the smell of my desperation has become a stench

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

1,181 Comments
  • Crys

    2008/05/02 at 6:50 pm

    If I could earn a living off of my website, I would sooo do it. You are an amazing woman.

  • Charity

    2008/05/02 at 6:50 pm

    This is great, thanks for sharing.

  • Lisa

    2008/05/02 at 6:53 pm

    Amen

    Amen to evey single last little word.

    she says whilst pumping her first in the air

  • Angie

    2008/05/02 at 6:56 pm

    I love you. Thank you for this.

  • merlotmom

    2008/05/02 at 6:56 pm

    Wow. It just took eons to get down here to post this comment!! Your popularity is well deserved. This is a beautiful letter to your daughter and thank you for sharing it. You are a wonderful writer and a brave woman to weather the current storm. Success brings enemies and those enemies are simply envious they did not get there first. Keep it up, girl!

  • Muriel

    2008/05/02 at 6:56 pm

    As you know, I don’t normally comment here, but I had to say that Tampax totally rocks and don’t feel ashamed for passing up those cheap generics. I, for one, use Tampax Pearl because my girl deserves the best.

    But really, Leta will resent you for all your reasons and more (as you know), and even if she resents you for anything you have written on Dooce, she will grow to realize that it’s one of the greatest and most meaningful gifts she’s ever received.

    And if she doesn’t, oh well. That’s a power you’ve given her as parents – to cherish herself and understand others.

  • Heather V.

    2008/05/02 at 6:57 pm

    Perfect. Perfect. Perfect.

  • Abi

    2008/05/02 at 6:58 pm

    Thank you for writing these newsletters. They remind me to sit back and reflect on my new life as a mom and help me appreciate every single thing my daughter does.

  • donna

    2008/05/02 at 6:58 pm

    Bravo!

  • Tracy

    2008/05/02 at 6:58 pm

    That was beautiful.

  • MamaScout

    2008/05/02 at 7:00 pm

    Well said, Heather. I only wish my mom had recorded my life in such detail. What a wonderful gift for Leta to look at someday.

  • Erin

    2008/05/02 at 7:01 pm

    Absolutely right. Every last word.

    Leta looks so grown up in these pics. It’s like the toddler is all gone and a beautiful young girl emerged!

  • Anonymous

    2008/05/02 at 7:05 pm

    Beautiful…..makes me sad that I am not writing “love letters” to my daughter every month.

  • Heather S.

    2008/05/02 at 7:05 pm

    I am a long time fan of dooce.com and I look forward to these newsletters every month. Just the other day I was telling a friend about you and said, how lucky is this little girl going to feel someday that her mom took the time to do this for her? What a great gift.

    You do a perfect job of explaining what I imagine motherhood is really like: terribly amazing and ridiculously wonderful and I want it more than anything I have ever wanted before and I will keep trying until I get it too.

    I really do ache for the day I have a child that I want to leave on the highway or sell to a band of gypsies. And I hope I have the energy to write about all of it for them and others, just like you do.

  • Lauren

    2008/05/02 at 7:05 pm

    Yay! Thank you, thank you. How did you know that I so needed to read this today? Seriously, today was a tough day (alone all day with a 2.5 yo – ’nuff said)and I feel now like I can get up tomorrow and do it again.

  • Anonymous

    2008/05/02 at 7:05 pm

    Thank you, thank you, a hundred times, thank you.

    And Leta, you are so lucky, and so loved.

  • Kim

    2008/05/02 at 7:06 pm

    As usual you writing and thoughts continue to inspire, and bring to words a raw emotion and thought. You are well read, because you bring an honest perspective that we all live in our lives.

    I applaud your sprit, i applaud your honesty, i applaud that you actually have figured out a way to make an income at it. I for one hope and wish that you continue to be motivated to write about your life, and know that your daughter will totally get it. there is no exploitation here, just an honest daily accounting of life as we all know it, and i for one say i get it and love it as my daily read.

  • sarah

    2008/05/02 at 7:08 pm

    The first picture of Leta shows her incredibly beautiful eyes. What a stunning beauty you are Leta!

    Beautifully written Heather.

  • Pam

    2008/05/02 at 7:08 pm

    Brilliantly said. Ditto all the kudos. Just have Leta stay away from Annie Liebowicz. 🙂

    Pam

  • Rosie

    2008/05/02 at 7:12 pm

    I too blog about my kids . . . and before that I used to journal (the old-fashioned way on paper). My daughter is now 8 and is now old enough to read and understand all that I have written. Maybe she will resent it in the future, but at the moment she savors it. It makes her feel special unlike anything else. She reads and re-reads it. Loving knowing that I have always loved her. She cannot remember me loving her as a baby, but she has the proof in every word that I have written. Maybe as a teenager she will not like the photos on my blog . . . the embarrassing moments, but somehow I think that will be the least of my worries. I also have to say that because of your blog, Heather, you and your husband have had the opportunity to spend more time with Leta. Much more than if one or both of you worked outside the home. I wonder if your critics think of the gift you have given her in your time and presence. A gift that is possible because of the income you have created through your blog.

