An honest take on life and parenthood

If I Get Hit By a Bus

on April 2, 2014

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FROZEN. The Pooh and I have joined the ranks of Frozen-obsessed families. It is the only Oscar-winning movie I have seen this year, but I am not complaining. Not only is it visually stunning, I also loved its emotional complexity and unusual story line, which caused me to wipe away tears more than once.

Fortunately, I enjoy the music too, since the Pooh insists on playing it over and over. And over. And over.

Early in the movie, two Scandinavian princesses lose their parents. The King and Queen embark on a trip for two weeks, leaving their daughters behind. Their ship capsizes during a storm on the high seas, and is lost forever. The bodies are never recovered.

My heart twisted in grief to see the young princesses left alone.

A familiar, but unspeakable, fear visited me once again. What if something happens, and I am not able to finish raising my child?

When you become a parent, you suddenly contemplate your own mortality in a way you never have before. Your child is small and helpless, and needs you so much. You think about the years ahead and all you have to teach this little person to survive and thrive in the world. The thought of not being able to finish the job fills you with dread.

Before having a child, I barely thought about death.

At work, we’d joke about it, but only in the context of projects to be completed, and as an abstract concept.

For example, I’d say, “If I ever get hit by a bus, you can find my files in this Dropbox folder.”

But now that I have the Pooh, these thoughts of mortality worm their way into my head at odd times and with more frequency. When it happens, I suddenly feel an urgency to scoop her up and squeeze her and smell her hair, and pour all of my thoughts and experience into her round little head all at once.

Which I do. Then she kicks and pushes me away and asks me for a marshmallow or whines to go to the playground. So much for that tender moment.

Anyway, I still think about all of the things that I would want her to know. Life is so complicated and messy, and I’m still figuring it out myself. What would I tell her?

After a while, I put the following thoughts on paper as some life guidelines for her to consider. They are in no particular order of importance. I expect that I will revise them over time, but for now, I’m happy with them.

So here we go:

Dearest Pooh,

Since you arrived as a tiny baby, I have often thought about advice I want to share with you as you grow up. This list is neither written in stone nor is it the final word, but it is a set of guidelines I try to follow as best as I can. I hope you find it helpful.

1)      Think for yourself. Don’t let anyone tell you what to think. It’s ok to be wrong; it’s ok to disagree with others; it’s ok if others do not agree with you. Retain ownership of your thoughts, and accept responsibility for them.

2)      Travel outside of the U.S. Nothing opens your mind or heart like exposure to other people and cultures. If you can learn another language, so much the better.

3)      Work hard, but also make time for fun. Take pride in your work, but also remember to find time to laugh, be silly, and let off steam. Avoid tilting too much in one way or the other.

4)      Express your anger. Don’t keep it bottled up. Anger is healthy and normal. It can be instructive and constructive if you learn to manage it. Squelched anger only harms you in the long run.

5)      Love yourself and be yourself. If you are comfortable with yourself, then you will be able to use your energy to live a full life instead of one constructed by the expectations of others. Embrace your strengths and your flaws, and look for the unusual gifts that come with those flaws. If people truly love you, they will also love your quirks. Trust me on this.

6)      Please yourself, not others. Wear clothing and perfume and jewelry that make you feel wonderful. Decorate your home with things you love. Listen to music you enjoy. Study what you find interesting. And so on. If you find yourself doing things solely to please others or to win their approval, take a step back and reconnect with yourself. You can’t please everyone, so you might as well start by pleasing yourself. A happy person is a magnet for good things and good people.

7)      Work for excellence instead of perfection. Perfection is often subjective, and boring as hell besides. Strive to do a great job on important projects. For other things, good enough is often good enough. Neither life nor people are perfect. Once you let go of that expectation, you will be much happier. Roll with imperfection so that you have energy left over to breathe in and enjoy all that life has to offer.

8)      Try new things and make mistakes. Have the courage to try something new and mess up. It’s ok if you are not good at everything you try. No one is. That is how you learn the most valuable lessons. Forgive yourself when you do make mistakes. Forgive others when they make mistakes. And if you have hurt someone with a mistake, don’t forget to apologize with a genuine heart.

9)      Be kind. When in doubt, be kind. If you don’t know what to do, take the kind road instead of the angry or vindictive one. It takes more strength and more thought, but you won’t regret it. Yes, even if the person deserves a vindictive response.

10)   Express condolences. If someone suffers the loss of a loved one, acknowledge it with a simple “I’m sorry for your loss.” And go to the funeral. It means more than you’ll know.

