To say I am grateful for daughters is to say I am grateful for breathing, for food, for life. An understatement to say the least. In this moment I am grateful for questions my daughters ask, for it helps me find the answers for my own puzzles.
I was wondering the other day about a question my youngest daughter posed to me. She asked me some time ago to write down the most important pieces of advice I had derived from life’s lessons, advice that would help her along in this journey. All I could come up with was to sneeze sitting down. After giving birth to four children that seems like sage advice. An important tip for sure, but surely there was more I could add to such a list.
The thing is our life’s lessons are similar and the blunders we create are plentiful for each of us. Life comes with no road map, but we’re all trying to get to a place of understanding, a place of oh-yah, I get it now. If I had the chance to see ahead when I was a child I would most certainly have altered my path. Or would I? Maybe things played out just as they were meant to.
If I could talk to the child me what would I tell her? Would that be a private conversation or would I share that with my daughter?
I know now I won’t go blind if I read under a blanket with a flashlight at night when I was supposed to be asleep. That’s good news. Had I known that fact at age eight I would have worried less and not blamed myself for needing glasses when I was thirteen. I also know now that eating food that tastes disgusting will not put hair on my chest. Why would saying so make me want to eat said disgusting tasting food? I don’t have the answer for that. I’ll have to ask my dad when I see him next why he thought that declaration was a good argument for a kid who never wanted to eat.
I would tell the child me that she would come to like brussel sprouts and mashed potatoes, so not to make a fuss about eating them, because sitting at the table for an hour after everyone has gone doesn’t make said vegetables any more palatable, so suck it up, sister, and eat them. I’m not sure she would listen. She was pretty determined about not eating such things. The child me was pretty determined about a lot of things; perhaps a polite way of saying she was stubborn.
I would tell her old war injuries will come back to haunt her. We think we are immortal as we run along the rafters of the hay barn and gallop madly on horses with no sense of self-preservation, but those injuries will rear their nasty heads one day hence and though we won’t necessarily be sorry, we will be reminded of our immortality and we’ll also be reminded of the great fun that went along with it.
I would tell the child me not to fight being an introvert, for it is in the quiet where the greatest creativity lives and where the greatest joy is felt. It is in the quiet that we hear the truth.
I would tell the child me that some days there is an ache pressing so heavy on her heart that it makes it hard to breathe. But that ache is evidence of something wonderful, that her heart knows what many can’t. I would tell her to be with the ache, roll around in it and feel all its edges and then it will be on its way.
I would tell the child me not to fear being an individual, not to worry about conforming or measuring up to what we perceive are the standards on which we are judged. I would assure the child me that patience is a friend, a cohort and good things really do come to those who wait. I would tell her that silence is an enemy and we should find our voice early on in the game and be prepared to use it wherever we see injustice and unkindness and hold those responsible that would do us harm. A voice is a fundamental right and shouldn’t be squandered or silenced, for it is within the silence that harm dwells.
I would tell the child me to know that laughter and joy lives in even the most difficult times and to look inside for the answers, they’re all there, behind the uncertainty and self-doubt, just to the left of feeling a failure.