Wednesday, July 13, 2011

be careful. be careless. be careful.

To my daughters,

I tell you to be careful a lot.  The two words that come before anything you do.  It must seem like my favorite thing to say.  

But the truth is, the really hugely important, deep down truth is that I hope you are not always careful.  You need to be careless sometimes too.

be careful. be careless. be careful.

But here is what is really terrible.  You won’t always know when to be careful, or when to be careless.  In fact you will probably do it at all the wrong times.  

What is worse is that sometimes, when you will think you are being so careful is when you are in fact being the most careless, but you won’t even know it until one day looking back wishing you had been less careful there and more careful then.  

Someday you will look back and be glad you listened to your mother.  There will be a day when you wish you hadn’t.

please be careful
be careful, too, that you aren’t too careful  

listen to your mother
hold my hand
look both ways

obey your fears, be aware of discomfort, don’t apologize
don’t be afraid

submit freely to beauty and justice
do not submit to anyone who demands your submission

avoid angry people and angry religion
get good and angry sometimes

let yourself love, do not be ashamed of loving
above all else, guard your heart  
trust your heart’s deepest affections- follow them  
set your affection on things above

distrust easy answers and people who have no questions
tell the truth
be shamelessly honest, with yourself most of all

say YES
tell him no

hold on

walk away
wait for it
let it go

stay up all night debating everything you’ve ever been taught
decide in the morning to backpack Thailand or to become a pastry chef in France or to start riding your bike and not stop riding
wake up in at least one country where you do not know anyone
climb the mountain you think you cannot climb

stay home
know your neighbors
find your tribe or clan or family or community and commit to them, love them, dwell with them

take the road less traveled
travel light
bring a jacket
be amazed

be careful
be careless

be a hedonist
be an ascetic
believe that the world is good
beware, the world is crazy

hear your critics and people who disagree with you
ask people to tell you their stories

be innocent as a dove
be shrewd as a serpent
believe all things
hope always
cling to what is good
be forgiven

watch the sun set with drag queens and addicts and bohemians and suburbanites and fundamentalists and bow your head and know that we are all the same

do not always listen to your mother

love, mom


Misha Leigh. said...


Anonymous said...

Thanks jess. Someday when I'm a mom, I hope I remember this.

SinoFox said...

So lovely!From the heart of an amazing mother.

Jo@Mylestones said...

See, it's stuff like this that makes me love you.
Thank you for articulating again for me exactly what's in my heart.

Sally H. said...

I love this. You're so inspiring!

Fijufic said...

Isn't parenting lovely? Sometimes it is a science and sometimes it is an art.


cratushoward said...

I hope one day I can put into words my hopes and desires and fears ect. the way you do so effortlessly with your girls...I know it's been said but inspired is how I feel too

Janet said...


Darcee said...

I love this. In waiting for our baby to arrive, I often wonder how much I will worry, and in worrying not allow my child to live an adventurous life.

Ruth said...

Why am I just reading this now? Jess, this is so great. I am really with you here, both for myself and for the advice I give to my kids. How to know when to be careful and when to be careless?

deb colarossi said...

oh, how wonderful..
and you wrote it in such a way that I'm just trembling with the power.

It isn't easy , this mothering stuff . sigh...

mrstibbs said...

I know this is an older post but i try to read it often. I cry every time.