Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Dear Santa...

It sure has been a while since we last spoke.  I know my letters stopped coming in 1988, but I want you to know, you are still a very real part of my Christmas - I just always figured you had enough on your plate what with fulfilling my little brother's unusual requests (rope, plywood and nails…oh, and that Christmas of the bag of rocks…) and keeping up with ever changing technology.  I mean, these days, your elves are busy assembling complicated tablets, smartphones and interactive virtual reality games.  All I ever really wanted was a doll that didn't have scary eyes.

Anyway, I haven't been keeping my distance because I don't believe in you.  Quite the contrary!  As a matter of fact - if you would consider doing me the honor - I have a very important request for this Christmas.  And…I, in no way, doubt your ability to deliver, but what I'm about to lay out here isn't exactly a friendly-eyed dolly.  This request might prove a bit more elusive and might require a bit more time and cooperation from some outside parties.

You see, in just a few very short months, I'm going to become a mommy.  (to a person this time - not cats)  I'm sure you were already aware since you are in the business of knowing things.  The point is…well, Santa…if you could…for my one gift this year, I would like to have the ability to be good at that. Being a mommy, I mean.  I know that is a vague and ambiguous gift request, but it really is the one and only thing I want for myself this year.

Now, you may be hearkening back to that one Christmas when I asked for the ability to fly….I can see how that one might have been outside your gifting scope.  But, the way I see it, you have a pretty good handle on the whole parenting thing.  After all, a world full of children looks at you as the grandest and most generous of patriarchs, so from where I stand, this minimal gift list is totally doable for you.  But, just to make things a bit easier, allow me to elaborate.

My little fella is going to come with his own unique batch of talents, character traits, strengths and challenges.  The angels have already adorned him with his collection of bit and pieces - some that I can potentially predict but most of which will come as a total surprise to me and to his daddy.  He may have my nose and his daddy's confidence.  Conversely, he may have his daddy's mouth and my strength of focus.  Whatever he brings to the table, I need to be ready to flex my adaptability muscles…more than I ever have before.  He might like soccer.  I know next to nothing about soccer.  Heaven help me if he loves golf.  He may cry on his first day of preschool…or worse…he may run into the fray with nary a backward glance at his mother who will be crumbling inside.

In any scenario…at any moment…whether small or critical…I need your help, Santa, to be both an oak and a river all at once.  I need to learn to love all the harder the firmer I stand.  I am desperate to understand how to let my tiny boy fight one or two of his own battles when my instinct is going to be to pounce like an angry tigress.  What do I do when he comes home with a naughty note from his teacher…or asks me to stop giving him a hug goodbye in the drop-off line?  I know there are far worse scenarios, but Santa, those frighten me too much to mention.  But, know that I could certainly use an extra dose of fortitude (or 10!) should any of those situations present themselves.

Hopefully, I'm explaining this request clearly enough - I'm happy to itemize if you see fit, but something tells me you get it.  Being the best possible mommy I can be is the only thing I want now…and will probably ever want again…so I'm really putting all my eggs in this one basket.  I understand that this is a doozy and likely rather overwhelming, so let's not impart the old traditional time frame on it.  Christmas is less than three weeks away: how about we spread this thing out over the next…oh….well...the next indefinite number of Christmases?

To put it simply: if you'll keep teaching, I'll keep listening and learning, year after year.  That is my promise.  And, while I'll be happy to write each year just to check in, you can just keep this letter on file.  I can pretty well guarantee it will be forever applicable.  Oh…and I'll do my darndest to stay on the "nice" list, although if that tigress does make an appearance….well….cut a momma some slack.

I suppose that will do it, Santa.  Baby Teddy and I will put out your cookies and milk (or Irish coffee if you need a little somethin') on Christmas Eve then snuggle into our nest of pillows to listen for your jingle bells.

Merry Christmas, Santa Claus.

Holley (and baby Teddy)

PS - If you DID happen to have any of that magic reindeer feed that sets your velvet-footed fellas aloft lying around…I STILL wouldn't say no….

Monday, October 14, 2013

Lessons for My Little Man: Let It Be

Happy nearly 19 weeks of existence, my little fella!  You are now the size of a bell pepper, although, by the size of my tummy, one might guess you were closer to the size of a large gourd or small pumpkin!  I must take a moment to thank you for your recent attempts at getting my attention - admittedly, I first thought I was simply having a case of misplaced soda bubbles, but it soon became obvious that either your little fists or your tiny feet were hard at work against the lining of your snug little home.  I don't blame you!  You must have inherited your momma's claustrophobia.  I would be itching for a little more space too in your position.

You know, it's pretty incredible the way that carrying you around has opened my mind and heart to all of the stimuli coming at me from all directions right now.  It's beautiful and poetic but also terrible because not all of it is lovely, and all I want to do is build a wall around little you and keep it all outside.   I want to make you a fortress of iron!  A castle of stone and steel!  But, guess what!  No amount of rock or metal will keep you safe and sound.

My challenge is not to protect you with force...but with peace.

