11 years ago I found myself live-blogging my labor and delivery which is such a funny thing to me, for some reason. Of course, all hell broke loose and I ended up with a child with her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck and an emergency c-section where I spent the whole time sobbing in fear. I also learned about my endometriosis, fibroids, and unusually large uterus that day. This was after a pregnancy so wrought with turmoil that I rented a doppler so I could listen to my baby’s heartbeat whenever I wanted to reassure me that she was fine. So the birth went as the pregnancy went, I guess.
She’s a cool kid. There’s much more to it than that, of course, but I just can’t seem to condense it in any way that doens’t make me sound like I’m bragging. She’s cool. She’s changed my life. I love being her Mom.
And of course, since it’s the 11th birthday, her owl is coming to visit.
And it wasn’t just calendars or planners. I was addicted to journals too because I liked to write things and there was never enough room in the calendars/planners. I remember my dad really losing his temper with me once over my compulsion with journals.
“YOU BOUGHT ANOTHER BLANK NOTEBOOK? BUT YOU HAVE THIRTY WITH JUST THE FIRST FEW PAGES USED IN EACH OF THEM!”
“…What’s your point, Dad? I’m not understanding the problem.”
Well…it looks like my daughter inherited the Planner/Journal Addict gene.
But watching her exhibit the same tendencies has been enlightening because it turns out the constant need for journal/calendars is simply a manifestation of an INATE URGE TO PLAN. It’s not just a compulsion to buy the planners/journals. No! The purchases are the side effect of the compulsive desire to plan because I’m seeing it come out in my daughter and IT IS AMAZING.
She has to know all of the details of upcoming arrangements. SO SHE CAN PLAN ACCORDINGLY.
There is nothing that thrills her more than to have thought of something someone else did NOT think of and be able to ride in on her horse and save the day. When we went to Tennessee for a race I realized I forgot tall socks but SHE HAD BROUGHT EXTRAS. Of course she had.
Is it a week-long engineering camp? What are the rules about pencils because that one camp didn’t provide pencils and she was SO GLAD to have some of her own in her bag.
Will there be outside time? She needs to pack sunscreen if there will be, she does NOT want to get sunburned.
She also wants to be ready in case YOU forget something. Did you bring enough snacks? She brought plenty if you didn’t.
And the lists she makes!
We’re going to Colorado in 10 days and she’s been quizzing me constantly on various plans so she can update her list of Things To Pack.
On that list? 12 shirts. TWELVE. For a week-long trip.
“Nikki. There’s a washer and dryer. I plan on doing laundry while we’re gone because you’re the only one who has enough close to last the whole trip.”
“What if the washer breaks?”
Good point, kid.
She also has a page in a journal drawn out mapping out her and her brother’s plans for the summers. I have the EXACT PAGE in my bullet journal, but she thinks I might need backup.
I mean, my Dad was a planner and list-maker and I became one too so I don’t know why this is so surprised but OH MY GOD, SHE IS ONE OF US. WE MUST WELCOME HER INTO THE FOLD AND PROHIBIT HER FROM EVER ENTERING STAPLES WITH A CREDIT CARD.
Now. She still can’t remember to hang her wet towel up after a shower. And she “forgets” to brush her teeth daily. BUT MY GOD, she will remind me 14 times between now and our trip that I need to bring my reusable grocery bags with me since Colorado charges .10/bag if you have to use plastic at the store.
Nikki had been wanting a drastic haircut since before October, I know that because she knew she had to wait until AFTER the wedding she was in (which was in October) where her hair needed to be long enough to do an Up-Do. (I did her up-do, which I’m super proud of.) Once she started think of something short/fun/drastic she settled in on the Hannah Hart which you can see clearly in the video below where she shows several different ways she can style her hair.
As you can see? That is SUPER-drastic. We talked about it for awhile and Donnie and I both agree that a hair cut like that needed time. It was not an overnight decision, so we opted for just a short hair cut as soon as the wedding was over. This was not immediately following the haircut, but it was a short time after. Short, but not drastic.
