29. Be who you are, not who people think you are.

(This nugget via Justin the Magician, Clint Black and the designers of the YSL Window of 1,000 Kitties at Barney’s…really, it takes a village on this one. You can also view it over at New York Family’s Parenting in Progress blog.)

“How is he doing this?”

The army of 26, sugar-filled, party-crazed five-year-olds have not moved.

For more than 53 minutes now.

He had us all – parents and children — captivated. Justin the Magician, the wunderdude we hired for Kiddo’s birthday party, managed to shock and awe the group of somewhat-cynical NYC parents around me. It wasn’t his magic per se (though it was great), but the fact that he had, somehow, put our children in a giddy party trance. (I’m thinking it was a magical variation on a Vulcan mind-meld.)

They were riveted.

I was riveted.

For different reasons.

Justin had cast some a spell on these pint-sized partygoers, and I was definitely impressed (and this 40-year-old Harry Potter-maniac knows her magic, folks). But, I was more impressed with my kid (sorry, Justin).

I watched as she beamed. Justin had brought her up with him. To assist him with magic. She did not hesitate. She took command of the space. Confident, yet goofy. Enjoying every minute of it. Hamming it up in her tulle skirt and mismatched socks (not from the store of the same name, mind you).

She just turned five.

I wanted her to remember how this feels, every year, every day.

And then Clint Black’s words popped into my brain.

Oops. Sorry. That was a bit abrupt, huh? You didn’t think that sentence was coming, did you? Apologies, friends.

You see, the uber-glam, always chic ladies from The MOMS (Denise and Melissa, of course) had none other than Clint Black gather with folks for a coffee chat at The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf over on Third Avenue a few days before Kiddo’s party. To be honest, I don’t often head to the East Side except to visit doctors, but, well, I’m love, okay, fine, I’m addicted to coffee and loved Clint on The Celebrity Apprentice, so it seemed like a good idea to cross the park and check it out.

The award-winning singer/songwriter/musician/actor talked about his latest film Flicka: Country Pride (it’s a family affair: he worked with his wife and their 11-year-old daughter). Discussed traveling over 200 days a year and how he stays connected with his family. Shared his thoughts on American Idol.

The conversation quickly turned to how hard it is to raise a daughter in that bright spotlight of fame, a daughter who now has caught the acting bug. How he and his wife (yes, Lisa Hartman Black) try to keep her grounded, keep her away from what we have all read about in US Weekly and other gossip mags – the young ones, in Hollywood, caught up in that world and all that goes with it.

“We remind her that we are who we are, not who people think we are” he said, black cowboy hat perched just so, eyes aglint with this wisdom.

Those words stuck with me as I watched Kiddo up with Justin. Wearing a red nose so proudly. Aware only of how much fun she was having, so happy and content with herself, her actions, her choices. Not caring about what others thought or labels or shoulds or preconceived ideas or pressure to be something, someone else.

Should I add a “yet” to the end of that statement? How can I not? We all become influenced by our world, our peers, our expectations of our self, our life. Staying true to who we are, not who others are or who they say we should be or, as Clint said, who they think we are…that’s huge life lesson to learn, no?

How the frakadoo do I teach that?

I’m not sure.

Clint didn’t tell me how.

I thought about the other recent non-doctor time I was on the East Side. Kiddo was with me, we had to return some drapes that just didn’t work to Crate and Barrel. We took the crosstown bus then walked down to 59th street. And we passed Barney’s. I spotted it first, then she saw it. The window display, that perhaps, came straight from a dream of hers.

A store window.

A store window with (what seemed to be) a gazillion kitties.




“Mama! It’s perfect!” Kiddo, the cat-obsessed girl, in a green puffy vest and mismatched Hello Kitty socks, jumped up and down. Twirled. Danced a happy dance. Passerbyers stared at us. She didn’t care who saw…or who didn’t. She was jazzed. She was ecstatic. She counted them. She named a few. There was Twila, Twitch, Tina, Mia, Martha, Catty.

I took pictures. To document. To capture. To remind me, her. I hope she never stops having moments like this. I fear the day that she censors herself. I dread her worries of what is cool or not cool. I cringe at the possibility of her wondering how she measures up, if she is good enough.

Maybe if I tell her that what makes her her is the answer to those questions. Maybe if I tell her, every day, that she is all she needs to be. Nothing more, nothing less.

Maybe that will work.

Or maybe Justin has some sort of magic dust…