Friday, February 06, 2009

Letter to Myself in My 20s--a Young(er) Mom

[Edit: I added "then" and "now" pics at the bottom.] Today I'm participating in a carnival at It's Almost Naptime, whose creator, Missy, has asked "older moms" (bless her heart) to impart wisdom to her and others whose kids are still small by writing letters to our, a-hem, younger selves. Apparently, having kids in pre-k automatically earns you the title, "younger mom" which is totally unfair. Age is a state of mind.

First note to myself in my 20s: Don't believe that last sentence. Age is like a practical joker who's waiting around every corner to jump out and shock you with some new deterioration just to see you gasp. And then he laughs so hard he pee-pees his pants. No, wait, that's you pee-peeing from sneezing, which is a memento from labor and delivery. And yes, at 46, you will still say, "pee-pee" without even thinking about it.)

This is to myself circa 1991 BC (before cellulite) which makes you 29, and you have a 5 and 3 year-old.

Dear Linda,

Hi. This is from the body formerly known as "you."

First of all: good news! Your marriage is intact. That doesn't mean you won't ever experience choppy waters, but you'll make it through and come out on the other side a better person. Other encouraging news: he learns to pick up his wet towels! Bad news: Just this week he left dog treats in his pockets which you did not discover until you pulled out the wet, biscuity clothing. One last thing about marriage: you should take that date night thing seriously.

About mothering: I know that some days you feel very content to be a SAHM, while other days you feel you might pull your hair out, but just know this: for your and George's life, being a SAHM is something you will never regret. Never. Not one time. You will look back on these early years and actually have more affirmative feelings than regret, and that is saying a lot from someone who has at least half of her life behind her now.

Anything that you have given up to be with them all day long means nothing to you now. So even though just a few years ago, the English Department named you "Outstanding Senior," and your prof said, "We expect great things from you, Linda," the great things you will accomplish have nothing to do with what she had in mind; nevertheless, you will accomplish, or facilitate, some great things in the lives of the people who mean the most to you. The thrill of seeing their personalities and abilities unfold will never grow old.

And even though you will adore them just as much when they're in their 20s as you do now, they will still be leaving wet towels on the floor in 2009. (Cue the disappointed sighs of audience laugh track, "aww.")

Number one piece of advice: You know how you read to them at a ridiculously early age? Very good move. Read all the time, holding them on your lap. This is may be the best thing you'll ever do because you're enriching them intellectually and emotionally. Plus you get to smell their hair, rock them and hug them a lot. It is heaven on earth, isn't it? It will be your favorite memory of mothering and your most profound bonding experience, even moreso than nursing.

Now, having said all that, I want to say that you need to stay connected to other adult women, even though you're an independent spirit who is pretty content at home and doesn't need daily chit chat or a girls' night out in the bars. You do need the friendships of other women; you just don't know it yet. So even if it's once a month, find a way to connect. When your children leave home, you will find your friendships to be meaningful beyond words. Your husband cannot meet every emotional need and will not understand the things that thrill you and your friends, like a great find at Ikea or trouser jeans. And that is OK.

You're going to hit a speed bump of depression in just a couple of years, and it will be a really dark time for a while, but keep your head on, Girl. Wellbutrin is on the way! Haha. Seriously, remember to whom you belong no matter how you feel. Feelings are real, but they're not always accurate. When you are faithless, he is faithful. When you are weak, he is strong. Jesus loves you; this I know.

About teenagers: Start saving for college now. Just this week, you received a notice that tuition has gone up again, by $685 a semester. But driving the junker car is worth it. Did I mention that you will have two in college at the same time at $30,000 each per year?

Go ahead and sniff the smelling salts. Sorry to shock you.

I encourage you to talk to them more about sex, beginning at an early age. Even though they don't want to talk about it, and neither do you, particularly, it's not a talk you should have once or twice and rarely ever again. This will be one regret that you have. Keep the topic on the front burner so that you can pick up the conversation at any time without it being a weird moment. Sex is everywhere; you cannot hide them away from objectification and relentless temptation. You need to step up here, Mom.

