This here bringer of the pooper to the fun party

Newsletter: Month Fifty and Fifty-one

Dear Leta,

Tomorrow you turn fifty-one months old. If you are reading these in chronological order you will probably notice that the newsletter for month fifty has gone missing. Yeah, about that. Would you believe me if I told you Coco ate it? You’d have to because Coco eats everything. Just this week she ate both the arms and legs off the new Barbie doll that my mother gave you, and when I found her chewing those limbs I secretly hoped you wouldn’t notice. But that’s not what happened at all. You noticed immediately and were so enraged that YOU PULLED YOUR OWN HAIR. After several hours of wailing and head-butting the floor you walked up to me, put the legless and armless nub into my hands and said, “Grandmommy is going to be so mad at that dog.” And you used a tone that suggested it was less of an observation and more of a warning that Coco might want to draw up a will.

But no, Coco did not eat that specific newsletter. What I could do here is come up with some elaborate excuse for why it wasn’t ever written in the first place, but I know you’re the type of person who doesn’t want to hear all that crap. I got busy. Life sort of turned on its head at the beginning of last month and I just didn’t get to it. It was the first time that has ever happened since I first started writing these letters to you at the beginning of 2004, and I apologize. I can’t promise that it won’t ever happen again, but I have a feeling that if you get arrested in high school for spray-painting a giant four-letter word on the wall of the cafeteria it won’t be because month fifty is missing from your newsletters. It will be because your father and I didn’t do a good enough job of teaching you how not to get caught. Take my advice now: blame a cheerleader.

This newsletter is going to be a little different and not just in terms of it having to make up for a lost month. A lot has happened in the last few weeks that I feel I should address publicly, and the majority of it is not amusing. Usually I like to spend these paragraphs regaling you with stories of your hysterical antics so that in the future you can read about what a uniquely challenging and funny kid you were, and maybe one day it will explain why your own child screams so much and how it’s perfectly normal to daydream about dangling that kid over a pool of hungry sharks. 15 years from now you’re going to read this paragraph, here where I tell you that your favorite thing to say is DONKEY BELLIES, and whenever you say knock-knock, and I say who’s there, you scream DONKEY BELLIES, and then you gasp for air as the giggles get lodged in your throat, you’re going to read this and then call me and go THERE’S NOTHING FUNNY ABOUT DONKEY BELLIES. And then you’re going to ask me for money.

But I guess there are some people who are very uncomfortable with the fact that I and many other women are writing about our children on our websites. How dare we violate your privacy like this, how dare we endanger you like this, we obviously care more about ad revenue than what this is going to do to your adolescence. And I have been asked countless times if I am at all worried that you will totally resent me for the details I have shared here. Of course you will you resent me. I have no doubt that you will spend years of your life resenting me and being embarrassed that we have the same last name, despite the fact that I have and will spend years of my life writing love letters to you on the Internet. Despite the fact that I have declared to millions of people that you are the most amazing thing that has ever happened to my life.

You will resent me for your curfew and the fact that I will not let you leave the house in that mini-skirt. You will resent me for showing up to your school in my pajama bottoms and for raising my hand in a PTA meeting when I hadn’t brushed my hair. You will text message your friends to tell them that I am the most horrible person on the planet because I’m forcing you to study for your exam in the morning. You are going to think that I cannot possibly understand what you are going through, and you will slam the door in my face.

Will you resent me for this website? Absolutely. And I have spent hours and days and months of my life considering this, weighing your resentment against the good that can come from being open and honest about what it’s like to be your mother, the good for you, the good for me, and the good for other women who read what I write here and walk away feeling less alone. And I have every reason to believe that one day you will look at the thousands of pages I have written about my love for you, the thousands of pages other women have written about their own children, and you’re going to be so proud that we were brave enough to do this. We are an army of educated mothers who have finally stood up and said pay attention, this is important work, this is hard, frustrating work and we’re not going to sit around on our hands waiting for permission to do so. We have declared that our voices matter.

