Thursday, October 23, 2014

On terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days.

I sort of dreaded putting up today's journal:

"What was your very worst 'terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day'?"

I wondered what my bigs would write. I could think of so many times I have contributed to a day like this. Those kinds of days where all your good intentions are left in a crumple around the wastebasket; the kind you couldn't even dispose of correctly.

First Jo, then Bay interrupted my guilt-filled thoughts.

Jo: I've never really had one of those days.

Bay: Yeah, me either. Can we just make up what a bad day would be?

Me: Yes, that's fine. You really haven't had any of those kinds of days? Not ever? Your life is just sunshine?

Bay: Basically. I'll just make one up, though.

Jo: Nope. I can't think of one. I'll just write about getting eaten by a shark.

It's so crazy to me that I could have named five for each of them right off the top of my head. Days when I was grumpy, days when I lost my temper, days when our plans fell through. Days when I missed the mark of showing compassion and cringed for hours after at the opportunity I let slip by. Days of guilt hangovers.

But they can't think of one. Not one.

 Kids are funny.

I learned something today, Mamas: We are not doing as bad at this mothering business as we tell ourselves we are. I'm going to make a concerted effort to be kinder to myself about these shortcomings, and I hope you'll join me. I will always strive to do better, but when I stumble, I will remember this moment, pick myself up, and move forward. Next time you feel like things are going miserably, stop and consider that it's not as bad to them as it feels to you.

And whatever happened, at least they weren't eaten by a shark.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The day I stopped sharing.

"Keep Calm And Love Your Husband."

"A Happy Marriage Is The Union Of Two Good Forgivers."

"A Good Wife Makes A Good Husband."

I used to share this sort of stuff on social media all the time. Branden and I got married as teenagers; we've come a long way, and we fought like hell for it. I'm proud of us, and I have some truths that I cling to and believe- particularly concerning the myth that a good marriage doesn't require work, but that is for another post. I rarely, if ever, posted about what a husband should be doing, simply because I was only relating to the things I could change in my marriage. I had friends who told me that it encouraged them to see my posts in a sea of husband-bashing. It made me feel good.

Until I realized that perhaps I was unintentionally sending the wrong message to some women that mean a lot to me.

1 in 4 women will experience domestic abuse in her lifetime. This abuse may come in physical, emotional, or mental forms. Do you realize what this means?

Someone in your life is very likely a victim, whether you know it or not. Maybe they don't even realize it, or they tell themselves they don't. They tell themselves it isn't that bad, they tell themselves it's different.

Worst of all, they tell themselves that it's their fault, and then well-meaning people, people they love and trust, post and say things that only drive that point home. If they worked harder, tried harder, weren't so very flawed human, they wouldn't bring this upon themselves.

I never, ever wanted to perpetuate that message. I never will again. Seeing those so dear to me be kicked and then kick themselves some more broke my heart and lit a fire in me at the same time.

We have got to change this conversation from being so heavy with victim blaming to full and unconditional victim support. We have to be one another's champions. We have to stop telling women if they'd be less, or be more, or just try to figure out how not to make him so angry, that things would get better. We have to reach our hands out and pull each other up. We have to raise our boys to have nothing less that the utmost respect for the women their lives. Nothing is going to change unless we change it.

1 in 4 women.

The remaining 3 of us need to be their voices and their safe havens.

***Here are some resources for victims and those wanting to help.***

The National Domestic Violence Hotline

Domestic Abuse Intervention Services

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Voice Unsilenced

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A Legacy of Lovely

I was combing Jo's hair after her bath tonight. She was warm and soft and sweet with scents of her shampoo, conditioner, and coconut oil: a combination I'm quite sure is exactly what Heaven smells like. I smoothed her damp hair and tucked it behind her ear while we talked.

"Why does my hair swoop this way?"

"That's your natural part. It's just the way your hair falls."

"I kind of like it."

"I absolutely love it."

"You do? Why?"

"Because it's one of the many things God did to make you YOU! And I love you. I'm crazy about you."

"Mama? Do you love yourself?"

"Yes! I'm awesome! Do you love yourself?"

*giggles* "Yes!"

Let me tell you something about my oldest baby girl- she is razor sharp. She is an excellent study of people. She can read me, and everyone else, like her father can. I find it both fascinating and intimidating.

She would have seen right through me if I had lied to her when she asked me her question. Her question so important she had to pause before she asked it.

