24 July, 2014

Lessons on Seasons

I'm learning to love the season I'm in, and it's been a long time coming. 

It's important to note that looking at other people and comparing myself to them only makes me wish myself away from my current season and when I do that, I feel like I'm starting on square one again, of this whole learning thing. 

I don't want to just do my life, I want to live and love my life. And right now my life is lots of wooden puzzle pieces, decoding toddler language, small but sure and sweet moments of romance when Steven and I have a second to express them amongst all the busy needs of our lives and our kids. I am learning to love getting soaked during each bath time, to sweep the same space of floor multiple times an hour. I'm learning to love how small bits of oatmeal stick to KJ's thighs and to the chairs, and seem to glue themselves on. I'm learning to let go of how much I thought I loved said chairs. Because in truth, nice dining chairs aren't part of this season. 

Neither is a perfect body (no time!), or a beautiful purse, or a perfectly manicured yard, or a car that doesn't have banana peels strewn throughout the back half. Learning about seasons is as much learning what season I'm in as what seasons I'm not in. 

This season is about listening and learning with my kids. It's about experiencing childhood all over again. It's learning what is a good thing to spend money on and what is not. It's learning how best to utilize the precious private moments I have with my husband. It's figuring out how to get deep sleep even when I know I'll get woken up twenty minutes after I lay down. 

Most of all, it's learning to love. Maybe that's what every season is about. 







20 May, 2014

Teach Them to Be Kind

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I studied political science in college. My last few semesters, as classes became more select and difficult, classroom sizes were smaller and the discussions that couldn't really work in large lecture halls were the stuff of life for us poli-sci kids in class sizes of ten or fifteen. I loved discussions. I loved the different view points, the open text books, neon yellow with highlighted passages here and there. And more than anything, I loved the banter. 

The back-and-forth, the quoting of famous leaders throughout history, the facts from the CIA Factbook that we all had open on our laptops. At the time, I didn't mind, in fact, I probably encouraged the belief that the person with the funniest, sharpest, often meanest comment was supreme. Intelligence was the ultimate currency in those classes and while intelligence is something I value very much, becoming a parent has made me re-think some things.


I haven't been in a situation like that for years, where manners and kindness take a backseat to intelligence and wit. But I have watched the preschool-aged equivalent where it isn't political banter, but the coolest toys and popularity that seem to be far more important than anything else. 

"Who did you play with today?"

"Well, I played with Andy. But Dalton brought a superman toy so everybody wanted to be his friend."

"Did you want to be his friend?"

"Yeah, but he didn't want to play with me because I didn't have any cool toys with me."

Poor Gage has a mom that sticks to the "no toys from home" rule at preschool and as such, has never been included in the cool circle of his class. 

I have been so tempted to just let him bring his light saber or Lego Batman to school with him, in an effort to generate more friendships for my little dude. But something keeps telling me, let him learn. Let him decide. Let him realize what actually matters. 

What matters, in all circles of life, is not wit or good looks. It's not muscle mass or skeletal thinness or perfect hair. It's not book smarts or money or prestige. We allow these things to give those who have them in abundance a get-out-of-jail free card when it comes to exhibiting good manners and kindness toward others. We allow a funny-mean comment to get by as long as it generates laughs. We let movie stars treat people like dirt. Side note, as an example, Steven and I had a conversation with some other people a while ago about Christian Bale (the guys from Newsies, if you, like me, are celebrity illiterate), who freaked out on one of his assistants. Like, super freaked out. And I was so surprised that everyone was in his defense! He's famous, he's under lots of pressure, he was probably justified, etc. What?! Are you kidding me? The more famous you are, the louder you can yell at your underlings? 

I want my kids to be smart and funny and good-looking and healthy. But more than anything, I want them to be true and to be kind. True to themselves, true to others, true to the things they believe in. Kind to themselves, kind to others. Kind to those who will never give them anything back, kind to those who give them everything they can.

Kindness. 

Kindness is a much higher mark of good breeding and success in life than any degree of wealth or wit. 

When Gage was in tears, utterly brokenhearted that he had been punched by a cool Ninja Boy at school, I was painfully proud of him that he told me that no, he hadn't punched him back. Or hit or kicked or yelled or anything like that. Not because he's a pansy or a ninny or afraid of defending himself. Quite the opposite, I don't know anyone who can defend themselves better than my little boy. But he made a decision. He ruled against retribution, against giving into the primal desire of every one who has been mocked or teased and treated unkindly and he chose to turn the other cheek. 

I like to think it's because of good parenting? But let's be real. It's because he's young and innocent and can easily discern right and wrong and act with true courage. I'm taking a page out of his book and I'm going to work real hard on being kind. Always, no matter what. 

13 May, 2014

How to Show Compassion

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We are a generation of fixers. So propelling, shifting, quick is our culture that we don't remember the ancient art of compassion through empathy, instead we act on our feelings of compassion by offering solutions.

Mother's Day is a bittersweet holiday for so many people. Steven and I suffered secondary infertility for a couple years after Gage was born, and while I love Mother's Day for the chance to celebrate the women in my life I love, it can bring back some sad memories.

Because the truth is, if you or someone you love is experiencing infertility, then no amount of consolation quotes, pats on the back, promises that soon you'll be expecting will help. Time, of course, helps. Life experience helps. It dulls the pain and reminds you to hope.

But you know what really doesn't help?

Solutions.

Advice given even with the very best of intentions, (usually) just. doesn't. help.

Maybe you should try adopting, people always get pregnant when they start thinking about adoption.

Maybe you should take this pill/hormone/natural remedy that worked for my sister/friend/brother.

Read this book. You'll have a better perspective afterwards.

Maybe you should put yourself on bed rest.

Maybe you should stop wallowing and move on with life.

Maybe you were never meant to have any (more) kids.

Maybe you should just relax; you haven't really been trying that long anyway. Not like my sister/daughter/friend who tried for x amount of years.

And on. And on. And on.
I remember thinking, when offered fertility advice, "do you really think I haven't tried that?" One of my exceptional talents is self-diagnosing and treating via internet. Oh, I'm so good at it. We tried everything. Teas, pills, great doctors, moon cycles, ovulation tests, yoga-for-fertility, fertility mantras (don't ask). And you know what? Eventually I got pregnant. Eventually I stayed pregnant. And I don't think it had anything to do with any of the advice I was given, except by my personal doctor.
So listen. I know that people want to be helpful. I know that we feel (falsely) that it's our duty to fix broken things. But someone else's fertility or infertility is none of your business. If someone wants advice, they will ask.

If you want to be helpful, be truthful. The best words I received while in the depths of despair, right after miscarriage #2, from one of my best friends:

"Oh Brooke, I am so sorry! I cried for you but I know that you will get through this. I profess to know nothing about life but I know how unexpectedly cruel it can seem. But God will take care of you and so will all of your family and friends - of which you have so many!"

Still makes me cry when I read it! If you want to know how to talk to someone going through infertility/miscarriage/really any traumatic experience, then do what my friend did. Express compassion, love, and hope.

Happy Mother's Day to the women with children, the women without children, the women wishing for children or more children, the women who have lost children.
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