  • Anonymous

    2008/05/02 at 7:12 pm

    BEST NEWSLETTER/ENTRY EVER!!!!!!!!

    I am SO happy to see evidence that you have put it all into perspective!! Please, please, read this entry of yours every so often as a reminder of EVERYTHING THAT COUNTS.

    Armstrongs=Awesomes!

  • Lauren

    2008/05/02 at 7:14 pm

    HELL YEAH!! Heather, THANK YOU for what you do (and this is coming from a woman who is still looking forward to motherhood). I absolutely think your work and writing about Leta and parenting is crucial, not just to the women’s movement, but to our shared sense of being a woman, mother, wife, writer, etc.

    On another note…an apparent change in Leta has taken place. She has become a beautiful little girl and not the toddler I’ve watched grow from infancy. And…she’s starting to show a bit more of Mommy in her now…

  • Del

    2008/05/02 at 7:15 pm

    Oh, Heather. You always know how to move me to tears. I have got to tell you that when I was at my darkest, all I could do was read about your postpartum issues and cry. It gave me a lot of strength. And Leta can be proud of how much strength you gave so many people.

  • marty

    2008/05/02 at 7:17 pm

    This is your best post E V AR.

  • christine in florida

    2008/05/02 at 7:21 pm

    Don’t ever stop! Your family is awesome and Leta is absolutely beautiful. I am addicted to this site. Leta will be proud when she reads this.

  • Nhiro

    2008/05/02 at 7:22 pm

    I was so moved by this, thank you. I just wanna bump knuckles with you and give you a shot of tequila.

  • EKD

    2008/05/02 at 7:24 pm

    What a gorgeous child!

  • Diana

    2008/05/02 at 7:24 pm

    My mother kept a baby diary of my first year of life, back in 1976 and 1977. It was a small book, with a red paisley cover, and she could fit about four sentences on each day’s page. When I was an adult, she gave it to me, and I soaked in every page. Not because I was curious about what I was like back then — I assume I was like most babies, no matter how much my mother says otherwise — but because I was curious about who my mother was back then. What did she find fascinating about this little life she’d created? What did she go through on a daily basis?

    I wish I had a book like this for every year of my life.

    Your newsletters to Leta are such a gift. When she is old enough to appreciate them — say, in college — she will thank you for the insight into not only who she was, but into who you were.

    Keep fighting the good fight.

  • Tara

    2008/05/02 at 7:24 pm

    Well said.

    The newsletters are my favorite part of your website. I think they will be something that Leta treasures when she’s older, particularly if she ever has the opportunity to love an obstinate, strong willed daughter.

    Your daughter becomes more beautiful, both inside and out as each of these months goes by. I am certain that does not happen by accident, nor does it happen without parents who are in love with her.

    Anyone who chastises you for your writing is jealous of your ability to express yourself so poignantly and successfully.

  • jenn

    2008/05/02 at 7:24 pm

    you are wonderfully brave. thank you.

  • Jacy

    2008/05/02 at 7:25 pm

    Thank you. A thousand times over, Thank you.

    For telling it how it is, and managing to make it sound fun anyway. For sharing your struggles so others don’t have to feel alone. And for telling the naysayers where they can stick it.

    You rock.

  • Sonia Bonia

    2008/05/02 at 7:25 pm

    This brought me to tears. I can’t wait to have children and glorify them in the same way you do. Lena is the most beautiful little girl I’ve ever see. Thank you for sharing your love for her with us. Its people like you that make the Internet a better place against all the bad that it can be.

  • Alana

    2008/05/02 at 7:27 pm

    I don’t know how I originally surfed onto your website, but I was about eight months pregnant with my daughter. I voraciously read through your entire archives, mostly giggling but sometimes with a tear in my eye. My husband had to listen to ‘dooce this…dooce that’ for quite some time (actually he still does on occasion). My point is, you are absolutely right. While I hate to be so unoriginal as to praise you to the high heavens…without your site and many others like it, where would I be today? Confused, stressed, lonely and sad?! Our world today isn’t like our mothers’ world. We don’t have the same support from our family (living too far away), neighbors (don’t bother to get to know each other), or even our friends (too busy with LIFE) to help us raise these wonderful daughters (and sons) we have. We turn to strangers who are willing to share their experiences with us which gives us a glimpse into their lives which are so much like our own.

    I’ll bet there are many readers out there who are writing their own monthly newsletters to their children because of you, whether on the web or with lowly pen and paper…but it is such a wonderful thing. We forget all to quickly the things in life that make us laugh and cry and enjoy life. At least Leta will know these things whether she appreciates it sooner or later, she will appreciate it…that’s for sure.

    Oh, and I like poop stories too!

  • Liz

    2008/05/02 at 7:28 pm

    Amen – celebrating your children is never wrong, it’s what parents do.

