Memories

The Recurring Dream

My sister and I are sitting in the front seat of our Marc III conversion van. We are young and bored, waiting for our parents to come back from inside the house. As small children, our cheeks are rosy and our hair is silk. We also wear matching outfits, because that’s how my mom liked to dress us. Though we were two years apart, we were practically twins, always competing for attention.

Sitting in the front seat, my sister pretends like she’s driving. Jerking the wheel back and forth, she laughs at the thought of commanding the road. Nervously, I tell her to stop. It’s too late. She managed to pull the gear into drive and slowly, we roll like molasses down the driveway. I see my parents from the front porch. Their mouths are agape and they don’t know what to do. We scream with fear, but firmly, my sister takes the wheel in her hands. With no other option but to drive, she pulls out into the road and we go.

I wake up.

(Repeat this scene in my next dream sequence.)

 

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Personal

We are His quest.

In high school, I used to enjoy drawing. I was not good enough to get paid for it, but I always felt deep satisfaction when a portrait took shape.

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This one was from my introspective sullen days when I strived to be perfect intellectually, physically, in relationships, and really in every area of my life. It’s not that different from now, even 18 years later.

Being flawless is hard. No one can really achieve it. Magazines, advertisements, and even people in our lives that we love and respect will remind us that our bodies are inadequate, our jobs aren’t respectable enough, or that we don’t have it all. It can feel a bit depressing. I’m so relieved that Christ covers all our imperfections. We are loved and sought after. We are His quest. Being reminded of this is satisfying to my soul.

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parenting

Overparenting

Folks, we live in the age of over parenting and control. Overparenting, though done with the best interests, is really a sign of distrust. We distrust that God has control, so we marshal it ourselves. We become the overly involved tyrant parent that every teacher loves and hates at the same time. Emails, phone calls, suggestions, comments–we find a way to make sure our voices are heard and that we advocate for our children. There’s a place for this, no doubt.

I have written my fair share of emails to teachers–“Don’t you think my daughter should…” “My son mentioned x…perhaps…”

I apologize in hindsight. There’s a place for advocating. In many cases, it’s the only way some kids can get the services and attention they need. However, when advocating becomes our daily battle-cry, perhaps we should take a step back and see it’s in the child’s long-term interest. Are we allowing kids opportunities to learn from each experience? Or are we setting them up to be entitled adults? Because you know, that’s a real thing.

 

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Personal

I’m not perfect.

In my research, I’ve been writing a bit about the paradox of perfection. As young girls, we are bombarded with images and ideas of what it means to be flawless and desirable. In our pursuit of perfection, we go to extremes. Millions of dollars are made from our insecurities. Blemish erasers, eyelash boosters, hair straighteners, hair curlers, tummy tuckers, breast enhancers, skin toners, and all the other ‘ers’ send us a message that we are not worthy or lovable unless we are the most perfect version of ourselves. Sad, since God thinks we are perfect as we are when we are covered in Christ.

As young girls turn into young women, the struggle persists–but it morphs. This is not a self-righteous message. As a 35 year old woman, I still struggle. Though the physical desires for perfection that plagued me from adolescence have somewhat diminished, now it’s morphed into ideals of perfection for my career, my mom-skills, how well I have decorated my house, how many papers I’ve published, how well-behaved my kids are, and how well-read I am. Each minute is an exhausting excursion of self-comparison and self-loathing. Either I hate myself for what I was a minute ago, or I hate myself for who I can’t compare to. What a trap.

I’m not perfect. I’m never going to be in this life on my own. It’s exhausting, until I remind myself that only in Christ can I be free. Let us not to disillusioned with self-obsession and self-loathing for God loves us just the way we are.

 

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parenting

Teaching the Kids Bad Words

F***

S***

B**CH

A**

I’m sure I won’t win any “mom-of-the-year” awards for this, but I sat down with my then 8 and 9 year old and wrote all the bad words I knew on a piece of paper. The list was long. Why? “Why?” – my daughter even asked. “Mom, cross them out!!!!!” She already knew some and felt uncomfortable seeing me spell them out around the kitchen table.

Well from the advice of a good friend (this wasn’t actually my idea), this is the way we need to parent now. In the digital age of the internet, we prop up smart phones for our one-year olds to sit entranced so that we can peacefully eat dinner when out with friends. The children know how to take selfies. They figure out how to navigate Netflix and we encourage this. Then, at about a certain age, we freak out and take those very same smart phones away. Talk about contradictions. At an age where we should be handing over and letting go, we constrict.