These are the stories of our lives as women and they often include you, yes. Am I endangering you by posting pictures of you? Many people think so, but then they’d have to admit that when I take you to the grocery store I am exposing your face to hundreds of strangers, people who can see what car we drove up in, the license plate number, and the direction we head home. Maybe we shouldn’t ever leave the house, otherwise? STRANGERS WILL KNOW WHAT WE LOOK LIKE. Worse? They will know I prefer Tampax to the generic brand.

Am I violating your privacy? If keeping 95 percent of what goes on in your life off limits in terms of what I write on my website, then yes, I am totally invading your privacy. And what about that time I wrote about your poop, aren’t you going to be mortified when your classmates read about that in sixth grade? Leta, I stopped writing about your poop many, many months ago, and chances are that all the kids you’re going to know in sixth grade will have spent the first three years of their lives shitting their pants, too. Oh wait, THAT’S WHAT HUMANS DO. WHO KNEW.

Finally, I’ve seen it suggested in my inbox and by various critics online that what we do on our websites is egotistical and exploitative. Some even refer to it as child abuse. I know I am not alone when I say that when I sit down to update my website I do it to connect with other people, I do it to reflect on the absurdity of everyday life with the hope that the people who read it will find similarities in their own routine. I did not know that wanting to be a part of a community qualified as egotism.

Some of our websites make us money, yes, money that puts food on our table, pays for preschool and helps pay for utilities. Sometimes we even use this money to pay for more unnecessary things like computers or manicures or purple ceramic hippos, and this in particular is something people grab hold of to try and twist what we’re doing into something gross and ugly. And try as they might, I will not be discouraged from continuing to document the beauty of life with my family or supporting them with an income from doing so. Leta, some people will one day try to convince you that what I’ve done here is some sort of sickening betrayal of your childhood, and what those people fail to recognize is that I am doing the exact opposite. This is the glorification of your childhood, and even more than that this is a community of women coming together to make each other feel less alone. You are a part of this movement, you and all of the other kids whose mothers are sitting at home right now writing tirelessly about their experiences as mothers, the love and frustration and madness of it all. And I think one day you will look at all of this and pump your fist in the air.

Love,
Mama

  • julie

    People have always loved sharing stories and photos of their children. The internet simply provides a new and more efficient way of doing that. I suppose the people who criticize bloggers never pull photos out of their wallet when asked by someone they’ve just met, whether or not they have kids? It’s not so different. This is just the twenty-first century version of that simple connection. You happen to be a gifted writer capable of expressing your feelings on a far deeper and more descriptive (entertaining) level than your critics. Perhaps they’re jealous of that gift. Or perhaps they’re jealous that they don’t have such joy in their own lives.

  • CrabbyAmy

    Oh so wonderfully said!!! What a fantastic newsletter… I adore your blog and cannot express how many times I have turned to it for some humour when my own world of children/pets/issues seems to be crashing down on me. Keep up the blogging….I look forward to it!
    Maybe someday Leta will have her own blog….I suspect that could be a very interesting read! 😉

  • I’m not sure if you get a chance to read every comment every day, so you may not have time to read mine…but I’m going to leave it anyway. This is corny, but I’m proud of you. I loved this post and I think you are an amazing mommy.

  • This made me weepy. Granted, I’m weepy by nature, but still.

    I’ve been reading this site for three years now, and not until just now did I realize that what you do here is exactly that – demanding that this work be recognized and appreciated as important. Just now. Yeah – I’m super quick.

    I don’t have children, but I relate to your writing – your depression, your anxiety, your miscarriage, your marriage, your fun, your love of a great margarita. Every time I read some troglodyte spew venom along the vein of ‘egomaniac mommyblogger’ I smile and think ‘yeah – and you just sent her another buck or two of ad revenue.

    And then I mentally pump my fist in the air.

