Tag Archives: life lessons

Ode to An ’80s Tan

Standard

It’s that time of year again, when families with an average of 1.86 children* and access to some type of motorized vehicle migrate south for a week of fun in the sun, or rather, hopefully not killing each other while suffocating under three layers of UVB protective clothing.

I can’t help but get a little nostalgic as I pack a dozen bottles of hand sanitizer, ear buds, and my candy cane shiv for the flight to Florida. Things were much simpler when I was a kid, and quite frankly, more tan.

I will cut you if you take the last Grey Goose orange vodka mini-bottle on the plane. Image via Flickr.com

Despite repeated warnings from the Surgeon General and my preternaturally aged hands, I love the sun. In my book? Tan is good, and every single white-bellied resident of Cleveland playing cornhole on the beach this spring proves my point (by the way, if you happen to be a Facebook Robber and are casing my house, good luck getting through the copious piles of laundry, Halloween candy wrappers, and discarded LIVESTRONG wristbands blocking all points of entry).

This is a cornhole tournament. On the beach. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried. Image via pressofatlanticcity.com

When I was young, we didn’t have enough money to fly the friendly skies, so we drove to Florida for spring break in The Grey Ghost, our family’s unaffectionate nickname for my dad’s sometimes air-conditioned, often not, Thunderbird. With a piece of masking tape cutting the back seat in half and delineating sides that dare not be crossed for fear of losing a limb, my brother and I played the license plate game to pass time, which pretty much sucked after about fifteen minutes because every single car headed south was from Ohio.

Things changed once we crossed the Georgia-Florida border, though. With empty bags of pork rinds at our feet and the wind in our hair, we knew we’d arrived at a mystical place filled with lightning bugs, fudgesicles, and an unusually large amount of seedy lounges advertising Elvis impersonators.

Is that a camel toe you’re wearing or are you just happy to see me? Image via zonamilitar.com.

We all piled into one room at a value-brand version of a Holidome, and Mom doled out the quarters she’d saved all year long so we could have whatever we wanted from the vending machines. Eating Taco flavored Doritos in bed while watching Saturday Night Live was nothing short of awesome, and as soon as I could see sunlight filtering through the curtains the next morning, I was out the door with my tube of Bain de Soleil, a Teen Beat magazine, and a dream.

This was my dream when I was a kid. In many ways, it still is.

Back then, a tan meant you were going somewhere in life, like the mall, to get an Orange Julius and some sweet new parachute pants. Now, being tan can still take you places, but it’s pretty much limited to your dermatologist’s office, usually for some minor outpatient surgery to get a spot of precancerous basal cell carcinoma removed from your nasal septum.

This too could be you if you stay in the sun too long or inhale a lot of recreational drugs. Image via 4.bp.blogspot.com.

Today, my family boards a plane to go on vacation, which is great, except for the aforementioned need to carry a concealed weapon that looks like a piece of half-eaten Christmas candy. And the ear buds that plug into something that, while providing entertainment, makes us more co-travelers than anything else. And the lines.

In response to an overwhelming cry for change (mostly from parents), the airline industry will now allow you to kennel your children and buy a seat for your dog.

Hence the nostalgia.

But the only thing you can count on in life is change, so like every other pasty mother I know, I’ve packed the SPF 300 and a little something just for me that’s stashed away in the recesses of my luggage. No. It isn’t a baggie filled with the medicinal marijuana you can now buy on every street corner in Colorado to enjoy with your Caramel Macchiato before a great day at the beach.

It’s a bottle of  Hawaiian Tropic Diamond Strength Dark Tan Accelerator.

Apparently, my parents only had enough money to buy sunscreen for my little brother, Macho Man Randy Savage.

Apparently, my parents only had enough money to buy sunscreen for my little brother, Macho Man Randy Savage.

Old habits die hard, and if youth is wasted on the young, I’m pre-qualified to appreciate every fine line coming my way.

*According to the 2000 Census, the average number of children in families was 1.86. Apparently, a child isn’t considered whole until it threatens to run away unless you lift the ban on smart phones after 9:00 p.m.

If you liked this post, you may like Taking Your Kids to Vegas: A Lesson in International Culture, Etiquette, and Ethics

If you like Vegas, you may like An Open Letter to Steve Wynn: Why the Forty-Year Oldish Woman is Your Ideal Guest

What Do You Do When Your Child Disappears?

Standard

Last Friday, my eight year-old daughter, Essa, stayed home from school with a bad case of everyone-else-in-my-class-is-sick-so-I-wanna-be-sick-too-itis.

