Tag Archives: clothes

Walking in Her Shoes

Today I spent a good deal of time with my middle daughter Hannah.

Hannah at the Who
Hannah at the Who

It’s not that I avoid contact with my middle child, that would be silly.  I’m a middle kid…so was my Dad.  It’s not that I avoid time with any of my children.  The horribly accurate fact of the matter is that I have a finite amount of time and I have four children.  Period.  Now, you may chastise me for having so many kids to which I’d reply that it’s really not your place to judge.  We had our children and the idea was that we’d care for them together.

But that wasn’t to be.  I wish that I had all the time in the world, even the time to do every tiny detail with them.  Instead I balance what time I do have between the four of them and most days I don’t do that very well.

The thing that touched me incredibly this weekend, though, was the fact that she shared with me something I knew was bothering her.

Hannah is built just like her mother but looks like her father.  Those aren’t bad things, she’s gotten a lot of the best parts of the two of us.  She has my hair, which is thick and dark.  I always struggled with it, but I’m a guy.  Every girl and woman I know is jealous of Hannah’s hair even though she, herself, takes little or no care of it.

But Middle School is an awkward time for even the most popular and beautiful of people.  For a girl who is already 5 foot 8 and carrying her mother’s bone structure I think it’s more of a struggle than Hannah lets on, most of the time.

Please, before I go farther, don’t take this to mean I harp on this poor girl for her weight, her appearance or her demeanor.  She was closest of all the kids to her Mom.  She was a kindred spirit to her, which means she is a lot like me and therefore harder for me to keep my calm and not get frustrated.  I’ve made her mistakes and don’t want her to make them, too.  The hardest thing in the world for me is to be quiet and let her make them.  Which I do, most of the time.

But this weekend saw her want two things: to start exercising with me; to lose weight.  Neither is a bad thing, but her reasons were veiled, even though I could see through the fabric.

“I don’t want to look like this for my Middle School Graduation,” she told me.  She wanted to get on my weight loss regimen, which is less regimen and more trying to eat less and exercise a little.  I’ve also started using protein shakes for weight loss replacing a lunch meal.  Hannah wanted to do the shakes.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Hannah,” was my response.
But Hannah wasn’t deterred yet.  She told me her weight, which I won’t pass along, that’s not for you to know.  But she said it was too much for someone her age, and she’s not wrong.
“That kind of weight loss program for a thirteen-year-old, though, Hannah just isn’t right.”
“But Dad, I shouldn’t weigh that much!”
I had to tell her the truth at this point.
“Hannah, your Mom, your uncle, even your sister gained weight in middle school.  Unfortunately, you have the genetics.  But look at your uncle, look at your sister . . . none of them are suffering from it now.”
“But Mom was overweight.”
“Yes, Hannah, she was and I have to be honest you’ll struggle with that your whole life.  But bear in mind, Hannah, I was 60 pounds heavier two years ago.  I’m still 15 overweight, but here’s what you need . . . you just need to move.  Don’t come home and plop in your room and sit and listen to music.  Go outside, go for a walk, do things.  You can listen and move.  Movement alone makes your heart pump.  And you need to watch your portions.  When you ask if you can have more dinner portions, think about whether you’re full or just want to eat more.  I give you a decent portion size.  Maybe stick with that.”
She still wanted to do the shakes.
“Hannah, your lunches are healthy.  I give you a sandwich, a homemade treat, and most the time an apple or banana.  You aren’t getting too many calories.”
She looked at the floor.

“Hannah you’re not in trouble and you’re really beautiful.  You just need to wear more flattering clothes and take care of yourself.  Trim your hair, wash up, learn to hold yourself . . . nobody will know otherwise then.”

So today her sister took her out for new clothes . . . clothes that aren’t shorts and a t-shirt . . . and she looks beautiful.  She smiled from ear-to-ear and wouldn’t take off the new sweater and pants I’d paid for.

Hannah and her friend Jake
Hannah and her friend Jake with new clothes

I was happy.  More importantly, so was she.

She’s walking in her Mom’s shoes now, but I walked in hers for a bit. . . and took her for a walk.  She realized she needed to be in better shape, but is going to walk each day – just a little.

My daughter suffers from what every kid her age does – being a pubescent middle-schooler.  None of us, except maybe Brad Pitt, looked good at 13.  But she does.  She just doesn’t think so . . . and that’s okay.  Because I know, whatever differences we have, I see the beauty of her Mom and her relatives in her.

I’ve walked in her shoes.

The little things make all the difference

Just a Little Bit by T-Bone Walker

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The Christmas play with all 3 little ones in the crowd

I got an email yesterday from someone who made me think a little bit about how much we miss Andrea. The question was whether I knew what I had until it was gone. I, being the middle-of-the-road-neutral journalist basically waffled and said what really is the truth: yes and no.