  • amazonmama

    2008/05/02 at 7:29 pm

    A-freakin men! I’ve been reading your blog for a few years now and this has to be by far one of my favorite posts of yours. You’ve inspired countless numbers of women to blog and express their thoughts and feelings, myself included.

    Whether you know it or not, Heather, you’re a revolutionary. Thanks for being the inspiration for so many of us.

  • Carol

    2008/05/02 at 7:29 pm

    YES!!

  • Maria from NJ

    2008/05/02 at 7:29 pm

    I’m glad you don’t let the negative comments keep you from sharing Leta (and Jon, Coco and my love, Chuck) with all of us. I look forward to each and every one of your posts and I hyperventilate when you’re not able to post. Women have been sharing their lives in print for eons, the Internet has just made it easier for more of us to feel connected to each other on an almost daily basis. Please, never stop!
    Un fuerte abrazo for all of you, Maria

  • Megan

    2008/05/02 at 7:31 pm

    Thanks! I hope that the positive comments WAY out weigh the negative. I thoroughly enjoy your site and have passed it on to my sister and others I think would like it. Leta should be nothing but proud! 🙂

  • Rachel

    2008/05/02 at 7:31 pm

    Great post. I don’t have kids myself yet, but it was still incredibly touching.

  • Leslie

    2008/05/02 at 7:31 pm

    Your blog is awesome because it is from your heart. You are brutally honest and everything is dripping in sarcasm(which is how I prefer everything.) Leta is lucky to have a mother who is incredibly strong and intelligent. I belive your priorities are definetly in the right place.

  • Kathryn

    2008/05/02 at 7:32 pm

    Bravo. I have yet to be a mother and probably can’t comprehend the sense of protection that causes other “better” parents to attack you and your motives and your very being…but they are downright WRONG. To not be alone is, to me, the most basic of human needs. What you are doing is not only benefiting you and your family, but also countless others, who feel less alone as a result. Keep on keepin’ on.

    Also…it’s good news that Leta is making your life miserable NOW. I was a terrible, horrible, stubborn, self-centered, tantrum-throwing child from the ages of 3 to 14, but I’m almost 21 now and my mother is truly my best friend. It will get better, and she will learn to love you for every embarrassing thing you do, just as you are learning (or at least TRYING!) to love her for every maddening thing she does.

    p.s. I cried when I read this one. Guilty as charged.

  • Paige

    2008/05/02 at 7:33 pm

    A BIG “thank you” to the haters… Without them, there is no need to articulate the “Why,” and the “Why” is what it’s maybe really all about. Any problems Leta might have in the future won’t be because month fifty is missing from your newsletters or because you glorified/shared her childhood with “strangers” on a website. It will be because we all have problems… Heather, sharing your voice is a gift, not only to Leta, but to all of your readers. For those that require an explanation as to why you do what you do, they now have it, courtesy of Month Fifty-one.

  • Rachel D.

    2008/05/02 at 7:34 pm

    You have expressed everything I was thinking and feeling perfectly, and on more than one occasion. You rock Heather, just keep following your heart and ignore what the hive minds want to turn everyone into. Parenting IS important, unappreciated work, and it’s about time we were able to talk about it and connect in a public sphere. Plus you write about everything else in life with such insight or humor, I can only see benefits to your daughter reading your blog in the future.

  • Amy in Ohio

    2008/05/02 at 7:36 pm

    You make me want to be a better mom and a better person. Thank you.

  • Bill

    2008/05/02 at 7:40 pm

    I think your kid will someday love to read the monthly letters. They will be a testament of love and a source of laughter for her. Don’t let the haters get you down. They are all likely Bush Republicans anyway, ergo, stunned.

    I’m a father of four and have been a reader for a couple of years. My youngest is just about 6 months older than Leta, and we love her in the same way you love Leta. She’s the source of a ton of joy in our house and we just can’t believe how lucky we are to have her. Some days I just don’t want her to grow up. She’s the last child we’ll have.

    I just wish I had had the time to write long thoughtful letters to my kids once a month, on a blog or anything else. Because I have a job that places huge demands on my time I feel I’ve missed a lot of their childhood, especially in the early years. It’s better now, but it would have been great to be at home with them. You’ve got a good gig. The haters are just jealous. Okay, I envy you the stay-at-home status, but I sure don’t hate you for it. I just enjoy what part of it you share with the rest of us.

    Rock on girl.

  • Dave K

    2008/05/02 at 7:42 pm

    Sometimes I wish you were my mom.

  • Amy Mossoff

    2008/05/02 at 7:42 pm

    Hear, hear!

  • Beth

    2008/05/02 at 7:45 pm

    Thank you.

  • Robb

    2008/05/02 at 7:46 pm

    Preach on Heather, you are doing wonderful things for a whole world of women. Keep it up.

  • wrf3

    2008/05/02 at 7:47 pm

    So say we all. I’m forwarding this to my soon-to-be 16 year old daughter.

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Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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