Faith and Other Lies

March 31, 2011

My sister-in-law is having a baby–her first baby– in May. Of course, we’re giddy with delight over here.  Miss D. and Miss M. have been demanding cousins since, well, birth.  We also just found out that this new cousin is going to be of the girl variety. Miss D. pouted a bit over that bit of news; she much prefers the company of boys.

Girls are, as D. puts it, “boring to play with.”  Now, this comes from the mouth of a child who has never played with a doll or a Barbie for more than five minutes. But hey, if there’s a stray stick in the yard, she’s all over it. Sticks! Poking stuff! Awesome!

My sister-in-law has been on my mind lately.  I’m thrilled that she’s having a girl. I can tell, though, that she is a little frightened by that prospect, and I completely understand.

I wanted a girl desperately.  Shamelessly. And of course, when you’re that selfish, it comes back to bite you. Karma’s a bitch.

The complete elation I felt when I learned that D. was, indeed, a girl, lasted about 24 hours. After the initial frenzy of Think Pink! e-mails and plundering the store shelves for the frilliest clothes I could find, the romance was over. Not only was it over, it was replaced by the Anvil of Despair.

I was having a girl.

You know what happens to girls, don’t you?

Their mothers fuck them up.

Panicked, I called my mother.  “I’m having a girl. A daughter.” I almost couldn’t breathe. “Jesus. I’m going to fuck her up.”

“You’re not fucked up, and you’re a girl,” she said.

“That’s because you slapped me into therapy in the 7th grade and I’ve gone every week of my life ever since,” I said.  “That’ll never happen with this one. We totally don’t have that kind of money.”

“We did have excellent insurance,” my mother concurred.

“How do you do it?”  I said.

“Hmmpp?”

I was having a nervous episode and my mother was ironing, I could tell.

“How do you not fuck up your daughter?”

“If you recall, your sister’s gotten 6 DUI’s and hasn’t had a job in four years.”

“That’s what I mean!” I hissed.  “What the Hell did you do to her?”

Now this is completely absurd. My mother was one of those mothers who cooked dinner every night and never ran out of Band-Aids or emergency lollipops and never, not even once, made me eat the hot lunch at school.

“I can’t really tell you anything,” she said. “They either just turn out or…they don’t.”

I sulked for a minute. “That’s completely inadequate. There’s got to be a way to fix things.”

“I don’t believe God takes bribes. Actually, thinking back on your sister, I can tell you that he definitely doesn’t.”

“Mom. You should know this stuff. All mothers should know this stuff; it should be a rule or something.”

There was a long pause. Wench was still ironing. “Do you remember that old joke about what makes a successful marriage?”

“Is this relevant or should I just cut my losses and hang up now?”

My mother ignored me. “The joke was, in order for a marriage to work, immediately after the honeymoon, the wife has to become blind and the husband has to become deaf.”

“Cute.”

“I guess there’s sort of another part to that,” she said.  “If you become a mother, the only way to do it successfully is to rip your heart out and throw it into oncoming traffic, because that’s what your child is going to do to you anyways.”

“I did that to you?”

“Every day since birth.”

That little tidbit necessitated a call to the InShrinkerator. “Um, hi. I’mgoingtofuckmydaughterupreallyreallybad!”

At this point I was actually foaming at the mouth. “She’s not even born yet but I’m going to destroy her by inches, and I won’t even know it. I’ll think I’m doing a good job but really I suck! And everything is going to be my fault.”

“Have you been taking your Prozac with margaritas again?” he said.

After ten minutes of listening to the Doomsday speech, he cut me off mid-rant. “Dana, you might not want to hear this,” he said, “but some things are better left to faith. Just take it a day at a time.  It will be okay.”

As if I’d fall for that crock of garbage.

I called my friend Bette, who has the dubious distinction of being the Only Person Who Tells Me the Truth. Which means that most of the time I completely loathe her, but she’s usually right.

“Yep, you’re gonna fuck her up,” she said. “But there’s really nothing you can do about it. Just shoot for minimal damage. If she grows up and she’s not a serial killer, ya done good, kid.”

“How does this not make you completely insane?”

“You know, once you’re in the mommy zone, there’s so much other stuff going on that you sort of forget about it.  You just don’t have the time to worry about that crap when there’s seven feet of laundry on the floor and someone just peed in the kitchen.”

