Tag Archives: parenting

Truths About Eleven

You know what I love about you, my Gabey-baby? Everything.

You’re happy, thoughtful, responsible, loving, funny, helpful, interesting, curious, earnest, silly, kind, and caring.  You are all those things, and that is the truth.

Lest I be accused of bias, though, and in order to demonstrate that I am not oblivious to your faults, I’ll tell you that you are also not a good listener, you get too easily frustrated, you like to pick on your brothers, and you have real trouble not trying to get the last word in during an argument. 

Those things are all also true, which I assume you know because your dad and I do have to say them to you fairly frequently.  (But just in case, I’m writing them here so you can read them, because…well…look at the first one on the list.)

In the balance, though, you are a pretty amazing person.  I’m so glad I get to be your mom.

You are, as I’ve said before, the person who introduced me to the way boys work.  When you were born I began this weird new journey into the mind of a little boy and I have learned some amazing things — the most important being that little boys are just as multi-faceted and varied and complex as little girls. 

I think that concept gets brushed aside a lot.  Before I had you, my eldest son, I admit that I probably had a less-than-nuanced understanding and set of beliefs about what little boys were like.  I bought the stereotypes and just assumed that little boys are these rough and tumble oblivious mess-makers who stumble through the world without much thought, slamming into things and not really paying attention.

While that can certainly be true and you’ve had your fair share of times when that description sums you up pretty well, the reality is that you are every bit as capable of being a calm, thoughtful, attentive, detail-oriented person as your sister.  The older you get, the more that becomes true.  You aren’t just one thing, you’re not a preconceived notion or a one-dimensional character.

You are sensitive.  You are empathetic and sympathetic.  You are snuggly and loving.  You’re not a risk-taker or a thrill-seeker, you prefer not to be scared.  You pay attention to people and how they feel.  You look for and find beauty and wonder in the world around you and you appreciate it, out loud, without embarrassment or hesitation.  You are expressive and emotional.

You have taught me about boys and girls and stereotypes and expectations and it has made me a better person and better parent.  Because I have you (and your sister and brothers as well) to illustrate daily the similarities and differences between boys and girls, daughters and sons, and individuals in general, I am a more understanding and complete human myself.  Thank you for showing me the truth.

Yet another truth is that you’re simply one of the coolest people I know.  You do what you love and you do it wholeheartedly, regardless of whether that thing is something people would expect from you or not.

Bridget wondered aloud the other evening why everyone always thinks “Gabe is so cool”, when, as you danced around the dining room singing, with your hair in a ponytail on the front of your head like a unicorn, it seemed very, very clear that you are not, in fact, cool at all.

That, I said, is the trick — Gabe knows in his heart that as long as he believes he’s cool, he is.  And whatever he is doing, therefore, becomes cool by default.

Bridget wasn’t thrilled with that answer, but it’s another truth, undeniably. 

You’ve discovered the key to happiness there, too, I think. 

You really do just embrace whatever you find that you love, whether that’s playing ALL THE SPORTS (which might typically be deemed cool), or tap dancing (which might not).

Whether it’s talking about movies you love like Guardians of the Galaxy (typically pretty cool) or the Sound of Music (maybe not as popular with the 11-year old boys).

Or whether it’s spending your free time playing video games and riding your skateboard and playing football (generally regarded as cool pastimes) or reading books about history and singing along to musicals with your mom (possibly not regarded as the coolest hobbies). 

And because you unapologetically do your thing, because you love what you love out loud and with passion, you MAKE IT COOL.  And you enjoy your life so much more, because you’re doing things you love and you’re happy about it.  If you can hang on to that skill, you will have a much easier time of high school and college than your dad or I ever did.  Keep on doing what you’re doing, my boy.

You are now officially a pre-teen, which is 100,000% insane to me.  I can’t quite wrap my head around the concept of a grown-up version of my Gabe.  You’ve matured so much over the course of the last two years though, and I can occasionally see glimpses of the teenager and adult you will become. 

