Raising A Princess

This blog was originally written for and posted on my friend Kate’s site. As I am currently drafting a handful of other posts and guest blogs, I thought I’d use it as a cover for my otherwise disappointing lack of new content…

Enjoy!

http://kateelizabethconner.com/raising-a-princess-guest-post-abby-wilson/

I’m a self-identified feminist in that I believe women are equal to men, but each gender—and more importantly, each individual person regardless of gender—has innate value and distinct identifying characteristics.

That said, I am also a girly-girl and so is my daughter.

Eva loves lip-gloss, dresses, jewelry, and having her hair done. Thankfully, she also loves to run around outside, play with sticks, and dig in the dirt so I’m not too worried about her becoming too prissy, but there was a time when I was concerned about her love of princesses.

Eva started picking out princess toys, wanting to play dress up, and asking for my make-up almost as soon as she could speak. Maybe she was born loving princesses or maybe I let her watch Disney’s Sleeping Beauty too many times. (It has a GREAT soundtrack, ok!) As the Cinderella, Snow White, and Tiana toys began to accumulate, I stared at our toy box and wondered,

“Do I really want my daughter growing up believing that marriage is the answer to her problems?”

Uh, no.

Isn’t that what most modern women think of fairytales: just a beautiful woman waiting on a man to save her from a life of misery? I certainly thought so, especially after growing up in a very Protestant, very Southern community. I was taught marriage and eventual motherhood are a woman’s highest calling, so as an adult I viewed fairytales and princesses as prime enablers of that stereotype.

But in fairness to my daughter’s preferences, I gave the animated ladies a second look.  I found that when you step past their unrealistic body dimensions, pretty faces, and the inevitable crown in the final sequence, you find women who share one rare and precious character trait: integrity.

Cinderella and Snow White both remained sweet, loving, and caring despite years of abuse and enforced servitude.
Ariel knew that humans and their culture were her passion, not just a passing fancy.
Mulan may not technically be a princess, but she cared for her family and her country over her own life.
Jasmine probably had the most overt stance in that she wasn’t going to marry a pompous narcissist, her voice and opinion mattered.
Tiana proved that hardwork mixed with commitment and love goes a really long way.
Rapunzel trusted her own intuition before she trusted Flynn Rider and found her way home.

Each princess had to show enormous amounts of integrity and commitment to their values to overcome their respective obstacles.

When you look at it that way, they really are beautiful.

The stories our daughters hear from our lips, from books, and from movies are the stories and the memories that will guide them when experience hasn’t yet led the way.  I hope Eva learns from these stories and from my example that compassion, strong self-esteem, and resilience in the face of danger and disaster help a woman hold her head high.  Especially considering when you ask her what she wants to be when she grows up, she answers,

 “A Princess!”

I’m Not Daddy Too

How many times has a single mom somewhere said, “I have to be Mommy AND Daddy,” as a means of explanation?

Probably hundreds of times of day. I have definitely had those moments. I could list all the things I’ve never gotten from Eva’s father…but the list of what I did get is much shorter:

1. Sperm
2. A Headache

He doesn’t pay child support. He lives hundreds of miles away. He doesn’t send Eva presents. He doesn’t call. He does text, but they are all about the same as the one discussed here. He is virtually nonexistent.

To some degree, I have allowed that. I don’t wonder when he’s going to step up. His name is not on her birth certificate. I have never asked for money. I do not fight or rebel against his lack of interest. In fact, on some level, I prefer it this way. It’s simpler, not necessarily easier, just less complicated. (Which is specific to my situation and should not be misconstrued as a recommendation for other single mothers.)

I do everything I possibly can for Eva. My parents help. My sister helps. My friends help. All things considered, I am raising Eva well. We make it work even though sometimes that is a gigantic, nearly insurmountable challenge. Even though sometimes I feel like I am failing miserably. I’m not a superhero, I’m just a mom.

But I am also only that; just her mom. I am not Daddy too.

Eva doesn’t have a Daddy. I don’t know how to explain that to her. I don’t know how to make it bearable or understandable. She hasn’t asked about it, but I know it will happen soon. She is old enough to make the correlation that the other kids have pictures with their daddies and she has a picture with her grandfather when they make Father’s Day cards at daycare.

What can I tell her? That he’s far away and can’t see her? In my mind, that only explains why she doesn’t have her father around, not why she doesn’t have a Daddy.

I would give her that if I could. I would be another parent to unite with her against Mommy when she’s tough. I would give her extra kisses after Mommy’s kisses when she falls down. I would tell her yes when Mommy says no. I would scare away the ambitious 3 year olds trying to flirt with her when Mommy only laughs. I would show her how a man is supposed to treat a woman, instead of just telling her. I would be the rational one when Mommy gets too emotional.