That next week, I made it my mission to ask every woman with offspring for advice. I accosted complete strangers in the drugstore and the dry cleaners.  I even asked the Hungarian lady who has the distasteful job of handling my monthly bikini wax.  And these women, being generous creatures, happily gave advice.

“Pray. Hard.”

“Never give up hope or alcoholic beverages.”

“Valium.”

“Relax. It only lasts for eighteen years.”

Maybe Ika said it best. “Bah!” she said, ripping a strip of prime real estate from my nether regions. “Why you even bother thinking about this?”

I gripped the table, eyes watering.

“People—they never know nothing.  We all full of shit.”

“You just do good job growing that baby girl,” she said, pointing to my belly.  She gave another ruthless pull. “The rest up to her.”

Maybe I will fuck her up, or maybe I’ll really be able to have faith, or maybe I’ll just self-medicate until she’s grown so I don’t have to witness it all.

But my mother is right about one thing—somewhere, out on a freeway, there’s a heart with my daughter’s name written all over it.

{ 69 comments… read them below or add one }

ayala March 31, 2011 at 11:00 am

The relationship with mothers and daughters is complicated. I love your sense of humor and I love the way you ended this .

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Winn March 31, 2011 at 11:08 am

Somehow, I think your daughters are going to be just fine. They’ve got your genes, right? ;)

That being said, am I ever glad I had a boy! Of course, right now we’re vying for who gets to be the boss of the household… and he’s only five. Lord help us all.

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Julie March 31, 2011 at 11:39 am

I think the fear is there, regardless of the sex of the child. I know that feeling!! It seems like so much responsibility to be a mom. But I’ve become a big believer in genetics. I think in great part, people will become who they are going to become, regardless. I have three boys and they are all SO different already. We do our best to guide them along the way and hope/pray/wish for the best. I love all the advice you got. :)

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Patty March 31, 2011 at 11:46 am

Holy crap! I feel the EXACT same way! And my poor daughter doesn’t even have a sister with whom to commiserate, just 2 brothers. I think about this all the time, especially after reading “The Joy Luck Club” or some other book about mothers and daughters.

Somehow reading this made me feel a little better about the whole thing. Though you made me cry, I was also laughing, and at least I know I’m not the only one out there screwing up her daughter!

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TKW March 31, 2011 at 11:57 am

Patty,

I don’t have a sister to commiserate with, really. We are estranged, for reasons hinted at in the post.

I’m like you–Joy Luck Club killed me. As do all mother-daughter books. Thanks for coming by!

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Tiffany March 31, 2011 at 11:49 am

Ain’t it a pisser when our Moms are right? That picture at the end? Priceless.

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Erin March 31, 2011 at 12:20 pm

You crack me up… I laughed out loud at “Wench was still ironing”.

A friend of mine just had her first child, a daughter, and almost thought she didn’t want to have kids before because she was so worried about the responsibility of raising the kid to not be a psycho killer. I worry about that less… I’ll just do the best I can, and I’m sure my heart will be torn out at times. But it’s not enough concern to ever make me think I wouldn’t want kids of my own… daughters even :)

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Erica@PLRH March 31, 2011 at 12:27 pm

My mother says, “I seriously don’t know what I did wrong with your sister. I swear I raised you two the same way.” Do what you can and trust the rest to the universe.

I have a good relationship with my mom but I truly miss having a relationship with a sister. And somedays I really feel lonely being the only girl in the house (besides the dog).

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TKW April 1, 2011 at 4:56 am

Erica,

You can come hang out in my estrogen-fueled house any time.

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elizabeth March 31, 2011 at 12:29 pm

All I’m going to say is: you NEED to rent Volver. Like immediately or at least over htis weekend. Or better yet–buy it because you’ll want to watch it again and again. Methinks it will resonate with you.

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TKW April 1, 2011 at 4:57 am

elizabeth–now I’m intrigued!

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Lindsey March 31, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Oh …. laughing and wiping away tears. So, so true. My heart is out there dancing with traffic too. Sigh. xx

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TKW March 31, 2011 at 1:13 pm

Miss you. Let’s talk soon, okay?

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jacki March 31, 2011 at 12:35 pm

This post could not be any more aptly timed. I’m having a baby girl in 4 days, by cesarean. My first child. And when I’m not panicking about the epidural, the surgery, and the other things that will happen to my body in the hospital, all I think about is how in the world I will manage to not fuck up my daughter.

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TKW March 31, 2011 at 1:16 pm

Jacki,

Any girl who titles a post: Cheddar Sriracha Makes Pregnant Girls Happy is a winner in my book. Congrats on your new daughter! Would it be too much to ask to send me a picture?

