Falling in love by the sea

beachShe sits with her back against me, both of us watching the sea in silence. Our breath and hearts remembering the synchronization, falling into pace again.

The black rocks bob up and down in the murky grey waves, like seals playing, like we just were; hand in hand darting from the cold foam, testing our footing on crumbling rocks and watching the sand create light circles around our feet as we step together.

The deep, grey clouds mute the color of everything, making even the stark whitecaps of the waves seem wiped away of color.

I put my hand on top of hers, and breathe in the scent of salt caught in the gilded strands.

She’s talking about life, her philosophical nature equally captivated by the waves as my own; motivations, dreams, memories, fears and ambitions.

Our voices match in pace, harmonized.

The clouds gradually shift, the wind gently pushing away the platinum grey, allowing tiny patches of bright blue to appear. With the blue comes white, brown, green and gold. It’s as if nothing is truly a color without the sun’s rays to warm it to life.

Shapes appear far out in the sea, hidden before in the dreariness of grey; black triangular rocks topped with white splashes, golden strips of land carved smooth like rising waves, royal green hills and shiny black birds suspended like kites on a string.

Our tummies growl and I know the moment must end, but I stretch it, savoring the vast warmth as if I may never feel it again.

My baby will be 10 this summer and, as cliché as it is, all those moms who stopped me in Target when my kids were little are right, it does go by so fast.

Chubby pink babies with soft folds you must lift to wash are suddenly explaining why they feel empathy for the mean girl at school with shocking insight and depth.

I feel confused; like I’m Alice shaking my head as the Mad Hatter explains the nature of time, only I’m watching my little baby perform mock episodes of both “Elmo’s World” and “Dance Moms” and wondering where her wit and timing comes from.

She has a feisty resistance to people who don’t listen to her and a sweet devotion to those who do. I see so much of myself in her, but also recognize a strength and determination which is entirely hers alone.

I trace the freckles on her arms as we talk a few more minutes. The sound of the waves, crashing and retracting, the soundtrack to our love.

I know she can’t understand the intensity of my emotions, my devotion. She doesn’t understand why I get irate so quickly when she whines; undone thinking she will have the same negative soundtrack locked in a loop inside her head. I want to shake the pain away from her, make her see only light, only good.

I vow again, silently, like every mother does, to try and be more patient and to do my best to build her up so she can handle the weight of everything to come.

I whisper I love you into her head, and it doesn’t feel like enough. Adore, admire, cherish, treasure; each word like a piece of the puzzle. She can’t know the weight of it, I decide.

She eases off my lap, so I can cook us grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. She begins to sing and my heart is as full as the moon, pulling the waves back and forth, pulling us closer together again.

foam

Little Peppermint, the house fairy

You might be shocked to hear I don’t like Elf on the Shelf.

I know it is weeks past Christmas, but stay with me. It is relevant.

I don’t like the elf for lots of reasons, enough to fill an entire book and then some. I’ll spare you the long rant. Basically, I find an elf moving around the house at night creepy and I hate the pressure it puts on kids to be “good” and on parents to remember to move the damn thing.

There.

I know. Geez mom. Way to make it all about you.

According to my 8-year-old daughter, we are the ONLY family in the world to not have a spying elf and it isn’t fair. We had no less than 20 conversations revolving around the injustice of it all.

“Mom, you just don’t understand.”

Nope. I don’t.

“I will make it clothes.”

No.

“It will be fun.”

No.

“It is a good lesson to kids on being good.”

No.

She finally realized there was no budging on the issue and made her own. Only this little one isn’t an elf. She is a fairy, she is named Peppermint and she moves around the house the entire year.

THE ENTIRE YEAR.

Bam. Got you mom. Now you have to move the fairy around the house every day or I will lose faith in magic and shit like that.

At first, I played along and moved dear Peppermint all over the house. It was actually fun to pose her in the bowl of oranges on the counter, or hide her in the Christmas tree or have her hanging with baby Jesus in the nativity.

But I got busy.

And forgetful.

And tired.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a fun mom. I swear I am. I play dolls and games and tell stories.

I’m awesome.

But come on.

I have to remember to move the fairy every night.

Every. Single. Night.

It is too much.

Yesterday at breakfast, my girl tells me Peppermint hasn’t moved since a few days after Christmas.