Maybe years ago I would have answered that differently. Or in a way that she knew wasn't genuine the minute it fell out of my mouth. But over the years, I have grown to love myself, truly, and I believe it's one of the best things I could ever do for my kids, perhaps especially for my girls.

It is not new information that a child's same-sex parent is the most influential role model in their little lives. It's hardly groundbreaking for me to say that telling her to love herself as is and then turning around in the same breath and picking yourself apart- physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually - falls flat.We know that seeing us confident gives them permission to be confident, to be bold and take risks and go for what they want. But knowing and doing are two different things, and I just don't think this is something you get to phone in. It's too important.

You really do have to find a way to love yourself, and it doesn't have to, can't, shouldn't be pretend. You can own your truth, whatever that is. You can look at things as they really are, or really are to you; but you also have to acknowledge and embrace the loveliness there, too.

It is lovely the way you take care of your babies.

It is lovely how you pray for others.

It is lovely the way your mind works.

It is lovely the way your hips move when you're in a hurry.

It is lovely that you were uniquely, fearfully, and wonderfully made by the Creator of the Universe.

It is lovely the way your eyes light up when you get an idea.

It is lovely the way you cared for your mother when she wasn't well.

It is lovely when you laugh a deep belly laugh with your head thrown back.

It is lovely the way you fight to make your world a more just place.

It is lovely when you rest.

It is lovely how you play.

It is lovely how you work.

It is lovely the way the wind grabs your hair.

It is lovely that you have the power to heal a boo-boo with a kiss.

It is lovely the way you have so much hope.

It is lovely when you're vulnerable.

It is lovely how you have grown strong through difficult times.

Maybe you allow yourself to see one thing lovely in you. Start there. Tend to it; root it deeply, see how it grows; see how it branches off and wraps itself around every part of you. Maybe when you shift your focus, you find more each day that you love about yourself. I pray that you do, and I pray that you allow that light to shine outward on those around you. Especially on your little ones. Our sons and daughters both need to see that womanhood is beautiful and bountiful and varied. And wonderful. Knowing this, letting them know this about us as fact would be such an enormous gift to give them. Because the day will inevitably come when they look up and ask you, with or without words:

Do you love yourself?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Remember the Toddlers

I have a very spirited toddler. She isn't my first spirited toddler, but she will very likely be my last.

Time is a funny thing. It bends and blurs and flies. It makes fuzzy those circumstances that seemed really challenging and tells you it "wasn't so bad." In some situations, this is a very good thing. I don't think one of those situations, however, is when a mother survives and subsequently forgets these crazy couple of years between infancy and preschool.

It's not that I wish upon everyone a constant recall of the messes, the tantrums, and the embarrassing moments, it's just that I don't want us- myself, my generation, to do the thing I see fairly often in the generation before us. It's happened to me. It's happened to my friends. It's happened to other women in the grocery store, and I've overheard the comments.

I hope we don't forget that toddlers are tiny, barely controlled, wild, wild people, and that they can be hard to parent.

Listen, I'm all for setting boundaries and teaching our little Mowgli's how to navigate the great big civilized world without making everyone else miserable, but I also understand that takes time and heaps of patience. And I don't think it was so different in the years before. I certainly remember seeing tantrums when I was a child. (Never having them, of course, such an angel was I, but seeing them, yes.) This is not a "sign of the times"- this is the sign of impending nap time.

I get confused when mothers of grown or almost grown children put on shady boots and walk all over the moms in the trenches. Weren't you there not so long ago? I think you were. I think somewhere deep in the recesses of your closet, there is a size 3t shirt with Target floor particles all over it where your little darling went noodle on you when they couldn't have a toy. Or another snack. Or a pony. I think one day you probably got in your car with tears in your eyes from a day trip gone wrong and wondered how you were failing so miserably. Or relived that glare or comment you got in the store over and over in your head.

So, why? I know there's lots of weird mom-petition out there, but this particular kind bothers me worse than most. A lot of the moms participating in that mess are young and unsure of themselves; but no, these are the moms who have already been there. Moms who should know better. I know I'm a whole lot more humble now than I was 11 years ago. I've experienced enough blowouts and tantrums and hard days full of sanctification to know better. So what would 20 years get me? I would like to think even more grace towards younger moms and their littles. Maybe a smile where they look around and expect a disapproving look. Surely this is the kind of changed world all the songs are about. Okay, maybe not really, but we could at least make someone's day a little easier.

Just, ya know, step over that toddler and smile next time. Or compliment those shoes that she threw halfway down the aisle. Because you've been there, and you know it will pass, but you also remember that in that until then, it's not always a picnic.