Four days late. No surprise, anymore.
This last month, you spent nearly two whole weeks with your Grandma Carol and Poppa Darrell in Indiana, which actually included a few days’ roadtrip to Wisconsin to spend with your Aunt Amanda, Uncle Paul, and cousins Maggie and Mollie.
You got to go back to the preschool you had in Indiana. You made friends right away, and the teachers loved having you back.
You got to go to the park with Great Aunt Susie, and to the movies with Great Aunt Janet. You told me later that you started thinking about Great Nanny, who passed away less than a year ago. I wasn’t sure if you remembered her or not, but you told me you missed her.
Up in Wisconsin, you bravely pet a chicken and retrieved two eggs from the nest; you also rode on Oreo, the horse. We were so proud of you!
Your mom and I weren’t there because we were in Hawaii. When I earned my CPCU designation, my company sent us to the conferment ceremony, which was in Honolulu. For both of us, it was an opportunity for a once-in-a-lifetime trip, mostly paid for, but we couldn’t take you along. Fortunately, you had a wonderful time.
You told Grandma Carol that you had three wishes. To live in Indiana again; to go to school every day; and to have a baby sister.
You didn’t tell those wishes to me, although you did tell me that you thought you were pretty good at holding babies like your cousin Macie, so you were ready to be a big sister.
(Because I know other people are reading this when I post it, I’d better be clear before anybody gets too excited: no, there is not a little sibling on the way.)
In the past week or so, I think you’ve been very overtired. You’ve been more emotional than usual, sometimes crying hard for no apparent reason. You talk about feeling panic and feeling ashamed, and it crushes me to see that, because I remember having those feelings when I was four and five, and to be honest I was hoping that maybe that was something I wouldn’t have passed on to you. I know from talking with other parents that this isn’t necessarily abnormal, but I still hate to see you hurt.
I hate it. I hate feeling powerless to protect you, even when I know that sometimes my job is to stand back and let you experience the world.
I hate watching you try something and fail and give up, because I don’t want you to give up so easily — and right now, it’s hard to motivate you to not give up when you think something is hopeless. I thought maybe you were too young to experience this, but maybe it’s because so many other things have come so easily for you that when something is challenging you don’t yet have the resilience to keep trying. That took me a long time to build, and I still struggle with it, so I’m hoping I can find a way to instill more self-confidence and strength in you early on.
Because I’ll be honest: you’ll need it. There will be things that happen in this world that will feel impossible to overcome. Times when you’ll feel like there is no good choice, and you have to try to do something you don’t think you can do.
I hope I don’t sound too bleak. I don’t mean to.
Sometimes those things will be exciting, even as they’re scary. Sometimes, it will be possible to feel confidence and terror all at the same time.
It’s possible that this might be the last public letter, Sage. Hopefully, you don’t care whether or not they become private, but as you’re getting older and as our lives change and evolve, not everything will necessarily be as open as these letters have been. I don’t know yet. But I’ll keep writing them, even if only in private.
My monthly advice still has not changed: be who you are. As soon as you know who you are, be that person. As soon as you know one facet of who you are, embrace it and be it. You may not have it all figured out. You may never have it all figured out. But what you know, own it. It’s you. It’s yours.
The specific advice for this month?
Now, hold on. Because you’ve probably heard that a million times, and it’s not always as easy as it sounds. But I’ve started to gain a new perspective on this.
I’ve heard people ask, “How are you going to love others if you can’t even love yourself?” and I’ve never quite bought into that. I can love others even while hating myself; it just isn’t good for me to do that. I think it’s better to get to the root of it. Why do people not love themselves? Usually, it’s because of input they get from outside telling them that they’re not good enough, or they’re not pretty or smart or useful or whatever. It’s because we listen to others… but we’re better at listening to the people who criticize us and play on our fears than we are at listening to those who praise us.
But ultimately, the only person who is going to be with you in every single moment of your life… is you. I’ve heard people talking about loving your failures and your flaws, and that just seems counterintuitive to me even now, because if you think of them as failures and flaws, it’s hard to choose to love them, or even to understand what it means to love them. I think, instead, that it comes down to that old “Serenity Prayer” — you have to decide to have the serenity to accept what you can’t change, the courage to change what you can, and the wisdom to know the difference. If your flaws can’t be changed, accept it; let it go. That’s okay. That’s loving yourself. If it can change, and you want to change, work to change. That’s okay, too. That’s still loving yourself.
When you find yourself disliking yourself, saying, “I’m too ________” it’s time to stop and ask yourself if it really matters. I often have thought that I was too unattractive. But for what? For someone to decide they like me? If that’s why they like me, they don’t know me. And I want to be liked, and loved, for who I am.
Here’s the most important part: if you are able to love yourself, you won’t care nearly as much what anyone else thinks about you. For one thing, if they dislike you for something that’s not true, that’s their problem. If they dislike you for something about who you really are… then that’s also their problem. It doesn’t always make it easy, but it often makes it a lot easier.
Anyway… Sage… I love you for you. I love you when you’re happy, sad, angry, goofy, and even when you are irrepressibly and agonizingly four years old. I love you with all my heart, and I always will. Your mother and I love you so much that you’ll get sick of hearing us say it, but so help me, you will always, always, always know that it’s true.