Hailey turns 4 this week. She’s no longer a baby; she’s a full fledged kid now — a kid with a sense of humor, compassion, a love of reading, amazing throwing accuracy, a kind heart, an infectious laugh and so much more. We did this, I think when I look at her. She is parts of me, parts of Josh, parts all Hailey. She is our parenting, the good and the misfires, embodied.
Like many mothers, I have a harsh inner critic continually giving a thumbs up or a thumbs down to my every move. I give my child her multi vitamin and schedule a play date: Good mommy! I feed my child olives, cheese and chocolate milk for dinner: Bad mommy! I get my kid to school on time with hair brushed and matching socks: Good mommy! I forget her favorite blankie and snacks for the long car ride to grandma’s: Bad mommy!
I am the oldest child of three, and like most oldest children, I am a competitive over-achiever. Age and motherhood have mellowed me out, but for most of my life I was on a quest to be graded, evaluated and deemed excellent at everything. My need to quantify how “good” I was at things was so extreme, when Hailey was an infant, I would ask Josh to time my showers so that I could improve my time from night to night, thus decreasing the amount of time I spent away from my baby. True story. True INSANE story. Needless to say, I couldn’t sustain that level of crazy as a mother, and the insanity has ratcheted down quite a few notches in the last few years. I do still have the tendency to strive for an unrealistic version of the perfect mom, and I judge myself when I fall short. But this happens less and less as I gain more years of mommy experience. Now I tend to quantify my mom successes by evidence that Hailey is thriving in key areas. If that’s happening, then I’m doing okay. So, in honor of Hailey’s birthday, I’m sharing a list of six things I’d like my daughter to know on her 4th birthday. If she knows these things, then I’m doing okay.
You are loved. The world can be harsh. Things won’t always go your way. You will have good days and bad, victories and failures. At the end of every day, there is one constant: You will always come home to a family that loves you completely and unconditionally. We will hold you up when you have stumbled. We will be your strength when you need it. We will always be your joy and your support.
It is okay to say “No.” As a girl, and later as a woman, you will feel the need to please everyone. This will cause you to say “yes” more often than you would like. If you don’t want to do something, say “No.” And you don’t owe anyone any excuses. A simple, “No, thank you,” is an acceptable answer to any question.
Be kind. You are a loving, warm, compassionate girl. This is one of my favorite things about you. The world will try to chip away at this. Don’t let it. People will be unkind to you and life will seem unfair at times. Try to be kind and compassionate anyway. Also be kind to yourself. There is no more important dialogue than the one you have with yourself every day, so speak lovingly to yourself. And be sure to be kind to this Earth. Nature needs more guardians. Be one.
Your body is yours. No one is allowed to touch you without your permission. If someone on the playground pushes you, tell them to stop. If you don’t feel like giving a hug to your uncle or your grandma one day, that is for you to decide. Your body is your own and you are in charge of it.
Words are beauty. Treasure your books. Write for the sake of writing. Read A LOT. Hang on every word of the best songs every made. The written word is enchanting, and prose is a dying art. I hope it will come full circle, and your generation can revive it.
Go outside. Sunlight cures anything that ails you. The sea can transform you. A long walk is good for the body and the soul. Never underestimate the power of sitting quietly under a tree. When all else fails, go outside. When everything is good, go outside. Just go outside.
Happy Birthday, Hailey! We love you, baby.
To all the moms out there with the harsh inner critics, you’re doing a great job too!