A butterfly magnet holds the summer to-do list to the fridge.
On the list my daughter has written in purple metallic ink: Go to Great Wolf Lodge, eat a Voodoo Donut, play with friends. I’ve added in black: clean the garage, visit the Pittock Mansion. My husband wants to go to Crater Lake. There are a half-dozen other things on the list and more items are added each day.
Sweet P wants to learn how to play Rockin’ Robin on the piano, I just want her to get through a practice without whining. I want to stroll the Japanese gardens. Mr. J wants to get the pond out back working again.
But there is so much more that I want for my daughter. So many things that will never go on the list, but stuff she’ll need to learn to thrive. Pieces she’ll need to know to create her own happiness and survive when her heart is breaking.
It’s a to-do list for life, maybe. Things we can all practice and learn just by showing up.
What I Want Her to Know
I want her to know courage and the exhilaration of overcoming.
I want Sweet P to do something that scares her a little. Climb a tree, play piano for an audience, try out for a play, water the tomatoes even with the bees hovering.
This is where she will learn courage, how to face down rejection. She will know the exhilaration of doing something she didn’t know she could do. There is strength in this. This will teach her that she is capable of anything.
I want her to know the satisfaction that comes from doing your best, even when the task is hard.
She’s not going to like this one, when I add chores to her list or recruit her to help me clean the garage. But, I want Sweet P to know what it is to work hard and then to be appreciated for a job well-done.
And I want her to cultivate the focus needed to stay in and get the work done even when there is no one there to notice or care. Because in that she’ll learn to motivate herself. There she’ll find self-respect.
I want her to know the satisfaction of working hard to do your best even when the task seems impossible and your best isn’t all that good. Even then I want her to keep going. To finish the job even when the Slip ‘N Slide is waiting.
I want her to know the pride that comes from contributing to make something cleaner, better, more beautiful.
I want her to learn this now, while she has still has years to practice because this kid – ALL KIDS – are going to change the world. No matter. But, I want her to do it in the right ways.
Drinking from the hose, caring for those who need care
This summer, while I hope she slows down long enough to drink from the hose, and bury herself in a book so deep that she loses track of time and needs a mother reminding her to eat, I want her to know too, what it feels like to help others. How to be kind even when no one is watching. To help those who need it, without judging their circumstances. I want her to know, just a little bit, what it’s like to give of yourself so that others can be more of who they are.
This summer, on the night she tumbles into bed with sidewalk chalk under her nails, still wearing the t-shirt streaked with dirt because she is too tired to change, I hope she knows that these moments are her life. That life is not only in the graduations and weddings and jobs and new cars. It is in these everyday moments. The ones that happen in between, all day long.
The moments when we hold a lady bug, or the neighbor boy smiles at us. The moments when we sacrifice our favorite Band-Aid for the knee of a friend, and fall asleep next to the kitten in the sunspot on the floor. Little moments, so easily overlooked.
They shouldn’t be. They can’t be overlooked. Because in the end, it’s a collection of precious little moments that make for a big, grand life.
I hope Sweet P swims in a swimming hole not made with concrete and drinks slushees made in the home blender with lemonade and I hope she lays on the floor daydreaming and memorizing all the words to some pop tune I’ve never heard of. I hope she learns how to comfort herself when she hurts – AND to come to mom for a hug — or a kick in the behind if needed — to let the hurt go.
I hope she learns to say Thank You to others not because it’s the polite thing, but because she feels gratitude so deeply that there is nothing – not one thing – left to say but Thank You. Oh, my. Thank you.
See Beauty Everywhere
And this summer, I want Sweet P to find beauty everywhere. I want her to go looking for it in the wave of the centipede’s legs that she finds under the potted plant and in the way the sun shines through the window leaving a spectrum of color on the carpet. The beauty in the smell of a summer rain on hot pavement and the heat of my skin when we hug.
And when things don’t feel good when she’s mad at mom because of EVERYTHING and she doesn’t have any friends and I-just-don’t-understand, I hope she can find the beauty even then, in velvety fur of the kitten that comforts her.
It is all around us, this beauty. So easy to spot when things are grand. But beauty becomes even bolder during times of heartache, or frustration, or despair, if we remember to look. Because in it is a reminder that all is not lost. All is not bad or terrible. That even in a difficult world there is a sun that keeps rising and places to explore, things to learn, books to read, people to love.
If Sweet P can learn through living even one of these things, she will begin to see possibilities in the impossible and she will begin to know how awesome she is.
Most of all, that is what I want her to know. That is what I want us all to know. Our own awesome.