Letter to An Unborn Daughter

It’s no secret how much I love children, and how much I can’t wait to have my own. Besides being wildly impatient and worried about my biological timeline, I also wonder a lot about what I want to teach my children, especially my daughter(s). What I want them to learn- about life, about love, and about me. My own mother taught me so much about strength, endurance, independence and sacrifice. She taught me how to be a woman- and that’s definitely a lesson I want to repeat for my daughter(s). But there are other things too; hardships I endured by myself- lessons I had to learn on my own. And I need to impart those too. My hope is that I will have the courage to try and teach my daughter these lessons. I hope to be able to save her some pain. I know that I won’t be there every minute, for everything- but I hope that my daughter will hear me in her head when she has doubts… hear me when she’s in trouble… and then hear herself when she learns whatever lesson life is teaching her.

To My Unborn Daughter:

The very first thing I want you to know… is that my love for you is infinite- as yours will be for your children, as my mother’s is for me. My fondest wish is that you learn from my infinite love how to also love yourself… infinitely.

I’ve learned that knowledge of motherhood is not always innate, but everyone is teachable. So I apologize for any lesson I’ve learned at your expense.

I want you to endeavor to live this life. Don’t be a taker from the lives of others, a sideliner watching the lives of others, or a victim who blames others. Live this life- your life.

Remember that although anything you want in this world is attainable, everything you want in this world has consequences- every action has a reaction- and not all are good.

I want you to know that it’s okay to be afraid- and it’s okay to say that you’re afraid. A brave face is simply that- a face. You’ll never beat fear by pretending that it doesn’t exist. Acknowledge it- just don’t let it stop you.

I want you to know that you are beautiful- in every way possible, in every sense of the word. Outer beauty is not as important, no matter what the world tells you. There are those who will try to make you feel like you need to explain everything you see when you look in the mirror- don’t explain. Don’t be ashamed. Don’t let someone else’s vision of you become your own.

Everyday, when you wake up, look in the mirror and tell yourself that you are worthy. I will tell you as much as I can, but as you get older and more mature, that voice should be your own- it should reflect your acknowledgement of the statements’ truth. You should say it because you believe it.

I promise that I will give you the foundation for healthy eating and living that you need to survive, so that you are not playing catch-up with your weight and health.

I promise that I will teach you (as much as I can) about how to regulate your body, so that you will not need medication to regulate it for you.

I need to tell you that while I cannot protect you from the pain that comes with love and lust and infatuation, you can survive it- and get something beautiful in return.

I will try never to judge those whom you choose to love, but I need you to have enough love for self that you demand respect and reciprocity at all times.

Dream big, and often, and in varying ways. Let your light shine in as many forms as possible. And be patient with my need to protect you. If I’m hindering your dream, don’t push me away. Help me understand.

As you walk this road, it will be full of those who will imply that you are not enough. Not thin enough, not thick enough, not pretty enough, not unique enough, not smart enough, not… enough. You CANNOT believe them. They are wrong- they are misinformed. You are enough, my beautiful daughter. You are enough.

Love,

Mom

Hero Complex

Around this time a year ago, I wrote a blog about being self-sufficient and self-contained and my fears over whether that was hurting me on the relationship front and my feelings about how it changes the way that men look at me (you can read it here- https://shamekaerby.wordpress.com/2012/08/07/self-contained//). Anyway, I find myself walking down the same path again, this time thinking about all the ways my self-sufficiency changes the way my family looks at me- and the way I look at them.

I was reading a blog recently about a girl who has spent most of her life hating her brother for his lack of consideration for others and his selfish and sometimes self-destructing life decisions. And as I was laughing and reading and identifying with her, it dawned on me that perhaps I hadn’t fully rid myself of some emotion regarding that and perhaps I should write some of it out. Let me explain: I come from a blended family- so I actually have two older sisters and five younger brothers. And for years I have watched some of them make countless life decisions, that I questioned, disagreed with, and subsequently judged them for. And this is not just siblings. I have cousins, childhood friends, and even classmates that have opted for the kind of lives that you reality-TV junkies tune in every week to see on Love and Hip Hop Divas and Real Basketball Wives of Atlanta or whatever show everybody is tweeting about. My reaction has always been the most honest one I can manage. I lecture, yell, tell them how they have potential for so much more, and then, when I can, I help them clean up the mess. I try to be as supportive as I can on the outside, possibly to make up for all of the mean, judgmental things I’ve been thinking in my mind. I may know that your dependability is in question ALL THE TIME- but if you put me down as a reference on your job application, I will speak of you in the most glowing terms my vocabulary can manage- because I want you to do well. I may hate the fact that you’re on your third kid with just as many dads, but if you have a baby shower, I am there, toting three or four things off your registry to let you know I still love you. I will applaud every time you sign up for a class of any kind, even if I know the probability that you’ll stick with it and finish is probably slim to none. I want to be there.