It turned out this was a really good idea because we had forgotten about Pioneer Day in March when we cut her hair in October! The Hannah Hart would have been a tough one to pull off in this outfit. (Made by Donnie’s Mom!)
Saturday it was time for Wesley to get a haircut and Nikki chimed in, “Can I get the Hannah Hart now?” Now, you know I have no problem with anything funky our outrageous, I just didn’t want her to regret it. So we talked again about how it would be growing it out and we settled on going the HALF-Harto, only shaving one half of her head. She talked to Donnie about it too, we did not let her go into this decision lightly. And then? She did it.
I want to document this haircut as much as possible because I have very little documentation of my undercut and I hate that I can’t show it off to the kids.
Everyone needs at least one No Regrets haircut to look back on, one that you have to talk yourself out of regretting because you KNOW there’s going to be a part of you (whether it’s when it’s growing out, or the next day) that might regret it. You have to talk that part of yourself out of regretting it so the rest of you can live it up with one funky haircut. I love thinking back to mine and I know she’ll love thinking back to hers.
I guess I should issue a spoiler alert for this entry about the book Bridge to Terabithia? I feel like – especially since they made the movie and the book is now on every school’s reading list – everyone probably knows what happens. BUT IF YOU DO NOT…and you don’t want to know…don’t read this entry.
Nikki is loving "Bridge to Terabithia" & I AM WORRIED FOR HER HEART. I was so upset by that book I got angry at the kid who recommended it.
I tweeted the above tweet a few days ago. I have no idea why Nikki starting reading Bridge to Terabithia but I was remember reading it – AS A GROWNUP – and bawling my eyes out when one of E’s friends recommended it to me way back in 2003ish. I was reading it in my car (it was probably cold because I was still a smoker then and didn’t smoke inside) and just sobbing my eyes out. I WAS TERRIFIED FOR NIKKI. As far as I knew, she had never cried over a book before. She got a little choked up during book 4 of Harry Potter (she’s not further than that) and maybe a few tears fell, but Terabithia was a whole other beast.
If you follow me on Twitter you know she finished it last night. She had already started suspecting someone might die because Donnie and I – evidently – both asked her “When do you think you’ll finish it?” separately and she got suspicious that something bad might happen. I was at the table with her when she was near the end and she said, “Wait. Oh, no…I was right. Someone did die.” She sounded a little doubtful though…sad, but doubtful. Then she said to herself a little later, “Oh…okay. It was a dream…” But still…a tone of doubt and also a tone of questioning.
AND THEN…OH MY GOD IT WAS TERRIBLE…She just started sobbing and said, “It’s not a dream…she’s really dead…” and as she’s reading she’s just crying her eyes out and I’m crying and I go over and hug her as she’s reading AND IT WAS TERRIBLE AND WE SHOULD ALL BAN ALL THE BOOKS.
After she finished it she said she liked it, and she spoke a little fondly of it to Donnie when he got home, but you could tell there was also a part of her that really wished she hadn’t read it. It hurt too much.
You never forget your first biblio-heartbreak. Mine was the first book in the Dawn Rochelle series: 6 Months To Live. I had a weird thing for awhile for kids-might-die books. I rotated between Kids With Diseases and Kid’s Surviving Plain Crashes. I tried to find my FAVORITE Kid Surviving Plane Crash book but no matter how many variations I Googled to find it I couldn’t because I couldn’t remember the exact title (Something about woods? I know the cover. Girl in the woods, shadow watching her.), but I did find my SECOND favorite. Mayday! Mayday!
Anyway…let’s hope this doesn’t start the weird trend for her that it did for me!
