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How to love a daughter

Yesterday was my mom’s birthday. Nothing I say or do can possibly repay this stunning, sweet woman for all she has given me. Here is an attempt at a tribute to someone who has shown me the beauty, bravery and incomprehensible sacrifice required to love a daughter the way my mother has loved me. 
  • Let her take a Brick Red Crayola Crayon to your interior decorating plans. When she selects a sparkly neon Walmart star for the top of your Pottery Barn-esque Christmas tree, put it in the cart and watch her marvel at its gaudy glamour for the next 10 years. When she builds a Barbie mansion out of foam blocks in your living room, push the couches back and say so long to the feng shui. Twenty years later, she will remember that you made room for cheap glitter, pink plastic pumps and her creativity.
  • Read to her. Begin with “Goodnight Moon” and “Where the Wild Things Are.” Introduce her to Stewart Little and Bilbo Baggins. Buy her Noel Streatfeild’s “Shoes” series — the vintage version with the charm necklaces. Take her to Wuthering Heights, Boston Public Garden and Pemberley. She will appreciate the boost her love of language gives her SAT score, but, more importantly, she will learn to associate the smell of library books with the warmth of your arm against hers before bedtime.
  • Make room for her in your routines. When you’re getting ready for date night, invite her to sit on the bed. She will remember the smell of Chanel No. 5 and the feel of velvet as she sifts through your oriental jewelry box. This is when she’ll tell you about her crush on the star of the 7th-grade basketball team. When you’re making dinner, invite her to pull up a bar stool. As you chop parsley and steam broccoli, she will ask for your advice on college classes and career choices. When you’re bathing her younger brothers, sit on the bathroom floor with her. She will see these mundane moments as invitations to bond. Even if the topic is frivolous, the experience will be meaningful.
  • Be her Valentine. Every Valentine’s Day, whether she is five or 15, send her a note, a gift or flowers. When she is 25, she may place that bouquet on her desk and forget to correct co-workers who assume it’s from a boyfriend. Your simple displays of love throughout the years will shield her from the cynicism and despair so commonly associated with this day.
  • Teach her to dance. You may have professional dance experience. If you do, twirl your baton and let her try on your sequin drillteam skirt. Show her how to do the Electric Slide and a padabure. Don’t be ashamed to sing Cher’s “Believe” while car dancing. Take her to a Zumba class and show her what “shake what your mamma gave ya” really means. When the anxiety of adult life sets in, she will turn up the tunes so loud she can’t hear herself think. This is where she’ll find peace with her body and energy to cope with life.
  • Send her mail — of the snail variety. She will read the text messages and emails (and she will love them), but she’ll save the thank-you and thinking-of-you notes on the polka dot stationery. She’ll come home from a difficult day of work or a bad date and need something tangible telling her she is loved. She will see her name on the envelope and appreciate your magical motherly ability to know days in advance when she will need your encouragement.
  • Be honest about broken hearts. When she calls you from her car at 11 p.m. on a Sunday night, listen to her salty sobs. Tell her she has the right to feel hurt. Don’t try to explain the confusion away. Don’t tell her it will never happen again. Tell her she will always have a spot in her heart that belongs to that blue-eyed boy. Tell her that spot will scab over, but the scar will remain. It will remain as a reminder of her courage, her kindness and her willingness to love. And that’s the way it should be.
  • Be brave. She will watch you embrace the news that you will be moving your young family to Tokyo with enthusiasm. She will see you give speeches in a new language and deliver a baby in a foreign country. Her own fear and hesitancy will be mitigated by your example. When she faces future life challenges, she will remember how her mother did hard things — and she will believe she can, too.
  • Be you. Ten, 20 or 30 years after you’ve relinquished your pageant titles, she will still think you’re a first-place beauty. She will admire your selflessness. She will try to emulate your patience. She will envy your sense of style. Be true to yourself. She will respect and love you exactly as you are. Never forget that.