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Who will you be?

Dear Delilah,

You bring me so much joy, it’s unreal. It is strange to love someone you know nothing about. I can’t tell you if you’ll be a dancer, a soccer player, or an artist. I don’t know if you’ll listen to country music, screamo, or jazz. Will you be into romantic comedies like me or action movies like your dad? I have no clue, but I am so eager to learn. I promise to always encourage your individuality. I will never diminish the things that make you unique. No matter what adventures you decide to embark on, I promise I will always be there supporting your dreams. When you fall, I will be there to pick you up & remind you to never give up on yourself. There will be times you envy the talents of others. In those moments I will remind you of the skills that make you special. When I was younger I wanted to be a dancer. I tried out for the school drill team & cheer squad & made neither. The truth is the only kind of dancing I can do is “Just Dance”. However, I’ve got countless medals from singing competitions & was awarded Best Actress in my college. Those are the gifts God chose for me, what will he choose for you? As I lie in bed every night I try to picture you, but there are still so many questions unanswered. Will your hair be red like your dad’s? Will you have my brown eyes or his freckles? How is it possible to love someone so unconditionally when you’ve never even met them? I can’t quite answer all of these questions but I know one thing for certain; Delilah Rain, I can’t wait to meet you. 

When I grow up 

Dear Delilah,  

What do you want to be when you grow up? 

Had you asked me when I was 7, I would’ve said a zookeeper. 

At 12, an ASPCA case worker 

At 15, a veterinarian 

At 17, a vet technician

At 18, an elementary school teacher

At 19, I played around with the idea of working in speech pathology & audiology.  Maybe helping children with special needs to communicate. Or maybe Psychology; something about it gave me purpose.  

My plans were to graduate with an Associates of the Arts degree in theatre then transfer the credits over to the neighboring university where they would take the credits to continue a Bachelors in Education or Speech Pathology. 

Then I ran into your dad & something inside of me changed.  

I was no longer preoccupied by dreams of my own but dreams of a family. I dreamt of being a wife.  I dreamt of being a mother. 

Staying in Southeast Texas for the sole purpose of continuing school seemed so silly compared to my dreams of being a homemaker,  a nurturer, a mother, & a wife. Your father & I got married, I graduated,  & it was off to New York for me. 

New York was a beautiful experience. I made friends & found a job that I loved. I worked with one of my best friends running the toddler classroom at a child development center & I couldn’t have been happier. It wasn’t long before I bonded with the children & several of the parents. I loved the kids like my own & leaving them was harder than I ever could’ve imagined but at 7 months pregnant it was time to move back to good ole Texas. 

Now we’ve been stationed here about 6 months & I’ve had a job for 2 but it just hasn’t been the same. An Associates degree in Theatre is hardly a career & child care centers don’t pay much. Finding a minimum skill job that pays enough to make daycare worth it is nearly impossible. Staying home doesn’t help financially at all. Sometimes it’s hard to remember how insignificant money is. Our lights stay on & we have food on the table.  Our gas tanks are full & we have hot water to bathe. Isn’t everything else just an added luxury? New books, Starbucks, eating out. Those things aren’t needed. I’m stressing over insignificant things. A job is simply that. A job. 

So ask me at 22 what I want to be when I grow up. 

I want to be happy.  I want to be available for my husband & child. I want to be loved. I want to take lots of pictures. I want to cherish the little things that make life so beautiful. I want to make memories that will last a lifetime. I want to hold my family close. I want to be kind to others. I want to take chances. I want to go on adventures. I want to grow & watch you grow. I want to run my fingers through your father’s grey hair when we’re old & look into those beautiful eyes like I’m 19 again. We were young & no, I didn’t have a career, a savings, or even a plan but he waltzed into my heart & I had never been so sure of anything in my entire life.  