As a mother, I’ve experienced these strange illnesses before. My son, Taylor, once had I-can’t-go-to-school-because-I-sprained-my-ankle-and-halfway-through-my-day-off-started-limping-on-the-wrong-foot syndrome, and my other daughter, Grace, recently struggled with I-didn’t-get-my-book-report-finished-therefore-I’ll-cry-until-my-face-turns-an-unnatural-shade-of-puke-so-I-can-stay-home-and-finish-it disorder.

Needless to say, I’m usually unsympathetic to the sudden onset of these strange and often fleeting maladies, but last week, when Essa came down the stairs looking like this, I caved.

Essa’s hair is unusually dark in this picture thanks to highlights expertly applied by the Sharpie she’s not supposed to have in her room. That application, coupled with a furrowed brow, deeply pained eyes, and hair sticking out in so many directions she must have styled it herself, makes for a pretty clean case.

Essa’s hair is unusually dark in this picture thanks to highlights expertly applied by the Sharpie she’s not supposed to have in her room. That application, coupled with a furrowed brow, deeply pained eyes, and hair sticking out in so many directions she must have styled it herself, makes for a pretty clean case.

Knowing Essa wasn’t that sick (she had a sinus infection), I asked her to take our dog, Wrigley, to the bathroom while I shuffled Grace into the car for the four-minute drive to school. Completely unhurried and in zero danger of receiving a dreaded tardy slip, I pulled out of the garage and left Essa behind with Wrigley, talking to a neighbor who lives up the street.

This is where I left my daughter.

This is where I left my daughter.

This part bears repeating, so I will. I intentionally, without thought or concern, drove off without my eight year-old daughter.

When I got home, Essa was gone.

When you leave your child alone and assume that upon returning she’ll be at the kitchen table coloring, in the bathroom, or en route to her room in search of a favorite book only to find she isn’t anywhere she’s supposed to be? The sound of her absence is deafening.

My first thought was that Wrigley had gotten loose, so I immediately ran to the back yard and up into the scrub oak calling their names. No luck. I then jumped into my car and drove the area where we often walk our dog. Twice. Still no Essa. I came back home and searched the house, yard and scrub oak again. Nothing. I next called a monitoring company (when you adopt a dog, the shelter often puts a microchip in him so that he can be returned if he’s lost), with the hope that Wrigley’s chip could be tracked. It couldn’t. Still alone, battling the roaring silence in my house, and scared out of my mind, I started to cry, and in that state of panic, called our neighborhood security. Our security officers, in turn, contacted the county Sheriff, and within five minutes, three security vehicles and two patrol cars screeched to a halt in front of my house.

That's Essa and me in front of the scrub oak where I was trying to find her...obviously on a different day.

That’s Essa and me in front of the scrub oak where I was trying to find her…obviously on a different day.

In almost thirteen years as a mother, I’d never, not even for a second, lost a child.

For me, the most poignant moment in that endless vacuum of time was pulling Essa’s child identity card from my wallet to give to the police officer; the one you think you’ll never use. She’s wearing her favorite softie bunny t-shirt, a pair of puppy earrings that she begged me to let her clip on for her school picture, and a huge grin. My baby was right in front of me, only she wasn’t. It was just a picture of her smiling at the world from the confines of a one-dimensional, laminated card, surrounded by information only meant to be used under the worst possible circumstances.

One officer took the card and left, and I covered my face and sobbed…a release of emotion so guttural and deep that it felt like the entire world had shifted beneath me, shaping itself into a self-created prison I had never, in my darkest nightmares, expected to know.

As I turned toward the house, I saw a little girl and her dog walking down the street in my peripheral view. My little girl and my dog. The confluence of emotions I felt in that moment is almost impossible to describe. Love. Relief. Incredulity. Happiness. Disbelief. Thankfulness. Wonder. I could use a million different descriptors and never get it right.

As she approached, I saw that Essa wasn’t alone. She was with the neighbor I’d left her talking to when I took Grace to school. That neighbor, who’s name I don’t know, who’s house is somewhere up the street, who I’ve exchanged small talk with when I pass her walking our dogs but who’s never been invited into my family’s life, and who appears to be my age (which is to say, not young), thought it was O.K. to take my daughter for a 45-minute walk without my permission.

Even more disturbing to me however, was that Essa thought it was O.K. too.

And that’s why I’m telling this story.

There are at least three important emotions I left out above in trying to describe how I felt when Essa came home. Anger, embarrassment, and shame.