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jacki March 31, 2011 at 2:58 pm

I will absolutely send you a picture. :)

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Jennifer March 31, 2011 at 1:28 pm

Bette really does always tell the truth. Everyone needs a Bette.

I worry about this sometime, when I’m buried seven feet deep in laundry and there’s pee on the kitchen floor and “if just one more thing happens I’m gonna lose it” and I stop and think, “what am I doing to my kids? what kind of example am I? how bad am I really fucking them up?” Then I stop and hug them and tell them how much I love them because regardless of anything else I want them to know that, and that having my heart ripped out and ran over was really worth it. Even if I don’t always act like it.

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Gale March 31, 2011 at 1:42 pm

This reminded me of something our best friends said before their first child was born. The wife was scared that they would screw the kid up completely. The husband responded, “I figure, worst case scenario, we’re mediocre parents.”

That quote has lived in infamy ever since.

The photo of you, your mom and (presumably) Miss D is so lovely. Mama’s got killer cheekbones!

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TKW March 31, 2011 at 3:18 pm

I know, right? She’s the most beautiful thing.

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Jenna March 31, 2011 at 1:54 pm

And that fear–among others–is exactly why I’m not pregnant and not trying.
Yep.
“The Plan” dictates September as the Month in Which We Will Start to Try To Conceive. The word ‘terror’ doesn’t begin to describe it.

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TKW April 1, 2011 at 4:37 am

But Jenna, you’ll make beautiful babies.

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alisha March 31, 2011 at 1:57 pm

sending this to my bff as we speak.

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Donna March 31, 2011 at 2:18 pm

The day my oldest daughter turned 12, she went from sweetheart to raging b%#@h. I complained loudly to my mother and she said I totally deserved it, that my sister and I did the same thing to her at the same age. So I put up with 4 years of misery. At age 16, the girl miraculously changed back to angel overnight. Unfortunately, her younger sister hit age 12 the previous fall and we still had a devil-teen with us. My mother just laughed. I am always amazed at how wonderful my daughters turned out, maybe like my mother was with my sister and I.

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TKW April 1, 2011 at 5:00 am

Donna,

Miss D. is nine and I can feel the devil-teen in her brewing. Damn, I’m going to be in for it.

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Belinda March 31, 2011 at 2:48 pm

Heartfelt and completely relatable. And maybe a heart hasn’t done what it’s made to do unless it’s been ripped out and thrown onto oncoming traffic.

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BigLittleWolf March 31, 2011 at 2:57 pm

So much truth, and cracking me up at the same time. When I found out I was having boys – both times – I thought “Thank you God – I’m less likely to fuck them up.”

I get this. It’s a mother-daughter thing, and it’s also a mother-any child thing. An old friend and I were talking this morning. She raised 4 kids – they range in age from 31 to 19 – all doing great. My two – now 18 and 19 (and the younger still torturing me with mad mood swings – daily).

You get what you get. You do your best. You self-medicate when you can. You gloss over. You lose brain cells anyway from worry and lack of sleep. And you hold your breath. Maybe you get a little lucky. Maybe, you just survive it. And watch – keeping your mouth shut – when someone else delivers the “good news” that a baby is on the way.

Because it’s the best thing there is – and the toughest. But you already know that.

xoxo

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rebecca @ altared spaces March 31, 2011 at 4:24 pm

Why are all the photos from this era this color? I have a photo very similar, fireplace, same carpet and certainly the same overall hue. And what does that mean… growing up basted in that color?

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TKW April 1, 2011 at 4:39 am

Rebecca,

I don’t know, but it sure isn’t a flattering color, is it?

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Paula (Salad in a Jar) March 31, 2011 at 6:48 pm

Love the last picture and your mother is gorgeous. Thinking of you both.

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Contemporary Troubadour March 31, 2011 at 6:51 pm

Ika: to be feared and revered. I’m still laughing/cringing/tearing up.

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TKW April 1, 2011 at 4:41 am

CT: Ika was fierce, man!! But you’ll never find a more tenacious and detailed waxer than a Hungarian, I tell ya.

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Klz March 31, 2011 at 6:57 pm

I think there’s a distinct possibility that roadkill is actually the hearts of mothers

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Elizabeth Flora Ross March 31, 2011 at 7:09 pm

This? Is so completely brilliant! Are all your posts this awesome? This is the first one I’ve read, and I will be back! :)

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TKW April 1, 2011 at 4:42 am

Elizabeth,

Hi! No, all of my posts are not this awesome. Sometimes I write about stuff that gets flushed down my toilet. But it’s nice to meet you!