I’m looking forward to meeting that guy; I think he’s going to be fun and funny and I will enjoy his company.  Hopefully he’ll decide that hanging out with his mom is still cool and we can still watch musicals together even when you’re 15, and 18, and all grown up. 

This is our last year in England, and I know you’re both excited and sad about that.  I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the time we’ve had here has been awesome for you from beginning to end.  I don’t know that you’d have a single negative thing to say about it.  (Maybe that there’s no baseball.  But that might be it.)  You’ve thrived here.

I think though — I hope — that the happiness and positivity and openness and willingness to try new things you have now is something that you would have grown into no matter where we lived, that it’s just part of who you are.  Whether that’s true or not, though, I hope that now you know that no matter where we live, you will make friends, find things you love, and have fun.  Now you’ve just got the added bonus of being able to do those things in either an American OR an English accent.  So cool.

So on your 11th birthday, I want to finish up by telling you the biggest truth I know: I am so proud of who you are and who you’re becoming as a person, and I am so, so filled with gratitude on a daily basis that I have the privilege to be your mother. 

Happy birthday to you, my Gabey-baby!

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She’s Thirteen

No other moment in my life has been as significant, as life-altering, as all-encompassing than the moment of your birth.  You came into this world and simultaneously the old me left it; with your entrance into this life, I became a mother.  Nothing, not one other thing, has so defined me.  For the last thirteen years, we’ve been inextricably bound – mother and daughter – figuring it out together as we go along.  But I know that my existence as the center of your world is waning.  You will eventually define your life apart from me, and that’s how it should be.  Always, though, my most important evolution will have begun with you.

You’re a teenager now.  Officially and for real.  You. Are. 13.  I know how much you love that, you big dork.

It’s simply incomprehensible, although it also feels like there’s no way you’ve only been around for thirteen years. 

You are funny and irreverent.  You are incredibly intelligent.  You are dramatic and, truth be told, melodramatic.  You see the truth in a way that often surprises me, and you thankfully are not all drawn in by the pitfalls of teenager-hood.  At least, not yet.  You stay above the fray more often than not, a fact for which I am truly grateful.  Good lord, may that continue over the next few years.

You’re you.  You’re totally and fully finding yourself and it is awesome to watch.  I love you.  But I also really, really like you.  That’s important.

I so vividly remember being your age that it’s hard for me to believe that my baby is thirteen.  I hope that my memories and opinions about what was good and what was bad about my teenage years will help me help you navigate yours.  I know I cannot and should not shield you from the trials and tribulations that come with being a teenager, but I hope that I can be for you the person you need to help you get through it all relatively unscathed.

The next few years will absolutely be a defining time in your life.  You will find your tribe, and although the members may change over the years, I believe that the people who guide you through your teenage years have an impact on your life unlike almost any other people you’ll ever know.  If it’s a good time for you, you’ll meet adulthood well-prepared. 

My most fervent hope is that you will surround yourself with people who GET you, who know what is truly important, and who will help you figure out who you are yourself.

I also know that we are, by nature, coming into years when you might pull away and I might try to cling too close.  I hope that by being cognizant of that, I can minimize any potential disasters.

I also hope you understand that regardless of what you WANT me to do, I will be your mother first and your friend way, way, way down the line.  You’re still a kid.  My kid.  Even if you are a teenager.

I think that our decision to move to England has been really good for you.  You’ve already found people who get you, you’ve experienced a new culture and had to adjust to massive change, and so you’re better prepared for the changes to come.  We’ve had some really amazing adventures that I hope will become a foundation for you to build a life on.

You are, though, even at thirteen, my little girl.  You will probably never not be. I truly enjoy spending time with you, regardless of what we’re doing, and I hope it will always be so.  You’re an excellent and skilled cook, great fun on an adventure, and a fantastic shopping partner.  You are able and willing to talk about books and movies with me that no one else in this house has a real interest in reading or watching, and I truly appreciate that.  Like I said, I like you a lot.