“Mom,” she says. “Do you think Peppermint will ever move?”

I think I see tears in her eyes. Real tears, folks.

“I don’t know love,” I say and silently promise myself to move the damn fairy every day for the rest of my life. “I think she was just really tired from the holidays. I’m sure she will move soon.”

“I hope so,” she says.

Well-played daughter.

The second she is out the door, I take Peppermint out of the doll house bed and put her on the mantle holding a few candy canes.

Nailed it.

She comes home and notices right away.

“She moved!” she says.

“Yep.”

“Can’t wait to see what she will do tomorrow.”

Yep.

We leave the house an hour later for her keyboard lesson. My boy decides to stay home to work on his homework.

When we come back, Peppermint has moved again.

This time she is sitting with a doll playing a game my girl created the day before.

“Wow!” she says. “I can’t believe it.”

My boy comes over all smiles and snuggles up close to me.

“I will move Peppermint mom,” he whispers in my ear. “Just look how happy she is.”

And then my heart exploded.

peppermint

Never gonna give up the fight

“Can you believe how ugly she is?”

“What is she thinking by wearing her hair like that? Gross.”

“I know. Did you see her shoes? Seriously. How horrible! With toes like that she should cover them up. Ugh.”

So it goes.

For over an hour.

I usually move when these two mothers sit next to me, but today the karate studio was full. I could have gone to my car, but my daughter likes to be able to see me.

I tried hard to read my book or focus on watching the class, but they are literally inches away from me and they are loud. They flip the pages of a fashion magazine and make fun of every person they see. They gossip and laugh it up.

I seriously forget sometimes that people are like this.

When our daughters come out of karate together the moms continue as my girl puts her shoes on. I try to talk over their voices so she won’t notice them, but it’s impossible.

“Can you believe the gall of that woman to wear eyeliner like that? Who does she think she is!” one wails so loudly my daughter can’t help but look at the picture. I look too.

For a second I think, “She’s right. That looks ridiculous.”

Then I snap back to reality and swoop my girl out of there.

At the car my daughter says, “Why were those moms saying that stuff?”

Using a Waldorf teaching method I say back, “I wonder about that too.”

She doesn’t say anything else.

When I get home it’s dinnertime, teeth-brushing, reading and cuddles. I lose myself in the routine, but in the back of my mind a question keeps repeating itself.

I was feeling anger and disgust at those mothers. My sitting there and judging in anger these women…is that equal to them sitting there judging the models and celebrities in the magazine?

Once the kids are asleep, I put that question to my husband.

He said these women are obviously jealous and that by breaking down and scrutinizing the tiny flaws they find, it makes them feel better about themselves.

“Maybe,” I say. “But I was getting angry at these women and making all kinds of internal judgments about how mean and catty they are. Aren’t I just as bad?”

He didn’t really answer that.

I don’t know either.

These women, like many, were making fun of celebrities. It seems to be a favorite pastime of them, and I am sure they are not alone.

I was very angry with them.

But maybe that is misplaced.

They are trying to find comfort in breaking down these images that society says are “perfect.” Maybe I should be angry with that.

I am.

There is a million ways in which women, and our girls, are targeted and told we are not good enough. Maybe these moms are using this as a way of coping. This is the way they fight back. They poke fun at the very things that they are supposed to covet.

Maybe…

But they are also teaching their daughters that a woman’s body is something to scrutinize and poke fun at. That clothes, shoes, makeup, jewelry…all of that has some connection to how a person should be judged.

Ugh. I hate all that.

I want my daughter to grow up feeling confident. She should not NEED to put others down to feel good about herself. Her worth should be so grounded that nothing can shake it.

I have no idea how to do that.

I try.

I purposely don’t put myself down in front of her. I commend her for actions and try not to say she is “so beautiful” all the time. I never call her princess and try to read her stories about strong women. We talk about virtues and what makes someone a good friend.

I don’t know if it’s enough.

As she gets older I know that it will be harder and harder. I cannot wrap her up and protect her. She will hate her body at some point and that makes me angry and sad.

But I will fight.

I will continue to talk to her and, even more importantly, listen. I will praise her strength and confidence and continue to teach her how to be kind to those around her.

I will fight this battle forever because she is worth it.

And if I’m ever stuck next to those moms in karate again, I’ll just go sit in my car.