I was embarrassed to call the police when I couldn’t find my daughter.

I was ashamed to admit I’d left her alone.

I was angry with the woman who took her for a walk without my permission.

I was angry with Essa for going.

But most of all, a thousand times over, on top of my conscience, through my heart and back? I was angry with myself. I’m a mother. My primary job is protect my children. My secondary one is to teach them. I did neither in this case.

Somehow, between raising three kids, skirting in and out of once strictly bound parameters that have loosened with time, brushing hair and trimming nails, packing healthy lunches and hiding Halloween candy, I neglected to teach Essa the many shapes a stranger can take, and that just because you recognize someone doesn’t mean you can walk away with them. To her, the lady she left our house with was a nice person with a dog who she could trust. To me? That lady was, and still is, a stranger.

How could I have allowed such a huge disconnect between the two?

Once Essa was safely inside, a compassionate police officer explained that she falls within an age range of children who have a difficult time determining who a stranger really is. We all tell our children the classic “Stranger Danger” stories, often revolving around a creepy man at the mall who attempts to lure them into his car with candy. But what about an adult who doesn’t fit that description at all? What about a person that an eight year-old girl, who still believes in Santa and considers her favorite stuffed animals to be among some of her besties, might see as a friend just because she seems nice?

When it comes to dealing with adults, I’ve always taught my children to be kind, polite, and to defer to authority. I’ve never told them to pull back, be suspicious, say no, or walk away. It’s a gray area, but it’s one that she, and every child, should better understand.

Last Friday, I set off a chain of events that ultimately resulted in the payment of a small price for lessons my entire family has now learned. You only have to turn on the news to see that I was lucky.

I’d like to express a sincere and heartfelt thank you to all the officers who responded to my call. Every person who came to help me find Essa acted professionally, compassionately, delicately, and diligently. It’s a day I’ll never forget, and I will remain forever grateful to everyone who assisted and supported our family.

Never Ignore The Little Voice Inside Your Head.

Standard

When I was thirty-two years old, I was mugged.

With ten years of city life in Chicago under my belt, a genetic disposition toward calculated risk (a ticker tape of pros and cons runs in a continuous loop through my head), and a fairly acceptable amount of caffeine flowing through my veins, I raced out the door one muggy summer morning to power walk a few short blocks and sign my son up for baseball. This was during the Mesozoic Era, or pre-electronic enrollment, and I knew I had about a twenty-minute window to make the line before all spots would be taken, thereby denying my son the necessary foundation to learn to hit a ball off a tee, which was an absolute must if he was ever going to claim his rightful spot in the Cubs starting lineup.

That’s the inside of my brain. Image via addamsfamily.com

Apparently, everyone else in my neighborhood had older kids, no kids and were therefore hung over, or happened to be White Sox fans, because on that particular morning, the street was deserted.

Well, almost deserted.

A couple of blocks deep into my line of sight, I noticed someone walking toward me: brisk pace, slumped shoulders, hoodie half-covering his head. He kind of resembled one of my favorite guest stars from 21 Jump Street, but not one of the good guys. More than any fictional character, though, he looked like someone who didn’t want to be seen.

Image via nydailynews.com

Having intentionally exposed myself to a ridiculous amount of 80s trivia-caliber crime shows growing up, I was immediately on guard. But I also had time to think, which, as fate would have it, ended up being a big mistake.

As the sketchy figure approached, I debated the voice inside my head that, at this point, had busted through my ticker tape and was jumping up and down against the inside of my cranium, screaming at me to cross the street.

This is my sixth sense busting through my internal ticker tape of logic. Image, via fandomania.com, not to scale.

The conversation went something like this:

Sixth Sense: “Hey. Are you, like, awake or what? There’s only one other person in the entire city of Chicago who’s outside right now, and he happens to be walking toward you. He doesn’t appear to be stumbling home from a walk of shame and he’s not dressed in a suit carrying a bible. In fact, he looks kind of scary.”

Conscience: “I see him.”

Sixth Sense: “O.K., great. What are you gonna do?”

Conscience: “Nothing.”

Sixth Sense: “Right. Perfect answer, because he’s now about a block away, has yet to look up so you can see his face, and appears to be roughly twice your size.”

Conscience: “I realize that, but you don’t know what he’s about any more than I do.”

Sixth Sense: “I don’t need to know. I can feel who he is, and on a scale of 1 – 100, I’d guess somewhere in the “absolute certainty” range that he isn’t someone who wants to be your friend.”