Yes, teenagers are mean for a while, but then they come around and are nice again! Yay! Try to remember that when they walk into a room, stop, look at you and say, "What are you looking at?" in an accusatory tone, they cannot help themselves. It's like when they were cutting teeth and they would bite you for no reason.

Your teenagers are going to be great kids, and you will have very little to contribute to water cooler conversation about how terrible those years are. You will joke about it, but deep down, you'll thank God every day for how blessed you are.

The hardest part of the teen years for you will be watching them pull out of the driveway all by themselves in the car. You will feel like your heart is tied onto the bumper like a tin can on wedding get-away car, dragging along behind them wherever they go. You will understand why your parents said, "Be careful!" every single time you left their presence. (And they still will when you're 46 and they're 87.)

Oh, this is very important--when your kids start to leave home, it will be one of the most, if not THE most, difficult thing you've ever been through, but again, you will survive. People don't talk about this often enough, what a huge transition this is. No one around you will truly know what is going on inside your heart--and upset somach--as the time draws nearer because you are their mother; no one else is. It's choking me up now just typing that. So begin preparing yourself emotionally a couple of years before they leave for college because dealing with it one month out would be really, really hard. Read lots of articles about this transitional time. Talk about it with friends.

Just like when you first had your kids, your life will change radically when they leave. But you will chin-up and encourage yourself by repeating, "This is not the end; it's a new chapter." Ultimately, you will celebrate their independence. You will realize that your whole goal as a mom from the beginning was to rear independent adults who function and flourish and know and love God. And then you will realize that despite your mistakes, you have done pretty well.

Finally, let me clue you in on a decision that you're making. You're not done yet, but you will be by the ripe old age of 30, which is what you wanted. That is, there's a third one coming in late 1992, but I won't spoil your surprise by telling you the gender because you always liked the big reveal to happen at delivery.

What? You've never heard the term "big reveal?" You're a little behind the times, aren't you? That's a casualty of momhood; it leeches coolness and pop cultural awareness from you, but you'll come back around someday when you start a little thing called "blogging." Your coolness will then spring back to the Nth power, and your kids and husband will be blinded by your massively cool blogging prowess.

You have a good life, and as much as you might want to roll your eyes at this, I'm going to say it anyway: These are the best years. Enjoy every moment. There will finally be one last diaper, one last orthodontist visit, one last sporting event, and one last time they sit on your lap. Savor every moment, and when you think you have savored the moment, stop and savor it all over again. Trust me on this.

See ya in a few years, you cute young thing with wrinkle-free skin.


Lid (That will make sense someday.)

PS: One last tip: In a couple of years, white hose will come into fashion. I beg of you--don't go there.

Dang. You went there.

Cast of Characters:

Katie, my first-born. Just looking at her face fills me with joy.

Jordan, my only boy. He cannot be serious.

Kristin, my baby. Who is probably going to live with me forever if I have my way. Just kidding. Sort of.


Renna said...

That was wonderful, Linda. I mean it, really, really good. You have a beautiful family. You are a blessed woman, and your children are blessed to have such a person as you to call Mom.

Susanne said...

What a beautiful touching post. It just grabbed me by the heart because your life and mine are sort of on the same timeline.

Joanna said...

Okay, you had me laughing, then sniffing, then the ugly crying.

Kim said...

Precious letter, Lid! Couldn't say it nearly as well but sums up exactly what I'd say too. Except maybe the driving part. I rejoiced when mine started driving, although the son gave us more than a few hairy moments those first few years. But the daughter? Best driver in the family and the one I most like going places with in the car. It was just such a relief when they could take themselves a few of the MANY MANY places they went...piano lessons, play practice, youth group, etc. I was suddenly no longer tied to a vehicle. Yay!

Wendi @ Every Day Miracles said...

Darn those tears - they sting.

Great, great post Linda. Excuse me while I go get a tissue. And then wake my boys up so I can read to them and smell their hair.

Dena said...

I saw a lot of similarities in our letters, well, except for the white hose. Not because I didn't go there, but because I didn't have anyone take pictures of me.

"This is not the end; it's a new chapter." Truer words can't be spoken, and I'm still telling myself that daily. You are so right when you say that it's a huge transition no one prepares you for.

Oh and if helps you feel any better, the cost for our two in college is almost $45,000. Pass your smelling salts over when you're done with them please.

