To My Son, Who is Turning Thirteen

Here we are, on the verge of big, bad teenagerdom.

I’m not going to lie, I’m scared. Not all the time, and not even about the big, bad things, but nevertheless, she persisted worrying. Have I done enough? Have I reminded you to please and thank you enough? Taught you how to tell a joke or to always deal cards to the left? Have I given you the confidence to do the right thing, even when the right thing isn’t the easy thing?

Most of the time I worry because I feel like I’m running out of time.

There are days when it seems you’ve already got one foot out of the door. I have to remind myself you’ve always had one foot out of the door, from the moment you were born. You were never mine, not really. You’ve always been your own. The universe merely placed you in my care for this dance, to make sure when you’re ready, you step through with both feet, confident and secure.

But that door? It will always open to you.

When you were an infant, swaddled like a baby burrito, you’d look up at me and I felt a million things surge through my blood all at once, like wildfire raging through my veins. Thirteen years later your eyes are nearly level with my own, but my blood still sings that same fiery song.

Those times you think I’m staring at you, looking for something to criticize? I’m really looking to see if the angle of your jaw has sharpened between dinner and breakfast.

When you catch me standing outside your door, it’s not to simply to tell you to pick your clothes up off the floor, it’s also to hear if the timber of your voice has begun to deepen.

I’m terrified I’m going to miss something, afraid one day I’ll look at you and that tiny boy, the one we fought so hard to bring into the world, is going to be impossible to recognize in the face and body of the young man you’re becoming.

In case I don’t tell you enough, I am proud of you, the way you treat everyone with kindness, the ease with which you saunter through life, your even-temper. Do you remember the night we sat around the dinner table and asked, who is the least likely to lose their temper? Without hesitation, we all pointed to you.

Keep your even temper. It will be your greatest gift in life, the ability to take a situation and diffuse it, to find the funny, or the good, the silver lining.

You are so unbelievably fortunate. You have so much opportunity at times it’s almost embarrassing. Use it. Use it to speak out for those who have less. Don’t ever take it for granted or feel like the world owes you more than what you’ve already been bestowed, because those invisible gifts you’ve been born into–the color of your skin, your sex, the opportunities we’ve been able to give to you? Those things are not due to you. You do not deserve them more than someone else. So use them. Stand up for those who walk through life with less ease, with less opportunity, with less help. Be aware of your privileges and of how you can use them for good.

Find something you want to be great at. It doesn’t matter if you are great at it, but it’s important to have something to work at, to dream about. Don’t take the easy way out. Get better. Be better.

Take time to settle into your mold. You don’t have to know who you are or what you want to do with your life. You just need to live your best life. Not everyday, no one lives their best life everyday. If someone tells you that, ignore them. If you’re batting one for ten you’re doing ok. Some days life hurts. Some days it’s tough. Some days it sucks donkey balls. It will get better. Don’t think it won’t get better.

No matter how many eye-rolls or ‘whatever’s, how many door slams or a thousand other stereotypes I’m remembering from The Breakfast Club and my own teenage years, we will be here. Sometimes you’ll feel like you don’t need us. That’s good. That means we’ve done our job. We’ll be here anyway.

You’re going to think we’re dumb and out of touch. You’re going to think you know better. You’re going to think every sneaky trick you come up with to fool us hasn’t been tried before. You’re wrong on all counts.

You won’t believe me. I know. I didn’t either.

We’re going to argue. I’m going to be wrong. You’re going to be wrong. If it’s truly important, stand up for yourself. But choose your hills wisely. Make sure it’s a hill you’re willing to die on before you dig in.

I’m going to embarrass you. Mostly accidentally but sometimes on purpose.

You’ll want to do things we don’t think you’re ready for. Sometimes we’ll screw it up. Sometimes we’ll make shitty decisions. But even when we do, try to remember it’s coming from a place of love. You won’t believe that either, but it’s true.

The world is out there waiting. There’s a lot of shit going down, a lot of bad stuff. But so much good stuff too. Don’t let the scary stuff stop you from experiencing the good. Don’t let the good stuff stop you from trying to change the bad.

Don’t let anyone else define you. If someone tells you that you have to be or do something? If they want to change you or set conditions on their love for you? Run the other way. Fast.

Life is going to hurt. Life is going to sing. It’s going to flutter and fly and sink and sometimes you’ll feel like you are drowning in your own breath. That is life. All of it put together is what makes it worth living.

Most of all I want you to know it will never be you vs. the world. We are tied together, you and me. For nine months your heartbeat tangled with mine until it was hard to tell where one stopped and the other began. Yours dances to a different tempo now, but mine? Mine will always skip a beat here and there, making sure there is a space for yours to return to when you need it.

Love,
Mom

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A Million Women Cried Last Night–This is Why

history-is-herstory-too-quote-1When I was 8, I wanted to be the first female pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. Not because I loved the game, but because they told me it was possible.

