One day you don’t get to pick the hair bows or the hair styles anymore. Not the coordinated outfits or the wardrobe.
Before you blink, the choice becomes theirs.
Eventually you’re folding laundry and the loads get heavier and the little clothes get less little. Just like that mental load gets heavier.
And like those long snuggles becomes short ones, and eventually – as they often do – become history.
Then everyone grows and leaves home. And soon enough, you’re rediscovering new, lighter loads of laundry.
You probably won’t even recognize your daughter through her ever-evolving hair colors and her not-trendy-to-you style.
Even when we know it’s coming, we don’t know for sure when the last time will be.
The last time you see their natural hair. The last time you’ll coordinate the perfect oufit or event. The last time they ask your permission. Or, that last load of laundry.
But one of those times, it will be.
One day, it gets less about you and what you can do for them. It will become more about them and what they can do without you. About who they can be on their own.
You’ll watch them fail and try again. You’ll watch them grow into the complex people they are becoming. You’ll see really bad outfit choices, trends and more that the kid probably won’t ever come back from.
But it won’t be your choice.
As mothers we lead them to their choices so that we can let them make it, even when we don’t want to.
All we can do is hope that through all the choices they’re bound to make – they always choose you.
So, take a lot of pictures, these outfit choices should be booked. Don’t sweat the bows, let them be who they’re going to be.
Don’t lose it in the laundry, it won’t be like this for long. Because even when you think you know it’s coming, you never really know when that last time will be.
I see you working twice as hard to keep your child’s busy mind occupied and challenged. Your partner works full time, so you take the weight of it all, not having nearby family or another child to help with the teaching or playing.
I see you take long strolls down the aisle at Target to help pass the hours. Often, you find long ways there and leave early just to get out of the house. You would do anything to move the time along until you don’t have to do it alone anymore.
I see you, still new to this game. Some of the challenge is just the practical new mom difficulty like being inexperienced and young. It’s the internal chaos that you’re doing this with unsplit time. Some of the heartache is that you can’t or won’t have the chance to raise a baby a second time, so you’ll never really be experienced in any age of raising a child.
So, you feel immense pressure to do it perfectly this time.
I see your child struggle to reach a compromise or diffuse a situation. Their only regular practice is with you. Just you and baby every day, all day. You count their frustrations when they don’t know how to share their toys, their feelings, or, God forbid, their mama. The number is infinite.
I share your fear that our children won’t be prepared for the realness of emotions and the challenges of a social setting; they haven’t had much firsthand practice. For a lot of us, our first crash course in social dynamics comes from growing up with siblings. It also seems that some of our strongest and most reliable techniques as parents come from refereeing those experiences.
I see you when you’re leaving the park with your screaming toddler, who doesn’t want to go because there is “no one to play with at home.” You walk to the car anyway with a stiff-legged doppelganger in tow and dodge judging gazes of moms who can afford a minute to stare while their children play together.
You scroll through photos of your friends’ children running together in the backyard. They don’t even have to leave the house to play. I know you wish your child could laugh happily with a built-in best friend, too. You work double time, so you can give them that on top of being their mom.
I see your puzzled looks when your kid asks you about siblings, wondering, “Why don’t I have one, Mommy?” I watch you grow a little smaller, maybe wishing they could have that, too, whether in another season, or for some of you, maybe a different lifetime.
A three-hour round trip to your kid’s closest cousin’s birthday party gives you a lot of time to think about the people your kids are growing up without.
You shrink when people say, “They’re ready for a sibling” or “Just wait until there’s two of them! That’s when it gets hard.” They may not even consider what your timeline entails or what stands in your way. I get just a little smaller too, sister.
I see you slink down when hard working moms of multiple children receive your feelings as insignificant. You have “just” one child, and you “just” can’t hang. So, you begin to feel that way: like you’re not significant. It can feel like the magnitude of your child’s life and the magnitude of yours is lessened because there is “just” one.
But, how you feel matters. You are not less. Almost every mom started with just one.
Some day, your child may not be your only, but this season they are. In this season, there is less laundry and fewer dirty dishes. There is much more time to cut the grapes in half and more one-on-one cuddles.
