Thursday, September 20, 2012

To My Daughter, Sophie

Dear Sophie,

Right now, you are four years old. You are tall and beautiful. You are smart and funny. You are shy in certain situations and a total chatterbox in others. In other words, you are PERFECT.

I want you to know that I'm always going to love you. Nothing's ever going to change that. No matter what happens in your life, I'm here to love and support you.

When I was growing up, Nana was always there to guide me. She was, and is, my best friend. But sometimes growing up, it's hard to listen to your mother. I know, in a few short years, you may not always want to listen to me or take my advice. However, as I've grown up and become a mother to you, I've learned along the way that Nana is pretty smart. So I want to pass along to you things she taught me, and things I believe, and notes about the kind of person I'd like you to be. I'll love you no matter what, but just keep these in mind, okay?

Be kind, especially to older people.
Kindnesses are easily given to others and much appreciated. It's important to be kind and respectful to all people, but especially always try to be kind and show respect to older people. Both Nana and Papa have always been so respectful of their elders and I believe I've grown up to be the same. Older people are sometimes forgotten in society, but they were young once and have amazing stories to tell if you take a moment to listen.

Be a giver.
Nana has told me that she would rather be a giver in life, even when that giving isn't always reciprocated. She is incredibly generous of her time and talents to those in her life, especially me and you. She's someone who always considers what she can do to help a friend or family member. She sends flowers, she makes food, she runs errands for others. She lives her life with a service mentality. I try very hard to live this way in my own life, although I'm not sure I'm as good at it as she is.

Don't change yourself to keep a friend or a boyfriend in your life.
Nana always made me feel very confident in myself. I hope greatly that I can impart this feeling to you as you grow up and encounter challenges in life. Sometimes people will ask you to do something or go along with something you don't really want to. Trust your gut. Be yourself. If a friend is truly a friend or if a boy really likes you, they will like you just as you are and not force you to be someone you're not or do things you don't want to do to keep your relationship with them.

I spent many years as a single person, watching some of my girlfriends change their personalities with every guy they dated. It's okay to take an interest in something important to a guy you like or are dating (for example, I'd only seen one hockey game before I met your Dad); it's another thing to change your personality from one extreme to the next to try to make something work (it's not like I took up playing hockey and watching every game and only talking about hockey when we started dating LOL).

Daddy would tell you that I'm telling a story here and that I actually did a lot of hiking with him when we were dating and first married and I do not hike now, and that's kind of true, but we had a lot more free time TO hike back then than we do now. And I still hike occasionally!

Make special occasions special.
Even when I was little and we didn't have a lot of disposable income, Nana always tried to make special occasions special. She's big and possibly over the top on Christmas and Easter and birthdays now, as you know, but she has always made things special even when money was scarce. In fact, Nana told me that as a girl she used to wrap empty boxes and put them under the Christmas tree just to make the tree look pretty at Christmas. This story simultaneously breaks my heart, thinking of her growing up with so little (growing up poor as one of 10 children), and makes me totally indulge all the ways in which she goes over the top at Christmas now, because she deserves it.

Some of my favorite memories of "special" occasions with Nana are simple things. When I was 10, we went camping in the Rocky Mountains. One afternoon, Nana packed up an awesome picnic lunch and we took it out into the middle of a meadow in the mountains and ate it. Nana is kind of famous for making the day special with picnic lunches. Remember when we celebrated Fourth of July at Blanco State Park last year and I made a picnic lunch (like actually cooked things for it?!). Well, you definitely have Nana to thank for that.

When you were three weeks old, Daddy had gone back to work and I was home alone with you, sleep-deprived and in desperate need of a few minutes to shower. Nana came over one day and not only took care of you so I could shower, but brought all the makings of a lovely tea for us to enjoy. And not just the food...the serving dishes for the tea and soup and desserts. She set the table so lovely, as if it was tea for the Queen! I felt clean and refreshed after my shower, and you in your bouncy chair, me with my freshly washed hair, and Nana, enjoyed a lovely tea together. Just a random weekday that she made feel special.

I hope someday you remember days and events that Nana and I made special for you and you carry this forward in your own life with your own child(ren).

Stay clear of tanning, tattoos, and crazy piercings.
You only get one body in this life and I hope you are kind to it. For me, I wish I had listened more closely to Nana when she tried to get me to wear sunscreen as a child, because today I look at the freckles and age spots on my chest and hands and wish I could take them all back.