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Maria March 31, 2011 at 7:09 pm

Oh Kitch! Tears are streaming down my face. Because I fear fucking up my kids more than meeting death. Because when you grow up in a dysfunctional, alcoholic family, all you’ve got is faith that somehow, you can do better.

And because even though she is still on this Earth, my mother is gone…and I miss what could have been. No matter how many trips to the InShrinkerator you make, how much progress is made, it still hurts like a bitch.

And for that very reason, I am ever grateful for my sons. At least I feel like I can mess them up less.

Beautiful picture of you, Miss D, and Momma Kitch… Absolutely glorious!

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TKW April 1, 2011 at 5:08 am

Maria,

Just reading your words about your mom made me tear up. Devastating. xo

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TKW's Dad March 31, 2011 at 7:43 pm

Another classic, TKW. But don’t be so hard on Mom’s. We Dad’s have our own stress attacks when Daughters come into our world. When it comes to Daughters, we have no clue. We don’t think alike. We don’t act alike. And no Dad can ever “read” his daughter. It’s impossible. And we have no idea how you are going to turn out. From the time a daughter is in middle school until about 25 years of age, Dad’s are the enemy, not to be spoken to, or acknowledged in any way. How are we to understand that? But over the years, I do think that we realize that we missed out on a lot, and should have read books, consulted experts and made a much better effort to understand, communicate with and find out all that daughters deal with growing up. We had a part, and mothers shouldn’t take all the guilt trip.

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TKW April 1, 2011 at 4:46 am

You weren’t the enemy, Daddy-o. I was my enemy. You just had to bear witness.

You were watching me grow, thinking, “Who is this mysterious creature?” And I was growing, thinking, “Who the Hell am I?”

Talk about a Pandora’s box!

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Christine @ Fresh March 31, 2011 at 7:51 pm

I love that last picture, it’s so sweet. The relationship between mother and daughter goes through many evolutions from my experience. I really like your mom’s philosophy, do the best you can and see what happens.

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Cathy March 31, 2011 at 8:53 pm

I was just talking with my ShrinkWoman and she said, “eh, we ALL fuck up our kids.” Somehow that just made me feel better. And, look at the relationship with your mom. She still has you in some special way. My boys, they’ll all move out and get a wife and then I’ll be the f*ing mother-in-law.

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TKW April 1, 2011 at 4:47 am

Cathy,

I just spit out a mouthful of Pellegrino as I read that last line. You are hilarious!

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Privilege of Parenting March 31, 2011 at 9:12 pm

One of my teachers said that therapists become therapists because they failed to cure their parents—I’m not sure if that’s true for me, but I know I have failed to cure my parents. Being fucked up I take as a given, it’s the hope of resilience and coming to embrace the whole absurd, tragic and beautiful thing that I find creates depth and soul—maybe even “fucked up” is the Shadow of the false notion that we are supposed to have it all figured out, not need anyone and not have any “issues.” Being alive is having issues (given the dirt nap that awaits the fucked up and the not fucked up alike). I just love that you are able to crack me up and touch me with your honesty at the same time, KW.

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TKW April 1, 2011 at 4:49 am

Bruce,

“The dirt nap” just might be my favorite phrase ever. You rock.

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bryan April 1, 2011 at 3:34 am

You have a way my friend… great piece of writing! As a dad of girls (3) I kind of know what you are saying but like your dad, we have our own struggles.

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Dawn April 1, 2011 at 4:14 am

Wait…are you saying that boys get a free pass? I don’t think so! Though I have no say whatsoever because I have no kids..just a dog…But I did pretty much mess her up! :)

Making your family chocolate cake this weekend. Can’t wait.

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TKW April 1, 2011 at 4:50 am

Dawn,

Good luck with Aunt Lee’s cake! I hope yours doesn’t look lopsided like mine :) But it will still taste good!

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Justine April 1, 2011 at 6:30 am

Hear Hear, Kitch. Gorgeous words as usual.