  • First off, when did Leta become absolutely, stunningly gorgeously, girly GIRL! Oh yeah, you’re her mom. She was once a cutey bug. But now she’s plain gorgeous. Four is a good year for girls. I remember when my oldest turned four and I thought she looked like she was about to tell me she was heading out the Gap for some new shorts…you can so seen that teen grown up girl inside at this age. And she will have to be locked away for sure with that beauty.

    Secondly, I am one of those moms you talked about in this movement in blogland and I am one hundred and fifty billion percent in agreement with you. I’ve been blogging for three years, after my daughter was diagnosed with diabetes and I felt like I was about to die from heartbreak and worry. I felt it was a way to vent and connect with people and most importantly document the thing I held more dear than anything in my life.

    Screw people who criticize. They either don’t have kids, can’t write to save their lives or take a photo or are one of the people in the world that just have to find fault in every thing in order to make themselves feel “perfect”.

    Why people have to be like that is beyond me. Just today some woman, some woman I don’t know, who works at her school, decided she would scare my child and worry her needlessly. My daughter is a Type 1 diabetic and keeps a bottle of something to drink with her at all times to help keep her sugar in control. She generally mixes it with a little bit of Crystal Light. This lady told my six year old today that her drink was not healthy for her, to which my sweetie replied, “But my daddy told me it was sugar free.” The lady said back, “That may be, but it’s full of chemicals that are bad for you.”

    I am not exaggerating here Heather when I say I thought of you when I reacted to her telling me this…I was furious. How f’in dare that woman. My daughter got into the car and immediately asked me if her drink could hurt her. After hearing the story I nearly turned the car around to go find that woman and smack her upside the head with a six pack of organic dog piss.

    My immediate response was that my lovely little girl has a bit more of a health issue to worry about each and every day that is more important than some coloring in her Crystal Light, a drink recommended for diabetics by DOCTORS. I’m sure that lady wants my child to drink juice…wholly organic, purfied through the underwear of virgins and blessed by Tibetian monks. Thing is juice is FULL of sugar, the thing her body can’t regulate…the thing we avoid unless she is low and MUST have sugar because one half cup will send her blood sugar so high she will feel like she’s sick.

    It’s the goody goody know-it-all people in the world who I can’t stand…the ones who try and try again to make you feel bad about loving your family and wanting to share.

    You’re a smart woman. You know they’re full of shit. You will teach Leta to know they are full of shit. And best of all, you will share the load of shit they try and throw at you for the rest of us to read and back you up.

    I value you telling your story. I’ve related to you more times than I can even recall. Please don’t ever feel scared by these people (I know what they must be trying to make you believe…heard it all myself with the pedophile stuff and my photos of my children on line etc). It’s like a friend asked me recently, “Do you want to live your life in continual fear or live your life with continual hope that people are better than you expect?” I choose the later and avoid the A-holes that try and make me live otherwise. I fear those people honestly more than any truly dangerous person…they are way more prevalent in our society.

  • I think it’s awesome what you do. Your child is obviously brilliant and you and your husband are no small part of that. Keep it up, woman!

    Today, I wrote in my blog about potty training (the end of it thankfully) and my husband said, “I wouldn’t want to read about someone else’s kid.” Thanks for making a liar out of him.

  • Thank you so much for what you do and what you write, you are absolutely right that it makes so many of us feel less alone!! Leta is absolutely beautiful and I think one day she will be really proud of all you’ve done!! more power to ya, mama!

    From: a mother who has been hospitalized during a heart-breaking journey through post-partum depression, who now blogs about her life & kids as a path to healing…

    Kris

  • Alyce

    I’m so sorry that you felt you had to say this. Glad you said it. But sorry that people can’t just shut their pieholes long enough to allow some oxygen to reach their brains. Your website. Your life. What you do with those two things is none of anyone else’s damn business.

  • amen.

  • Yes. Absolutely. The best post I’ve ever read.

    Fist pump in the air!