Conscience: “You’re just projecting fear.”

Sixth Sense: “Exactly.”

Conscience: “Listen, I’m not jaded like you. In case you haven’t noticed, ever since 9/11 there’s been a lot of misguided profiling in this country, and I don’t buy into false labels. I’m standing my ground.”

Sixth Sense: “You’re asking for it.”

Conscience: “You’re stereotyping.”

Sixth Sense: “You’re smarter than this.”

Conscience: “You’re better than this.”

Sixth Sense: “You’re an idiot.”

Conscience: “You’re an ass.”

At this point in my two-sided internal monologue, the partially hooded man walked quickly by, only lightly brushing my shoulder as he passed.

“See?” I said to myself, smug and satisfied as the stranger circled back, and with a rapid-sequence series of moves that could only be the work of a Ninja or a professional thief, attempted to rip my arm off from behind. Because it was attached to my purse.

None of these ninjas mugged me. Image via travelblog.org

Now, since I’d already done such a fantastic job of following the logical, subconscious direction dictated by a vocal minority of my brain, I proved to be equally awesome at thinking on my feet. I did exactly what every cop, teacher, and after-school special tells you not to.

As he grabbed, I flexed. When he pulled, I hung on, pitting us in a five-second tug-of-war that felt more like the time it would take to tread water through a football field of quicksand in a pair of Christian Louboutins.

Image via shoeblog.com.

Finally, my strap broke, he grabbed my purse, and sprinted away. I ran in the opposite direction, but not before stopping to pick up my wallet, which had fallen to the sidewalk during our fight.

In the end he stole a 37” Samsonite Comfort Travel umbrella, a list of people who had sent gifts to my newborn daughter, and some thank you cards. I have no idea who was on that list, but now, ten years later, if you sent a present and didn’t hear from me? I’m truly sorry, but it wasn’t my fault, so please stop ignoring my friend requests.

Image via mnandp.files.wordpress.com

Although I’m attempting to highlight the humor as I tell this story, my experience was the exact opposite. It was horrendous. I suffered from insomnia for months, pacing the floor in my bedroom as I played, replayed, and overplayed the virtual Rubik’s Cube combination of decisions I could have made that day but didn’t, not to mention the potential outcomes. I know there are countless people who’ve been in similar situations with worse results. In the end, I was lucky.

Getting mugged isn’t exclusive to my gender. I have male friends who’ve been robbed (and thankfully not shot) at gunpoint, which has to be a harrowing experience. But when a man enters a woman’s personal space, uninvited and intending harm, it’s a violation that’s difficult to shake, with a magnitude of future influence that’s even harder to define. The physical odds are beyond unevenly stacked when it comes to defense, and the moral implication behind the intent has the potential to be, and often is, life-changing.

And that’s why I think women have developed a 6th sense. Because we need it.

Women often try to be everything to everyone else, paying little attention to our own inner voices. We’re a nurturing gender, and want to believe, sometimes contrary to the preponderance of evidence presented, in the power of good.

In those few moments when I talked myself out of doing what was right and inevitably made decisions that were completely wrong, my intent was honest even if my execution poor. I didn’t want to label someone. I wanted to be nice. I didn’t want to judge. I wanted to walk by that man and feel justified in the knowledge that I hadn’t bought into stereotypes. I didn’t want to run. I wanted to be fair.

I made a big mistake.

A couple of hours after I was mugged, the police officer showed up to file a report, and told me there was a series of shootings that morning about ten blocks from my house. They happened earlier, and all involved robbery. Was it the same guy? I’ll never know. They didn’t catch him. But I’ll always wonder.

When your 6th sense tells you to do something, listen. I didn’t, and I was fortunate to get the chance to try again.

Are Our Children at the Core of the Next Entitlement Demographic?

Standard

There’s nothing that tugs at a parent’s heart like the hollow face of a hungry child. On the other hand, there’s nothing that makes a parent’s eyeballs distend, roll backwards, and practically dislocate themselves, like witnessing the antics of a child who feels a little hungry, complains about it, and expects a custom-made meal to be delivered on the spot.

The child, in this example, is mine.

Yesterday, my husband, son, and I hooked up to play a late afternoon front nine (keep in mind that I didn’t know what “front nine” meant until I was about thirty years old) on our neighborhood course (also keep in mind that, growing up, the closest thing our family had to a neighborhood course was, well…nothing). As we repeatedly made our way from the rough to the fairway, into a sand trap, and over the green, my twelve year-old son, Taylor, began to shank his drives. The more balls he shanked, the testier he got, the testier he got, the more he shanked. Why the male gender has failed to acknowledge the symbiotic relationship between these two variables is beyond me. But he’s young and I digress.