When I was 10, my fifth grade teacher told me use my brain, to push harder, to go higher. I never doubted her, because they told me it was possible.

When I was 18, I planned a career in journalism, exposing stories of injustice. I assumed I would be paid the same any male colleague, because they told me it was possible.

Yet there were days and years in between in which I came to understand that in the real world, possible is very different from guaranteed. For so many of us, the possibilities given to those 8, 10, 18-year-olds turned out to be nothing more than lip-service, because our country was not set up for the possibles, let alone guarantees.

When I was in my early 20s, I watched Hillary Clinton enter the public stage. A woman who had been educated at a time when the seeds of those possibilities were being sown. A woman who came into the public eye with her own successful career. A woman who set off a maelstrom of controversy because of a comment about not wanting to stay home and bake cookies.

In 1992.

And there are those who still haven’t forgiven her for it.

You see, Hillary and the women of my generation, we did what they said. We played the game with the boys. Not our own game, but theirs. We played down and dirty. We wore shoulder pads, we busted balls, we often sacrificed our fertility in the process..because we were told it was possible. But the lives we were living proved otherwise.

We witnessed fight after fight to strip us of our right to control our own bodies. We were passed over for promotions, made to choose between a career and a family, vilified for making one choice or the other. We couldn’t even agree on baking cookies. Many times we were our own worst enemy, attacking each other with a volume to shatter wine glasses if not glass ceilings.

But you, you gorgeous young women who have grown up never doubting a woman could be president of the United States of America, please understand we have doubted it. And so I ask you to allow us this moment.

You may notice a lot of women over the age of 45 getting sappy, crying at what has recently come to pass. We are crying the tears of our grandmother suffragettes, our bra-burning mothers, our board-room bitch peers. And we are crying for you too, because we are one step further away from possible and one step closer to guaranteed. 

So I ask you young women, please allow us this moment.

Nothing–nothing–makes me prouder than watching a generation of  young women take gender equality, LGBTQ equality as part and parcel of their lives. Women who expect equal pay, bodily autonomy as a given right. Nothing makes me prouder than hearing how the local high school I attended has a gay/lesbian/transgender club for teens. Nothing makes me prouder than listening to today’s young women campaign passionately for further progress because they have been told it is possible..and it is.

But I ask you to allow us this moment to bask in what we were told was possible, but was never guaranteed, for all those days and months and years in between.

Allow us this moment of shine.

We are a generation that was promised a glass ceiling but often got a glass slipper as a consolation prize.

So allow us a moment while we listen to the crack in that glass echo around us.

And stand with us to break it once and for all, as we will stand with you on the other side, watching you soar.

Love,
Me

A Wish for my Son, Who May or May Not Have a Girlfriend

carDear Son,

I’ve watched you grow up right before my eyes this summer. In your confidence, in your readiness to face change, in your willingness to tackle whatever comes your way. All summer I listened as the screen door slammed behind you, as you went out on your own to explore the same neighborhood I explored as a girl. I watched as you started middle school without a falter in your step. I stood back, with pride, as you took on the new challenges without a backward glance.

But I wasn’t ready for the last two weeks.

I wasn’t ready for a girl.

When you casually told me you’d asked a girl to the school dance, I was a little taken aback. My mom senses hadn’t tingled, my mom-tennae hadn’t picked up on any unusual activity. Still, I didn’t take it too seriously.

When you told me about the back and forth correspondence I was caught off guard. When I caught you getting up early in the morning to check for new correspondence I started to wonder.

When I caught you doodling her name on bits of scrap paper, my stomach flopped over.

“You.Are.Freaking.Me.Out.” I said. But you just…smiled. A new smile. I smile I didn’t recognize. A smile that maybe, could be (oh-God-already???) for someone else.

During this last two weeks of young–let’s not call it love, let’s call it curiosity–I’ve gone from oh, isn’t that cute to full-blown stomach dropping panic. The same feeling I get when you dangle a foot too close to the edge–when one false step can send you hurtling into nothingness.

Your dad asked if I was afraid you would get your feelings hurt. But that’s not it. That’s not it at all.

I’m not ready to give you up.

There, I said it.n-VINTAGE-MILKSHAKE-large570

You see, for some reason us boy moms are expected to back off when it comes to other females. Oh, sure, we’ll probably be consulted here and there on matters of the heart. We’ll engage you in thousands of conversations about respect and consent. But when you are mom to a boy, there are ingrained expectations that one day you’re going to up and leave, not just physically, but emotionally. Us boy moms are indoctrinated to expect that someday you’ll hitch your wagon to another gal’s star and take off for the moon. And us boy moms? We are advised to stay out of it, not become too involved, do everything we can to avoid becoming the dreaded stereotype of the meddling mother-in-law. We are urged to accept that fact that some day another woman will replace us in your hearts and that’s just the way it should be. A daughter is a daughter for life, a son is a son until he takes a wife and all that malarkey. I don’t necessarily believe it has to be true, but I’m also not one to take chances.

