i told you stupid things. thanks for not listening


when you are young
i tell you to hold my hand
when crossing the street,
and you do.

i tell you to eat your vegetables
and you do.

i tell you to put your coat on
before going out in the snow
and you do.

i tell you not to run with a pencil
and you don’t.

you get older
and the lines blur.
things get more confusing,
less clear . . .

i tell you how to flirt,
but you’re not interested
in silly games
designed solely to capture the attention
of boys.

i tell you that you have to invite
everybody in your class,
but you don’t because
you don’t like everybody in your class.
you don’t want to spend time with them in class,
and you certainly don’t want to spend your life outside class with them.

i tell you to wear comfortable shoes,
but you wear those shoes with 3″ heels
because they make you smile.

i tell you not to run for political office,
but you run for state legislature
and wind up in a runoff with the
career politician
because you love this country
and want to make a difference.

i tell you that you can’t save every stray cat,
and you make cat food your american express –
never leaving home without it
because while you might not be able to
bring them all home,
you can at least feed them.

i tell you that when on a small budget,
keeping yourself in fresh flowers is an
extravagant and avoidable expense,
and you surround yourself with them anyway,
in pretty vases throughout the house
and scattered in every patch of sunshine
in your yard
because you find them beautiful.

i tell you nobody needs that many silk robes
even if it does cost $5 at the thrift shop,
and you get it anyway
because it feels good against your skin.

moxie . . .

for all the times i confused
keeping you small
with keeping you safe,
when what i really wanted to say is
take up as much room as you need.
for all the times i sounded for all the world
like i want you to be like everybody else
when what i really want more than anything
is for you to be you, regardless.
for all the times i said anything that implied
i want you to let other people define and determine your worthiness,
when all i ever wanted from day one is for you to listen
to your own bones and let them tell you every single day
in a myriad of languages
“you are talented
you are beautiful
you are worthy,”
i apologize.

over the years,
i told you these things (and more)
in a variety of ways
subtle and dramatic.
when i really meant to tell you
just the opposite.

the minute you were born
i became a mother
and a switch flipped
way down deep inside me,
routing my heart to be concerned
with your safety
and that safety became its own language
that sounds for all the world
like i want to keep you small,
like i want you to blend.

i guess i turned stupid because
i never wanted you to be hurt
(i still don’t)
and yet i know that i can’t protect you every minute of ever day.
and even if i could, i wouldn’t deny you the opportunity to be hurt
to learn who to trust and who not to trust,
to learn who to call
and who to never speak to again.
to learn at the hand of pain
just how strong and resilient
and beautiful and worthy
and powerful
you truly are.


for all the times i said stupid things
(even though they were said with the very best intentions),
thank you for not listening to me.
thank you for always dancing to your own internal orchestra
to dressing to the tune of your own internal stylist
to singing to the tune of your own internal mother who was,
so many times,
much, much wiser than i.


p.s. “all” is figurative, you understand.
for example, when i tell you to slow down when driving,
i still think you should listen to me.

p.s. 2 that woman, that “mental health professional” who once drew up a dress code for you?
i should’ve punched her lights out
instead of wasting my life trying to talk to her.
people like that one don’t understand ordinary language.

p.s. 3 again, thank you for holding onto your self
even through all my stupid.

p.s. 4 all these things are quite true,
but please
don’t make me regret saying them.

p.s. 5 in case it doesn’t come through:
i adore you.
i absolutely adore you
and am honored beyond description
to be your mother.

happy birthday, my precious daughter.

now let’s go shopping and spend that birthday money!


  1. Mrsmediocrity

    oh my. this is wonderful, and perfect.
    happy mother’s day to you.

    • whollyjeanne

      and happy mother’s day to you. we’re off now, my daughter and i. going to spend her birthday money. when it comes to friends and family, i’m luckier than i deserve. xo

  2. ☆little light☆

    A most blessed Birthday to that radiant face!A new pair of shoes had better be on that shopping list! Have a wonderful day! both of you…!

    • whollyjeanne

      Daughter is driving and chortles enthusiastically when I read her your comment. Chortle quickly followed with “I always find cute shoes.” She doesn’t lie, this one.

  3. MichaelDouglas Jones

    Sometimes my computer screen gets a bit bleary, even teary, so I’ll be brief; this is so beautiful, my daughters must read this, and I will save it in my heart.

    • whollyjeanne

      Thank you, Michael. That sound you hear is your comment jangling around in my heart. (ps: Does this mean you’ve said stupid parent things, too? wink, wink)

  4. angelakelsey

    Happy Birthday, Alison, and Happy Mother’s Day, Jeanne! You are two of the most beautiful women I know. xo

    • whollyjeanne

      And you, my friend, make it a beauty trio. Thank you. Love you.

  5. Merry ME

    Oh how I wish I’d written this to my daughter.
    And how I wish my mother had written it to me.
    Seems like all I can do now is forward it to my granddaughter so she can practice knowing what to say as her baby girl grows.

    P.S. Have not ignored your FB assignment. I’ve been working on recital stuff. What is the best way to respond? I’m really not sure how FB works so don’t know where to write.

    • whollyjeanne

      Thank you, Sugar. I’d be downright honored if you forwarded this. And no, I haven’t forgotten our project. In fact, I think about it often. Am out birthday shopping with daughter today, will get back to you tomorrow and we’ll map out the best way to move forward. This is gonna’ be so much fun!