More quality time together will be had, discovering the nuances of this perfect person you created. In this version of your story, your child gets 100% of you, 100% of the time. And you get all of them, too. As moms, we get to learn more about ourselves throughout motherhood, and the resilience that we come with. In this chapter, there is more physical time and space.
Sure, we have to leave the house a lot more than if our children had built-in-buddies, but we get to go on adventures, enjoy live music, and have on-going momentum to leave or get outside…even when it’s easier to stay.
We can pull up to an event, and it only takes just one second to get out of the car and into the excitement. There’s just one car seat and that takes just one moment. There is nobody else to wait for, and we don’t have to slow down.
You don’t spend as much money on yummy treats or spend twice as much at Christmas time. There’s more routine, and with that, more consistent family traditions and scheduling. You only have to keep your eyes on one human in the chaos of life, and you can bet, it’s all eyes on them. All the time.
When you’re caught in defense of raising “just” one child, just know that they won’t be a child for long. As you teach them and grow with them through these first short years, you’ll learn that these first short years are “just” a season.
To the lonely mother of an only child, I’m in your corner. I know it’s just as hard for you as it is, and was, for every mom. Some day, this unsplit time becomes divided with independence, other children, and life’s experiences, and as parents, we’ll wish we could get it back. It won’t be like this for long.
I can hear you, and I promise, I can definitely see you.
Thoughts are only a small part of this experience. But lets face it, they’re the most in our face and so sometimes they feel most personal and precedent. Mine even speak in my voice.
“I am bad.”
“I am weak.”
And they’re our thoughts, our most vulnerable truths only known to us, and so we trust that their vision is somehow adequate.
“You’re not good enough”.
“You don’t deserve this.”
But we can’t even trust ourselves to bypass a cookie when we start a new diet.
Let me tell you this: We are not just simply *what* we think about who we are. You’re not fat just because you ate a cookie.
Why is it easier to indulge in self defeat than it is to bask in our success or glory?
You can feel bad without being bad. You can feel angry without being angry, feel sad without being sad. And the truth of it all is really this- it doesn’t have to get ugly, if you don’t want it to get ugly.
You have the power to change your version of your truth, to put your mind to work.
Be molded by the experiences we inherit and prevail from, not merely defined by them.
The truth is life is all about becoming.
Even if you don’t understand what it is *exactly* that you’re becoming.
It’s going up against your most inner thoughts alone and fighting that good fight.
And the funny thing is that most of us will never even arrive to our becoming in full tact because most of us will listen to those inner thoughts. A lot of us will quit.
But not me. I put those thoughts to bed. I’m one of those people embracing my becoming.
“You can do this”.
“You are strong.”
Im quieting the thoughts that talk down to me, not becoming the thoughts that I think.
“You are good”.
“You are valued”.
You are not all of the thoughts you think about yourself.
You can do this.
You are more than this moment. More than the next. You only become what you make the choice to manifest. Think kind thoughts to yourself, after all, you’re the only one who can hear them.
If there’s one thing I have learned about motherhood, it’s that it always surprises me.
Sometimes the surprise surfaces in tears when my daughter doesn’t want milk in her fruit loops, or when I make her say goodbye to her super relevant best friend at the PlayPlace whom she met just five minutes prior.
Other times it’s my tears when I’m stumped, wondering how I’m even qualified for this caliber of a job, even though I grew a human inside of me and brought her here.
Or when it’s quarter after four in the afternoon and nap time is a tale told long ago, I’m always shocked that I can make it that next 30 minutes until her dad is through the door without literally blowing the roof off the joint.
I’ve heard that kids say crazy things, but at times it’s more surprising the things that come out of my mouth.
Too often I’ve had to convince my kid the whole world shuts down promptly at 8 pm just so she agrees to get in bed, and I can regain enough energy to do it again tomorrow.
Many preached, “It goes so fast, take it in!” and somehow my jaw still drops that these first years are flying right by.
We all look forward to and adapt to the endless surprises of motherhood no matter what form they arrive in.
No matter how exhausted, lonely, or downright surprising it can feel, a mother somehow always finds the grace and the patience needed to raise her children.