But I am just Mommy.

I carry a responsibility that two people typically share; that does not make me equal to two people. Am I a great mother? Yes. Do I struggle with this burden? Yes. But I don’t see the point of placing an additional weight on my shoulders by attempting to fill a role I was never meant to have.

I certainly don’t fault any single parent for saying they act as both parents; it’s certainly the most succinct way to describe something that no married parent understands. No, that weekend that your husband spent away for a friend’s bachelor party does not even begin to compare. But I don’t exactly understand how you make your marriage a priority when you’ve got little ones to watch either; I’ve never had to do that. I’ve never lived your life and you’ve never lived mine. Single parents provide on one income with one pair of hands, one pair of eyes, and emotional support from a network of loved ones instead of the one you love most.

I’m sure my choice mom friends may see this issue a little differently. I definitely see (ahem, hope for) adoption in my future regardless of whether or not I ever marry. But no matter how many children I have, be it just Eva or a handful more, I will always choose to just be Mommy.

Container Garden Week 4

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Look at those plants! I can’t tell you how in love with them I am. It’s like parenting but without the back-talk. What a joy!

I had to dig up the petunias; they were attracting slugs, the little hussies. And the Zucchini and Pepper plants seem to be much happier with the pots to themselves.

We have lots of flower buds right now. Here are future tomatoes:

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And future Zucchini:

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Pernicious mint:

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And more baby Cilantro!

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I used some of my rosemary and thyme on baked chicken this week and it was incredible. Herbs are probably the greatest investment right now because they are usable every day without impeding their growth.

The organic pesticidal soap and removal of the petunias seems to have helped the pest problem but if it goes on another week, I will try something stronger. The pepper flower of last week disappeared, which might have happened in a storm but… I’m not growing veggies for the bugs!

Sigh. So much love for those plants.

Happy Thursday, all!

10 Things I Learned This Weekend

Eva and I got to spend the weekend visiting some of our closest friends in Northern Virginia and celebrating their son’s third birthday. We had a wonderful time despite bad traffic and a complete lack of nap time TWO DAYS IN A ROW (shudders to think what COULD have happened). We got to see Eva’s great-grandparents and great-uncle, eat cake, watch fireworks, snuggle babies, and thoroughly enjoy ourselves.

It’s amazing what two days of travel can teach you. Here’s what I learned this weekend:

Lessons Learned:

1. I-95 is a parking lot on Saturdays. Abandon hope after Fredericksburg and go to IKEA at Potomac Mills if you were stupid and kept trying anyway. Next time, leave on Friday.

2. There is something magical about a barely traveled, tree-lined I-85 at twilight. A purple sky and a full moon make up for multiple near-death experiences on I-95.

3. My daughter has two personas. One for people she knows and another for people she doesn’t. The other moms at the party Saturday all commented on how sweet and timid Eva was and I thought (but did not say), “Yeah, that’s not really her at all. She was just taking her time evaluating the situation. There’s no timidity in discernment.” Note to self: always give Eva time to acclimate to her situation.

4. Real friends are incredibly precious. I am so lucky to have had that wonderful woman in my life for nearly a decade. Five hours of driving really shouldn’t stop me from seeing her and her sweet family more often. There are some things time cannot tarnish; a true friendship is one of them.

5. I could hold a sleeping baby forever.

6. Austrian men look good in party hats.

7. Hearing my grandfather tell my daughter how her great-great-grandfather played the organ at York Minster is now one of my sweetest memories. I can only pray Eva remembers, too.

8. Children are simultaneously direct reflections of their parents and wholly independent. It’s truly fascinating to see yourself in your daughter and your best friend in her son, but also know without a doubt that your children are going to make their own decisions, but they’ll be decisions you made once upon a time and it won’t matter that you already lived it. They will feel their own emotions, reactions, and pain and respond exactly the way you would but it doesn’t have anything to do with you. Maybe we take parenting too personally. Maybe it’s ok if Eva makes all the same mistakes I did. It will still be her life, not mine.

9. Birthday cake, fireworks, and complete disregard for appropriate bedtime does not stop 3 and 4 year olds from sleeping like the dead afterwards. Indulging your kids with good things every once in awhile doesn’t hurt.

10. Travel is good for the soul. (Ok, I knew that already but it was nice to be reminded.)

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Container Garden Week 3

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The container garden is flourishing! Seriously. Look at that zucchini plant! And the tomato plants have really put on some height and additional stems. There are even buds on the pepper plant despite what looks like a pest problem.

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I picked up some organic insecticidal soap to help with that. Hopefully, I’ll see an improvement this week. The basil I screaming for me to use it all up, but the whole family has recently started the South Beach Diet so my intense urges to make pasta and smother it in fresh basil and olive oil will have to wait two more weeks. I think I’ll shoot for pesto instead. I’ve seen recipes that sub broccoli and other heartier goods for the pine nuts (nut allergy here) so we’ll see what I can come up with.