  • Andrea

    Your letters to Leta are some of the most beautiful things I have ever read. Everything that you write expresses your love for your daughter. I do not see exploitation in anything that you write. If people cannot see the beauty in what you write then that is truly their problem, not yours. Of course Leta will resent you at some point in her life. That’s what kids do. However, when she is old enough, I can’t imagine the love and the pride that she will feel because you’re her mom. I have a feeling these letters will be one of the greatest gifts you’ll ever give her. I don’t see how people can be so hateful because you make a living off of your blog. I am more than happy to come to your site every single day and even click on the ads to make sure you get revenue. I’m more than happy to contribute to your finances because I am so grateful to you for opening up your life to us, your readers. By writing about your struggle with depression, you have helped me probably more than you’ll ever know and for that I am eternally indebted to you. Thank you, Heather.

  • Hell YES! (if only you could see me fist pumping right this minute)
    Armstrongs ROCK.

  • I’ve been reading here since Leta was very little and I’ve always enjoyed these monthly gems. This one moved me to tears and I know I will not be alone in that subtle tear wiping I’m doing in my cubicle. It helped to justify and encourage every post I’ve ever written on my own site. It’s something I want every critic to see and to think about. It’s something I want every blogger/writer to see.

    Mostly, it is something that I cannot thank you enough for sharing.

  • Best post ever.

  • Sometimes, Heather, I love your words so much that it makes me physically swoony. Like, my cheeks get all flushed and hot and I have to restrain myself from flying to your next book signing and begging you to be my friend. Since that would be utterly bizarre and probably not terribly effective, I won’t, but really, thank you for writing this. I needed to hear it, because I get a little of this stuff too for blogging and posting images of my daughter and I needed the language to be able to rebut some of the criticism. Now I have it.

    Mark my words: Leta’s going to love how much access to her child-self she will have later, and if she rolls her eyes and says that she hates you for embarrassing her for sharing how funny and odd and gorgeously beautiful her character, I guarantee you that secretly, she’ll be thrilled that you did.

  • Your post today was really an eye opener for me. I am relatively new to the blogging world and I have to admit I was stunned at the thought of hate mail. Aren’t we all out there trying to do the best we can with the talents we have? As the mom of 3 teenagers I learned long ago that there is no such thing as a perfect kid and that I am far from a perfect mom. But damn if I don’t try each day to do the best I can. Now I will be waiting for my first piece of hate mail. And when I get it – I will promptly delete it and then most likely blog about it ….

  • Totally pumping my fist in the air at this!

  • Keri

    I have been reading your website since before you began these amazing monthly updates, since before I had my own daughter, during a time when I honestly feared I wouldn’t be able to have a child of my own, and it gave me a small glimpse of the joy and frustration and mindcrushingly giddy happiness of parenthood. Now when I read the updates I rarely finish without both tearing up and laughing. My daughter is younger than Leta, but there’s always something I can recognise and rue and look forward to. Oh how I wish my mother had kept such a clever and honest and funny record of my life! And, of course my daughter is just going to have to read dooce to get a sense of her own baby and toddlerhood…
    Your intelligence and fearlessness will carry you far beyond the ignorance of a few.

  • In parenting little humans we are human ourselves. The intimacy of even the happiest of families and the angelest of babies causes stress to which we as parents are not immune.

    In the immortal words of the mother and child in Olivia by Ian Falconer,

    “You know, you really wear me out, but I love you anyway.”

    “I love you anyway too.”

  • Marley

    yes. *fist pumping* Thanks Heather. I had been wondering as I refreshed daily, where “the newsletter”?

    Thanks.

  • LK

    Leta is gorgeous.

    You are so right: being a mother is undervalued enough in this society, it is so great that you and others are giving voice to motherhood, giving it an identity in this culture that all too often tries to erase what it is like, and doing so publicly, beautifully, and eloquently. And not least by using digital media in truly innovative ways.