Coping without you

I’m angry.  I’m in no way angry at you.  I’m angered by your absence. My anger isn’t an isolated emotion.  Accompanied by sadness,  lonliness, & helplessness,  I’m drowning in emotions that are foreign to me.  When you’re here,  my emotions are at rest. The usual ones remain;  love,  happiness,  relief.  When you’re here I am half of a whole.  I am a player on our team.  In your absense I am incomplete.  I’m expected to be whole & take on the roles of the whole team.  I’m supposed to keep a smile on my face because I’m a military wife. My husband is a hero so how can I be angry with my situation?  “You chose this life”, “you knew what you were signing up for”. Excuse me,  are you trying to comfort me?  After two years of marriage, I’m sleeping alone.  My daughter has the best dad in the world and he can’t even see her. Yes,  I’m angry.  Anger is an emotion I don’t know well. I can cope with being sad.  I can cope with being alone.  How do you justify being angry at a situation instead of a person?  I’ve heard parents of cancer patients break down and say they are just so full of anger.  Not at their child of course,  their child is the victim. Friends & family are just collateral damage.  That’s where I fall,  I’m collateral damage.  My husband is going through life without his wife,  his daughter,  his dogs,  his home.  I’m sure when sick children see their parents angry they often feel like they are at fault. Anger is rarely talked about,  it is rarely explained & perhaps that’s where the problem lies.  Anger is an emotion that is easier to avoid.  But what if we started discussing our anger?  Would there be less children blaming themselves for failed marriages?  Less sick people feeling like burdens? Less soldiers feeling like their wives are upset with them?  I’m not angry with you.  I’m angry without you. Forgive me when my anger comes across wrong. Forgive me when my anger takes the form of a snide comment about you leaving.  I promise I never mean to hurt you. I know you take my words to heart but it’s just bottled up pain, bottled up anger that slowly comes out. I guess now that I think about it, my anger has always taken the form of words.  My heart and soul express themselves through words. What a blessing and a curse.  Your ears are blessed with I love you,  I miss you,  and I could never live without you.  I guess it doesn’t help when the kind words you recieve are followed by “you left” and “I’m alone”. I never say things to be malicious. I don’t forge my words into daggars to wound you.  But it seems that way.. I promise I’ll try to be aware of what I am saying. I promise I will try my best to talk about my anger while reminding you that my anger is in no way directed at you.  I am so proud of the man you have become.  I am mesmerized watching you with Delilah.  I am so thankful for your patience and attentiveness as both a husband and father.  I am extremely proud of your success in your career,  that at 21 years old you are not only excelling but financially supporting a family of 3, plus 2 fur babies.  We’ve purchased our first home & 2 vehicles. Not to mention the discipline and respect the military has instilled in you. Oh man do I have so much love and respect for you.  You are so much more than I ever could have imagined for myself. My heart is bursting with appreciation for you. Without you my heart is angry, but I promise I’ll learn to cope in a way that doesn’t hurt you. I love you Cody Montana. 

Touch

Dear Delilah, 

Never forget that your body is yours. There will come a day when people try to convince you otherwise. 

Your body will fail you in the moment. Keep your mind & heart strong. The internal battle is the hardest to fight. 

Butterflies do not equal love. 

Smooth talking does not equal respect. 

Guys seem to know exactly what to say to make you feel like you owe them something.  

Babygirl, you are special. Don’t be the next number to a guy who doesn’t see that.  

I pray that your father & I can be a pure honest example of love & adoration.  

We both grew up in broken homes & searched for love & acceptance in the arms of strangers.  

They all make you feel special. For a moment. 

Don’t settle for surface compliments.  Yes,  “you’re beautiful”.  Boys will get “lost in your eyes” & “love your smile”. “Your dress is pretty” and “your hair is gorgeous”.  It’s garbage. 

Wait for the man that loves that you laugh when you’re nervous, that you geek out over astronomy,  or fight for what you believe in. 

You’re brilliant. Never compromise your intelligence for anyone. 

It’s human nature to want to be wanted. You have to learn to want & love yourself first. 

“How you love yourself is how you teach others to love you.”  -Rupi Kaur

I wish so badly that someone would’ve had this talk with me. It’s not enough to say “wait until marriage”. 

When you’re uncomfortable, say no.  When you’re drinking, say no. When you don’t even know his middle name,  say no.  

