Dear Daughter: notes from the edge of motherhood

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I got in the bath last night, ready to soak with a Corona and Kardashian-covered magazine (don’t judge), and just as I got Calgon-level cozy, this guy clung to my thigh:

Strange rubbery bath creature

Who are you, strange rubbery man? A Happy Meal toy? Some type of Shopkins knockoff mutation?

I set him on the edge of the tub with the other toys and quickly noticed something else: Barbie holding hands with vintage Skeletor. Her chewed fingers sat sweetly in his hand as though she might flip her matted (likely mildewed) hair with a giggle.

What is this strangeness chilling on the edge of my Jacuzzi tub? And how did I get lucky enough to mother the two weirdos who put it there?

All I could think was how I loved these girls. How different my life would be if I’d never met them. How wrong the walls of our house would be without drawings and photos, even scuffs and cartwheel marks, waiting to be Magic Eraser’d away.

How I couldn’t possibly love my husband as much had I never seen him Velcro teeny jeans on a Barbie or sweetly carry a sleeping girl from the car to bed. How utterly boring it would be to walk from bedroom to kitchen without a glittery sticker stuck on my sock or an American Girl earring embedded in my toe.

All I could think, as I stared at Peculiar Pink Man, is that they are wild and weird and wonderful, these girls of mine.

And I must not screw them up.

After the bath, I watched them play “house,” and I wished their world could always stay that way, where pink plastic ice cream never melts, couch cushion minivans run forever and your sister is your best friend…okay, sometimes husband or neighbor, depending on the house-playing scenario.

I snapped my daughter’s Batman cape and happily held her doll, all the while thinking how inadequate I am to prepare them for life outside the playhouse.

I have no tips for sleep training Baby Alive, or expertise on marriage or menstruation or mean girls…and that scares the crap out of me. But I can offer what I know, based on my own experiences of trial and error, loving and losing—my own perfect mix of screwing it up and living it up.

So, I did. I made a list with a note to my husband:

Kevin, should I die an untimely death due to pancreas puncture via plastic bath toy or deadly foot assault by American Girl accessory, please pass to the girls this infinite wisdom (fine…random collection of thoughts) from their crazy and caring, demented and devoted, loony and loving mother…

Use a baby wipe to get deodorant off your shirt, a dull razor to remove pilling from sweaters and a dryer sheet to dust your blinds. For all other cleaning, use vinegar or beer. One to clean with, one to tolerate said cleaning. Your choice.

You can plan for a pink Starburst life all you want, but just know some days will still be orange and some utterly yellow. But any day that is not a butterscotch disk is still worth living.

Your heart will get broken. I wish so badly that I could prevent this, but I know it will happen ’cause it happened to me more than once and to varying levels of severity (from ending a long relationship to Jon leaving New Kids). Just remember the old saying: ’Tis better to have loved and lost than to not relate to Taylor Swift songs at all.

Always shake the ketchup before applying to avoid that funky tomato water. Never watch Poltergeist before bed or Pulp Fiction on basic cable.

Show love always. Show leg occasionally.

You will likely never have a tragic enough backstory to make it on a reality show. Sorry, not sorry.

You are to date NO one who calls you Lil’ Mama, answers the phone “talk to me!” or refers to any body parts as “fun bags.”

When you get a chance to be generous, take it. You are a helper. When you get a chance to hold a baby farm animal, also take it. Put a dress on it, too, if you can.

Take chances when you can, and try to take the stairs, but do not, contrary to motivational posters, take the “road less traveled.” That road is scary and dangerous and littered with tetanus-causing glass shards and feral cats and why isn’t your phone charged so you can just call your mom to come get you??

All that glitters is not gold…or a good idea for eye shadow.

There are moments in life that call for the s-word and the f-word. There just are. Sometimes even the harshest “Dang!” won’t cut it. There are ZERO moments in life that call for the n-word or the r-word. Ever.

Say “bless you” when someone sneezes and “thank you” when someone holds open your door. It’s just the right thing to do. Say “screw you” when a guy holding a Jell-O shot tells you to back that thing up. Also the right thing to do.

Don’t be sneaky. Unless it’s Sugar Babies and Reese’s in a giant purse at the movies, because duh.

Try very hard to avoid situations that involve the phrase “Girl, hold my earrings.”

You know how sometimes you leave a movie disappointed because they showed all the best parts in the trailer? That’s what social media is. It’s everyone’s trailer—the best and funniest and most spectacular moments on display, pulled forward to showcase an otherwise totally average life. Enjoy the previews, but just remember that there are few true blockbusters behind them.

Never drink anything called jungle juice or any other Kool-Aid-ish liquid served from a livestock trough in a fraternity basement. Actually, just stay the hell outta fraternity basements altogether.

Never text and drive or drink and drive or talk and drive or sneeze and drive or smile and drive or blink and drive. Totally sing and drive, though. Loud.

Win all the spelling bees and javelin throws you can, but no wet T-shirt contests, ever. Pretty sure basic genetics will prevent you from even placing. Sorry.

May all your good comebacks and witty retorts come to mind instantly and not three hours later in the shower.

Live your life wild and free…but not in the camping-at-Coachella kind of way.

Everyone has a story, and they are all different from yours. What you would highlight, others might cross out. That doesn’t make their story any less wonderful, rich or worth reading and knowing.

Know your social security number, your exact bra size and your infinite worth.

Remember that a hand that instinctively plunges in front of you when the car brakes hard is a hand that fiercely loves you.

Never be scared to say “I’m sorry” when you genuinely are, but never say it to be polite or liked.

There’s no such thing as running in to an old boyfriend while looking super hot or running into Target “to grab one thing.” Such is life.

Have at least one nude bra. Have zero nude selfies.

I’ve said it before, my sweet girls, but never quiet your quirk. Stay weird, stay sweet, stay curious, stay funny…and please always stay mine.

Hallmark writer Amy Trowbridge-Yates and her wild and wonderful family

Amy Trowbridge-Yates is a senior writer at Hallmark whose witty, tell-it-like-it-is attitude knows no bounds. She’s a lover of tiny animals in clothes, bad reality TV, chewy Sweetarts and her two goofy girls.