I think if you read the entries up to this point, I make very clear that I wouldn’t be where I am without Andrea. I know, without question, that I was so very fortunate to have had this amazing, wonderful woman in my life. When I met her she was this brilliant, blazing woman who was so attractive and so amazing and she ended up with me. Without a doubt in my mind, I got the better end of that deal. In a sea of men who were more attractive, more confident, stronger and nicer she still waded through them all and picked me. She plucked me out of my own mediocrity and helped me to see that there was so much more out there and I could be part of it.

But the little things . . . the pieces of her that permeate the cells of our daily lives . . . those are the things I miss. Did I realize at the time that her choices of decorations and design of our home and the clothes that she helped me pick out were things that made my life better? Absolutely. Did I thank her for them? Probably not near enough, but there wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t let her know that I was a better man for having met her. I may regret a lot of things, but I know that I wasn’t going to let her think I wasn’t grateful for where I am now.

But I also know there are things that she just took care of. There are things that are simply beyond the comprehension of a guy to know.

Last night was the kids’ Christmas play. On a good day I’m behind the 8-ball, during Christmas it’s like I have scratched on every shot. I don’t have all the presents wrapped. I don’t have the house cleaned up. The laundry is piling up. The boys and Hannah went through huge growth spurts and their clothes simply don’t fit. I had to run to Target and buy clothes for all of them. For the boys that’s not a problem. A white dress shirt, pair of pants, maybe some socks and shoes, but I’ve never been good with the girls. Not really.

I got the wrong sized pants for Hannah. I bought two shirts because I wasn’t sure which would look good on her. The boys I had shower, got them dressed, did their hair, they looked great.

But I have no idea how I would have managed last night without my oldest daughter. My wife always had the kids looking brilliant. Hannah would have looked like a doll out of a Christmas pageant. She would have had a beautiful dress that matched the colors the play needed and she would have had curly, amazing hair and accomplished it even while the girl screamed that she didn’t want to look so girly.

Last night I was totally at a loss. I had the boys to get ready and only Hannah’s shirt worked. Abbi drove her to Target, got pants and had her try them on, got home, helped her get dressed (and wear the clothes right as in girls’ waists are much higher than a boy’s so stop low-riding your pants!) and then braided her hair and flat ironed it so that she looked beautiful. Much like her mother, we had less than 30 minutes to get to the program so she wore what she had in her room and headed out the door. She even managed to convince Hannah to wear a little mascara so her eyelashes would stand out.

These are the things – the everyday little things that I have no idea how to do and likely never will – that I never thought about and probably never would have. She found the right clothes. She found the right presents. She just helped make sure we succeeded. Last night, but for the effort of the whole group, we would have failed, miserably. As I’ve been fond of saying before: we’re stronger together than we ever were apart. I look at Abbi doing her sister’s hair, the smile on both their faces, talking about how Mom used to pull the tangles out of their hair, or how last year she helped do this thing or that thing and I was both proud and sad.

The program was a Christmas program. It was short, the Nativity story acted out by junior-high kids who were alternately thrilled and mortified to be up there, and sung by every grade from Kindergarten up.

It was brilliant.

You’d think seeing my kids singing on the altar of the church would have been what made me emotional, thinking about how there’s one large piece of the puzzle missing. But it was actually the kindergartners and the 1st graders that did it. Understand, when we moved here, Abbi was little and Hannah was in kindergarten. In that very church, in those very pews, we watched those kids every year, hearing those same Christmas carols. When the little ones would come out Andrea would get all a-flutter and slap my leg, screaming “they’re so damn cute!” and squeeze my hand. Every year. Without fail I would roll my eyes but secretly love it. This year they came out and it wasn’t there. The crowd went “ahhhh”, and Abbi said how cute they were. A mom next to me held her husband’s hand, and I knew that these kids were here being positively brilliant and I didn’t have her here to share it with.

That’s what I miss. It’s not that “I want someone to share it with,” it’s that I want HER to share it. It was a little thing, but it’s gone. I got through Hannah, then Noah & Sam’s classes, and was melancholy. But the little ones came out, their tiny voices filling the air, and I remembered all those amazing nights, when my kids were those little voices and it made me truly happy to be a Dad. Truly happy to be married. Tonight, I only get one of those things.

So all I asked was for her to give a little bit. She gave far more. She gave me big, amazing things, life, confidence, spirit and a voice.

So back to the question. Did I realize what she gave to me, or is it “you don’t miss the water until the well runs dry”? It’s both. I was so aware, particularly in the beginning, that Andrea was brilliant and that she made everything amazing. But I miss the little things I just never gave a thought to as well – the hair, the clothes, the decorations. We did all of these things together. Did I thank her for all those tiny little things? No, not nearly enough. But we were a team. A brilliant team. She came up with ideas and I helped to implement them. We talked about everything. When she bought those clothes she told me about them. When Abbi wanted a dress for homecoming and Andrea wouldn’t budge because it was too expensive . . . I caved in and bought it anyway. We had give and take. We worked off each others’ strengths.

Better still, she gave me love. She gave me so many little things that I miss more and more every day. I didn’t want much, I just wanted a little bit. And she gave me so much more.