Oh, I know you’re so, so young. This will be the first of many crushes, the first of many moments of hummingbird heart flutters, of butterflies and stomach flips. I remember them. I remember them with the first boy I kissed and I remember the way they made me feel when I met your Dad all those years ago. There will be plenty of flits and flutters for you as well. There will be disappointments and heartaches. There is so much ahead of you. But if this is your first faltering step, there is something I want you to know.

You are worth fighting for.

I fought for you. I fought hard to bring you into the world when it looked like it wasn’t meant to be and I fought hard to keep you here. For nine months I shielded you with my body, with the comfort of my very own self, but just because you were born doesn’t mean that I stopped cradling you, stopped cocooning you. I protect you with every fiber of myself. I still fight for you every day, though you may not see it or be aware of it or know it. I am a mother. I do what mothers do.

You are worth fighting for.

vintage-varsityDon’t give your heart away to someone who isn’t worthy of looking after it. There will be those along the way who have temporary custody, those from whom you will learn. Love, like many things, can take time to learn to practice well. There will be those who love you more and those you love more. You will think you can’t go on, can’t tolerate the pain of a reciprocity not given, but you can. I promise. It’s often out of the ashes of those flames that the best parts of yourself are born. But whether it’s for a day or a week or a vow of forever, make sure whoever holds your heart is strong enough to keep it safe.

I hope some day you meet the right person, the one who will fight for you as hard as I have. The one whose chest will dance with the beats of your heart and the music of your breath. Look for the warrior in their soul, that core of shining armor willing to battle for you. Not fight for your love or for your respect, but willing to protect the squishy inner bits of you, the ones so delicate and ancient we keep them hidden. Summon the warrior within as well. Do the same for her. May you both close your eyes at night knowing there is someone there to shield your heart.

I know this is all a long way off. I hope this is a long way off; but if the last two weeks are any indicator, probably not as long as I’d like it to be.

If I do have to turn you over one day, I’ll sleep easier knowing you’ve hitched your heart to  someone who will battle just as hard as I do.

Love,
Mom

*I’m using the pronoun she for the sake of flow. Right now it’s a she. In the end it could be a he. It could be a they. Love is love, heartbreak is heartbreak, and my hopes holds true regardless.

Cool Kids

1950s-greasers-02Dear Son,

Ever since the Sharks challenged the Jets to a dance rumble, kids have been talking about who’s cool and who’s not. Oh heck, it probably started before that. There was probably a group of Neanderthal kids who thought their puma skin loin cloths were better than the Cro-Magnon kids’ leopard skin thongs (they were wrong, leopard skin always wins). Greasers vs. Socs, Jocks and Burnouts, Dauntless vs. Abnegation. The divide between cool and uncool and who decides which camp you fall into…it’s been around for a long time. Longer than me.

How do I know? I’ve been on the inside, I’ve been on the outside, the B side and the flip-side. I was on the outside only to find out that people thought I was on the inside. I have been around the popular block a fair few times. I’m going to let you in on something. There are ways to tell if someone is cool or not, but they’re not what you think. You probably won’t believe me now, but maybe you will someday.

It doesn’t matter what kind of shoes someone is wearing or what kind of computer they have. It doesn’t matter how long or short their hair is or who they’re dating or what kind of music they listen to (well, maybe a little of that) or whether or not they can kick a ball into a net. It doesn’t matter if they have braces or glasses or crutches or freckles or red hair or if they’re tall or short or like boys or girls or both or neither. What’s a cool kid?

Cool kids are kids who love what they do and do what they love, whether it’s math or chess, lacrosse or Michael Flatly river dancing.

Cool kids don’t do things just because someone else tells them to.

Cool kids know that dare is just a word. tumblr_m748xauilV1rxnozfo1_500

Cool kids know that everyone makes mistakes, that everyone deserves a second chance. And sometimes a third.

Cool kids know that everyone has a different idea of what is or isn’t cool.

Cool kids aren’t afraid to stand out, even if it makes them unpopular.

Cool kids know what irony is.

Cool kids stand up for what they believe in.

Cool kids don’t have to wear a certain brand or a certain style or a certain color.

Cool kids don’t have conditions.

Cool kids talk to the new kid because everyone was the new kid once upon a time.

Cool kids aren’t perfect.

Cool kids aren’t the ones with the most friends.

Because nothing…I mean, NOTHING, is a cool as a musical group number
Because nothing…I mean, NOTHING, is a cool as a musical group number

Cool kids aren’t the ones that win everything.

Cool kids know the difference between cool and mean.

Cool kids know that making someone else feel bad is totally uncool.

Cool kids know the difference between noticing differences and exploiting them.

Cool kids care, but not about being cool.

Cool kids usually don’t think they are.

Cool kids believe their parents when their parents tell them it’s not what’s cool that matters, but how you live your life. Down the line anyway.

Someday you’ll see.

Love,

Mom