These days, the Pink Door House is brimming with All The Questions...
Mommy, what do porcupines eat?
How many stomachs do cows have?
Then why do people only have one stomach?
Why do people sleep in pajamas instead of their clothes?
Do leopards jump?
Do tigers swim?
What do milk and juice taste like if you mix them together?
Mommy, why do you wear makeup?
Oh boy. No amount of PBS Kids' programming is going to answer that last one.
Tonight, on the eve of Kindergarten, I showered each of the girls. One at a time, I wrapped them in a towel and cradled them on my lap, the same way I have for the last five and a half years. London pressed her cheek against my shirt and squeezed hot tears out of her eyes, her voice trembling as she talked to me about starting kindergarten in the morning.
The thing is, if I'm going to be at a new school for the whole long day, I just want you with me, Mama.
Oh, my heart.
I summoned my best poker face and told her how great it's going to be. Tonight is not the time to admit that I am afraid of how much I'll miss the sound of their laughter all day. That I'll feel lost at noon, making only Eli's peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Tonight is baking their favorite cookies for lunch boxes and making time for two extra bedtime stories. Tonight is laying out new dresses and sneakers and singing three lullabies.
Since I can't be with them "the whole long day" tomorrow, I wish I could pack the perfect tool box for my daughters to carry to kindergarten.
To summer camps and middle school...dating and university...first jobs and mommy groups....
These are the things that I hope I am sending my daughters into the world with:
Know that you are more than the sum of your parts. There will be times you wonder if your nose is too big or your eyes are too small. Times you wish for hair that's straighter or curlier or darker or lighter or longer. Everyone learns too late to dance even if something jiggles. Anyone who is going to love you simply will. Not because of the width of your hips or the brand of your shoes. Because of who you are inside.
Try The Thing. Whatever it is that captures your imagination, go all in. The first time I tried yoga, I was in my mid twenties. I wore a size ten. I was on top of my career. Yet, I felt so self-conscious about myself I couldn't even enjoy the yoga class. Ten years later, I'm post mastectomy. I wear a size 18 and a compression sleeve. And I sweat like the devil himself. But I love yoga. I've realized everyone else is either fully into their own practice, or equally worried about how goofy they look. So bang the drum, strap on the shoes, pick up the ball, step onto the beach. Do The Thing. Everyone else is too busy worrying about themselves to notice if you trip over your own feet.
Let your light shine. You are clever and smart and funny and compassionate. You don't fit a mold. Because...spoiler alert...there is no mold. Your Mommy was so very shy when she was young. Then I got big fancy jobs and wore my professionalism like a uniform. When I met your Daddy, he told me his celebrity crush was Tina Fey. Tina Fey? Because she's more than just pretty, but funny and smart, too. I realized it was ok to let my own light shine. My own smart, sometimes wry, sometimes punny, sometimes wacky, always silly-dancing light.
I know as my daughters get older, it will become more impossible to wipe away their fears with a lullaby. There's no magic wand--or tool box--to ensure I'm sending them out the door fully stocked with self-confidence.
In our house we try to focus on building them up for making good choices, creating great artwork, telling a funny joke or singing a lovely song, instead of their looks. A year ago I stopped picking out London and Quinn's outfits every day. Mixed prints? Knee high socks with shorts? Superhero capes? Let people stare. My kids are learning to express themselves.
One of the hardest things is the commitment I made several years ago to stop putting my own body down. At the time, I was discouraged by extra weight and stretch marks. Little did I know...! But despite the scars and swelling and radiation damage I now carry with me, I remain committed. How can I expect them to accept their own bodies if Mommy hates looking fat in a swimsuit?
I'm truthful with all my children that I choose healthy fruits and vegetables and try to limit sweets to fuel my body. That I take time for things like yoga class to stay strong and have plenty of energy to play. They are too young for talk about obesity and the risk of reoccurrence. But I hope someday they know I tried my hardest because I wanted more years with them, not because I wanted to fit into my skinny jeans.
So why do I wear make-up? It was London who asked me this. I tripped over my answer.
Do I tell her it's because acne made me want to spend my teen years in a cave...and then like a sucker punch, chemo made me go through that again?
(In early 2015, following a chemotherapy treatment)
I could say it's because I don't have that coveted, even skin tone. Or because I feel more confident with "my face on." Or because it's fun. Because shopping for make-up, in it's tiny, pretty packages is a bit like being in a candy store.
Truthfully, none of these answers sounded good enough for my sweet daughter. I don't want her wondering whether she can feel confident without a dusting of powder on her nose.
Does that mean I'm ready to stay forever bare faced a la Alicia Keys? I'm not sure.
For today, I'll wear my mascara and stick with the lame half-answers about make-up.
Fill their pink lunch boxes with fresh baked cookies.
And Google what porcupines eat.