Like you, now I have the chance to do it (it being the “fucking up of daughters”), not once, but twice! I think that’s why every time before I found out the gender of my baby, I secretly hoped for a boy because I thought I could do less damage. Until I turn and look at my babies’ father and realize, nope. You can do just as much damage, girl or boy, so it’s either we abandon our uterus for the coyotes and live the life of what-ifs or just take that heart of ours into the freeway and hope that it ends up mostly under mopeds and minis, and not the semis that often frequent these roads. But at least with the latter, there are moments of joy so transcendent that it aaaaalmost makes up for the roadkill heart.

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Katybeth April 1, 2011 at 9:19 am

I wanted a girl so desperately–I had an amnio so if it was a boy-I could get over my disappointment before he was born. When I learned the baby was a boy, I was immediately delighted and wondered, Now What. It took Joe longer to get over his disappointment, about 30 minutes.
Girl or Boy you save for therapy if your smart and not college. The best part is, once you get that you are going to screw up-then you can start to have fun and enjoy almost every minute.
Oh and to keep Cole on the straight and narrow, I tell him every time he goes out on his own–”have fun, and to remember if anything ever happened to him-my life would be over.”
Ika strips it down to whats is important without waxing on and on; and I like your Mom.

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SuziCate April 1, 2011 at 9:45 am

Oh wow, the comolications of mothers and daughters and sisters! I have three sisters…we’re all different and have different relationships with our mother. I won’t even go into the nitty gritty of who messed who up etc….it would take a book not a blog post! Love your sense of humor!

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Abby April 1, 2011 at 10:46 am

My 17-year-old cat has one tooth, patchy hair and a crooked crotch. If this is any indication as to my parenting skills, I don’t think I could keep a daughter in tact for 18 years. Even though she was adopted, I’m out.

Seriously. No kids for me. And even though my mom did totally eff me up, I think I turned out OK in the end–much like this post. Loved it ;p

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TKW April 1, 2011 at 12:06 pm

Abby,

I need a picture of the crooked cat crotch. I just do.

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Abby April 1, 2011 at 2:38 pm

http://abbyhasissues.com/2011/03/07/my-fuzzy-little-soul-sister/

It’s not kitty porn, but you get an idea ;)

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Futureblackmail April 1, 2011 at 12:03 pm

I emailed my Mom a link to this post and told her thanks for f**king me up. :)

PS: I NEVER seem to have band-aids.

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Amy @ Never-True Tales April 1, 2011 at 4:15 pm

You nailed it in that last line! My sister just had a baby…the poor smuck.

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Amy @ Never-True Tales April 1, 2011 at 4:16 pm

Doh…clearly Friday here: meant to say she just had a baby GIRL.

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Mary Lee April 2, 2011 at 10:26 am

My pediatrician used to say that we needed one to practice on.

You were not alone! I remember complimenting a friend on her older daughter and she said, “Yeah, she’d really be a good kid if we hadn’t already screwed her up.”

And yet we oldest daughters survive and reproduce!

PS. Get Miss M a dog!

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Christine @ Coffees & Commutes April 2, 2011 at 10:43 am

I wanted girls SO bad. And when my first was born and I learned he was a boy, I immediately said it couldn’t be true. Almost 5 years, and another boy later, I am GRATEFUL every day that they are boys.

However, I think I’ll probably fuck them up too.
xo

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jessica April 2, 2011 at 1:15 pm

It seems, being that we are daughters, we should be able to perfectly mother them…but, lord, daughters are dangerous creatures!

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faemom April 4, 2011 at 12:09 am

I loved this post! It was beautiful!

My mom cried the night she first held me because “she’s going to grow up and hate me.”
I’ve decided to save up for their therapy and not their college education.

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Heather April 4, 2011 at 6:16 pm

There is no rhyme or reason to how our kiddos end up. My life growing up sucked and I came out on the pretty ok end of things. My brother?? Not so much… It’s a total crap shoot. But hell, if we don’t fuck them up think of all the therapists that will be out of jobs!

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subWOW April 4, 2011 at 9:33 pm

I can’t comment on this worth a damn. Suffice to say I love this one. (Again.) Here is a quote I’ve been thinking of adding here when I read this post:

“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” Elizabeth Stone

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The Curious Cat April 6, 2011 at 5:59 am

Aww…I enjoyed this entry…it is true. Mums do fuck you up but so do dads. It is the Philip Larkin quote – they fuck you up your mum and dad…

But it is okay, we still love them anyway… you get through it and over it and then pass it along and hopefully like a good recipe it gets tweaked and refined and the damage is less?! What do I know…I’ve been told I’m getting a boy anyway by the star sign dude….

Lovely photos by the way too. xxx

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