the smell of my desperation has become a stench

I forgive her for spraying sunscreen all over the floor this morning

Tuesday morning Leta could barely wait to give me my birthday present. I think she may have even been so excited about it that the thought of it woke her up early. Fortunately, seven-year-olds can occupy themselves that early in the morning. They can also dress themselves, brush their own teeth, and pour themselves a drink of water. Parents of toddlers: YOUR FUTURE IS AWESOME.

Parents of teenagers: KEEP ME IN THE DARK.

She wanted to wait until Jon was in the room to hand me the present, but he was taking too long to get ready and she couldn’t take it anymore. It was, ahem, “creeping her out.”

“Stand there, and I’ll be right back,” she said, and then she ran upstairs to her room. I heard some scuffling, hoped it wasn’t a raccoon, and followed her instructions. When she returned her hands were behind her back, and when she slowly moved her arms to her front I saw that in each hand she was holding a pink sock. Her pink socks. I don’t know who told her that I wanted a pair of her pink socks for my birthday BUT OBVIOUSLY SOMEONE DID.

“You got me some of your socks!” I said, trying to act as stunned as possible.

“No, silly! The present is IN the socks,” she explained.

I took the sock from her left hand, reached inside it and pulled out a stick of sunscreen that you rub on your face. A stick of sunscreen we’ve had in the junk drawer for about a year. In the other sock I found a tube of lip balm we brought home from the dentist several months ago and a ring I bought her from the dollar section at the grocery store. She wanted me to know that she really wanted me to have that ring, even though it was hers. I had a really hard time holding back the tears.

That night before Jon and I headed out to a celebratory dinner he pulled out the present he had bought me, a huge three-by-two foot jewelry stand. All my jewelry is sitting in a giant pile on the floor in the middle of our closet. You guys! He’s paying attention! Or at least giving me a huge hint!

Leta watched as I opened it, and immediately her expression turned sour. I asked her what was wrong, and it took several minutes for her to compose herself enough to say, “I’m sorry my present isn’t as good.”


I knelt down so that my face was at her height, hugged her as hard as I could without crushing her and said, “I absolutely love the presents you gave me. In fact, I’m going to wear your ring to dinner tonight with this fancy outfit I’m wearing!”

Fancy meaning I had taken a shower and was wearing clean clothes, of course.

She perked up, nodded and said, “You could wear the lip balm, too!”

“I will!” I said, and then I watched her skip into the other room.

Parents of toddlers: YOUR FUTURE IS AWESOME.

  • agirlandaboy

    2011/07/21 at 11:35 am

    I used to do the same thing to my parents (even wrapping their “gifts” in socks!) although I was usually giving them something of theirs rather than something of mine. Selfish generosity! Humble-brag!

  • aerocline

    2011/07/21 at 11:40 am

    As the mother of three lovely daughters, now all grown and flown, I am delighted by this little story, Heather. I hope you find opportunities to wear that fabulous ring every now and then for the rest of your life. Every time she sees it on your hand, she will be very, very happy.

  • aerocline

    2011/07/21 at 11:40 am

    As the mother of three lovely daughters, now all grown and flown, I am delighted by this little story, Heather. I hope you find opportunities to wear that fabulous ring every now and then for the rest of your life. Every time she sees it on your hand, she will be very, very happy.

  • The Dalai Mama

    2011/07/21 at 11:42 am

    Adorable! Thank you for the heads-up. I’m starting to get a taste of the awesomeness that is to come from my 5-year-old. My 3-year-old is working hard on introducing me to the dark ages (12-does it end EVER).

  • sadiejay1988

    2011/07/21 at 11:50 am

    I was one of the lucky ones, and the teen years were awesome! I just refused to take “attitude” seriously. It’s a passing phase that goes away and it’s not worth fighting about. I so enjoyed the time I spent with them, having “deep” discussions about the world around them. I really believe you have alot to look forward to with your girls!

  • Em

    2011/07/21 at 12:06 pm

    That’s precious. It’s nice to hear that my toddler will grow into something lovely in a few years, because sometimes it hurts so much to think that she won’t be as she is now forever.

  • Tfer

    2011/07/21 at 12:28 pm

    I had to make an account because I’ve been holding up the biggest “awwww” inside of me!! How sweet of her to apologize for her present not being “good enough”… what a sweetheart.

  • gladcow

    2011/07/21 at 12:29 pm

    teenagers can make you breakfast in bed! it’s AWESOME!

    in fact, I just learned that by teaching my kids to make pancakes (something I rarely make) they will in turn MAKE THEM FOR ME as a surprise. hot damn and hell yes.