“Is Santa real? Like…does he really exist?” She’s looking off into the corner of her room. We’re lying in bed together discussing our day like we always do before bed. This is when our truth-telling always happens. This is when she asks me the hard questions about death and evil and pain. For a moment I consider point-blank lying to her, but there are already tears in her eyes. There’s a part of her that knows and is already heartbroken over it. She’s coming to me now…like she does many nights in this bed, wanting the hard answers to the questions that haunt her days. I can’t lie to her. Not here. Not in our truth-telling place.
I didn’t really grow up with that magical belief in Santa Claus that my husband had. I figured out early on that I never really got what I asked for at Christmas and all of my friends did. My Dad just didn’t really get into that part of the Christmas…the making it seem magic part. I don’t know if I every really believed in Santa. I always pretended, but I never truly believed.
I got pregnant with E at 18, so obviously I had no ability to make Christmas magical for him. He kinda grew up the same way I did. We pretended, but I didn’t go out of my way trying to make it seem real. When you’re buying Christmas at the Dollar Tree, you don’t really want your kid hoping for presents from ToysRUs. I didn’t want him being disappointed on Christmas so I never really made Santa out to be anything but an imaginary being we use to make Christmas seem fantastical.
I also don’t believe in God and I wasn’t raising E in religion so it always felt weird to be all, “God is not real. But the guy at the North Pole who brings gifts on Christmas? HE TOTALLY IS.”
But then I married Donnie. And he grew up with the magic in epic proportions. He would challenge Santa to make sure he was real and his parents would jump through all of the hoops every year to keep the magic alive, and he wanted to do the same for the kids we had together. It bothered him that I didn’t do that with E and he really wanted me to honor his request for Nikki.
It was a tough thing to reconcile on many levels. I didn’t like lying. It felt weird. But I did it more as “playing make believe” than lying and with every year that ticked by, I got more and more into it. And then it was suddenly like I was discovering the magic of Christmas as a 30+ year-old woman…through my kids.
But I still was careful about my lies, especially in the last few years when the questions would get more pointed. I always told them, “I believe in Santa in my heart. Sometimes my brain doesn’t, but there are years there are presents under the tree that I didn’t buy and I like to believe those are from Santa.”
Nikki has asked more directly a few times recently, but always in front of her brother so I feel the need to kinda do that same dance around the questions. Recently this is how I answered it:
“Do you remember how at Harry Potter World I was getting so into doing all of the spells in the mornings when we got there early? I know there were sensors there. I know in my brain that it was all about electronics and mechanics and science. But in my heart? I believe in the magic. That’s kinda how Santa is. He’s something we have to believe in with our hearts.”
And again, like the times before, it sufficed. I was starting to wonder if she truly believed.
And then last night, she asked me alone. In the spot she asks me all of the hard questions she has at the end of the day living the life of an anxious, empathetic, emotional 9-year old girl. This is the same place she tells me when she’s been bullied, or she asks me what happens when we die. This is the same time she quizzes me about my first marriage and about divorce. This is where she comes to me with questions and fears about mortality and heartbreak. This is the place she knows she gets the truth from me. I couldn’t lie to her there.
I started down the same path I usually take, but as I start talking she turns to actually look at me. Look me in the eyes to see my answer. Her eyes were already moist with tears. Tears of hope that I give her the answer she wants, but also tears of anguish because she already knows I won’t.
“In my heart, I believe Santa is real.”
“But does he give us all of the presents?”
“Sometimes there are presents under the tree that I didn’t buy you.”
“But do you know who did?”
And here is when my tears are forming because I know where this is going. I know that in this moment, the magic is over for her. She’s begging me for the truth and I can dance around it, but I can’t just lie to her about it.
“I’m pretty sure Daddy does it to make me feel some of the magic of Christmas that you guys feel.”
And then we both started crying together. In each other’s arms.
We spent a long time talking and crying last night. She kept thinking about things like the Tooth Fairy, and Elf on the Shelf, and every time she did she’d cry more. I told her about growing up without the magic and how amazing it has been being part of that magic for her. I pointed out that she gets to be part of that magic now. I told her about how her big brother loves doing that, helping hide Fifi the Elf, or helping wrap presents.