Your favorite band, The Beatles, seemed to have a pretty decent grasp of the human condition - one might not think so should one only be familiar with their earliest work, but like your momma, they seemed to gain a lot of insight once those all too telling 30s rolled around.  Perhaps the greatest advice they had to offer is both the title and defining lyric of their most popular ballad, "Let It Be" which speaks of peace through acceptance that sometimes...searching for an answer is like trying to find your keys.  They inevitably will not show up until you've stopped looking and moved on to something else equally or even more important.

Then you find them in your sock drawer.  Or in the pantry.  Or in the box with the single-serve coffees.

And, sometimes, it's not your keys that have you desperately searching.  More often then not, true understanding is the real precious lost item, and the search for it can be more than just frustrating.  It can tear you to pieces.  Your Aunt Liz tells your mommy all the time that trying to figure out why people and things are the way they are is only beneficial to a point. just have to let go, give up the search and let it be.  I ache already anticipating the day that someone says an unkind word to you...or makes you the butt of a joke...because I know that your impulse will be to figure out what made them say it and why.  I know this because your daddy and I both come wired that way.  Your chances of being easy-going in the grand life lottery are slim.  (although, I'm sending all of my positive energy into that corner!)

Knowing this, I want to share with you that, now and again, the answer...really isn't that important.  What The Beatles were really preaching when they wrote "Let It Be" is the philosophy of Detachment. What that means, sweet boy, is that there are things in life we cannot control, comprehend or give context....all we can do is let them be.  In our house, we live like this: give as often as you can; do good for others as much as possible; be kind even when it is hard; learn from every hardship or mistake.  Daddy and I are not 100% good at following our own set of mantras, but we try very hard, and knowing you are coming makes us try even harder.  Having little ideals like this helps us focus on what is important when things happen that we just can't understand or impact.

That's a lot to take in, Little Man - especially for a being no bigger than a Florida sized avocado, but if you can just remember that sometimes, all the answers don't have to be up to you, I'll feel much better sending you off to school one day where kids can be buddies one day and bullies the next.  You needn't worry anyway because I'll be having one heckuva chat with THEIR mommas if I hear they were mean to you.  Kindly....of course.  ;)

Now...I've put off your dinner long enough.  What's that you say?  Ah!  Pancakes it is.  I like the way you think, Little Man.  And, I love you bigger than all the stars in the sky and fish in the sea.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Lessons for My Little Man: To Be Brave

Hello my sweet little boy!

Today, you are the size of a turnip, or so says the weekly email I get from one of the twenty million websites I visit to get information about your impending arrival.  I have learned a lot about you in the past few days!  You seem to like The Beatles which makes your daddy VERY happy!  When I play "Across the Universe" for you, I can feel you settle....listening.  I can't wait to see your sweet face when I play it for you after you arrive.  You don't mind when I jog outside as long as you get something delicious afterward.  I tell you stories about the things we will do as you grow up, and somehow, I know you can hear me.

One of the great benefits and curses of being human is that you come into this world an amalgam of the personality that belongs only to you along with the treasures and demons genetically bestowed upon you by your parents - in your case, Daddy and I.  I hope that you get your daddy's ability to let unhappy things roll off his back.  I hope you maybe like sports a tiny bit less than he does.  I pray that you don't come with my overactive, racing thought patterns and my propensity for self judgment.

However, I do have one very special gift for you - one that I know deep in my heart will be embedded in your tiny little genome.

You will be brave.

Now, it's very, very important to note that to be brave is NOT be to fearless.  In fact, it is quite the opposite!  To be brave is to stand up against fear when it threatens to paralyze you.  Your mommy is very scared of flying on airplanes.  Right around the point of takeoff, she gets all flustered and sometimes has to breathe in and out into the little bag that they give you in case you get sick.  (She has had to use that bag for its intended purpose a couple of times as well.)  Daddy goes to sleep while mommy clutches the arms of her seat so tightly that her fingers turn white, then purple.

But - I fly.  I fly a lot.  Your "Elle", Papa Russ, Aunt Kiki and Uncle Adam all live in Texas (the place where the bluebonnets are!) so, the only way for mommy to see them is to get on an airplane and tough it out.  Mommy and daddy also like to go to fun places like islands in the Caribbean, and we can't get there without getting on airplanes.  So - we fly.

For mommy, airplanes are like dragons - each one another fire-breather to be slain.  But, even worse than flying, mommy is afraid of judgment.  She works very, very hard to avoid ever having to encounter this nemesis, but because of what she does for a living, she meets up with that dragon quite frequently.  This dragon is especially terrifying - he is big, ugly and has terrible, beady eyes.

You will have your dragons to battle too, my little man.  I wish it wasn't so, but no one gets a free pass when it comes to fear.  The key is to find your legs.  Find 'em, plant 'em and stay steady.  Look that dragon straight in his eyes, and gather all the courage you have.  You'll find it in your bones, in your blood and in your spirit.  You will have a lot of it, my son - you are your mother's child.