  • Nancy

    Leta is beautiful and my daughter and I absolutely love reading about her. We talk more about Leta and Chuck than we do about our own relatives! You, your blog, and the whole medium of blogging have changed a part of the world and the way that people communicate. I hope that you know that your fans love you way more than the idiot naysayers dislike you. Every one of your accomplishments feels like it’s ours in a tiny way because “we knew you when.” Thanks.

  • Corey

    Fuck. Yes.

  • Mrs Butter B

    Beautiful. Heartbreakingly wonderful.

    Don’t quit. Please?

  • I swear that child gets more beautiful every. single. day.

    Happy monthaversary Leta.

  • It needed to be said.

    I’m so glad you did.

  • lou

    Donkey bellies cracked me up.

  • nat

    I love your honesty.
    Thank you Heather

  • Katie

    You go girl.

  • Pam

    Woo hoo.
    The nay sayers can suck it. Seriously. This does my women’s libbing self of the 70’s proud.

  • Debbie

    Heather – all of the things that you address here n this newsletter are things that I have been wondering myself. I worried that it is exploitative at worst and unfair at best to Leta. I love how your argument here, and I am convinced. There is definitely worth in what you are doing on this website. I appreciate what you write every day. I’m not even a mother, but what I read when I come here makes me feel less alone.

    Also? Your child is so BEAUTIFUL. How can she be mad at you? You gave her THOSE EYES!!!!!!! Lucky little kid!

  • Amen, Sister. I, too, write about motherhood and life, in general, paying special attention to highlight the crises, crap and overall mortification that comes from leading such a stable, domestic life of mediocrity. The truth is that mothering is an ass kicker. We rarely get breaks, lunches with friends, to wear clothes without barf and shit stained on them. My non-blogger friends wondered in the beginning of my blog time (about 2 years ago) why I was writing my life, in detail, on a blog page. They thought I needed more to do, perhaps a hobby in ceramics or kite making. I couldn’t really explain it other than that it felt really good to me, and really right to be doing it. And I don’t get paid, but if I could get paid then I would get paid. I don’t see anything wrong with being so talented that you can support your family with a blog. F*** em – all those critics and overly-jealous anals. They simply can’t have what you have and it drives them CRAZY. It drives me crazy too, but I have my envy in check.
    Anyway, I want my daughter to know when she grows up and thinks having kids is this super romantic 20 year cruise, that it’s full of ups and downs, the most terrific fears and blissful love. I want her to know it occasionally brought me to my knees and that sometimes I really wanted a divorce with a margarita on the side. I want her to know the truth instead of smoking that Cinderella/Snow White pipe shit that was fed to me my whole life. So You Go GIRL. Work it. Make it happen. You’re an inspiration to so many of us women who show up to the blog, unpaid, again and again, and write the nitty gritty sometimes trivial things of our life down. It’s high time there was something good to read out there about women’s history; I grew up on Abe Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson and frankly, was bored out of my bleeping mind. Yeah, Dooce!

  • Anonymous

    I had a similar reaction to my blog from a very close friend who is one no longer. She dared to suggest that my blogging about the trails of pregnancy would suggest to my unborn child that he wasn’t wanted or loved.

    And terrorists hate us for our freedom. Right.

  • Debbie

    JUST WANT TO ADD: I worried about mommy blogging in general, but I never judged you, nor was I one of the ones who sent you an angry email about it accusing you of abuse. Yikes, just wanted to clarify.

  • You and Leta are so beautiful! Your monthly newsletters are one of my favorite things about this site. Congratulations and Good Luck with everything happening right now- I can’t wait to read your book

  • You go Sister Armstrong. I’m behind you.

  • claresfolly

    By far and away the most wonderful newsletter you’ve written to your lovely daughter. I know this is hard work, this blogging, but your fans are legion and your voice is true.

  • *pumping fist in the air*

    Brilliant! Just effing brilliant! Thats exactly why I blog.

    To all the haters: Step off.