So often I wished I had just stood up for myself. Why was it so hard to say what I was really thinking?  Why did I feel like anyone deserved such a sacred part of me?  

I want so badly to shelter you from the pain. The false compliments, the temporary butterflies. The mornings after, tear streaked pillows. Sweetheart, it’s so not worth it.  

I know I’ll annoy you about who you’re with, where you’re going, when you’ll be home..  But I’ll be up late waiting to make sure you come home safe. I’ll bug you with questions about how things went & you’ll roll your eyes because I’m over protective.  

I was given the blessing of being your parent in this life & helping guide you through life’s tough battles. I promise I will always be waiting with a listening ear, & a full heart. 

 & your dad will be waiting with his shotgun.  

Come Home

When you’re gone it doesn’t feel like living. I fall into a routine. Mindlessly go day to day feeling little. 

I miss your spontaneity. Ice cream runs & late night scrabble. Disney movie nights, midnight coffee. 

I miss your touch. Holding my hand, washing my back. Forehead kisses.  

Our bed feels too spacious.  My voice seems to echo off the walls in our home. 

You breathe life into my world. I’m suffocating without you. Come home.  

Encouraging creativity. 

Dear Delilah,

There are no limits to your imagination & creativity. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, & you’re the beholder. Open your mind & explore, the world is at your fingertips. 

I am so open minded when it comes to parenting. I firmly believe that parenting is different for every child. I don’t care if you breastfeed, formula feed, or do both; as long as your child is fed. I don’t care if your baby cosleeps, sleeps in a play pen, or has slept in their room since day one; as long as they’re getting a good night’s rest. I don’t care what language, culture, or political preferences you teach your child. But please let your kid be a kid. 

Don’t constantly sit them in front of the television.

Don’t give them your iPad or cellphone every time they get hyper; they’re children. 

Don’t sit down at a restaurant & allow your kids to bury their heads in technology. 

Children have to learn to be decent human beings. They have to learn how to act in public when they don’t have electronics everywhere. I know it’s easier than actually teaching them how to behave. It’s easier than disciplining your bratty child in front of people. 

However, overloading your small children with technology doesn’t just hinder them socially. They suffer from “I’m entitled to new electronics for every holiday”. Cell phones, tablets, iPods, laptops, TVs, etc. 

The thing that bothers me the most is that we as parents are killing our children’s imagination. We’re killing their creative capacity. 

I work at a child development center where I run the performing arts classroom. All day long children from the ages of 6-12 transition in & out of a classroom full of costumes, masks, art supplies, music, & props. I would’ve LOVED something like this as a kid. I used to gather food in my backyard (leaves, dirt, grass, pebbles), put them in my big stew pot (any bucket I could find), & mix them with all my different cooking utensils (sticks). Didn’t we all do things like this? 

I really struggle to encourage creativity in my classroom.. During our Pirate themed week I allowed the kids to drawing treasure maps. I was thinking this would be a super easy & fun activity for all the kids. I gave them 3 rules: there has to be a starting point, an “X” to mark the spot, & 5 obstacles of their choice (volcano, caves, forest, rivers, lions, etc). This was ridiculously hard for the majority of my students. They literally could not make themselves think of 5 things when they had an endless amount of options. The next day was worse. I asked the kids to write a short pirate story. There simply had to be 4 characters, a problem & a solution. I think maybe 5 kids were able to write a story that literally could have been about anything in the world as long as it included a pirate. 

These kids have been raised on television & movies, video games, & music videos. They haven’t needed to pretend. They’ve never needed to think for themselves because someone else’s thoughts & visualizations are plastered on a screen for them. The kids can’t even play charades unless they have props for everything. If they were supposed to act out “driving a car” they would literally ask me, “how can I act that out? I don’t have a car.” It is honestly heart breaking. I can’t imagine a childhood without imagination but I witness it everyday. Not to mention they ask me everyday to trash my lesson plan so that they can play on tablets or play on their phones, or worse, MY phone. 