You are the apple of your father’s eye, and such a funny little thorn in his side sometimes.  I love watching your relationship.  You are far more like me than you are your dad, and seeing the two of you square off makes me laugh inside every time.  You challenge him – to be more sensitive, to be more patient, to be more willing to understand the challenges and intricacies of a girl.  And he challenges you – to be stronger than you think you are, to back up your opinions with facts and thoughtful arguments, to not fall victim to your own drama.  It’s lovely.  I love you two.

And your brothers are the exact people you need in your life to bring you back to earth.  My very, very favorite thing is to watch the four of you play together, independent of your dad and I, whether it’s soccer, whiffle ball, poker, or a board game.  I hope that your relationships with each of your brothers remains as strong in the future as they are today.  You guys share a childhood with memories and experiences that no one else will ever understand.  They get you in a way that no one else ever will, and you get them.  Stay friends. 

My god, you are thirteen.  I cannot even believe it. 

Please know that,no matter what ever happens, I am so grateful to be your mother.  You are the thing that changed my life, the person who made me me, and for that I am forever grateful.  And as the person who MADE you, please know that my greatest wish is that you live a life you love and you know that you are adored and appreciated every step of the way.

Happy birthday, baby girl.  Happy thirteenth.

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When Your Kids Travel Without You

Bridget is on a school trip this week.  I dropped her off on Sunday morning, waited around with all the other parents, and then watched her and 60 other kids board a double-decker bus and drive away for six days to a different country.

We travel a lot, our family, and I never really get nervous.  But dropping my kids off to travel without me is a whole different thing.

Every time – and this is B’s third international school trip  – I am completely engulfed in fear as soon as she is out of reach.  I’m fine leading up to the trip, albeit slightly obsessive about making sure she’s packed correctly.  But when the bus pulls away I feel terror rise up in my throat.  Horrifying scenario after more horrifying scenario plays in my mind and I actively have to push them down, force myself to breathe, pretend I’m calm even though I am in full panic mode.

The forced calm eventually gives way to actual calm.  It only takes me about a half hour to compartmentalize that anxiety, reason with myself, accept that everything will be okay and that I have to be able to let her go.  But for the entire time B is gone I will feel her missing presence like a phantom limb.  It won’t be until she’s home safe that I truly relax.

It does get somewhat easier each time.  I know these trips will become more frequent the older she gets and I’ll get more and more used to it.  I’ll panic less each time until finally someday I’ll be able to hug her goodbye and wish her bon voyage without simultaneously covering up my surging terror.

And eventually I know that all my kids are going to leave.  One day, each of them will leave my home for good to go off on their own and live their lives.  It’s the exact thing I’ve been working toward since the days each of them were born: it’s all been prep-work to get them ready to go.  I know this.  I accept this.  I look forward to the day when I can look around, hopefully, and say, “That’s it.  I did it.  I brought up these four great humans and they are happy and good people and I have successfully done the only thing that really mattered I do well.”

It will come with a piece of heartbreak, I know.  But I have to hope it also will come with an enduring sense of satisfaction. 

I’m not there yet though.  I’m still smack dab in the newness of letting her go, years away from the day it will be anything like easy.  So until then, I’ll be sitting here counting the hours until tomorrow when my girl is home with me.

Growing Up

Over the weekend, Bridget left for a 6-day school trip to Barcelona.  It’s a seriously amazing trip and an incredible opportunity for her. 

But… (there’s always a but…)

All last week before the trip,  I would think about her leaving and feel a surge of panic and hysteria.  I could physically feel the fear rise up in my throat and choke me.  She was so excited and kept talking about the cooking classes they’d be taking and the tour of the chocolate museum and the FC Barcelona stadium.  And I would nod and agree and remind her to get recipes for the things she makes in cooking class.  And inside I would be shrieking that she is not old enough to get on a plane and fly to another country without me.

I think I managed to hide it.  But it took some serious effort on my part.

I love that she’s growing up into an adventurer.  I am so grateful for the unbelievable opportunities she has to travel and see new places and try new things.  I genuinely want her to go out into the world without fear and without needing me or Matt to lean on, to cling to. 

But man, it’s really hard for me not to cling to her.

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