the smell of my desperation has become a stench

“Questioning our lives during late night talks”

This year school teachers and friends stood in as a coparent for Mother’s Day to remind my kids that they should do something, anything, maybe even just wake up on the morning of and muse, “You know, things aren’t always awful, Mother Figure.”

Leta wrote me a lovely letter, and I don’t think she will mind me sharing a few lines of it here considering she posted a video of me over the weekend on her Instagram story wherein I was chomping away at a bowl of seeds. When I realized she was recording and aiming her phone at me I immediately opened my mouth and let the half-masticated blob fall out in lumps because I have a brand to uphold, and it needs to be consistent across all platforms.

You work your butt off to make your kids happy. You have put a roof over our heads and food in our stomachs. You understand me and the way my mind works, and for that I am grateful. I love questioning our lives during late night talks, watching TV shows, and ranting to each other about whatever. You are my light and life, and I aspire to be like you, strong and independent.

Yeah, you know. Whatever. So what if I cried like a goddamned baby. This is my mommy blog and I will be earnest when I want to.

TANGENT: Someone on twitter took a screenshot of an offline Elle magazine article about a motivational blogger/speaker in which the author takes a jab at me. Clearly the the writer has me confused with an actual Mormon because she said this website is full of “yawnable platitudes.” I love it when people write my taglines for me.

Also? She referred to my site as “Dooce” with a capital D. Seriously, Elle magazine article writer. Do a tiny bit of fucking research. I am far angrier about that than someone confusing me with a person who truly believes that a Jewish family sailed over on a boat and settled the entire Western Hemisphere.

You didn’t know Mormons believed that? Wait until you hear about the secret handshakes.

Leta and I have been watching TV shows together each night since the day she got back from New York over Christmas break, and last night we just started season three of “Felicity”. The first two seasons have what I think of as “compulsory episodes” like the Abortion Episode, or the I’m Keeping the Baby Episode, or the I Just Had Sex For the First Time Episode, or the I’m An Idiot and Cut Off All My Hair Which Sent The Show’s Ratings Into a Death Spiral Episode.

They’ve been an incredible tool for opening up a dialogue with Leta about so many issues, and this is what she’s talking about when she wrote “questioning our lives during late night talks” in her letter to me. After one intense episode we had a talk about love, and she asked me things like:

When did you first fall in love?

How old were you?

How many times have you been in love?

Have you ever had your heart broken?

By whom?

What was that like?

How did you get over that?

Do you think I will ever fall in love?

We talked that night until after 11PM, a good two hours past her bedtime on a school night. But she was eating up every word and opening herself up as my answers unfolded. Our relationship took a tangible, measurable leap that night, and every single Sisyphean moment of raising these two girls by myself—the day in, day out, day in, day out, day in, day out, day in, day out, day in, day out, of it—faded into a pale shade of unremarkable gray against the radiant cadence of the words she said to me when we were done:

“I love that I can talk to you about these things.”

We have had similar conversations about sex, pregnancy, abortion, miscarriages, and the sovereignty she has over her own body.

Coincidentally, I had an interview with an Australian publication yesterday, and the author asked me if I had any advice to give fellow parents of kids who are facing the onslaught of Social Media Awfulness. And I said to him:

Sit your kid down and tell them this, word for word: “You can come and talk to me about anything and I promise you that I will not be mad at you. No matter what it is. I will not get mad.”

And you have to stand by that promise, as fucking hard as that will be—however horrific or shocking or unspeakable it is that has happened—you can’t get mad. You have to listen.

And you have to be there for them. Make a safe space for them to open up.

Just remember. You, too, were once young and dumb and destructive and horrible. Be the person you would have wanted to be there listening to you.

Also, I see and hear you, you who were never dumb and destructive and horrible. You and I were the valedictorian of being the model kid who never fucked up. Let’s hope for our kids that they don’t suffer the same crippling neurosis.

  • Richard Morey

    2017/05/16 at 9:34 am

    “You can come and talk to me about anything and I promise you that I will not be mad at you. No matter what it is. I will not get mad.”

    This is great advice. I am fortunate that my parents were pretty cool that way and told my siblings and I the same thing. Along those same lines I remember my parents always stressing to us that we should never drive or let someone else drive if they had too much to drink. They said to call and they would pick us up, regardless of any drinking that had occurred because they wanted us (and our friends) home safely.

  • Camille Lomax

    2017/05/16 at 10:44 am

    I’m not crying are you crying? the mom hormone — stabbing you in the feels all day, every day. Well done Heather. Well done.

