Two things

1. What I most want for Christmas:
A magical inoculation against perpetuating the parenting mistakes of my parents.

Recently I caught myself saying to Kay, "It makes me sad when you don't listen to me."

"I make you sad?"

"Yes --" D'oh. Oh no. No please. Do not let me be doing this. First do not let me be confirming my toddler's developmentally normal, but if-not-outgrown,-emotionally-stunting, belief that she is responsible for everything that happens, will ever happen, or has happened. Very top of my list of the ways I hope never to repeat my parents' mistakes: I do not want to encourage or allow them (or me) to believe that they are responsible for my emotional state. Wow. I suck. I totally suck. I can't believe I did that. What did I just read about what and when it is appropriate to apologize for your parenting mistakes to your children? I don't remember. Wasn't the gist of the article that the important thing is to be the kind of person you want your children to be -- including responsible for one's errors, yet self-compassionate... Okay, ease up, Phoebe.

" -- um, well, what I mean is..." Wait, how long have I been silently thinking? This brings us to number two on the do-not-repeat list. My father's always explained his mid-sentence disappearing act as having a brain that thinks too fast; if you think of it as similar to how distracting browsing the internet can be, that's apt. Too much information available at any one time. You start out to consider one thing and notice a link to something more or less related and from there to something else and from there to something else, and so on -- and soon you are far away from where you started. This is not a problem when you are daydreaming at a desk all by yourself. In the middle of conversations, it's a hazard, and annoying. How many minutes of my life have I sat waiting for my father to return to complete his sentence? I'm sure it would be startling amount of time. I wonder how one would figure that out? Dear god, how do I get back to where I was, now?

"--- um... hey, are you listening to me?"

Kay looked up at me, wary and thumb-sucking -- a look to break a mother's heart.

"I really love you, you know that?"

She nodded. I sighed. Well, that's what's important, isn't it?

Oh geez, Santa, give a girl a hand...

2. Someone's out-of-town folks are in town
Out for a walk, Dee and I passed an older couple who gave us the giveaway shy smile of strangers in a strange land. I've made that offering myself in countless places: "Hi, I mean to be friendly, but I don't speak your language. Sorry" -- all hopefully conveyed in a smile.

On the shorter side with tanned wrinkled faces, and stooped shoulders, nondescript clothing draping inelegantly from their bodies, they looked like elderly peasants from another time and a very different land. They paused halfway through a crosswalk, which seemingly unbeknownst to them they'd entered during a green light. They wanted to let a car that pulled up to the intersection pass in front of them. The driver looked confused -- his light was red. The couple gave their shy stranger smiles and tried to wave him through, and then, realizing he wasn't going to pass, proceeded slowly across his path just as their light turned red.

I was so grateful the driver didn't honk at them as they stiffly ambled the rest of way, her hand on his forearm. May their visit be a good one.


  1. Kay is one of the sweetest, most compassionate little girls I know. Whatever you are doing, you are doing it right. I saw her give you a big hug tonight at dinner and only I could see her face...it was pure love and joy at being held by her Mommy.

  2. "It makes me sad when you don't listen to me."
    Mistake???? Stupid magazines.
    Will you not say someday:
    "It makes me happy you have grown into a wonderful adult"?
    Sharing your emotions with your daughter is not a mistake. As humans, everything we do affects others. It is not a mistake, when it is about as something as important as listening to others, so important in the socialization proccess. You are not blaming her for doing something bad--you are raising her awareness of others. Good for you.

  3. Oh my my my.. it's been SO long. I don't know why I never thought to check phoebe moons to see if you were still around, and yet finally I click away from Queenie to you and then to here.

    You may not even remember me! haha

    Anyways.. glad to see you again. I have you bookmarked now!

  4. This comment is for test parenting purposes only — your mileage may vary...

    Phoebe, I can only say from my experience in raising two kids who we think have turned out to be pretty terrific adults, I've learned that there is a pretty wide swath of variance in which mistakes will actually do damage and which ones will never stick.

    I know without a doubt that some of my early behavior as a parent did damage, but how much is very hard to determine. I do know that our kids today go out of their way to be loving and verbally appreciative to us every chance they get, and have made it a point to thank us repeatedly for even the 'tough love' we had to enforce on them over the years.

    This is not to say that there is no possibility of hidden issues that they just don't want to bring up to us, but one thing I do know — they know who we are; there is no mystery as to what we think and why we think it. We always placed a high premium on having a plausible reason for all of our actions, as opposed to simply saying, 'because I said so.'

    We were always honest with our kids — in the hard times especially — and won their trust because of it, I believe. And that, in my estimation is the key — being real with your kids; being the real you, and not just a parental figure. Don't be afraid to admit you're wrong, but always be ready to explain why you're right. Political correctness has no place in successful parenting, IMO.

    I think you're doing a wonderful job as a caring Mom to your girls. Don't ever doubt that, because that too will come through just as strongly as will your confidence.

    Just do what you know is right, and always emphasize how much you love them. Whether or not they end up agreeing with you on all points, they'll always appreciate it and love you back.