To my tween daughter: What I’m not giving you is the greatest gift

Dear tween daughter,

I know what you want. It comes in a clean, white box with a silver apple on it. It is a window to the world, access to anything at anytime, a real-time digital autobiography for the world to read. I know that it seems like everyone else has one. I know that the first year of middle school without a smartphone made you feel left out. I know that you think it will connect you. But I want to give you a different perspective. Please hear me out.

Everyday at 3:18 pm I would start to see your middle school peers filing out of the bus and making their way home. Some had their heads down, eyes locked on a screen, fingers swiping and tapping methodically. They would pass our house silently, one by one, not noticing me with the cooing baby or the doodle wagging his tail so hard that he might fall over. Their faces were blank and focused, like a zombie parade. I wondered what kind of circus show would pull their gaze away from whatever was pulling them into their phones.

Then I would hear an eruption of giggles at least four houses down. I could see two girls happily skipping down the walk, their hands making silly gestures and their faces lit up with expressions that no emoji on earth could ever replicate. Their eyes would be locked on each other and they bounced their words back and forth like a ping pong match. My heart smiled first when I saw that it was you and your best friend, and a wave of pride and relief would come over me.

You, my sweet daughter, are a curator of a dying art. The beautiful symphony of voices fluctuating to express feelings; hands enthusiastically conducting an orchestra of emotions; the crescendo of laughter at the end. It’s a slowly dying art but you are keeping it alive and it cannot survive inside a screen.

You don’t know how to take the perfect selfie; or the hashtags that will attract the most likes; or the feeling of scrolling through a social media feed to discover that you were one of the only kids left out. I know you feel like the only one without, but I’m giving you a gift.

You know that Polaroid picture of you and your best friend hanging from your string lights? That’s the only copy that exists in the world. It’s priceless. It’s an original. You and her were in that moment and now that moment is happily displayed where only you and your closest friends can see it. There’s no hashtag, screen capture, digital copy, filter or comments to augment that moment. It belongs to you. Your life and moments should be made for yourself, not for an audience. Your beautiful and brilliant mind cannot make all the right decisions right now because those parts of your brain are not even close to being developed. I cannot expect the science of that to change for you, so I will not burden you with the choice of how much of your life you should share with the world.

Please accept this gift. Keep it in your pocket. It is a treasure but you might not realize its value until you are older. Keep lugging that big Polaroid camera everywhere you go and capturing your moments for that beautiful string light gallery in your room.

There will come a time when you get to open a clean, white box with an apple on it, but for now, the greatest gift I can give to you are these memorable, awkward, explorative years without a smartphone.


The Bonus Baby – A Guest Blog

Guest Post

Once upon a time, my husband and I were going to be empty nesters in our mid 40’s. We started our family in our mid-twenties and our first-born daughter was due on the date of my husband’s grad school graduation. We had our second daughter when I was 27 and hoped for a third two years later, but after two pregnancy losses on the heels of the second trimester, we decided that we couldn’t withstand another heartbreak.

Fast forward to 2018 and we have made the parental turn onto Easy Street; that sweet spot in parenting that occurs between early childhood and teenagerhood. With an eight-year-old and 11-year-old girl, car seats and diapers are ancient artifacts; temper tantrums and sleepless nights seem like lightyears ago; and car rides are enjoyable now because The Wiggles and Wheels on the Bus requests have been replaced by requests for Bonjovi and Weezer. Easy Street is all downhill with beautiful scenery and no bumpy roads. I’m not saying that we didn’t thoroughly enjoy the earlier years of parenting, but those precious years were hard and spent in the trenches, elbows deep in dirty diapers and running ragged with no sleep.

Back in May of this year, we were on cruise control, coasting down easy street and enjoying a family camping trip when I started to feel my health decline. My energy took a sudden downward turn, I started to lose my appetite, and I was overcome with nausea. Fears of serious illness crossed my mind until a couple of weeks later when I realized that my symptoms were synonymous with pregnancy. Once it was confirmed, I was in complete denial. I feared for another loss and thought for sure that I would miscarry any day. I didn’t even allow myself to feel excitement, hope or joy. I kept my pregnancy secret for 16 weeks–I didn’t allow it to be real.

Here I am now though, at 32 weeks pregnant, and this is all very real.

Pregnancy this time around is a whole lot different than it was with my first two. First  of all, this one is considered a geriatric pregnancy because I’m over 35, so apparently my delivery from the stork will come with a free subscription to AARP magazine and hopefully a hefty discount on Depends since I’ve done exactly three Kegels this pregnancy. I also haven’t spent my days reading “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” because I feel like I could write the book. I haven’t read “Baby Wise” or “Happiest Baby on the Block” because I know that I might get a screaming colicky baby or a chill Koala baby, and sometimes the knowledge in a book doesn’t have the power to change that. Plus, I should be reading about the uncharted waters of the teen years.

At my last appointment, my OB/GYN asked  me for my birth plan, and all I could think of were two words: Surprise me. Because honestly, after having a 24 hour labor, last minute epidural and an emergency C-Section with my first, followed by a 27 hour labor, early epidural and VBAC birth with my second, the words “birth plan” project an image of a unicorn in my mind. I will write a birth plan, but I will also have zero expectations for everything to go as planned, because when you’re a geriatric pregnant woman riding into your third birth, you know that you just have to stay on the saddle and hold on tight. Maybe my husband can freeze some Ensure cubes to feed me during labor. I’ll add that to my elderly birth plan.

The clock keeps ticking louder as I approach the big day; the day we step into that DeLorean and turn the dial back to newborn. I find myself thinking about the projected timeline of my life and how it has changed so drastically in the past eight months. I think about how I’ll be driving my oldest to college, my middle child to high school and my youngest to elementary school in the same year. I wonder when I’ll be able to go on my next girls’ trip. I think about how this baby is going to have to go with the busy flow of our family, traveling to her sisters’ sporting events and practices daily, never knowing the luxury of a nap schedule. I wonder if time, experience and age will change my parenting style for this bonus baby.

I think parenting as a whole this time around is going to be so different. With my first two, I was obsessed with constantly stimulating them, reading to them, talking to them, worrying about development, not to mention being terrified by every single illness. I was the mom who would call the on-call pediatrician at 4am when a fever spiked. But now I feel like a seasoned pro; I’ve handled influenza, strep, ear infections, pneumonia, tubes, Lice (the worst), stomach flu, croup, you name it.

I know that it gets easier and I know that I will sleep again. I know that the rewards of parenting far outweigh the pains. I know that the magic of holidays will live a little longer in our home now. I know that my heart grows bigger with every child. Every day, I get to see my two girls grow into healthy, smart, brave and kind young ladies, who bring immense joy to our lives, and I have no fear that our little bonus baby will bring the same joys to our family. Who knows, if all goes well, maybe we will go for bonus baby #2. For now, we are just gearing up to go back in time. Great Scott!