Tag Archives: Parenthood

Choosing My Own Adventure

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” –Eleanor Roosevelt

My husband and I recently attended a parenting class hosted at Renovatus based on the popular book Loving Our Kids on Purpose by Danny Silk.  The second week of class revolutionized my life.  It was literally mind blowing to me.  In the lesson Silk declares that we’ve all bought into the great lie that we can be controlled and that others can control us.  The longer I thought on this, the more apparent it became that I have swallowed that belief hook line and sinker.  And while the point he was making was largely confined to how we raise our children, I knew this was far bigger for me than my 2 & 4 year old.

I grew up an Army brat.  My father grew up an Army brat.  My grandfather, my father, my uncle and my cousin all graduated from the United States Military Academy.  My grandparents were married there and are buried there.  Heredity has bred in me a profound respect (dare I say fear?) for authority and a serious understanding of the value in a chain of command.  To this day my father could put his hand on his hip and point his finger at me and I feel certain he could reduce me to tears without even raising his voice!  My sister and I were never spanked because the threat of my mother telling my father on us was enough to correct almost any disobedience on our part!  Ironically, neither of my parents are particularly controlling people.  They are not manipulative or coercive or overbearing.  However, respect and obedience were core values in our home and were taken very seriously.

Now let’s take a moment to couple my upbringing with my temperament.  I am a rule follower and a people pleaser.  I like (dare I say need?) for everyone to get along and to feel cared for.  I am easily influenced by a compelling argument or an impassioned case.  While rational and reasonable, I am not overly trusting;  yet I can be manipulated  by authority or strong personalities.  I presume they must know what they are talking about in order to be so dramatic or insistent!  And in this way, I can live a lot of my life at mercy of others with their intense feelings, opinions, and pseudo-authority.

Subconsciously, my primary life goals then and now have been to avoid making mistakes, to keep the rules, and to make the people happy.  THIS IS NO WAY TO LIVE!  Don’t get me wrong- these are decent objectives.  They just aren’t compelling or healthy life goals!  There is no adventure, no real freedom nor sense of self in those pursuits.

Realizing that day in class that no one could control me honestly felt utterly scandalous.  I’m sure I have understood that logically in the past, but never in such a way that made me feel liberated to take ownership for my thoughts, feelings, and choices.  Historically those things have always been incredibly contingent on others.  And if I’m being really honest, not living so contingently on others feels selfish when I do it, though it sounds healthy & right when I see others do it!

These days I’m putting a lot more effort into acknowledging myself and owning my thoughts.  I have a voice.  And it’s just as valid as the overly dramatic person’s or the overly confident person’s.  I am in control of what can offend me.  I can choose what I like even if no one else likes it.  I get to decide how to respond in any given situation.  Much like the books we read as children, I really can choose my own adventures in many ways.  I can do all of that and be a loving wife and mother and friend and leader.  It is possible and IT IS GOOD FOR ME.

These are new muscles I’m learning to flex.  I’m grateful for the people around me who won’t let my sense of self atrophy– the people who know when I’m deferring when I shouldn’t be, the ones who know to ask me the questions sometimes as I’d much prefer to hide behind asking all the questions of you instead.  Without them I’d surely give myself away to following the rules and avoiding mistakes and trying to make the world happy.  Instead, I think I’ll flip to page 52 and see what adventures I can get into.

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Embracing the Quick Change

I’m married to an actor.  I hear there’s a thing called a “quick change” in which you have to take off one costume and put on another …well, quickly.  Usually this is because the actor is playing multiple parts or in different scenes.

I had a stunning revelation the other night that womanhood in general, and my life in particular, is much like live theater in this regard.

I had this revelation around midnight lying on the floor of my daughters’ room.  There I was in striped flannel pajama pants and a VBS t-shirt, wrapped up in a Backyardigans blanket waiting for Lucy & Penny to fall asleep so I could army crawl out of their room and into my cozy bed that kept beckoning me. (Scene note: Parents, don’t judge.  We are transitioning Penny into a toddler bed and sharing a room with her sister.  We don’t always lie on the floor nightly until our children fall asleep.  But sometimes you gotta do what you’ve gotta do.)

10 minutes prior to that scene I was in a black cocktail dress and 4 inch heels returning home from an awards banquet where Starving Artist Productions had been nominated in several categories.  (Scene note:  A ballroom full of theater people is…no note can prepare you sufficiently for this, actually.)