Mel said...

Amazing letter to your younger self!!! This is like the best carnival ever.

I am gleaning serious insight into being a mom.

Anonymous said...

Your "letter" brought back memories...joyful, sweet remembrances of raising my own three.

But I promise after they all leave the nest can be just as exciting, just as thrilling, just as sweet.

I think that I have grown to appreciate the gift my kids are even more as they have grown into adults.

Believe it or can be even better!

Cindy Swanson said...

Wow, Linda...I can't participate in this after reading your post! YOU said it all...beautifully and perfectly, and with your inimitable sense of humor. This should be required reading for every young mom!

Debbie said...

You were right. This is one of your best ones ever. Great job. And wise words to all of us.

2nd Cup of Coffee said...

Dean, that's 30,000 EACH.

Rach@In His Hands said...

Thanks for writing this...since I don't have children yet, I feel that in a way, it's a letter (indirectly) written to me!
Your perspective is so refreshing and funny and thought provoking.
Those pics are a hoot....and lady, you can rock a pair of white tights!

Dawn said...

Oh, wow. I should have read your blog later in the day. You caught me off guard with it - very good advice, though. I've got teens and I'm almost at your stage. I can see the light! On the other hand, I'm not quite ready to be there, too.


Sandy at God Speaks Today said...

Sigh...I'm reading this with a two year old climbing on and off my lap. I'm trying to believe you that I'll miss this...but, I'm not feeling the love right now. ha ha.

No, seriously, this was awesome. I love these letters and God is saying so much to me today.

Blessings to you, friend.

Greg C said...

That was cute Linda.

Note to younger self: Later in life you will become addicted to something called Blogging. Don't try to understand it, just go with it. You will meet a blogger named Linda who is totally insane but don't let that deter you from blogging. She is quite harmless. Crazy but harmless.

RissaRoo said...

Linda, that was beautiful! I want to print it out, stick it on my fridge and read it daily, to remind me. Everything except for the college expense part, which caused me to choke on my 2ed cup of coffee (Ok, it was my first this morning). YIPES!

Lois Lane II said...

Awww...super cute and inspiring. =) You make me smile.

Melanie @ This Ain't New York said...

Great post,Lid!!

Heth said...

You are killing me over here.

Pam from alertandorientedx4 said... made me cry.
p.s. Are you good at filling out the FAFSA? I'm there next year...

lisasmith said...

So I thought you were hilarious when you wrote about the new mineral make-up that!!

Now I think you are not only hilarious but oh, so wise. I love your perspective and I need to have a 2nd cup more often!!

Laurie Ann said...

Precious, Linda! I loved your letter. What great advice and what a stroll down memory lane you must have had! Great post!

Debbie @Like a Rose said...

Really great letter. Love the photos and your unique Linda humor. Mine is not at all funny but I liked doing this exercise in thinking back. Mine will be up shortly.

Beth@Not a Bow in Sight said...

I am in tears. That was really beautiful...and inspiring.


Beverlydru said...

Bravo, bravo! This is one of my favorite posts. Shared from the depths of your soul, I can tell.
You make me laugh, you make me cry and I will keep coming back for more.

Anonymous said...

Linda, this is amazing. You are seriously one of the best writers I've ever read (and yes, I do read a lot so consider that a huge compliment).

And your mentioning of the memento from labor and delivery? I almost had my own "memento" from laughing so hard at that. :)

Julie said...

Oh, I could relate to so much of what you wrote.....

Been through several of those things.... and I would echo all the advice you gave that sweet, young thing!

Enjoyed reading your life....


Merrie said...

WOW Lid, you outdid yourself on this one. It brought tears through every stage. Yes, I do remember those times ... are you sure you were not describing my life?
So much wisdom in you and I"m going to make sure my daughter reads this.
I also love the fact that I can now keep my grandchildren and read to them and rock and hold and smell ... I'm also looking forward to no more diapers. But that will be quite awhile since they just keep having more babies. (that really is a good thing and something I've prayed for.)
Thanks for the memories....

Chatty Kelly said...

LOVED it! Made me sad & happy. Mine are still so little, relatively speaking. No dating, no driving, allowed...EVER. ;-)

Edwina at The Picket Fence said...