  • playrawkstar

    2011/07/21 at 12:31 pm


  • rivetergirl

    2011/07/21 at 12:32 pm

    This post made me wanna weep at my desk. My daughter is 11. I so know that joy they get from giving and the heartbreak of the realization that they just little kids. Lovely child your daughter is. Happy belated birthday.

  • tracy

    2011/07/21 at 12:52 pm

    Knowing how hyper-sensitive & amazingly sweet my (barely) three year old is, I can see this exact scene in my future. And I look forward to that FAR more than I look forward to her teenage years. Agreed: best be kept in the dark on that one…..

  • pingersgal

    2011/07/21 at 1:12 pm

    My husband recently retired from the US Navy after 20 years. As was often the case, he missed MANY MANY holidays, Christmas being the main one. One year, when our two youngest were about 5 and 8, they went around their rooms, finding things they thought I’d love. They wrapped them up, and put them under the tree. As I opened each one (toys, crayons, etc) they explained ‘Daddy isn’t here to shop for you again this year, so we got presents for you’. I am crying as I write this. These were by far the BEST Christmas presents I have ever received. Kids hearts are so pure at that age!……
    And now they are teens, and I shall not tell you about it! lolol…

  • luv and kiwi

    2011/07/21 at 1:36 pm


    That totally warmed my heart.

  • juliemewood

    2011/07/21 at 1:38 pm

    Awww! Darling!

  • juliemewood

    2011/07/21 at 1:39 pm

    oh and Happy Birthday!! Much love to you!

  • Amy J.

    2011/07/21 at 1:40 pm

    Isn’t if the best…absolutely the best part of parenting.

    My husband’s birthday and father’s day are close to each other. My six year old spent days making his gifts. On father’s day she couldn’t wait any longer and brought in a huge gift bag with Hello Kitty on it. Inside were about 20 pieces of construction paper with various crayon drawings on them. One was of him and her surrounded by birthday decorations, another was a picture she’d drawn of them watching old movies…there was one just covered in hearts (to show her love for him) and then among the dozen or so others was just a red piece of paper with a white stripe across the top in crayon. When we we asked her what this was supposed to be she said, “It’s a piece of red velvet cake…it’s your favorite.” : ) That one was his favorite.

  • waitimaprincess

    2011/07/21 at 1:43 pm

    How sweet. I love the things they find to recycle as gifts. My younger daughter gave me a sandwich bag filled with broken crayons. The other gave me a paper cup full of change she’d found around the house. Rode the bus w/out using my farecard for three days straight she’d found so many damn quarters. But the crayon giver thought she’d been outdone. Shid. Wanna color?

  • momof8

    2011/07/21 at 1:46 pm

    Awwwwwww, don’t they just melt your heart? So I know you’ll understand that when you see me wearing a a plastic gold mardi gras necklace that it is my favorite necklace ever. The one my son picked when he won at bingo at school. To bring home to his mom. And ya know what, Heather? Teenagers are mostly awesome too. 🙂

  • Moxie-Dude

    2011/07/21 at 1:49 pm

    My kids are past that age but I have a jewellery box full of “gifts” from them. More than gifts, they’re treasures! Enjoy! They grow up sooooo fast!!!

  • Mama to Henry

    2011/07/21 at 1:51 pm

    Thank you for sharing such a heart-warming story. I have a feeling that ring just might be the “Something old” Leta might get passed back to her on her Wedding Day to tie under her dress as a momento.

  • CathyJean

    2011/07/21 at 2:06 pm

    What a sweet story 🙂 It brought back memories of me buying my first gift ever (with my dad’s money), and it was for my mother’s birthday. I bought her a new toilet brush and I was so excited to see her open it! It’s not a surprise that I’ve grown into a very practical woman, he he 🙂

  • Anu

    2011/07/21 at 2:25 pm

    Oh precious little Leta, I just love her!

  • MelissaJ

    2011/07/21 at 3:07 pm

    oh that girl…oh so sweet and generous. i hope you show her the special place in that jewelry box for that ring she gave you!

    Happy Birthday!

  • WindyLou

    2011/07/21 at 3:28 pm

    Kid presents are THE BEST.

    Last year for Christmas my stepdaughter wanted to get me a toilet to put flowers in (since my husband tries so hard to keep my trailer park trash roots hidden, he wouldn’t let me bring home a real toilet to use as a lawn planter.) She searched and searched for months online. Finally she found the perfect, vintage toilet for $40. It was her entire budget, so my husband looked at the listing and they bought it.