Earlier that day I was kicking off my pumps to jump on the trampoline with my family in my church clothes.  This was after I shed the apron I was donning while making quiche and cutting fruit for brunch, which was an hour after I took my fancy magnetic nametag off of my red sweater to hand to Lucy to play with while pulling out of the parking lot of the church where I work.

We often say that women wear many hats, or perhaps in this analogy, many costumes.  It’s true.  We are constantly moving in and out of scenes, changing roles.  It makes for a busy, full life.   Some days all the hats and quick changes can run us ragged and leave us wondering who we are- which character we are and which ones we are just “playing.”  Which parts we wish we could play, which roles would be more glamorous.  Which ones are boring and which ones are fun.  Which ones we wish got more stage time and which ones we resent having been cast in.

I certainly have those days.

But as I pondered all of life being like a stage while lying on the floor last night in my flannel pajamas, my feet throbbing from excessively tall shoes, my eyes heavy due to a lack of sleep that comes with raising toddlers, my heart was grateful.  Grateful for all the quick changes to remind me of who I am and who & what I love the most.  All these parts we play, as it were, aren’t meant to confuse or cause compartmentalization or fragmentation or schizophrenia.  Rather, they are gifts that ground us and grow us.  They are gifts that keep us from painting ourselves and each other too broadly or flatly. They keep us humble and strong, needy and needed.

I’m embracing the quick change.

I’m calling it an honor to be entrusted with so many things to do and people to care for.

I’m believing that while I am more than the sum of the parts I play, each part helps to shape my life in profoundly beautiful and important ways.  I may not be exclusively defined by my roles, but I’m learning the grace that is letting my identity be informed and shaped by them.

Ladies, We Just Don’t Know The Whole Story

There is great wisdom in thinking before speaking, for following a thought through before opening one’s mouth.  We’ve all been both transgressors and victims of careless (or at least less than thoughtful) questions or comments.  And I am willing to bet that the vast majority of our awkward and hurtful exchanges could have been avoided if a little more consideration had been paid upfront.

Specifically, I want to address wounds inflicted among women.  And more specifically, when women inquire of other women about their desire, or lack there of, for children.  It’s usually done innocently enough: “So, when are you guys going to start makin’ some babies?!” or “Why no kids yet? You know there’s no such thing as the ‘right’ time!”  Right.  Or how about when we bring up each other’s sex lives when we ask, “So, are you guys trying right now?  You gotta try a lot!”  Keep Trying. Or when we put our foot a little further in our mouth when we do get a reply, but misinterpret it as an invitation to dig a little deeper:  “Well, don’t worry- it’ll happen when it’s suppose.  And you know what they say, stressing about it makes it even harder to conceive!” Thanks for the tip.

Ladies, please hear me.  There are times and places and relationships in which these conversations are more than appropriate.  What I’m referring to is when an intimate family choice is discussed flippantly and casually, as if it were commonplace and open to the public.  I know we don’t mean to offend and certainly don’t set out to hurt each other, but inevitably, without proper care we end up face to face with a woman who is:

In an unhealthy marriage and praying to God she doesn’t get pregnant right now

Struggling with infertility and all the shame and insecurity that comes with it

Trying really hard to be supportive and content and full of faith in light of her husband’s infertility

Recovering from miscarriage #3 and really wants to hit you right now (please do not say anything remotely like, “it just wasn’t the right time” or “it’ll work the next time” or “it’s probably for the best”)

Content and at-home in her decision not to have children, but who still has a hard time communicating that choice without feeling judged or condescended to (“Oh, you’ll change your mind eventually!”)

18 months into “trying” and getting nowhere, who has spent hundreds of dollars on pregnancy tests and ovulation kits, and is praying that this month will be the month that the stupid stick produces a plus sign for once!

Still reeling from postpartum depression & sleep deprivation like no other and if another person jokingly asks when she’s ready for Baby #2 she might just implode on the spot.

The list of potential scenarios could go on and on.  I do not mean to make anyone fearful to ask a question or have a meaningful conversation with someone.  I am simply suggesting that when discussing issues of family planning to consider the nature of your relationship with the woman, choose your words carefully, and be mindful of your context.  Maybe a dinner party or waiting in line for the bathroom is not the best time to discuss the most successful positions for conceiving.  Or maybe what is easy for you to talk about regardless of the time or place, is not as easy for others.  Be discerning.  Express interest, love and concern with as much propriety as you can muster.  And when those times come when we are on the receiving end of a well-intended word that feels more like a blow to the uterus, let’s agree right here and now to find a gracious way to say as much to one another.  Let’s acknowledge that we rarely know the whole story and ignorance is no excuse for recklessness.  Let’s love one another carefully.