That was absolutely, hands down the best post I have read in a long time. I might need to write one to myself, really shows us how far we have come on this life journey.

fransmomma said...

this is precious and soooo what i need to hear right now. i've felt like pulling my hair out for the past couple of days thanks to my 4 year old. this blessed me. and the picture of you in white tights was icing on the cake that is my day. really. you have no idea how happy that made me. hee hee.

Colored With Memories said...

i loved it all...but this especially made me laugh!!

"Try to remember that when they walk into a room, stop, look at you and say, "What are you looking at?" in an accusatory tone, they cannot help themselves. It's like when they were cutting teeth and they would bite you for no reason."

thanks for sharing with the "younger mommies"!

kerry (mommy of 2 girls-4 and 18 months)

Lindsey @ A New Life said...

This is so neat to read, especially the perspective for when my kids get older. I try to remind myself that they will only be young once and I need to cherish them before they are gone!!

Have a blessed day, and thank you for the encouragement on my own post!

marina said...

I can relate too so much of these.
espically how they leave home they do take your heart,
these was really good, I might do one, marina

momstheword said...

I absolutely loved this until you reminded me about the white hose. I have tried to forget that, even though I thought I looked awesome at the time!

momstheword said...

I absolutely loved this until you reminded me about the white hose. I have tried to forget that, even though I thought I looked awesome at the time!

Stonefox (otherwise known as Heidi) said...

One word, Lid: AWESOME.

carol ~ i throw like a girl said...

Great job, Linda, both on the letter and as a MOM!!

His Girl said...

absolutely one of my favorite of your posts ever. top 10 at least. beautiful. just beautiful.

Robin @ Be Still and Know said...

Well said my friend! Just beautiful!

and so very true, especially the part about how difficult the transition is when one of your children leaves home, hands down one of the most difficult things I have ever done, still is, knowing that he is out there...not safe and sound(my perception) under my care and in my home.

you go girl!


Connie said...

You are right on! Savor the days because before you know it they are all grown and out on their own. Then you get to have a great time with your grown children which we are loving today. And don't forget the grandchildren! I agree with the girl friends night outs and a date night here and there to keep you sane during the SAHM days of your life. Connie

skoots1mom said...

Wise, wise words...not recognized by children until they have their first child...
very well done
...from the "almost 50" mother of a 16yo who so relates to everything you said

Carmen Gamble said...

Really enjoyable post, and so true! Especially the SAHM stuff. Speaking from experience, it was definitely worth the many benefits! Although I must admit, my boys still have "bodily function" contests(ages 19-49)...and my hubby usually wins...Sigh. Even worse, I'm sure they think it's one of the benefits. Way to spread a little wisdom! Loved the photos too!

Darnelle said...

Oh Lid, you went and did it!

I am slap in the midst of learnin' about the first one leaving the nest. I would write a similar letter to my 20 year old self, but it would probably be a carbon copy of yours. You nailed it friend. I am doing my best to be a lot wiser in my older years than I was in my younger, mothering years. As young people, I think we just aren't aware of just how fleeting time really is and just how fast those babies grow up.

"Youth is wasted on the young!" (Who said that? :)

Would it be OK if I just send my twenty year old self over here to read yours? Thank you. Srsly.

Claudie said...

"clap" " applause" "standing ovation" Linda.
I couldn't have said it better myself.
OK the white hose were really cool then and you are so allowed to show that picture.
Love your blog and I was happy to catch up on my grammar and punctuation's.
Love Claudie

Heather of the EO said...

That. was amazing.

Sarah@Life in the Parsonage said...

Dang this is good. GOOD!

Missy @ It's Almost Naptime said...

If I read this 200 times, would I cry every time??

thank you Linda.

Chel's Leaving a Legacy said...

I'm sorry I've been away...I'm just now catching up, and I had to start with my favorite blogger buddy...I just love you. Do we know each other well enough now that I can say that? Cuz I do. What a beautiful post, a beautiful family, and a beautiful heart you have. Thank you for starting this "blogging thing" and sharing yourself with us (me). :-)

Smelling Coffee said...

What a great letter! Thanks for the reminder to savor every moment!