the one about ugly

I have read quite a few parenting blogs, articles, manuals, books, and brochures in my almost 5 years of motherhood. I feel like, by baby number 3, we finally have a teeny, tiny idea of what we are "doing" as parents. As in, we know how to keep them all fed, safe, and (relatively) clean at the same time. We know how to love them, discipline them, and make their eyes light up with joy. We are doing this parenting thing, and we aren't totally sucking at it.

But then Noelle dropped this bomb today.

"One of my friends said I was ugly."


I had to ask her to repeat it because I wasn't sure I heard it correctly the first time. In one quick second, my heart was breaking and my blood was boiling all at the same time. I frantically whipped through the repertoire of the aforementioned blogs, articles, manuals, books, and brochures I had stored in my brain…searching for something that would give me wisdom for this moment.

Sadly, I didn't have anything stored up for "when your child is called ugly for the first time."

I wanted to say the right things. I wanted to give her the proper advice.

I really wanted to just tell her that kids are jerks sometimes, but I figured I would save that for when she's 11 or something.

So, I took a deep breath and explained to her that sometimes people say things they don't mean out of anger or frustration or even boredom.

Or out of jerky-ness. 

(I didn't say that.)

And then I told her no less than 378 times that she was NOT ugly. She was beautiful. Inside and out. I made her come up with 5 beautiful things about herself.

Her list was as follows:

1. Her freckles. I love that her freckles were the first things she identified as beautiful. 

2. Her eyes.

3. Her hair.

4. Her smile.

5. Her strength and how she runs really fast.

I started to discuss the issue even further, but by then she was mouthing the words, ironically, to Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off" on the radio and bopping around to the beat, so I decided to save my Danny Tanner moment for another day.

In a way, having 3 girls scares me to death. I know that this is only the beginning of the hurt feelings, criticism, and self-doubt. I know that the years will amount to one big, long, crazy, twisted emotional roller coaster with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.

In fact, the most common response when I say that I have 3 girls is some exasperated sound effect followed by, "Good luck with that!" or something of that nature.

So the entire world knows how hard it is going to be to raise these girls into kind and confident women, and today was just one of many "firsts" we will experience along the way.

This afternoon, she didn't need me to go on and on about how amazing she was, but someday she will, and maybe I will be a little more prepared for that moment and say something like this…

Ugly? Hmmm. Nope. You're not ugly. 

According to Webster, "ugly" means unpleasant to look at; unpleasant to hear; offensive and disgusting.

That is definitely not you.

The person who said that clearly does not understand the meaning of the word "ugly," given that he/she completely misused it. People tend to do that a lot-- use words, yet they have no idea the actual meaning. 

But my point is, you are not ugly. 

You are beautiful and gifted and brilliant. You are funny and entertaining and spunky. You are sweet and spirited and bold. You are creative and colorful and full of life. 

You are not ugly. 

Greed is ugly. Bragging is ugly. Murder and gossip and lying are ugly. 

You are not ugly.

The Colts losing to the New England Patriots is ugly.

But you are not ugly.

It is possible that the person who called you ugly might have had some sort of issue with you that they simply didn't know how to express, so he/she just picked a familiar, insulting word and threw it out blindly. It is quite possible that the person doesn't want to be your friend for one reason or another.

And that is OK. Because there are 7 billion people on this planet, you don't need to be friends with everyone. Everyone does not have to like you.

But just between you and me…I wouldn't want to be friends with someone who doesn't understand the meaning of the word 'ugly' anyway.

the one about these days

This one is for us.

It's for us to read and read again whenever we forget.

It's our reminder to take everything one baby step at a time.

The other night, I looked at you before we fell asleep and asked if we could stay young forever. We both sighed and agreed that years down the road, we will look back and believe these were the best years of our lives.

Everyone says that, but I am really starting to feel it in my gut. In my heart.

These are the best days. The ones where we trip over at least 3 pairs of pink and purple sparkly shoes when we walk in the door. The ones where we fill our grocery carts with oodles of granola bars and fruit snacks and unsweetened applesauce. The ones where, if you looked close enough, you'd surely find a diaper on the floor, under a bed, behind a couch, in a perfect just-changed ball, still needing thrown away.

These are the very best days. The ones where bedtime started as snuggles and stories and ended with tears and bribes and "not that blanket!" or "I want milk!" or "just one more book, Papa." The ones where combing the knots out of their hair after bath time is a 30 minute process and PJs aren't donned until the 5th time we ask. The ones where we flop on the couch in a heap of exhaustion, ready to go to bed at 8:30 because we know that 6 a.m. 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. will come too soon.

Chaos and crazy and, my God, the crumbs…everywhere, on everything. We've got fingerprints on the TV and the windows and mirrors. There are piles of laundry needing washed and more piles of laundry needing put away. We could open a toy store with what we find under our couches alone.

But these are the best days, and even especially when it's hard, we must remember this. Sure, they will always be "our babies," but they won't always be our babies. There won't always be Doc McStuffins Band Aids on the legs of our dining room table or ponytail holders camouflaged into the carpet or washable marker on just about everything. Eventually, this place will look more like a house and less like a daycare and it will all be ours again.

We will be ours again, too.

Which is why I want you to know each and every day that I love you.

Sometimes, "I love you" sounds more like "Babe, you have a booger on your pants."

or "That shirt smells like baby shit, Sweetie."

But in all the ways, I love you.

At the risk of sounding like a maniacal creeper, I want you to know that I watch you. When you think no one is looking, I see you.

I see you in the playroom with the girls, tiara on your head and bracelet on your wrist.

I see you weaving impressive braids into our oldest's hair. You're (scary) good at it.

I see you spinning and tossing and twirling the girls, one right after the other, over and over again, because it makes them squeal with joy. And almost puke. But mostly, squeal with joy.

I see you selecting Disney on Pandora while you make them eggs for breakfast and singing along, unashamed, to almost every song.

I see you holding and swaddling and shushing the baby so that I can get some rest.

I see you.

And in all the ways, I love you.

These days…the ones of coffee at 6 a.m. and coffee at 10 p.m.. The ones of midnight shuffling to the kitchen to fill a sippy with milk. The ones of finger prints on the walls and stickers on the furniture and crayon on anything but a coloring book. The ones of staying awake a few minutes longer, though desperate to close our eyes, just to watch them sleep.

These are the very best days.

I've always known, but now I believe.