You have GORGEOUS skin right now, Pumpkin, and I am trying to do what I can to keep it that way. Luckily, you accept sunblock graciously most of the time. As you get older, you may find you want tanner skin than you have naturally. If you must tan, SPRAY TAN ONLY. I spray tan occasionally, mostly around big life events. The rest of the time I don't worry about it much. These days, I admire naturally pale women and YOU and wish I had your porcelain skin. I've never used a tanning bed and you shouldn't either. Growing up on a farm, Papa has had several skin cancers removed and I get my skin checked regularly. If I can leave you with one beauty tip in life, let it be this: TAKE CARE OF YOUR SKIN.

Oh, and um, please don't get any tattoos or crazy piercings. (One set in the ears is OK...I once had two-not worth it). Tattoos (and piercings) seem to be more accepted and prevalent in society these days, but I just can't get behind them. Nana kind of raised me with the belief that classy southern women don't get tattoos. Yes, this sounds judgmental and, well, I guess it is. Mostly, I just think there's not much I'd want to put on my body for my whole life. Maybe your name or your initials, but that's it! Not even Daddy makes the cut there-just you. And your skin and your body change so much that something that might look good at first, might not look great later.

However, if you someday feel really strongly about getting a tattoo or piercing something, please talk to me first and I PROMISE to try and have an open mind about it and I will go with you to get it. Maybe you can just do it somewhere on your body that isn't quite so visible to others, just for me? Please at least give me that! :)

Don't drink and drive. Ever. Mostly, don't drink.
Nana's father was an alcoholic. His addiction was this horrible secret in her life until he abandoned their family before her senior year of high school. Five years later, he committed suicide. I never knew him, but through what she shared with me about him, I knew what his addiction did to her. Nana never drank when I was growing up and neither did Papa. They still don't, champagne toasts at weddings aside.

Out of respect for Nana and all she had been through, I never drank alcohol in high school. Ever. I went to parties and drank soda. I was the designated driver for all my friends. I didn't care what they thought of me, I did it so she would never worry. I did the same in college. I was infamous for my non-drinking. I never drank until I was legal to do so. I spent some of my single years drinking socially in bars and clubs, but my friends and I always took turns being the designated driver.

Since I've had you, I rarely drink at all. And I don't miss it. Drinking isn't that exciting to me. It usually gives me a headache anyway. I hope you will feel the same. I hope you will have the courage to be different and not drink just because "everyone else is doing it." But I won't be mad at you IF you do it. I'll only be mad at you if you don't call me to come pick you up! I'll only be mad at you if you drive drunk or get in a car with a driver who is drunk. SO CALL ME, OKAY?!

Along these lines, just say no to smoking and drugs also. Just say no.
Smoking will kill you if you do it long enough. You know how I give you what I call "Hard Sugar"? Where I kiss you really hard on the cheek and you giggle and ask me to do it again? Well, my favorite uncle, Nana's brother, my Uncle Red, always gave me "Hard Sugar" when I was little. Giving it to you now is one way I remember him and honor his memory. He was a lifelong smoker. When I was 19, he died of lung cancer caused by smoking, way too young. The entire summer before he died, he stayed with us while he was undergoing cancer treatment. He was in so much pain, he couldn't breathe laying down and slept sitting up, and it was so, so awful. It broke my heart. Please don't ever, even for one minute, smoke a cigarette.

As for drugs, re-read what I said about alcohol above and just know that any momentary high one experiences on drugs cannot compensate for all the awful lows that addiction, out-of-control behavior, and an expensive habit automatically bring. Drugs destroy lives, so just say no.

Love yourself.
This can be very hard to do, especially as a woman in a society focused on outer beauty. Are there things I would change about myself if I could? Sure. I'd have smaller feet, a straighter nose, and a flatter stomach. In reality though, my big feet support how tall I am, which is one of my best traits-I love being tall! If my nose was straighter, I might not look like myself anymore, like Jennifer Grey post-Dirty Dancing (we'll watch this movie together when you are older). If my stomach were flatter, well, it would probably mean you didn't exist, and although it is often the bane of my existence (mostly when I see it in photos), my poochy stomach is a badge of motherhood and it is a badge I wear proudly because I fought a hard battle to earn it and bring you into this world.

In high school, I weighed 112 pounds and thought I had big hips. I wish I could go back in time and shake 1989-1991-me and make her realize how lucky she was to be so thin without any effort. When Nana looks at pictures of herself as a young girl, she now realizes she was beautiful in a way she never did at the time. I look at you and think you are perfect. You are going to be so tall and you have the most beautiful coloring and eyelashes a mile long. I cannot imagine you will ever need to wear makeup you are so naturally lovely. So love yourself, try not to compare yourself to others, and appreciate even what you think are your imperfections-they are what make you my Sophie.

My darling daughter, I love you so much. I hope that as you grow up, you and I have the type of mother-daughter relationship and friendship that I have with Nana. I hope you will always want to tell me your stories and share with me your secrets and dreams. I hope you will call me, often, for whatever reason, just because.