I’m not saying never let your kid watch TV or occasionally play games on a tablet. But please stop handing children electronics every time you don’t feel like parenting or spending time with them. There are so many dramatic play toys & costumes for kids of all ages. Next time your 3 year old brings you a fake phone, answer it. Next time they ask you to have a tea party or hunt dinosaurs, play with them. When they’re playing doctor & need a patient, pretend you broke your leg. Choose books over movies. We can encourage their minds to grow. We can support their creativity. Don’t kill their imagination for your convenience. 

Befriending my Body. 

Dear Delilah, 

You’re beautiful, never doubt that. 

While carrying a child for 9 months it is easy to accept the weight you’ve gained. Nobody expects you to have the “bikini body”, go to the gym, or fit in the cutest clothes. Once you have the baby it suddenly seems like your excuse is gone. I remember going in public after having you, I always wanted to be holding you so people would think “oh she just had a baby” instead of “oh, she’s fat”. It sounds silly I know, but it’s the truth. Every time I looked in the mirror all I saw was a flabby scarred stomach. I started dropping weight, weighing myself several times a day, anxious to see that prepregnancy weight of 130lbs. I never saw it. I’m stuck at 140lbs & I don’t see myself hitting 130 anytime soon. Before pregnancy my stomach was flat, at least flat enough to suck in during pictures. I had nice symmetrical breasts, about a D cup & just enough hips. I felt pretty.

I wasn’t tiny but society said I was pretty enough. 

Now I’m nearly 3 months postpartum. I wear a DDD & my breasts are rarely ever the same size (I breastfeed). My hips have expanded & found their new comfortable size, which is much larger than before. When trying on my prepregnancy clothes, most of my old shorts wouldn’t fit over my thighs. It was discouraging. Recently I looked in the mirror & told myself “you can’t keep looking for your physical beauty in how small you are.”

Beauty is not rated on a scale of how thin you are. 

 I gave birth to a 7lbs 12oz baby, of course my hips widened. My breasts are producing enough milk to allow a human being to survive on nothing else, of course my breasts grew larger. My stomach stretched to be a home for a 21.5in baby, of course I’m scarred. But everyday I get to look into your eyes & see your sweet smile & you look at me like I’m the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen. 

I’m healthy & you’re healthy. I endured 29 hours of labor & lived to tell the tale. My body created you, housed you, & birthed you. What is ugly about that? I’m learning to love my plus size body, so who cares what anyone else thinks.

Coparenting isn’t part time parenting.

Dear Delilah, 

I promise that you will always be at the top of my priority list. I promise to strive to give you the time & attention that God offers us as our Heavenly father. 

There’s a problem I see more & more everyday & I’d like to address it for those who are confused. 

BEING A SINGLE PARENT DOESN’T GIVE YOU A FREE PASS TO BE LESS OF A PARENT.

Just because you are separated doesn’t mean you’re a part time parent. It doesn’t mean you are half responsible for your child.  

I have literally heard parents say things like “my babies dad/mom never gets them so I never get a break”. What even? 

Yes, ideally we could all make it work with our children’s other parent but that’s just not realistic. 

Why does it seem like the mentality of parents (sadly often the younger ones) is “I wonder is anyone wants to watch my kid this weekend so I can be free”. Free? For what? Free to go to the lake, the casino, hangout with my new girlfriend, or get drunk with my friends. 

This is so depressing to me. 

You are a parent now. I am SO sorry if that inconveniences you. You literally have a child that wants nothing more in the world than your time & attention. 

I’m not referring to an occasional spa day or date night. I’m not referring to your child wanting to stay the night at grandma’s every few weeks. There are parents who literally post about going clubbing or partying every other weekend because thank goodness the kids are going to their dad’s house so I can finally be irresponsible. 

Another thing I feel like people do not understand: coparenting does not mean with your parents. Why are grandparents who’s children are grown expected to raise your kid half the time? 

Find new hobbies that your children can take part in. Go to the park, amusement parks, fishing, skating, go on picnics, swimming, an arcade, etc. Your child is not a burden. Stop looking forward to pushing them onto other people so you can think about yourself. 

Your kids are gonna grow up & realize that under the sugar coating of “going to grandma’s” or “dad’s gonna watch you”, you’re just trying to get rid of them.