Dear Future Flo,
As fall rushes in change always feel more acute. On this late September day, thoughts are swirling ahead to five years from now, when your daughters are 16 and 12 and changing yet. As impossible as that is for Present Flo to envision, it’s going to happen. Life is going to get more exciting and also more complex as their lives bring in more interests, more questions and more perspectives. Over the next year you can embrace that change, taking steps to ensure your relationship with your daughters will be sound even as you all stretch your boundaries. In case you’ve forgotten, here are the top five things that have worked so well for you in their younger years:
Turn away from the distractions and the noise and tune into them. Hear their message with your whole self, remembering what it feels like to be a kid. Let them finish their thoughts. Don’t be thinking of what to say next. Utilize silence. Turn off your own ideas and give them room to express theirs.
Remember you’re not always right.
Sometimes, often, their experience trumps yours. Give some weight to what is happening right now instead of a distant, fuzzy memory. You are not them. They are not you.
Be with them.
Not just in the same room, but in spirit. Join them where they are. Applaud for the 1,432,343,234 flip over the couch. Keep spinning until your head feels like it’s going to fall off. Make another smelly hot dog for lunch and enjoy the ketchup smily face you draw on the plate. Listen to the latest Taylor Swift song until your throat is hoarse from singing along. Mimic Spongebob and Patrick until everyone is laughing so hard they can’t stop. Take them seriously when they say they want to be a professional soccer player and a dog fashion designer and find them resources. It tells them you’re interested in them and that it’s worth sharing their interests with you.
Let them cry it out.
Not alone, never, ever alone, but in your arms. Their sadness and confusion can be overwhelming and sometimes they need to dump it all out. Don’t be afraid of their emotions and fear that they are broken in some way or that you’ve not given them proper tools. Expression is a tool, too. Give them space to relieve themselves while you comfort them and offer encouragement. Remind them that you feel that way, too, sometimes because it makes them feel unashamed and understood.
Hold them close.
Oh, don’t ever stop touching them. They’re still the babies you bore, just a bit bigger, and physical contact still conveys so much information and emotion, happy endorphins, relaxation and connection. Hug them, kiss them, hold their hand, bury your face in their hair, snuggle their shoulders, sit them on your lap. They are tender and sweet and affectionate- don’t let that slip away.
I could write so much more. It’s a gorgeous day, though, and there are requests for baking and a picnic in the sun. So in the spirit of my own best advice, I’m closing this to open the way to more connection and stronger relationships. Use your time wisely, mama.
—-Your younger self.