11)   Make time to be alone. Time alone will help you center yourself and replenish your energy and creativity. Find time for it.

12)   Honor your body. Love your body. It is an incredible biological machine, designed to serve you. Respect and honor it with enough rest, exercise, and good food. In return, it will reward you with energy and robust health so that you can live life to its fullest and longest.

13)   Use your natural gifts and pursue your passions. God gave each of us unique gifts. Open up those gifts and play with them. Find the joy in them. Share them with the broader world.  Discover your passions and follow them. You never know where they will lead.

14)   Manage your money wisely. Pay your bills on time, live within your means, and remember to save and invest for the future. Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it makes life easier. If you manage it well, you will minimize one of life’s stressors.

15)   Rejoice in your femininity. It is wonderful to be female, and you were lucky enough to be born into a country that has more opportunities for women than most. You don’t have to act like a man to be successful. Men and women are strong in different ways, and both have their advantages. Leverage your feminine strengths, find a comfort level with expressing the traits considered more traditionally masculine, and the world will be yours.

16)   Look for equality in love. Find a partner who respects and loves you just the way you are, and who sees you as an equal. Express your appreciation for each other regularly. No one has all of the answers on love, so you will have to learn by living it, and yes, making some serious mistakes. That’s why people have been singing and writing and painting about love for millennia. No one has it all figured out.

17)   Have a diverse set of friends. This will help you stay open to many viewpoints and also prevent mental rigidity and complacency. When I say diverse, I mean across many lines – race, class, socioeconomic background, religion, political viewpoint, etc. No one friend or partner will give you everything you need, but if you surround yourself with people of diverse backgrounds, you will be stimulated and fulfilled.

18)   Bring food and help with chores. If someone is ill, going through a hard time, or has a new baby, they will appreciate actions that make their daily life easier. Bringing food, washing dishes, taking out the trash, or giving the bathroom a quick cleaning are not glamorous gifts, but they will be appreciated more than you know.

19)   Express yourself creatively. Make time for drawing and painting and singing and dancing and other creative pursuits, regardless of your talent level.

20)   Ask for help. It’s not only ok, it is good to ask for help. You can do a lot on your own. But you can move mountains if you have help from other people.

21)   Remember that no one has it easy and appearances can deceive. Life is unpredictable and challenging for each and every person on earth. No one has a perfect life, even those people who appear to have it all. I had my challenges, and you will have yours, but you are strong enough to bear them. No matter what happens to you, remember that every experience is here to teach you something about being human.

22)   Treat yourself with respect and others will follow. People will treat you the way that you let them. Sometimes, people will be mean or disrespectful or downright awful. Often, it has nothing to do with you. There could be many reasons for this behavior, but do not let anyone mistreat you on a regular basis. If they do, then leave the job/relationship/friendship/group. Ask yourself why it happened, and take steps to ensure that you are respecting yourself so that others do too.

23)   Honor your values. When confronted by a difficult decision, look to your values. The world you grow up in will be more complicated and different from the world your daddy and I grew up in. We can’t see into the future, but we hope that we have prepared you for the challenges and difficult questions you will encounter so that you can make good decisions.

24)   Forgive us. We are working very hard to give you a strong start in life – not just from a material perspective, but more so from a social, emotional, and intellectual standpoint. We will make mistakes as we raise you, and hope that they aren’t too devastating. When you are a teenager, and later an adult, you will discover those shortcomings. We hope that you find it possible to forgive us when the time comes.

25)   Remember we love you. Your mommy and daddy love you beyond compare. NO. MATTER. WHAT. And you can always come home. Your very existence inspires us to be the very best versions of ourselves that we can be. For that, and for you, we are incredibly grateful and blessed.

 Thank you for coming into our lives. Life is so much better and richer with you in it.

Love, Mommy


5 responses to “If I Get Hit By a Bus

  1. jgroeber says:

    I love this. We should all write the things we want our children to know. It’s a good reminder of our daily goals (in the midst of the boots and the hats and the seatbelts and the crazy…) Thank you for this lovely post!


    • You are welcome, chica. As luck wouldi have it, five minutes after I published it, the Pooh and I engaged in a 45 minute battle of wills concerning music class, hair accessories, and how to get into the car. Silly maddening stuff that I will not remember next week thankfully!


  2. Heather says:

    I have moments where I think about this as well! I’m going to start a journal for both my daughters to write in, I wish I started it when they were born!


  3. momsasaurus says:

    What an absolutely beautiful post! I love your list. So perfect. Also, we have Frozen Fever as well. It’s an epidemic and I fear there is no cure.


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