As I do this, I tell myself two things: 1) that I am completely justified in berating and judging you because if you’re going to take my help, then you have to take my opinion with it and 2) that I will NEVER, EVER, IN MY LIFE- end up in your position. I think I’ve lived a good many years now simply side stepping the shit other people I love have gotten themselves into. It reminds me of something I saw on Oprah’s recent special about fatherless sons. One of the children of a single mother on the show was speaking about how it affected him to see his mom struggle to raise him and his younger brother. He said that his greatest fear was ending up like his own father- a no-show in the lives of his children. Then he talked about how living with that fear was shaping his life. He said, “I never even have time to try and be somebody- because I’m too busy trying NOT to be somebody.” Now, I’m not that hot on Oprah or Ms. Fix-My-Life Vanzant for that matter, but the short time I spent watching the show was valuable- because I heard what that young man said and it struck a chord with me. A good chunk of my life has been wasted trying NOT to be like everyone around me. I’ve been so afraid to make a mistake- afraid that every mistake will set me on the path to ending up like someone whose life I’ve disapproved of (both verbally and in my mind). And even more than that- afraid of being judged by someone who is more responsible than I am (the way I’ve judged these other people). Afraid of having to swallow my pride and ask this more responsible person for help, like my family sometimes has to ask me.

I’m conflicted as I continue. I know that it must hurt your pride, and your self-esteem to have to turn to people who are saying “I told you so” with their eyes and ask for help. When my family reaches out, I don’t gloat about it. I’m sad- and I’m even more afraid. Because what would happen to them if I wasn’t there? This churns inside me, and causes even more pressure to be responsible. Not just because I don’t want to be in THEIR shoes, but because they seem to need me in MY shoes. I wrote once that everyone has that fear of falling- but I have fear of other people falling, people I love. Because I always wonder if I did enough to try and catch them. I don’t want to seem like an egomaniac, or a rapper, talking about “carrying the whole hood on my back,” but there are people who sometimes have to depend on me. Now there is another side to this coin (I said I was conflicted). Sometimes it makes me angry when I am there for them, because it pisses me off when it appears that I give more of a damn about your life than you do. I know that they try- and I might just see it as them not trying hard enough. I know that when they don’t do exactly what I would do, it doesn’t mean they’re not doing anything at all. I know sometimes people deserve the benefit of the doubt. But still, it makes me mad when I can’t see your effort. It makes me feel like I’m the only one who wants better for you. Now, I have long since realized the futility of pushing my vision onto others. I cannot live their lives for them, and therefore cannot make things happen just by wanting them- these people, my family, have to want them for themselves. I know that, my uber analytic, overly-logical self knows that- but it’s still hard. It’s still a struggle to center myself and take a deep breath, and sometimes even step back- and let my reason calm my emotions. I’m an emotional creature. Sue me.

Dr. Phil says that the most valuable thing you can teach someone is how to self-protect (don’t judge me- sometimes Dr. Phil says good shit). And I realized that I hadn’t been doing a very good job of protecting myself. I was allowing so many feelings of fear, and guilt, and worry and obligation to cloud my life- and change my outlook. So last year, right around the time I started this blog, I started to try and work on myself too. I wanted to see what would happen if I gave a little more to me- and a little less to everyone else. And I have to admit, it’s been better. I still sometimes have trouble letting go- I still want to be there, and help out, and take care of my family. But it helps when I take care of me too. I fell in love with TV again. I’m working on my weight again. I’m a better writer than I’ve ever been. And it’s all because I take the time to sit alone and think about me. And in that thinking, accentuate the positive. I think about who I WANT to be- not who I don’t want to be. I’m a little bit better at letting people figure out their own lives. Sometimes I give the bare minimum of advice- and let my friends take the rest and run with it on their own. It goes a little against my super-nurturing nature, but it helps because then I’m not so emotionally invested. It’s taking me a while- but I am learning. I am learning the value of choosing my burdens (especially the emotional ones) selectively. I am learning the value of sometimes letting people fall. I don’t always have to catch them; sometimes it’s better to help them up afterwards. Because then they learn what needs to be learned- and so do I.