#12

Dear Zoey,

Around birthdays, I tend to reflect a lot. I’m an insanely nostalgic person, and I think as long as you don’t live in the past, it’s good to look back and see how far you’ve come.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I would tell my former self. So, I thought it’d be fun to break it down into different “eras” of my life. If I could talk to my child self…the one right before puberty, the one who played hockey with the boys, but desperately tried to be girly enough for the friends around me. I would say this…

Don’t spend so much of your childhood trying to grow up. I know it’s natural to think about how much greater it is as an adult, and in some ways, it is. I mean, I get to eat chocolate almond ice cream any damn time I want (which usually means, I’m sneaking away in a room away from you, so you don’t steal any of it…sorry, I know…I’m cruel). Anyway, I was always obsessed with being older, trying to be more mature, pushing the boundaries of what it meant to be a kid. And if I could talk to that girl right now, I would tell her, “Slow down. You have plenty of time to grow up. Breathe in the summer air, run with your shoes off, get dirty, play until it’s dark outside.” Because those moments of childhood, are the ones you’ll remember. If I could talk to my 6th grade self, I would tell her…you are not as awkward as you feel. You are kind and interesting and valuable. I would tell her that she was smart for enjoying time with her parents, that those Barnes & Noble dates with your mom and dad would be something she would cherish forever.

In fact, I think I would tell my former self, in just about every era…to slow down. Life goes by quickly. I see it every day in the ways you change and grow. I mean, you are READING entire BOOKS now. It astonishes me daily what you have learned and how you have grown in a matter of 9-10 months. So, enjoy being a kid. And enjoy having a designated bed time. Trust me, you’ll regret all the hours you fought (I just wrote “fighted” by the way…phew, it’s been a long day) sleep.

I love you, baby girl…

Love,
Mama

#11

Dear Zoey,

I’ve neglected these letters recently! Time to get back on track.

About a month ago, we saw the new Cinderella. We both loved it, but what struck me most was the film’s very clear thesis: “Have courage and be kind.” I don’t know that there is anything more that I want for and from you than kindness.

Baby, our society is plagued with injustice and misunderstanding and cruelty. It feels like every day I read or hear something, particularly from people I love and care about, that makes me cringe. You have no idea how many times I want to shake people around me and say, “SHUT UP AND BE NICE!” Just be nice.

And I don’t mean a passive nice. I mean an overwhelming, passionate kindness. I hope you overflow with love and empathy for all types of people. I have to remind myself of this. Because it’s easy for me to practice kindness to the downtrodden, misunderstood, and alienated people, but it’s not so easy for me to feel the same on the opposite end of the spectrum. What I remind myself every time I read articles of people justifying discrimination in the name of religion, or hear conversations attempting to justify racism (These usually start with, “I’m not a racist, but…), or see the degradation and alienation of the poor….What I remind myself is that kindness is not a one-way street. Kindness requires that you sacrifice the self-righteousness in your own gut. It means letting go of your pride, taking a breath, and choosing not to take part in things that are divisive. It means viewing every single person you come in contact with as someone with a story. It means offering compassion to everyone–especially those that anger you and make you want to scream. It is not brave to be kind to those that you agree with. That’s easy. What takes courage is choosing kindness. When being kind to someone does not come easy, but you choose to be anyway, that is brave. (And as a side note — this does not mean you aren’t open about your opinions and ideals. It means that when you come to a place of dissension, you choose kindness over your pride. Believe me, it is possible).

This is not easy for me. At all. But I’m getting there, and your sweet heart continues to inspire me.

So, above anything else, please always be kind. What you put out into this world is what will eventually come back to you — make it good.

Love you,
Mama