  • It’s so refreshing to see that you are finally able to be relatively unaffected by the large amounts of criticism that you receive. The Internet can make anyone feel like shit – all you have to do is exist and eventually, you will find someone finding fault with whatever it is you do or don’t do.

    Beautiful post. Well-said and YOU ROCK! Someone needs to do exactly what you and others are doing – make people stand up and notice that motherhood is hard as hell!

  • Ann

    “This is the glorification of your childhood, and even more than that this is a community of women coming together to make each other feel less alone.”

    HERE, HERE!!! I am not a Mom, but I am a WOMAN who fully agrees with you. I am also a woman who has suffered from depression in the past – and I APPLAUD you for sharing that struggle and any other struggle that you’ve had the courage to share.

    You know who you are, and so will Leta. Bravo.

  • Kari

    So strange, this dividing line of the internet.

    A famous writer can write about their family and as long as they put the words between book covers, they are considered pillars of American literature. But when you write about your family on your own website, you’re exploiting your child for your personal gain.

    You’re doing what all writers do – writing. Where you put the words isn’t really the issue. What you want to write about is your perogative. Keep at it Dooce.

  • leslienashgirl

    halle-flippin-lujah!

  • Sara

    Well said. Beautiful words and such a beautiful young lady. (When did she become a young lady? What is happening?)
    No one has the right to accuse you of such things. Whether I agree with your choices or not, I know that you made a conscious, well thought out choice, Heather. This is America, where we have choices – and a free market economy. Make your living where you can, and if you are lucky, at something you love. Make lots and lots of money and never apologize. Doing well for your family is part of your rights as a member of this country.
    You are not exploiting, you are choosing – continue kicking butt – there are lots of us behind you!
    <3

  • Andi

    I grew up with a very emotionally unstable and moody mother who found it difficult to express her love for her children. Recently, I came across some photographs of her with me when I was an infant, and was struck by the look of adoration on her face as she looked at me. It occurred to me then that she must really have loved me, but was unable to say it. As Leta grows, she will no doubt convince herself that you hate her, that you want her to be unhappy and that you are unbearably cruel to her. But when she grows out of that stage, she will have these amazingly loving, poignant messages to her that will change her mind. She will then be convinced that she had the most wonderful mother ever, and nominate you for sainthood. You’re a great Mom, Heather… one that I wish I had 40 years ago, and one that Leta is lucky to have. Bless you!

  • Heather B Armstrong .. you are my HERO.
    ~Mother of Five Children .. aka .. Madness.

  • Christine

    F yes. I think there will be different stages of Leta’s “resentment” and embarrassment… and like you said. I can’t think of a single adolescent girl who didn’t resent her mother…whether it was because she was too naive or too sweet or too strict or too cool! I have turned my [naive, sweet, strict, cool] mom onto your site and even though she’s easily offended sometimes, she still [metaphorically] pumps her fist in the air. All I have are handfuls of stories from my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and older cousins about what I was like as a kid. Leta has a LEGACY. You have given her an amazing gift Heather.

  • Heather

    People are hateful. Your family is beautiful. Thanks for sharing Jon, Leta, Charlie and Coco with us.

  • I’ve been reading you forever, but never commented before. I read the same article that I believe you are referring to and was struck with how negative it was. Honestly, as the mother of two little girls, age 3 and 1, I don’t know how I would have made it these last few years without the connections I’ve made via “mommy” blogs. They’ve made me laugh, they’ve made me cry, but mostly? The remind me that even in the isolation that motherhood can feel to be, I AM NOT ALONE. And I thank you for that. You write so candidly and beautifully and you have nothing to be ashamed of. You are doing women everywhere a real and honest service. Keep it up. You have so many grateful readers…

  • I cannot wait to see you next week. The truth rocks.

  • Amy

    Heather, you are doing a wonderful job raising a beautiful, intelligent, independent spirit. I hope she turns out just like you. Ignore the naysayers, and keep up the witty and insightful writing. – Amy (mom of three crazy children)