  6. Lorig0704


    • whollyjeanne

      Thank you, Lori. It means so much to me to know you’re out there reading!

  7. Tracy Mangold

    You said it so perfectly. To be a mother is to know this feeling well. Mine is still little and yet I ache for the hurt she will undoubtedly face in the future – it is unavoidable, the best I can do is prepare her and give her the tools to deal with the highs and lows that life can bring. Lovely. HUGS.

    • whollyjeanne

      Ache for her and give her the tools : yes. That’s about it. One of the hardest parts of motherhood, isn’t it? When they are itty bitty, we can actually construct opportunities for them to weather difficulties, to offer opportunities for them to learn things that can’t be found in textbooks. That’s a gift that goes unappreciated till our daughters get a little more out-in-the-world miles on them. Your daughter is one lucky lovely. XO

  8. ladyjohanna456

    Oh I cried when reading this and I’m going to get my daughter to read it as soon as she gets home from school. Thank you so much for finding words that I couldn’t

    • whollyjeanne

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment, Sugar. Mothering a daughter comes with so many potholes and hidden languages, doesn’t it?

  9. Blynch1024

    I think I will just change the names and send this to my daughter next Wednesday–it fits us perfectly and thank goodness mine didn’t listen either (maybe something about May babies)–Happy Birthday to your sweet Moxie and Happy Mother’s Day to her great Mom–What I really want to know is how you take the words right out of my heart and write them down.

    • whollyjeanne

      May birthdays. Taruses. I think you’re into something, my friend. Thank you for being here, for supporting me and encouraging me. For gracing my world with your presence. You are a treasure to do many of us.

  10. Kipp

    The way I remember it, she didn’t eat her vegetables.

    (Just sayin’.)

  11. Mark

    Jeanne, this made me smile a huge smiley smile.  It’s a lovely tribute to your daughter.  She is a fortunate gal…

    Also, I shared this with my group of Overgrown 4th Graders and to a Man, they all liked it.  Quite a lot…

    • whollyjeanne

      Mark, this means so much to me. YOU mean so much to me. I think of you often. I hope you can feel that. Thank you for being my friend.

      • Mark

        Jeanne, the pleasure is mine.  🙂

  12. Sandi Amorim

    So, so lovely. Thank you for sharing your love with us. xo

    • whollyjeanne

      “Sharing your love.” Such a delicious response. Thank you, Sugar.

  13. Alana

    Wiping tears away. Saving this one for the day my Ada is old enough. Thank you and happy birthday to your beauty!

    • whollyjeanne

      sugar, you honor me. thank you. and have i told you today how much i love you and ada and ada’s name?

  14. Sue Mitchell

    I’m still in the childrearing trenches and have a son, but this really spoke to me. The line between keeping them safe and keeping them small is very blurry. My son sees it much more clearly, though, and most of the time, when he tells me I’m holding him back and overprotecting, he’s right.

    • whollyjeanne

      the trick is to get over yourself and listen to them, right? to trust them and encourage them to keep speaking up for themselves . . . except when we’re talking about things like eating vegetables, of course;)

  15. smallstate

    I love this… I should say however, I hope you know that I recognize ALL the love that went into that mothering, even if you felt some of it was misguided. My mom was like that in some ways… I was the square peg in my family. It’s OK because the love is what matters, and that you got right. Thank you.

    • whollyjeanne

      oh my goodness, thank you for seeing and saying that cause sometimes it feels, well, sometimes i lose that and sometimes i’m sure alison lost that lovin’ feeling, too.

  16. EmmaJames

    God, it’s good to read your words. Your daughter is an incredibly lucky woman. xo

    • whollyjeanne

      oh thank you, sugar. i’m not sure she would always agree, but then such is the nature of mother/daughter relationships, right? i cannot WAIT to see you again . . . and this time we’ll have more time to talk. at least i sure hope so. you are quite special to me.

  17. Sallydrew

    Oh, my heart – my heart FEELS this. As has already been mentioned, I both wish I’d have written this to my girls – and I’d melt if it were EVER written for me. Beauty magnified. Thank you …

    • whollyjeanne

      thank you, sugar. you hit on an important point for me: so many of us want to be seen – truly seen – by our mothers. that was really my driving motivation: to let alison know that i see her. . . not just an extension of myself, but as her own person. xo

  18. Cathy

    What a beautiful sentiment.  What a lucky daughter to have you as her mother.

    • whollyjeanne

      and we’re both lucky to count you as friend. sure did enjoy our togetherness tonight.

  19. d smith kaich jones

    how did i miss this?  this is fabulous and fabulous and did i say fabulous?  never a mom, but my one and only niece holds my heart, and god.  i love the things she didn’t listen to.  xoxo

    • whollyjeanne

      i feel the same way about my nephew who graduated from high school today, sugar. this one was written from a mother to her daughter, but it translates into all sorts of caring relationships, don’t you think? xo

  20. Roxanne

    I adore this with all my being. Thank you.

    • whollyjeanne

      oh sugar, how delightful to hear from you. where in the world are you now? i need to do a better job of keeping up with you. you live a very interesting life. i admire you.

  21. Julie Daley

    Beautiful, Jeanne. This is so beautiful…of you both. 

    • whollyjeanne

      thank you, jewels. you know what i always say: beauty recognizes beauty. and you, my friend-and-more, know beauty intimately. love you.

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