Even though his facial expression is familiar, that’s not my son. Image via sportsillustrated.com

Exhausted by a transition from summer to middle school that pushes him out the door every day by 6:45 a.m., frustrated, and possibly a bit disinterested, he stood on the green ignoring a view that could have inspired the creation of the earth itself and asked a simple question.

This is the view my son couldn’t see. Image via ccatcastlepines.com

“Where’s the beverage cart?”

“I don’t know. It’s late in the day, but I’m sure it’ll be around soon,” I said.

“I can’t believe it isn’t here. This is ridiculous,” he replied, grabbing his ball from the fairway and storming toward the next hole (keep in mind that if I had pulled a move like that on my mother, she would have coldcocked me before I had the chance to take a step…by the time I staggered up from my face plant into a bunker, stunned and babbling course etiquette backwards, she would have finished the hole and moved on, with or without me).

That’s not my mom. That’s a vampire. Image via http://www.reasonforchange.com

At the time, my reaction to his mini-outburst was much less measured than I’d like to admit, but I can say in retrospect that he was having a moment. We all have them. Even Oprah. In fact, I have about a dozen an hour on that fateful day each month when standing anywhere within my peripheral vision holds the equivalent danger as juggling molten-hot machetes on a tightrope (keep in mind that if you mess with me on the Tuesday before the Thursday, you’re taking a risk that’s not worth the reward). As the saying goes, the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Image via mszigzag.typepad.com

In hindsight, Taylor was as within his rights to complain as any kid invited to walk a beautiful golf course with his parents could be, which is to say, not at all.

And that’s where I have a problem.

My problem rests on the premise that even though he knew it wasn’t right to lose his temper, he didn’t know that the reason he lost it, contextually, was wrong.

The math breaks down like this: every time we play golf, we walk the course. Every time we walk the course, the beverage cart comes around at about hole five or six. Every time the beverage cart rolls up, Taylor gets a snack, often something more spectacular than anything he could ever pull from our pantry. Every time he gets a snack, we sign the bill.

My husband likes the beverage cart too. Image via golfdigest.com

We do this because we want him to experience things that we didn’t as kids. All parents hope their children have more than they did growing up. By popular definition, “success” is another way of saying “Congratulations, you’ve achieved the American Dream.” The words are practically interchangeable in our culture, even if they sometimes sound hollow.

But I’m finding that for a generation of children being raised today, “have more” doesn’t necessarily mean “do more”, and that’s not good (keep in mind, that our kids will most likely need to “do” a lot more than we did to get ahead when they’re adults).

What did Taylor do to earn a one-on-one trip to the golf course with Mom and Dad? Nothing. Yesterday, that’s pretty much how he treated it. Like nothing. The instant gratification he derives from getting a snack-on-demand wasn’t there, and because of that, he lost sight of the things around him that are much more important.

In many respects, our children are growing up in a world that we never knew existed when we were kids, because it didn’t. Where we played with blocks, our toddlers manipulate touch screens. Remember the days when your Dad schlepped you to the library so you could spend an hour deciphering the Dewey Decimal system to look through an ancient card catalogue and find the one book in the entire city on yellow-bellied marmots for a report? Taylor doesn’t, but he can pull up more images of that nasty rodent than you’d ever want to scroll through on his phone. Do you channel the Von Trapp family and sing songs with your children in the car? Me neither, because my kids’ headphones are shoved so far into their ear canals that they automatically de-wax themselves pushing them in and back out.

The Dewey Decimal System is almost as old as Joan Rivers. Almost. Image via http://www.afterelton.com

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. With the best of intentions, we damage our children. Keeping that thought in mind, I can’t help but wonder if parents who are willing to give their kids anything also take away something critical that means everything. Do I fall into that category? Sometimes. There are things I do well when it comes to raising my children to become responsible adults, but today I’m focusing on what I do wrong.

As the debate around our nation’s entitlement state roars down a bloated, bipartisan road toward a November 6 collision with itself, perhaps, instead of simply targeting the entitlements already being given, we should also focus on how we ensure that our children avoid this path. Does the current road need repair? Yes, but future generations can get a better start if they walk down a street that begins with chores and ends with education. Or begins with education and ends with validation. Or begins with validation and ends with communication. Or maybe our kids should just take out the trash.

