My most favorite parenting triumph in all of Mila’s five years and 3-ish months of life happened recently.
She told me about an older girl who was teasing her and telling her that she wasn’t cute. (Blasphemy, I know!)
She told me her response to the older girl proudly:
"I don’t care what you say, my mom loves me just the way I am."
And that might sound cheesy, in the vein of jokes about young awkward men having well-meaning mothers, but it signified a change in Mila’s growth to me.
From seeing herself as a shadow of a person, believing undoubtedly exactly what the other kids taunted her about, to seeing herself truthfully, as valued, and loved – exactly as I see her.
And all it took was one person who cares and loves her, to encourage her and tell her the truth about herself.
That’s the benefit of emotional intelligence right there. And if I can learn enough in 9 months of counseling to put Mila’s self growth into action, then I’m excited for a long future of helping her succeed.
Mila, to me, you will always be worth it.
When you can do anything, you become obsessed with making your imagination look as real as possible, and so your digital fantasies become hampered by a desire for practicality, and all your unbridled imagination starts to look dull.
It has to be that either I’m finally becoming comfortable with myself or I’m in complete and utter denial.
I was excited to discover that one of my gifts for turning thirty-one this year was a gift certificate for the tattoo I had been planning on/pining for. However, someone else purchasing it for me evoked an “uh oh” feeling of oh-my-gosh-can’t-go-back-ness.
But I set the date anyway. My nerves were raw and wide open the whole drive to the parlor. I knew this because my stomach had worked out an artful Olympic gymnast quality routine, beginning that first thing that morning.
All of the sterilization and ritual before didn’t help. My stomach gymnast fought hard to escape my body, but I won. And it didn’t hurt. It felt annoying, like getting stitches or digging for a splinter. And when it was over, I looked in the mirror.
I didn’t have feelings of panic over defacing my body or regret at the permanence of my new situation. Getting that tattoo had finally stitched my reality to my body.
Sure, it’s a bright pink ampersand. And people will think it’s that I’m super fanboy over my place of work. Or if they don’t know that, they might think I’m making some reference to the fact that I write. Or think that I’m being trendy.
Obviously it’s none of those.
When I got up from that comfy stretcher type thing, and looked in the mirror, I saw myself. And that’s not been something I’ve ever seen in the mirror until recently.
The feeling reminds me of the immediate and intense relief I felt after cutting 12 inches of hair off. My stylist was terrified that I was having some sort of manic episode. A friend asked me a week later, “Do you still like it?”
The answer was and will always be yes. I will never regret cutting off three years (plus probably any of the hair I grew before that point – let’s be real) of fumbling for an identity when all I really needed to do to get to know me had absolutely nothing to do with anything you can see when you see me.
So yeah, I truly do love where I work and my people there. They accepted me through my struggles, supported me and loved me throughout. I shouldn’t say all these things in the past tense because these battles play out constantly with every new growth area in my life.
What I’m saying is even if I lost my job or the company fell apart, I’ll always look at that bright pink ampersand and see the starting point for so many amazing things in my life.
And feel all of those overwhelming, heart-memories for the people who have loved me since before I knew me. The meaning of that is never going to change to me.
“Because you have a story worth telling. First, here is what we’re not entitled to: being listened to by the masses. The honest truth is that attention is earned. But there can be incredible epiphanies that come from telling yourself your story. There are so many possibilities inside you. It’s a worthy thing you do, exploring those paths.
Everybody starts with an audience of one, and nobody has the right to silence you, not even your own inner editor.”
AKA why I’m doing National Novel Writing Month this November.
In that I just put my headphones on to work on a piece of writing and turned Muse on, and my daughter just kept elaborating the plot of Shrek Forever After to me. And the music (from the Absolution album) is so back and forth between hauntingly beautiful and gut spilling cathartic for me that it was such an odd moment.
Just watching her eyeballs and the intensity of her expressions felt like a such an odd, voyeuristic moment. It felt like watching scenes from someone else’s life and I fell in love with her all over. I know she’ll make me grumpy before I go to bed, but what a crazy privilege to know someone from the time they are a few cells to now. I can’t ever forget this.