It’s me, your older, somewhat wiser self. We need to talk. Right now, you’re young, idealistic and almost impossibly naïve, so I’ve got a few tips that will make things a little easier down the road. Listen carefully to what I have to say. You will thank me one day.
First things first – and really, just a quick side note – don’t ever say “hey girl” in the future…even when you think that it will make you sound laid back and relevant….I just read this intro out loud and, it won’t. You’ll just come off as desperate. Trust me on this one.
Ok, now let’s get back on track. I’m going to just come right out and say it. You’re a bit smug. You think you’ve got life all figured out. And you think that because you have younger siblings or because you babysat in middle school, you’ve got kids figured out, too. I mean, after all, you have that one friend from high school with a baby, so how hard can it be, right? Well, let me be the one to break it to you…you have no idea what’s coming. None.
Before those darling, precious bundles-of-joy come along, there are a few things I need you to do for me. And it’s very important that you do them exactly as I say, because these will be the things we need to keep us alive for the next 18-25 years (possibly longer…it’s looking like your youngest may actually never move out. Just a head’s up).
Take as many showers as possible.
No, really. Take long ones, short ones, hot ones, cold ones. Just take them and enjoy every precious second without someone staring at you through the foggy shower glass (it’s every bit as creepy as it sounds …plus, you’d be amazed at how judge-y toddlers can be).
Stay in the shower until the hot water runs out and actively count every minute that no one knocks on the door, opens it without knocking, or screams your name (which is now “Mommy,” by the way) from the hallway. You get bonus points if you don’t have to get out mid-shampoo to put a sweater on a teddy bear or open a juice box.
And baths, too. Ones with bubbles and ones without. Soak in the tub and shave your legs without having to negotiate your way around 17 Barbies who “wanted to swim.” Take them and love them and know that this time is precious.
Sleep whenever and however you can.
Sleep in cars, on planes, on the couch. But most of all, sleep in your bed. Sleep without a miniature-sized foot in your face or an elbow in your ribcage. Savor the luxury of covers that aren’t kicked off repeatedly, because the person whose bed it is NOT is “too hot.” (For the record, you would be “too hot,” too, if you performed entire gymnastics routines in your sleep. That’s on her. Not you.)
Every morning, wake up and congratulate yourself for sleeping through the night. Then hit snooze and doze a bit more. If you do happen to wake up in the night, listen closely to the beautiful sound of silence. Sigh happily and resume your sleeping position; which, by the way, should be dead center of the bed, full starfish, for as long as humanly possible.
And on Saturdays? Don’t get out of bed before 10am unless it’s for champagne brunch, to go for kiteboarding lessons, or because you’re still up from the night before. This is important as you will spend the remainder of your life waking up at 6am on weekends – at first because it is time to watch “Octonauts,” and eventually because your body clock no longer allows you to sleep past 6am. This will make you very, very sad.
Every time you pee, be grateful that there is no one there to watch you.
Or critique you. Or make loud and unnecessarily detailed comments about your various body parts while in a public bathroom stall. By the way, should this happen in the future (SPOILER ALERT: it absolutely will), be gracious to the young woman who laughed out loud at you from the other stall then smirked at you while you were washing your hands. She’ll get hers one day.
Carry tiny purses and cute clutches. Or better yet, keep everything in the pocket of your non-ironic skinny jeans.
Say things like, “I’m just going to take my ID and this lipstick” when you leave the house. Enjoy the light airiness of your unencumbered state. The day will come when you won’t be able to go to the mailbox without looking like a Himalayan Sherpa. Know that some point, you will need full packing lists just to go to the grocery store. Also, these packing lists will take priority over your shopping list which you will leave on the kitchen counter every single time. Without fail.
Speaking of the grocery store – or any store for that matter – take your time.