Back to the original story–I wrote those curse words out on paper for a couple of reasons: 1) to teach them what every single one means and let them know that looking it up on the Internet may lead to some inappropriate sites. This builds on my previous post about talking about sex earlier than later.  2) I want my kids to know that they can talk to me about certain things–that I’m not embarrassed or angry about them knowing certain concepts.

They’re young. They’re minds are somewhat pure and undefiled from visual images and though I can’t control whether they see these things forever, I can help them understand a little bit. I’m not sure if this is the right answer, but I don’t regret it either.

Perhaps I would not have felt so compelled to do this if we were parenting in the 1980s, but we’re not longer in the pre-digital age. Information is at their little fingertips and I hope to prepare them to use it well. Looking forward to hearing criticism.

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Uncategorized

The Talk

In the age of google images and YouTube, parenting a tween is terrifying. All it takes is one misspelled word and our sweet innocent children are subjected to a swath of unwholesome images and videos–the kind that make eyes bleed. A few too many misdirected searches for “Pokemon” and “kittens” caused a bit of panic that I wasn’t ready to explain. It became pretty clear to my husband and I that it was time for “the talk.”

Unlike what we received as teens (nothing), as parents we decided that it would be best to give a biologically accurate and heartfelt delivery of this message one-on-one with our kids. We wanted them to hear what sex was from us–not from their friends or television. When we were younger, if we dared look, our sources were printed dictionaries or encyclopedias. Today’s version of that being the internet, we felt the earlier the better.

My daughter was a ripe age of 9 when I swooped her off her feet to a bed and breakfast deep in the fall foliage of the Shenandoah Valley. I told her, “You and I are going to have a Mommy/Daughter Date Weekend!” She beamed with excitement at the thought of uninterrupted attention. “Mom, can we ride bikes and run through the park? Can we eat ice cream and watch cartoons?”

“Of course,” I told her. “And we can have mommy/daughter talk time too!”

She had no clue. To this day, I feel kind of bad for what was to come. Somewhere in my mind, I was convinced that this was the year she needed to hear about the birds and the bees. This was the year, because all students in her grade would be getting the ‘family life unit.” This was the year, because if I didn’t do it, someone or something else would explain it to her first. The thought of her googling some key words on the topic made me freeze with fear.

Therefore, we had a date weekend. We did all the stuff she asked. We rode our bikes through a parking lot at the foothills of a beautiful red and orange canopy of fall leaves in the Shenandoah mountainscape. We told each other stories over dinner and snuggled while watching movies in our PJs. It was golden. I have such joyful memories when I think back to those moments.

After all the fun activities we planned has been done, the only thing left to do was to have the talk. Naturally, I stalled. But while cozy and happy in the thick comforters of the bed, I nervously blurted out, “How are you?”

Things were already not going as I had planned. I was not a bumbling mess when I rehearsed this in my brain. In my mental version, we had a great conversation, my daughter thoughtfully asking questions, and me doling out well-crafted answers.

“How are you,” is the phrase you ask acquaintances you see in the grocery store. We had been together the entire day. Realizing I sounded awkward, I followed that up with…”Well, I mean…okay…so, have you ever had questions you were too scared or embarrassed to ask?” Another awkward approach.

Confused, my daughter stops to search my face. “You mean…like…girl stuff?”

She gets it. She’s the one who dives in. I say YES and then she asks, “Well, why do older girls want to shave their legs?”

She falls into my poorly set trap. We chat. We talk about weird human phenomenon, like why people decide to shave, what makes someone interested in doing drugs, why girls wear special clothing contraptions? We talk about the strange processes of puberty and how it takes over our brains…we even talk about…that thing.

After my thorough biological explanation of how children are manufactured, I ask, “Do you have any other questions you’d like to ask?” Eyes averted, she asks one and then says, “Ok mom, I’m done for the day. Can we watch another movie now?” The door that was opened has now been abruptly shut. To which I say, “Of course!”

Happily, we both breathe a sigh of relief and stare at the TV watching a children’s movie. Though these types of conversations are probably best done on an ongoing everyday basis, ours was intentional and it was okay. One year later, she feels empowered to keep asking questions and they become more interesting and thoughtful as time passes. I’m less red in the face when she asks, and she’s more comfortable asking. There’s nothing more I could ask for.

The next morning, we woke up, enjoyed breakfast together, took one last bike ride through the fall scenery and headed home.

We had a great trip and deepened our relationship. It was both imperfect and perfect at the same time.

Our son turns 9 this year, to which my daughter told him, “Lucky you! You get to have awkward conversations with dad this year!” Confused, he probed, “What do you mean?” She knowingly laughed and said, “You’ll see. It will be ‘fun.'” She used air quotes with her fingers. I’ll take that as a compliment.

 

 

 

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