Kimmy McMahon Walter surely was no saint, but if you were lucky to be loved by her, it oftentimes felt like you were loved by one. Her sass matched her experience and she always let you know what she was thinking. She was blunt and honest no matter what you threw her way. And throughout her short life, quite a bit was thrown her way.
As time went on Kimmy morphed into someone who was humbled – not hardened – by life’s untraditional challenges. She was positively changed by time. In the end of her life she became closer to people she loved. She reached out more. She asked for help. She recognized the totality of life.
She became comprehensively “Real”.
I couldn’t say it better than the classical story of the Velveteen Rabit by Margery Williams and I can’t think of a more perfect person to represent its profound story than Kimmy McMahon Walter:
“Real isn’t how you are made” said the Skin Horse to the rabbit.
“It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it Hurt?” asked the rabit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse.
“When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once,” he asked…. or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse.
“You become.” He said.
“That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
Kim was very Real. Because she was very well loved and not easily kept. Her absence will make us all become a little more Real, too.
We as people who love her can never be hopeless in loss, because we can not be irreparably broken. We become what we are becoming. We only become more Real by loving and living. Just like Kimmy.
Today we say see you later to the wild spirit who lives on inside the hearts of her children and the people who love her. Today with these life lessons and throughout the ebbs and flows of this grief- we will all become just a little more Real.
People with curly hair live by different standards. Having curly hair comes with more than just super consistent upkeep and products; it comes with a certain shame. It comes with prep, planning, and praying the weather doesn’t go rogue. It comes with feeling like you’re not beautiful because you were born with hair that cannot adhere to social norms and trends.
Many of us were not taught how to use or how to love our curly hair, but rather to hide it. We straighten it, we tame it, we try to do everything we can aside from embracing it. Now that I am a mother, I think differently about the concept of “beauty” and how I want my daughter and future women of the world to respond to what that even means. I want girls (and women) to know it’s okay to embrace their curls.
Getting Back to “My Roots”
My daughter is not a curly girl, so it never crossed my mind to make extra effort when embracing mine. One day, at a playdate, I met a perky little girl whose hair spiraled perfectly. Her mom, a brunette wavy haired woman, proudly mentioned that she was helping her child learn how to train her curls and how to love them. Research lent her methods, patience lent her success.
I remember trying to think back to a time when I embraced my curls. There was a *very* hot moment in college, but that was it. The thoughts continued: What if I had a curly girl or boy? What if my daughter has a curly friend? What if ever there was a curly girl who never ever saw a curly mom, because curly moms were too unwilling to literally let their hair down? And worst of all…what if my willingness to throw it in a messy bun all those times, created an inevitable unwillingness for a curly girl to embrace who she is?
Goodbye Tamed Shame!
When sending curly girls and boys out into the world it’s imperative we do so with support and resources. On my quest to return to my roots, to be an example and begin to love my curls, I learned many tips, tricks, and methods. With these three tips, we can try to work together to encourage girls (and women) to be confident and fully cultivate their curls.
1. Encourage experimentation and be a role model. Give them tools to experiment. Bad hair days happen to everyone, not just curly girls. Don’t give up on embracing the curly life. Trial and error is a part of figuring out what works best for your curls. Be an example. Little eyes are always watching. Go on mama, let your hair down!
2. Eventually, embrace a method. While there are many out there, I’m going to give it to you straight – so many of us are personally LOVING the Curly Girl Method. It has a few basic rules, tools and groups, which bring together a wealth of knowledge from the web to flawlessly train our curls.
3. Let children decide their own idea of beauty. The concept of loving what you look like is hard for most adults. It’s not any different for children. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. Help them redefine their own idea of beauty by helping them understand that beauty is not what we look like, but rather who we are inside. With that, they can always be confident about who they are.
It’s important for children to start developing their personal autonomy at a young age. It helps build confidence and allows them to think and act for themselves. It’s our job as parents to help locate the tools for our children to do that! For some of our children, it starts right at the top of their head – with the very curl of their hair – take it from a curly girl.
Learning to care for your curly kids hair is a part of putting essential tools in their “toolbox”. Caring for your children’s hair and caring for your own is important, but teaching them to take care of it is equally important.