And to my great surprise, my cilantro (or spinach if I am not remembering correctly) has sprouted a week after I gave up hope!

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Eva continues to want to water the garden zealously… Tough to explain that all the rain we’ve had in the past few days means we don’t need to, but the grass in the yard probably appreciates her efforts. Her joy in this endeavor is just so beautiful. Let’s just hope she doesn’t pick all the tomato flowers for a bouquet!

With Love, Your Momma

To My Daughter on Mother’s Day,

I told you in the car yesterday that I couldn’t be Momma if it hadn’t been for you. And you said, “Mom, I’m just Eva. You’re the mommy!”

You’re right, sweet one. You are your own person. You are Eva and I am Abby. But being your Momma is the best and most wonderful privilege. It does not define my existence, but you have shaped me and helped me grow in ways I never anticipated.

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From the moment I saw your perfect form on the ultrasound, to holding you as a newborn, to witnessing your first step, to you mastering all manner of tasks and expressions, you have taken me on a journey that I have cherished every single day–even the tough ones.

Right now, I adore how you love your family with such a sweet constancy. You are always talking about the people you care about. Oly, G, Auntie, and our many friends. I giggle inside when you talk about anything that happened in the past because it was always “yesterday.” You approach everything with a vengeance! So strong, so confident, and so very beautiful.

Your face absolutely glows with delight when you accomplish something new. I can’t wait to see that expression when you bring home a great report card, dance a perfect routine, or graduate high school. There are many happy days ahead.

But there will be days that aren’t as happy, too. Life isn’t easy or fair but, little one, you will be shown a way. I promise. You will have enough grace to make it through.

You have never asked about your father, but I think you might soon. I dearly hope that you don’t wonder yet because you are so surrounded by love that it doesn’t matter that he is gone. One day, you will ask and one day it will matter. I am thankful today is not that day. I don’t know if he will ever find the strength to give you the love you deserve. I don’t know that we’ll ever find a man to be my husband and your Dad. But if I teach you anything in life, please, let it be that you are no less worthy than a little girl with two parents.

God would not have trusted me with you if I was going to fail; He would not have given you this life without the strength you need to succeed.

You are more than I ever dreamed a daughter of mine could be. Thank you for filling my heart with love, my days with laughter, and my future with hope.

With love,
Your Momma

Writer’s Block, Family Time, and A Big Happy

So I promised via social media that my next post would be about tricking you into loving White Trash. I have literally drafted 7 different posts and can’t find it in my heart to like any of them. Mostly because when I try to be funny, I sound like a bitch instead, but also because I have had the cold/sinus infection from Hades and am still not 100% better. And we’ve been busy. And also, I’ve had a mental block on writing anything else since “Never Alone.” I may have drained my emotional reserves on that one.

So to power through this hiatus of soul-diving, I’m dedicating this post to my sister in honor of her college graduation.

As a four year old, I prayed at dinner every night that God would give me a sister. I intended for her to be an older sister, but God saw fit to start Emily with us as an infant despite my request. Although, to her credit, she often (read: nearly always) acts older than I do.

She is my greatest friend, my dearest supporter, and my favorite everything. She is the best Auntie in the world to my Eva. And as of tomorrow, she will also be the coolest, smartest, soon-to-be most successful B.S.N (Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing) recipient to ever walk the Earth.

We are here to celebrate her graduation, ceremonies and things to attend galore. And she deserves it all. She has overcome so many obstacles to reach this goal and I couldn’t be prouder or fuller of heart. She can find the fetal heartbeat in twins, stick an IV in a high risk “the charge nurse can’t even find a vein” patient, and stomach cleaning the nastiest and smelliest of bacterial infections. She can make me laugh when I’m crying and throws my good advice to her back in my face with zeal. And she held my hand as Eva was born.

I could tell you lots of cutsey stories from her childhood, or funny stories about her clutzy-ness. I could even tell you sad stories of all things she has survived–cancer, major car wreck injuries, broken bones, etc. But all you need to know is that she always makes it out on top. Because she is strong like that. (And no, I cannot take credit for setting that good example.) She has the sweetest spirit and the most compassionate heart. She has been–and will always be–the better sister.

She has such a wonderful clarity of purpose; I envy her deeply. She knows it is her place in life to care for those who are hurting and heal those who are sick. And she will not only perform her job well; she will be a light to those around her and a hope to those who need her.

So here’s to you, Emily. You are one in 7 billion. There is no one else in the world like you.

 

P.S. I am probably going to bawl my eyes out tomorrow.