you sat in a puddle of chocolate milk (think about it…) might have found their way to the internet by now. Oh, the internet?  It’s like America Online times a thousand—and it will eventually replace reality.
  5. Soak up every single note and lyric of 90’s music; music will never be this awesome again.  Someday you’ll publicly karaoke the shit out of some Juicy by the Notorious B.I.G. and you will thank me.
  6. You are beautiful.  No, seriously, you are.  You don’t seem to think so, which is so absurd I could barf, but you really are.  Your insecurity is the ugliest thing about you.
  7. Try to find some friends who make you feel amazing, ones who are real and honest and who truly understand you, and then hold onto those friendships as long as you can.  You probably won’t ever hear from the rest of your friends again after high school.  Well, not until this thing called Facebook comes along and makes you realize most of those other people are either crazy or really, really dumb.  Or both.
  8. Sweaters and bell-bottom jeans ARE sexy; so keep right on wearing them every day.  Luckily, you belong to a generation that neither applauds nor respects women who walk around with their private parts hanging out of their itsy bitsy clothing.
  9. Figure out what you want to be when you grow up.  You think you still have so much time to decide, but you’re on the cusp of adulthood and you need to have dreams RIGHT NOW.
  10. Don’t be discouraged by jaded adults who never got to be what they wanted when they grew up.  They’ll say bullshit things like “you won’t make money doing this,” or “there is so much competition in that.”  They failed because either something got in the way or they just didn’t try hard enough.  They’re a bunch of ignorant assholes, and their failure shouldn’t obstruct your success.
  11. There is no such thing as “good sex” for a teenage girl.  It’s risky, it usually hurts, it won’t make your boyfriend like you more, and you won’t even really be sure why you agreed to do it in the first place.  Sounds old-fashioned, but you need to wait until you are ready.  Here’s a hint, you’ll be neither ready nor dating a person who actually deserves you for a VERY long time.
  12. Study more.  Good grades will help you get into a good college, which will help you get a good job, which will help you buy all the Tommy Hilfiger, Nautica, and Polo Sport bags you could ever want.  Not that those will be the craze for too much longer—soon you will meet your very first Coach bag and it will be love at first sight.  Speaking of which, you might also want to work on toning down that pricey obsession with bags and purses now, or it won’t be long before you start dropping several paychecks at a time on something that merely hangs off your shoulder and holds keys and tampons.
  13. But seriously, study a lot.  Being smart is A LOT cooler than you think. Hell, it’s even sexy.  Like really, really, extremely sexy.  If you have to quit your afterschool job selling cookies at the mall (which is currently funding your bag obsession) to study more, then do it.   One day, you might even become the type of person who watches Jeopardy every night and gets a lot of right answers.  Oh, and you might have a great job too.
  14. Get closer with your family.  You share both a home and a bloodline with these people.  Sure, it’s important that you voice your concern over who spends the most time in the bathroom every morning or who ate the last toaster waffle, but that shouldn’t be the ONLY thing you ever talk about with them.   After all, no one ever says “I wish I had never been so close with my parents when I was growing up.”
  15. Be yourself.  In the words of the great Dr. Seuss: “Today you are you, that is truer than true.  There is no one alive who is youer than you.”  You need to be who you are and stop giving a shit what other people think.  Those people don’t care about you, and they never will.

Sorry for going all afterschool special for a while there (do they still make those???), but the teenage me REALLY needed to get a clue.

Spoiler alert: She did, eventually.  But it took a long damn time.

I guess maybe I’ll save this list for when Little D is 16.  Although I’m not sure that bell bottom jeans will be back in style by then.