If life’s about the journey, our children had better develop strong calves. Image via media.knownew.com

As humans, we’re a complicated mixture of nature and nurture, and it’s the combination of the two that makes us who we are to become. Yesterday? Taylor wasn’t the kid I wanted him to be, but most of the time, he is. He now understands (more fully than he’d like) that a trip to the golf course is earned, not given. I’m not writing this to embarrass him, rather, I’m putting this out there to call attention to myself, with the hope that through my children’s eyes, I learn the exact lessons I’m supposed to teach.

I Think I’m Smarter Than You

Standard

No, not you. The you I’m referring to in this post is my seven-going-on-seventeen year-old daughter, Essa.

Running short on time and long on things to do, I had a simple conversation with my little girl the other day that went something like this.

Me: Essa, we’ve gotta pick up Taylor and Grace. Get in your car seat and let’s go.

Essa: Seriously Mom? Car seats are for babies.

Me: No, Essa. Car seats are for kids, and even though you like to think of yourself as someone who falls outside the National Highway Traffic Safety guidelines, you don’t.

Essa: Fine! (cue heavy foot stomping, something large and likely expensive crashing in the laundry room, and an exaggerated door slam)

It takes me about an hour to locate my car keys on any given day, and by the time I’d wrenched them out from under the bin-organizer-thingy in the hall that everyone ignores as they toss their shoes on the floor, I wasn’t in the best mood. When I got outside? This is what I found:

Here’s the thing. On paper, Essa did exactly as I’d asked. She got in her car seat. Never mind that she planted it on top of Taylor’s longboard, raced down the driveway sans-helmet, and flew across the street without bothering to look in any safe direction, raising her arms in some kind of “take that mom” victory cheer at the end.

Technically, she didn’t do anything wrong.

And this is where I detect the germinating seed of a growing problem.

My daughter, in many ways, is a lot like me, but her singular brand of Essaness is emerging about twenty years ahead of schedule…just in time for me to deal with it for the next ten.

So in an effort to keep both of us alive, I’m offering her a one-time only Guide to Getting Through the Next Decade Under the Same Roof as Me. Otherwise? Life as she knows it will exist solely within the confines of the four walls better known as her room, and we’ll both bear the pain of incarceration.

 Ten Ways to Act Like You Respect Me Even if You Don’t

1. Don’t be so obvious. It’s a lot easier to steal my wallet while you’re patting me on the back.

2. Compliment me. I’m especially vulnerable when being told I look younger than I am. Twenty-eight is a good place to start.

3. Tell any adult you encounter how much you admire me: your teacher, a friend’s parent, my therapist…kind words, even if completely fabricated, go a long way.

4. Timing is everything. If you can work it so I hear about this fake compliment right after you’ve told me I don’t look old enough to have had three kids? You’ve earned an entire week’s worth of heavy sighs and exaggerated eye rolls.

5. Pretend to be nice to your brother and sister. When you coldcock your brother in the head right in front of me it stresses me out. Hit him when I’m not around.

6. Don’t do drugs. Period. If you put any substance in your body that I’ve never let into mine? It won’t matter if you fake like me or not because I will kill you.

7. Synch your calendar with my cycle. There’s one day a month when you’re better off camping out in the scrub oak behind the house with a flashlight and some beef jerky rather than crossing my path.

8. Force those huge, expressive eyes to lock meaningfully with mine and channel a vibe of “wow mom, your wisdom just blows me away…thank you for being so magnificent” when I’m trying to teach you something rather than “I’m so blah, blah, blekity blah bored and stuff, and like, anyway, who do you think you are, and you so don’t get me and all that and are you done yet because I have better things to do.”

9. Use your Montessori education to your advantage. Less drama + more smiling = more peace = less restriction = more fun. See? A + B = C = D = E. Simple math that makes no sense is genius.

10. When in doubt, always tell the truth because I’ve not only been right where you are, I’m a step ahead of you. My genetic code is responsible for all the back alleyways and side streets on your map, and there’s no place you might dare to go that I haven’t already been.

I understand the theory of evolution, that my childhood took place in the Mesozoic Era, and you’re way ahead of wherever I was at your age. But slow down. It seems like only yesterday when you climbed into my lap, looked directly into my eyes, and asked if fairies were real. You’re an amazingly intuitive, intelligent little girl, and if you’ll take my hand and hold it over the next ten years like you’ve done for the past seven? I crisscross-applesauce promise I’ll let you go when it’s time for you to fly.