    We had to show her the stonehenge clip from Spinal Tap to explain why we were laughing so hard, and why she shouldn’t cry over the vintage DOLLHOUSE toilet she spent all her money on. It sits front and center in one of our display cases, and it is one of the dearest gifts I have ever received.

    And now she knows to check dimensions…

  • megnstuff

    2011/07/21 at 8:01 pm

    As a SAHM of a 5yo,3yo and 11month old who just had a LONG day I had to write a comment to say that this post gave me hope and made me cry. Thank you.

  • anya

    2011/07/21 at 8:09 pm

    Happy belated birthday! I’ll miss the point a little and thank you for saying that the future is awesome. My 3 year old son is potty training and entering the shitty threes, and my 5 month old doesn’t let me sleep for more than 2 hours at a time. I needed to hear there’s a light at the end of this freaking tunnel.
    Leta is adorable!

  • Amy K

    2011/07/21 at 10:21 pm

    My 2 year old isn’t up for giving presents yet. However, if I get an boo boo she will come and kiss it better 🙂

  • barbara

    2011/07/22 at 6:05 am

    Leta is so sweet!

    I remember when my sister and I were around her age, my Dad was buying an old car off my Grandpa. My Grandpa tricked us by saying the car cost a dollar and if we had the money we could buy it for him as a gift. We got some of our allowance and “bought” my Dad the car. I’ll never forget how excited we were to tell him, just like Leta was when she gave you her present.

  • Plano Mom

    2011/07/22 at 8:23 am

    Exactly why I have a seven-year-old pack of half used gum in my treasure box. And as for teenagers, I tell people you just have to get through a short little time where you don’t like them very much.

  • slappyintheface

    2011/07/22 at 8:34 am

    Oh I remember those days, but I am the mother of teenagers … so I will stop typing now. muahahahaha

  • Natty

    2011/07/22 at 8:46 am

    That is the kind of moment that is so sweet it makes your heart hurt. It reminds me of the Bill Collins poem The Lanyard – have you ever read it? One of my favorites:

  • Absent Minded Housewife

    2011/07/22 at 9:08 am

    As a parent of teenaged sons, something that will not be living in your house, I think I can hedge my bets and tell you that they can indeed wake up on their own late in the day, fix their own cereal, be reminded to brush their teeth and after the tooth brushing, take a really really really really long shower without managing to wash more than one body part.

    My six year old son gave me a plastic ring with glittery lip balm in it as a present. The little girl down the street gave it to him because she wanted him to be her boyfriend. He’s not progressed to long showers yet.

    Happy birthday!

  • tiffanyincali

    2011/07/22 at 9:45 am

    I loved reading this.
    My daughter’s third grade class made origami necklaces for Mother’s Day. I wore it once, and knew that it wouldn’t hold up to another day at the office. It has hung from my rear view mirror ever since. I can still the pride in her face when one of her friends gets in the car and asks “Is that the necklace we made in Mrs. Rogers’ class?”
    She’s in high school now, and gifts are more store-bought, but I will always treasure the homemade and re-gifted goodies.
    So Sweet.

  • sweetpotatopie

    2011/07/22 at 1:16 pm

    Oh how I love this post; it totally made my day. What a great kiddo! Happy Birthday.

  • htownjenny

    2011/07/22 at 4:43 pm

    This post resonated deeply with me. My oldest turned 10 today and I’m recalling the early days with him when it was SO hard, and now things are so different and so fun (even though I’m parenting 3 now, which presents its own challenges).

    It made me think: wouldn’t it be great if we had a “It Gets Better” campaign for overwhelmed and/or depressed new moms? Seems to me like is one big testimony to the fact that it does get better, which I so appreciate. As of today, I’ve realized that I want my blog to do that, too. It would have meant so much if someone had done that for me.

    Jenny Staff Johnson

  • akhowell

    2011/07/24 at 1:05 am

    I was in a restroom stall at Costco today, and overheard a mom changing her son on the fold down changing table. As she apparently took off his diaper I heard her exclaim, “Oh, Tyler, GROSS! This is gross!” Tyler replied, “I sowwy!” Made quite a few of us in the stalls say “Awwww!” Tyler’s mom was quick to apologize and love on her baby.

  • AliceAng

    2011/07/25 at 6:30 am

    Very Sweet. I’m impressed Leta can brush her own teeth. My 7 yr old Jake doesn’t yet, but this could be because I’m a control freak. Congrats on your birthday and your lovely little family.

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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