Now that you have the time to go shopping (or anywhere) without kids, stroll through the aisles like you’re at a museum. Notice that when you get home, you have all of the dinner ingredients you need, because you actually shopped thoughtfully. You didn’t race down the aisles, frantically grabbing things off the shelf knowing that once the bag of Goldfish you opened in Aisle 4 is gone, it’s game over. Most of all, appreciate the fact that you are not now stuck trying to make dinner out of honey, lunch meat, tahini, and Totino’s Pizza Rolls.
Better yet, you crazy young thing – don’t cook at all!
Go to as many restaurants as you possibly can. Go to ALL the restaurants – even the ones that use real tablecloths. Order the good wine and sip it slowly instead of chugging the $4 Happy Hour House Red (because MOMMY NEEDS A DRINK, THAT’S WHY) in between cutting French fries and preventing chicken nuggets from being dropped down the shirt of the woman behind you. Enjoy your meal. Maybe even stay for dessert. And when you leave, please note that you’re not having to do so in a state of shame with a screaming troll-person in tow.
Know that you’re going to have to touch horrible, unspeakable things.
Be prepared and accept it. There’s really nothing you can do ahead of time for this one. I just wanted you to know. Brace yourself and don’t whine about it. Seriously. It doesn’t matter what you do now or in the future – it’s going to happen. The more mental prep you have, the easier it will be. Just put your hand out, catch it, wash up, and carry on.
Travel as much as humanly possible.
Hike mountains, explore cities, swim in non-chlorinated water. Stay in cheap hotels and save your money for moped rentals. Drink one too many Margaritas because no one but your surf instructor is going to care if you need to sleep off a headache. Do not go ANYWHERE that requires grown adults to wear animal and/or cartoon costumes – unless it’s a Chinese New Year’s in San Francisco and the animal is a dragon. Or, Brazil and it’s Carnivale. Also New Orleans. And most music festivals.
OK, the costume thing is off the table. But no human-sized talking mice, ducks or dogs. And no princesses. That’s a hard and fast rule. Just get out there and see the world. Don’t make excuses about how you don’t have the time or money. Trust me, it will be decades before you ever have as much of either as you have right now.
Be selfish and learn self-love.
I know, I know, you’ve spent your entire life being told that selfishness is wrong. And it can be. When your selfishness hurts people who love you, that’s a bad thing. When your selfishness causes you to neglect someone who loves you, that’s a bad thing. But there is also the kind of selfishness that helps you set boundaries and teaches you the importance of self-care and self-love. That’s the good kind. And that’s the kind that, when used for good and not evil, will make you a stronger mom, a happier wife, and a better friend down the road.
Last, but not least, please learn gratitude – preferably sooner rather than later.
Stop waiting for the next big event, the next season of your life, the “right” job/house/timing. These things are as elusive as “tomorrow” and will never truly exist. Love what you have at this moment because it can all change in heartbeat.
Also, it’s true what people my age tell people your age: it all goes by so fast. One minute, kids will be a vague nebulous concept, the next moment you’ll be standing in a puddle of your own tears because the same kid who drove you to the brink of insanity for 18 years is graduating and you wish you had one more day, one more week, one more month, one more year, one more shot at preparing them for all that awaits. And in that moment, you will think your heart might break under the weight of all of this knowing. But if you have learned gratitude – true gratitude – the kind that stills your mind and allows you to breathe beauty into your very bloodstream, then you’ll know how to appreciate every moment, every story, every stage of this crazy wild ride that you’re already on without even realizing it. And if you can do that, then you might just be ok.
I know that you think you’re on the right track; and I know that you really, truly are trying your best to do the right things. I wish I could tell you that it’s all smooth sailing from here on out. But if life is a tapestry, then yours is a crazy quilt – you might as well know that going into it. Yours was not a life meant to be mundane. So, savor it. Grieve when you must. Laugh as much as you can. Pick wildflowers and spin in circles. But most of all, love deeply and fiercely, for that is what will get you through.
Hang in there…and I’ll see you on the other side,