Dear younger self . . .
Hi thirtysomething self! It’s me, fortysomething self.
There are some things you should know.
Be happy together
You know how sometimes you linger in the bathroom because it’s the only time you are alone? Get out there and overdose on that closeness. On the times when they say you’re the best mom in the world, or that they love you or that they want you to pick them up. Stick your nose in their chubby cheeks while you carry them up to bed. Read an extra story. Put that all in a kind of bank, something right around the corner from Sherlock’s Palace of the Mind. Go there when they tell you you’re another kind of mom, the one who took the wrong saxophone to be repaired or didn’t pack the right yogurt for lunch. Remember those chubby cheeks when they flinch away from the hand you tried to put reassuringly on their shoulder.
Middle School is coming
You get all gussied up to go see the teacher twice a year and talk about your kid’s academic performance. It’s lovely, and there’s always some sort of art project or something that your kid excels at that they’ll show you. They might mention a concern here or there, but it all sounds like your kid is in line for Harvard. They are not. In a few years, there will be grades. “Meets Expectations” does not equal an A or even a B. And those teachers? If things are going well, you probably won’t see or hear from them outside of Back to School night. Enjoy the teacher time and praise of the kids now. That feeling in the back of your mind that middle school looms like Winter in “Game of Thrones” is in many ways correct.
The Tooth Fairy is not
The tooth fairy will forget to come. And you’re going to be really creative about it and write her some letters and perfect some really excellent good morning hugs wherein your hand is actually slipping under the pillow. But what you really ought to do, as my friend Heather said, is put that tooth money (go ahead, take it right out of the piggy bank) and put it in a high yield savings account to purchase all of the replacement retainers you are going to need in 10 years.
You won’t always have to fake it
Abilities do mature! All that Oohing and Aahing over chicken scratch “self portraits” you thought were bowls of fruit sometimes turns into looking at an award winning piece at a real art show! It might actually be what it looks like! The kid who filled in the blanks of a paragraph about what they love about mom (“She feeds me”) might write a tear-jerker memior for a seventh grade project, or the guy who spent all of sports and games class “sitting this one out,” might score a game changing goal at the hockey game. The kids will truly distinguish themselves as their areas of strength mature!
Your expertise is about to expire
Right now, you’ve got it down. Lunches are packed without drama. You’ve found the correct pain point to press (no video games? a chore jar to earn a favorite toy?) to get what you want and they need even if they don’t know it. Hand-me-downs are seamlessly filtering through the kids. You think you know it all, and you know a lot. But get ready for something else when “teen” comes at the end of their ages. You think you know everything, but actually, you know nothing. It’s okay though, because this is a season of your life (even if it sometimes seems like that GOT Winter) and it will change. And you’re not the only one going through it, so lean on others in your life who have teens too!
And finally, go buy some bananas. You always need more bananas.