One of the amazing moments was when it occurred to her that she and Wesley are grateful to Santa every year for something that I do.
“But you never got the credit for those awesome gifts?!”
She cried a lot. Big, fat tears of heartbreak. I apologized to her a million times and told her I was so sorry if it felt like I had lied. She wasn’t mad at me, she understood. She felt really dumb because I guess there are a lot of kids her age that don’t believe and she’s always been one to fight for Santa.
We also laughed some together as I filled her in on some of the challenges, like the times I’ve forgotten to leave her money for teeth and have had to leave notes from the Tooth Fairy explaining fears of dogs. She asked me who ate Santa’s cookies and we laughed about that being one of the best parts of being a parent at Christmas. I told her all of the things she’ll get to do this year to help me. “Think about it for Wesley though, when he finds out there’s no one left to be part of the magic with. You at least get to be part of it for him, he won’t have that.” I’m not sure if there was any consolation in that for her, to be honest.
We had cried a lot and we were both very drained. I could tell she was about to fall asleep, it was so far past both of our bedtimes. She was curled up in my arms, her wet cheeks were resting on my chest while my own tear-dampened chin was resting on her head.
“I want you to know, the world is still full of magic. I truly, honestly believe that. I ran with the sunrise in Breckenridge a few weeks ago and it was so beautiful my heart hurt…I didn’t know a sunrise could be that amazing. You’ll get to see that next year! There are people in this world who do amazing things to help others around them, without payment or attention. They make people’s lives better without even being asked. They are basically Santa to people in need. There’s art and music that will make your heart soar or ache in ways you can’t explain. There’s adorable puppies who will make you feel warm inside. There’s food that is so delicious you’ll want to marry it.”
She giggled a little bit.
“I just want you to know that there are still things that are going to surprise you in this world. You’re going to read books that change your life or see movies that make you laugh so hard you want to puke. You’re going to fall in love for the first time and be overwhelmed with the feeling of never wanting to leave this person’s side. You might have kids some day and you’ll learn a whole lot about your capacity for love.”
“I’m never having kids.”
“And that’s fine too! You’ll find the magic in a million other places. Not Santa Claus magic or Harry Potter magic, but you’ll discover that unexpected things make you feel unexpected ways that you can’t explain. Immense joy and love and happiness. There are still amazing things to look forward to, I promise. I believe that more now as a 40-year old woman than ever. I’m surprised constantly by people and places and nature and science and I find all of that still magical. Please believe me there.”
“I do Mom, I really do. Thank you for telling me the truth. I love you.”
“I love you too, my sweet Angel.”
I remember calling my Dad to tell him about my first miscarriage and I was obviously fighting back tears over the phone and he said, “It’s hard as a parent knowing you can’t save your kids from the pain of life.”
I thought of that a lot last night. I was torn about the fact that – inherently – this pain is my fault. If I had never created the magic, she would have never had to lose it. I’m hoping that, in the end, she’ll think it was worth it. I’m hoping to show her the other side of the magic this year, the part that I’ve enjoyed since she was born. I’m hoping she’ll find joy in that.
But holy crap, y’all. I cried more than I ever considered I would cry during that moment. I think I kinda assumed she would just figure it out but continue to play along. I didn’t think it would come down to her essentially begging me to tell her the truth and me having to be the one that shattered the world for her. I never really saw it play out that way and oh my lord – it was awful. She asks me tough questions all the time in that quiet time we share together before bed most nights. She asks me about homosexuality and sex and drugs and death and God and murder and war and divorce and pain and never have I struggled as much as I did last night.
I’d rather answer 100 questions about sex or about how gay people have babies…I’d rather try to explain why people we love get cancer…I’d rather talk about how life just ends when you die, than have to EVER tell ANYONE the truth about Santa again.