Friday, February 14, 2014

Letter about Love

Dear Catherine,

I've been watching and listening. We've had talks in your bed after your little brother has fallen asleep. I know that you have crushes on boys. I get it. I still can tell you the names of boys I liked when I was eight years old. You are starting to have more questions about how people fit together. You are asking about love and why boys act the way they do (good luck with that one). Right now your questions are sweet and innocent and I know they will grow more complicated. I wish that you were growing up in a home in which an adult partnership based on love and honor and respect was being modeled for you because I think that's important. You would have some of those questions answered just by watching. But you do live in a home in which you are loved and treasured. Never doubt that. And I've purposefully put people in your life who can offer wonderful examples of love in the homes they've created.

You can talk to me about anything. I also understand that sometimes I won't be the person you seek out. That's OK, too. But on this Valentine's Day I thought I would share some advice on being loved and loving others.

First, romantic love is fun. Those butterflies in your stomach that you've heard about are real. That first kiss you will have in a few years (no rush!) will be one that you always will remember. You will spend the entire day with someone and then anxiously await the moment you can see him again. You will love learning more about him in conversations that last all night long. You will spend time thinking of nice things to do for him and feel wonderful when he does the same for you. It is nice to be part of a couple and I'm excited (OK, and terrified for purely selfish reasons involving you growing up too fast for my liking) for you to experience that someday. I hope you have several nice boyfriends as you grow who help you discover what you want out of a relationship and what kind of person is best suited for you and then, if you want, I hope you find the one with whom you want to share your life. (And if you don't want that, please know that is just fine as well, no matter what society or your friends or magazines tell you.)

But keep something in mind. There's this popular movie in which the leading guy says to the leading woman, "You complete me." Don't be like that. You need to enter into any relationship as a whole person. Your partner should make your life more full and more fun and more exciting and one that is covered with laughter and passion and a sense of ease. He should challenge you to be a better person. But he should never complete you. You should not need him to fill a void. You bring a mind and opinions and talents and experiences that make you an awesome individual whether in a relationship or not. The right guy will enhance how fantastic you already are, and you should do the same for him.

And along those lines, if someone makes you feel unattractive or stupid or unworthy of their attention, that is not love. You are so confident right now, and I pray that never changes. Too many girls lose faith in their own intelligence and beauty and strength as they become teenagers and I know that just having your mom tell you that you are awesome isn't going to be sufficient. If you spend enough time around someone who puts you down and points out your flaws, real or imagined, you will begin to believe the worst about yourself. And it may take a long time before you believe anyone who tells you different. Trust me on this one. Please. It can be more lonely to be in a relationship than it is to be single when you are not valued and respected.

I also want you to know that some of the most amazing love you can experience isn't the kind that comes from a boyfriend or husband. I hope that you have some girlfriends in your life who show you the deep value of the love of friends. You've seen these women in my life and how much they mean to me. We giggle and share secrets, much like you do now with your friends. We just do it with wine. Your best girlfriends will drop everything to be by your side at 2:00am. They will laugh and cry with you. They will know what you need without you ever asking. They will support your dreams and be in the front row of your cheering section. Sometimes you will just want them to be present and that's all they need to do. One of the most emotional moments I ever had with a girlfriend was during one of the scariest and saddest weeks of my life. She looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, "I don't know what to say, but I love you." And then just hugged me. And didn't let go. I want you to have that kind of love. I want you to be that friend to others.

And I want to encourage you simply to put more love out in the world. Perform at least one random act of kindness every day, with no expectations in return. Give a friend a hug. Tell a classmate you like her sweater. Invite the kid who is standing alone by the swings to join your game of hide and seek. Smile. Make eye contact. Listen. Get to know people of different faiths and ethnicities and cultures and family structures. Value what each person in this world has to offer because you will be a better person when you see the good in others. Care about what happens to your neighbor. I guarantee you that when you share love, it will enrich your life and you will get love back tenfold.

Lastly, know that I love you. Unconditionally and completely and forever. You and your brother are amazing. And it wasn't until I had you that I understood how much my mom loves me. Thank you for teaching me that.

Happy Valentine's Day to my daughter.


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