  • Sharon Barrett

    2017/05/16 at 11:12 am

    There were times when I had to ask my daughter to, “give me a minute”, while I pushed my anger and fear down and did some serious deep-breathing so that we could have those hard conversations when she’d messed up (or I had). But being there for her, no matter the circumstance, has cemented a depth of trust between us that I am fortunate to share with my own mother. It’s a fine line, and very hard to walk. But worth the effort in so many ways.

  • REK981

    2017/05/16 at 11:56 am

    THIS!! My girl is 12 and we have these talks. Our relationship is much the same. You and your girls are so lucky to have each other. What a gift!!

  • Katybeth

    2017/05/16 at 12:24 pm

    The kind of talks where you slip your hand into your pocket to silence your phone, and will “hold it” forever because you can’t bare to disrupt the conversation. . .Your girls are very lucky to have a Mom that gives them her full attention and really listens.

  • Carla DeLauder

    2017/05/16 at 12:54 pm

    I have talks like this with my chickens all the time.

  • tomamanda

    2017/05/16 at 1:44 pm

    geez that letter from leta! i haven’t teared up like that since reading one of YOUR letters to her!

  • Kristan

    2017/05/16 at 2:56 pm

    Holy crumbs, that letter! <3

    And yeah, this is the kind of thing I look forward to with my daughter. She's only 6 months old right now, lol, so we have a ways to go. But that's OK. I plan to enjoy everything in between too. 🙂

  • KristenfromMA

    2017/05/16 at 3:19 pm

    Aww, little frog is all grown up. Where does the time go?

  • Melissa Davis

    2017/05/16 at 4:26 pm

    I love this age. I remember when I had toddlers (the first time) and people would say, oh enjoy it because the teen years suck. But man I love teens. The conversations are amazing. If one is will to have them and just listen, which may be what some can’t or won’t do. I’ve never seen Felicity. I may need to watch it. We just finished Gilmore Girls.

  • Kim

    2017/05/16 at 10:39 pm

    Thank you for this. You provide such valuable inspiration to me as I think about how to raise my daughter. She’s only 8 months old now, so we’re a little far from Felicity-watching, but reading your stories inspire me with ways to be a great mama to her 🙂

  • Bronnie @ HelloThirties

    2017/05/17 at 6:53 am

    Life is bloody tough – it’s so important to be able to talk to each other about everything. So much of this is lacking in society now, and misunderstood kids get lost in the noise.
    Also, a very lovely letter written by Leta.

  • L - Mama(e) in Translation

    2017/05/17 at 11:45 am

    This “I see and hear you, you who were never dumb and destructive and
    horrible. You and I were the valedictorian of being the model kid who
    never fucked up. Let’s hope for our kids that they don’t suffer the same
    crippling neurosis.” This is precious too!! Maybe it’s even neuroses plural! Sigh… Thanks for bringing this up. Wonderful, wonderful post! You are both very lucky to have each other. I will definitely be following your advice and saying that to my boys over and over and over. And being there for them. Thank you. I’m so delighted you’re writing again!!

  • KJJ

    2017/05/17 at 12:16 pm

    This is my first four months as a single parent and my mom was gone, and everyday I am grateful and honored to be my kids mother….it makes the pushing the rock uphill worth it, but it’s hard not to feel a little concerned that 1. They don’t appreciate or 2. They don’t show it! I started thinking, “am I not the kind of parent who inspires you to want to say something”, I adore them and work hard every day and especially now when doing three kids and staying up until midnight with my son, Leta’s age, doing homework. Anyway, we need the time together to talk, I feel it now more than ever with the rug pulled out from all of us. I feel like a loser enumerating don’t you know the ins and outs and ups and downs of our days! Anyway, my son said you just do it all so you can brag about it….as you know, not the case, but what Leta wrote. it’s amazing. You should feel proud. Of you. Of her.

  • Keryn Page

    2017/05/17 at 2:47 pm

    I’d love your (and everybody else’s!) thoughts on this situation: My 14-year-old daughter recently told me, as kind of a tangential thing from the situation she was actually discussing, that a boy sent her a d*ck pic on snapchat a long time ago!!!! I have to admit I did, indeed, get mad at her for not telling me about it when it happened. But the most upsetting thing was how she was terrified that I would turn this boy in or something. She does not want to do anything about it. I tried to tell her that we need to do what we can to maybe prevent him from doing it to other people. She is adamant that I just forget about it. So far, I’ve done nothing. If I turn him in, will she never tell me anything private again? If I don’t turn him in, am I responsible for his getting away with it and maybe doing it (or something worse) to someone else??

  • Preeti

    2017/05/17 at 4:27 pm

    This is what I tell my kid “Whenever you get into trouble come talk to me. I may get mad at you but I promise that it will be for a very short time and remember I will love you no matter what you do. I may be disappointed but will still love you and will do everything in my power to make things better for you. “

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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