Sherrie A. Madia, Ph.D., is an educator, author and speaker. She is Director of Communications, External Affairs, at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.Her latest children’s book, Bumblelina, (2010) earned a Parent Tested, Parent Approved award. She is the author of Alphabet Woof! (2009) a humorous, rollicking rhyme about a dog called Moxy who eats magic soup and learns to talk (English/Spanish). Her recent books on the business of communicating include The Social Media Survival Guide (English/Spanish), The Online Job Search Survival Guide, and The Social Media Survival Guide for Nonprofits and Charitable Organizations. Her most important job is being a mommy. Daughters Emma and Anna remind her every day of what’s really important.
Dear Emma and Anna,
When you were very young, I marveled at your ability to communicate without a filter. In fact, at times, I cringed at your adeptness at calling out the ready and loud-spoken observation, such as, “Mommy, why is that lady so fat/so tall/so fill-in-the-blank-with-unfortunate-public-remark?” Still, you shared yourselves with the world and with me at the deepest levels, and I relished every minute.
But as luck and development would have it, you, now 15 and 13, respectively, have since moved on to being self-aware, and other-aware, and concerned with things like pride and tact and being cool. And the filterless, never-ending chatter has ceased.
In fact, I’ve grown accustomed to offering creative questions pertaining to the quality of your days to ensure that our communication doesn’t screech to a terminal halt. The stories come in bits and spurts, but as long as we are sharing glimpses of our lives, I am not afraid of losing you to growing up. And what you don’t know that I do is that while you’ve now reserved your most important stories for the BFFs, I’ve already learned enough to know I know you at your core.
Anna, you began as the storyteller, spinning yarns of logical nonsense that evolved into richly detailed narrations, complete with puns and double entendre, making you either a wunderkind or just wildly fluid with words. As a toddler, I keenly recall, your protest of meat on the grounds of your love for pigs and your understanding of their intimate relation to pork. Extrapolating out, as I placed a juicy filet on your favorite Elmo plate, I heard your tiny voice cry out, “That’s not a steak – it’s a MIStake!”
I’ve thrived on your stories since I got my first taste. Your humor is infectious and has cost me my reputation as a serious adult on more than one occasion when the off-handed comment caused my unmistakable laugh to emerge in places such as church or an Important Meeting with your school. Of course, I would have paid double the price for those invaluable, unexpected commentaries.
Emma, in your earliest days you offered not only a window, but an open, drive-through warehouse to your soul. Your perspective on the world is wrapped in your capacity to give, to dream, to show kindness and empathy and love, and to believe. You have always held the roles of being sensitive and heartfelt in our house, and you have your priorities straight. Money and possessions and success are nice, but love comes first. Ingenious. You opened your soul to show me a treasure trove of who you are. It’s beautiful in there.
You’ve shown this through your earliest bursts of compassion and tenderness. Dismissing the fights over clothes and whose turn it is to walk the dog, when I first placed Anna in your arms on the day that she was born, you held her like the small miracle she was—ever-so-gently, and with the seriousness of purpose that only a big sister can bring.
Now you are both in the throes of Teendom, making you cautious, reclusive, and more willing to share with the shampoo girl at our local salon than with me (granted, she is a good listener). Still, I remain calm and optimistic, for it’s only a matter of time before the tides will shift again. As you enter young adulthood, you will rethink our relationship and seek advice and conversation on careers, motherhood, and growing up.
Lest you find me inauthentic, falling hopelessly over sugary words, indulge me now with offering some balance. As loving and as caring as you both can be, you are equally as demanding. You infuriate at times. You are unyielding and by far, the toughest bosses I will ever have.
And yet, this job is one that I refuse to quit. For in the midst of feeling overwhelmed, underappreciated, and off in the wings, I remember why this all makes perfect sense: When you laugh, I laugh. When you cry, I cry. The experience of watching you grow and growing with you is nothing short of raw joy.
No one has brought more of this than the two of you, in different ways, in equal measure.
It’s always a happy day to be your mother, and whether we speak more or speak less, the end game is the memories we create along the way and together.
P.S. — Bonus link to “Bumbelina” book trailer