when you are young
i tell you to hold my hand
when crossing the street,
and you do.
i tell you to eat your vegetables
and you do.
i tell you to put your coat on
before going out in the snow
and you do.
i tell you not to run with a pencil
and you don’t.
you get older
and the lines blur.
things get more confusing,
less clear . . .
i tell you how to flirt,
but you’re not interested
in silly games
designed solely to capture the attention
i tell you that you have to invite
everybody in your class,
but you don’t because
you don’t like everybody in your class.
you don’t want to spend time with them in class,
and you certainly don’t want to spend your life outside class with them.
i tell you to wear comfortable shoes,
but you wear those shoes with 3″ heels
because they make you smile.
i tell you not to run for political office,
but you run for state legislature
and wind up in a runoff with the
because you love this country
and want to make a difference.
i tell you that you can’t save every stray cat,
and you make cat food your american express -
never leaving home without it
because while you might not be able to
bring them all home,
you can at least feed them.
i tell you that when on a small budget,
keeping yourself in fresh flowers is an
extravagant and avoidable expense,
and you surround yourself with them anyway,
in pretty vases throughout the house
and scattered in every patch of sunshine
in your yard
because you find them beautiful.
i tell you nobody needs that many silk robes
even if it does cost $5 at the thrift shop,
and you get it anyway
because it feels good against your skin.
moxie . . .
for all the times i confused
keeping you small
with keeping you safe,
when what i really wanted to say is
take up as much room as you need.
for all the times i sounded for all the world
like i want you to be like everybody else
when what i really want more than anything
is for you to be you, regardless.
for all the times i said anything that implied
i want you to let other people define and determine your worthiness,
when all i ever wanted from day one is for you to listen
to your own bones and let them tell you every single day
in a myriad of languages
“you are talented
you are beautiful
you are worthy,”
over the years,
i told you these things (and more)
in a variety of ways
subtle and dramatic.
when i really meant to tell you
just the opposite.
the minute you were born
i became a mother
and a switch flipped
way down deep inside me,
routing my heart to be concerned
with your safety
and that safety became its own language
that sounds for all the world
like i want to keep you small,
like i want you to blend.
i guess i turned stupid because
i never wanted you to be hurt
(i still don’t)
and yet i know that i can’t protect you every minute of ever day.
and even if i could, i wouldn’t deny you the opportunity to be hurt
to learn who to trust and who not to trust,
to learn who to call
and who to never speak to again.
to learn at the hand of pain
just how strong and resilient
and beautiful and worthy
you truly are.
for all the times i said stupid things
(even though they were said with the very best intentions),
thank you for not listening to me.
thank you for always dancing to your own internal orchestra
to dressing to the tune of your own internal stylist
to singing to the tune of your own internal mother who was,
so many times,
much, much wiser than i.
p.s. “all” is figurative, you understand.
for example, when i tell you to slow down when driving,
i still think you should listen to me.
p.s. 2 that woman, that “mental health professional” who once drew up a dress code for you?
i should’ve punched her lights out
instead of wasting my life trying to talk to her.
people like that one don’t understand ordinary language.
p.s. 3 again, thank you for holding onto your self
even through all my stupid.
p.s. 4 all these things are quite true,
don’t make me regret saying them.
p.s. 5 in case it doesn’t come through:
i adore you.
i absolutely adore you
and am honored beyond description
to be your mother.
happy birthday, my precious daughter.
now let’s go shopping and spend that birthday money!