What you may find as you stare into that dragon's eyes is that he doesn't need to be slain at all.  In fact, what you might see mirrored in those beady eyes is a version of your own fear.  That big ole monster may be just as afraid of someone or something else as you are of him.  And, maybe - just maybe, you will feel sympathy for that scary dragon and instead of putting up your dukes, you will just walk away and leave him to take on his own foes while you go play a pick-up game of kickball with your buddies.

So, when you come crawling into my bed someday oh so soon, terrified of whatever is lurking in your closet, I will cuddle you up while we make up silly names for your dragon...and picture what he would look like in a dress or in his under-roos.  And, when the bigger, scarier dragons of life show up at your door, you will not fight them alone.  Daddy and I will be standing right next to you, waiting for your signal to attack or lay down our arms and go get Blizzards at Dairy Queen.

Let's go fall asleep now to the sounds of John, Paul, Ringo and George.  I love you, my little man.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Little Lessons for my Little Man: Roles We Play

To my little son,

They tell me you are the size of a peach this week - and equally as fuzzy.  I hear rumors I'll be getting little signals from you soon...flitters in my tummy that I will probably excuse as gas bubbles or nervousness.  I'm so anxious to finally "hear" from you because I have so very much to tell you - so many things that I want you to know so that maybe you will just arrive in this world fully equipped for the cruelties and frustrations that will inevitably present themselves.  If I could keep them all away, I would lay down my life to do that, but the fact is, we all have to experience them because they are the very moments that shape our character.

But...because there are things that I know, I will share them.  You will listen to some and excuse others.  Some will wedge themselves in your little psyche, and others will pass from one ear to the other without leaving a mark.  Still, I'll offer them, and maybe one day, you will read these words and know that your momma loved you so much...even when you had yet to make yourself known...that she wrote these lessons down for you...just in case.

Carrying you around with me all the time, I've become very aware of my role as your protector.  Sometimes we eat a blueberry muffin when we SHOULD be eating broccoli.  Today, we enjoyed almost a half a bag of s'more flavored candy corn because your poor hormonal mother couldn't resist them when she went to Target to get shampoo.  But, for the most part, we eat healthfully.  I make sure you have all of your vitamins and have cut our caffeine intake down to almost nothing.  We even eat pasta so that you will have the benefit of whole grains.  (heaven forbid!)  I go to bed earlier and take frequent mini-naps.  We drinks water even though we would MUCH rather have Diet Coke.

And I try...oh how I be peaceful for you.  You'll soon learn, peaceful is not your mother's natural state.

In addition to being your protector, I've also taken on new roles at work.  There's a lot of pressure on your mother right now to succeed, and it's very difficult for her to accept that there may be those who don't believe in her abilities.  Doubt makes her angry, and that...tragically...gets passed down through her belly to little you who have nothing yet to anger you.  It's the terrible injustice of pregnancy.  But, hopefully, in so much as you now feel my pain and fear and frustration, one day I will intrinsically feel yours...even from miles away...and I'll be able to soften the world's blows by reminding you that YOU ARE MAGICAL.

Your mother's life has been marked by role play.  With every new challenge comes a new role - athlete, dancer, princess, graduate, television personality, entrepreneur, activist.  In short: achiever.  What I've learned that I want you to understand is that those roles...those "titles"...they are not WHO I am, and they do not define me.  Even when my number one title is "mom" (one that I am so thrilled to assume) - even that will not be equal to who I am as a person - as a human being on this earth.  It has taken 33 years for me to understand this principle, and I still forget it 23 hours out of most days.  My journey toward knowing myself has been wrought with frustration, and my efforts at excusing the judgments of others have been met with challenge upon challenge. (mostly self imposed)  But, I'm starting to clue in that there is someone inside me who is better than the titles - better and brighter and stronger than the labels - someone who can light up her own little corner of this maze of a world we inhabit.

My prayer for you, my little man, is that you will not suffer so in understanding that your value has nothing to do with where you choose to devote your energies.  What makes you so special is that you are the only you that there ever has been and ever will be.  Whether you choose to be a baseball player, a zookeeper, a fashion designer, an earthquake predictor or a tap dancer, you will be YOU first and foremost.  Any time you ever doubt your worth because someone has taken it upon his or herself to judge you (and there may even be people who get PAID to judge you!), you call me.  It is my number one job as your mother (aside from making sure you get fed and live under a roof) to remind you that you are not the sum of your parts.

The thing that gives you value is that intangible, undefinable thing that we call a "soul".  It's that force that makes you instinctively aware of right and wrong.  It's like a soft wind inside you that leads you to be kind even when you know you have a choice not to be.  It's where your ideas, your dreams, your aspirations and your memories live.  It's how you know...without ever being taught...that love is the most important thing there is.  Not approval - LOVE.

And I love YOU, tiny, peach-sized boy.  I will try so hard to remember these words I have written down for you more regularly so that you don't have to taste the sour taste of anger.  I'm sure you would much rather taste ice cream...which daddy just brought home for us....

Night, night, little man.