Settling In

IMG_8006We welcomed our little Elle into this world on Friday night. The transition has been good but already settling into a family of four has been a bit chaotic. Our Celebrating Strong Women series will continue each Wednesday. I have some amazing stories lined up through September. If you’d like to add yours, please let me know! I’ve been so encouraged by those who have shared theirs already!

If this picture is any indication, I’m not sure when life will settle down to regular blogging again… But, we couldn’t be happier with this new, crazy normal.IMG_8011

Taking Time to Nest

Well, we are officially overdue. Bea was nine days late, so apparently we make babies who are content to bake as long as possible. Philosophically, I’m all about letting babies decide on their own when to enter the world. Emotionally, during a hot week at the end of July? I cannot wait to not be pregnant. (And, of course, to meet this new member of our family!)

Since there’s no baby, I thought I’d continue blogging. After a false alarm hospital visit, where I had a brief quandary over whether or not our little girl counts as a “living child,” I thought about writing a post on the importance of language in light of the Planned Parenthood controversy, but that seemed beyond my mental capabilities at the moment.

Exploring the Botanic Gardens
Exploring the Botanic Gardens

Then, I thought about writing about our recent six year anniversary. We spent the day changing a dead car battery, making scones, and having a family adventure at the Botanic Gardens. It was not a fancy day, and perhaps didn’t look like anything out of the ordinary, but it was a good reflection of our life now and this quiet, nesting phase that we’re in. The reality right now is that I don’t have much energy to write posts that make connections to life and greater ideas.

So, I thought I’d write a little slice of life of where we’re at in this moment. Frank took the week off in the hopes of spending a week with our new baby. While it didn’t happen as planned, it’s been a perfect week of connecting as a family and relaxing at home – no projects or home improvements, just walks to the park and the store and special treats. I think it was a necessary week of connection before our lives change with this new baby.

A week filled with special treats.
A week filled with special treats.

I also needed a week of full-time two parent attention for Bea. Because we’ve been anxious and there have been a couple false alarms, we’ve been on edge and so she’s been on edge. Emotions have been running especially high and I am so thankful Frank was able to be here to carry some of the weight with breakfast dates, snuggle and swim time, and the novelty of having him home all day long. My parents stepped in, as well, giving Frank and I time to walk, to nap, to take a break from our sweet but high strung daughter.

Especially with an overdue baby, this period of nesting has dragged a bit and taken on different incarnations. From the traditional painting the room and arranging furniture at the beginning of the month to chores and baking and tying up loose ends in the middle to this time of waiting. Our nesting now has looked like reading books and having leisurely breakfasts on the patio. It’s looked like spending time together in ways that will be difficult in the coming weeks.

It’s a reminder that, no matter how prepared I am, sometimes preparation looks less like doing and more like being. Like listening to the needs of myself, of my three year old, even of our dog and recognizing we are all waiting and we all need to process in our own way.

What does your life look like at this moment?

Celebrating Strong Women

July is a busy month for us – our anniversary, Daisy’s birthday (which, in recent years, has fallen by the wayside), and Bea’s birthday are all in the same week. Should this next little girl arrive on the anticipated due date, she’ll come right in the midst of all this.

www.cathywaltersphotography.com
Excited to meet baby sister! www.cathywaltersphotography.com

I didn’t start blogging until Bea was more than a year old, so I have no idea what time management with a newborn will be like. Perhaps things will be very quiet around here as we settle in and get to know this new human. Or, perhaps writing will be a source of refreshment, one I make time for in the midst of this transition. Who knows?

In anticipation for the unknown, I’ve asked a few friends to write guest posts. As we prepare for our new daughter, I’ve been pondering about raising two strong, opinionated, fearless women. The women you’ll meet over the next few weeks are ones who immediately come to mind when I think of the type of woman I want my daughters to look up to. They are women who are successful for many different reasons, who face life with confidence, and who love people and value making this world a better place.

Each Wednesday, I’ll post their story and I hope you’ll enjoy and learn from them as much as I have. And, because this is a small blog and I’m not that technologically savvy, if the baby arrives on a Tuesday or a Wednesday, a post may or may not go up… I’ll do my best.

In the meantime, if you’d like to contribute an essay about your own journey or a woman who has influenced you, I’d love to hear it! Email me at anniehrim @gmail.com and I’ll consider it for this series.

Raising Strong Girls

In response to our news of another little girl, a friend recently said, “Your purpose in life is to raise strong women.” Frank and I have taken this statement as a sort of commission – a guiding principle in our parenting choices. As we raise Bea and dream about this next little girl, our hope is that we foster confidence, strength, opinions, and courage. We want our girls to be women who change this world for the better, who think critically, and who question what they are taught.

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the Race, Reconciliation & Immigration conference. It was a hope-filled time focused on what we can be doing to combat injustice and work toward reconciliation. As John Perkins said,

Drinking coffee together won’t solve the problem – it takes justice out of the equation.

Surrounding myself with strong women
Surrounding myself with strong women

One of the best parts of the conference for me was going with some moms from my MOPS group. It is so encouraging knowing women who care about justice and who are in different places on their journey towards it. I am learning so much from them and their life experiences. One woman is an initiator – she is full of ideas and practical ways of doing justice. We were talking about what we as moms could do and she suggested playdates. This common act can bring about connections and experiences that – while it doesn’t feel like being on the frontline of protests or prison reform – is a doable way for moms to stretch outside comfort zones and work toward bridging community gaps.

What I loved about this idea is that it is something I can do. My first inclination toward new ideas or information is to read more about it, to follow authors and bloggers and tweeters who are on the frontline, to get frustrated, but to ultimately not really know what to do next. I do know that I can take Bea to a park and play with other kids in neighborhoods that need justice and reconciliation. It may seem like a tiny step, but it’s something I can comfortably do with my child who doesn’t have the same fears and prejudices many adults do.

I have another friend who works toward justice through her Family Service Club. Kellie wanted to foster a practical spirit of giving in her kids, so she is actively looking for ways to engage them in their communities. I love that she wants to take the childhood lesson of sharing and caring for others into the broader world of her community.

From these women, I am learning that working toward justice doesn’t have to be grand. Especially in this stage of small acts and raising small people, starting with simple is best. We need big world-changing ideas, but we also need small community outreaches and playdates. I need to remember what Perkins said,

If you do justice anywhere, people will hear about it everywhere.

Frank and I were talking about other practical ways we can raise strong, compassionate women. We’ve talked about modeling our own pursuit toward justice. Ultimately, what we do as a family will carry far more weight than any words we say to our girls. What do we want our family story to say? How do we make these beliefs our family norm?

I know I won’t stop reading and learning about ways to fight injustice, but I also know I need to surround myself with strong, proactive, and justice-minded women. Women who teach me how to put my knowledge into action. Women who are ahead of me on this journey and who can teach me sensitive ways of working toward justice. Women I want my daughters to be like when they grow up.

How do you work toward justice? Any practical ideas for including children in this pursuit?

Messenger

Frank was the one to announce Bea’s sex to the hospital room: “It’s a…girl?” The question mark surprised me, but reflecting later, it shouldn’t have. The last few weeks of pregnancy, friends and strangers were sure we were having a boy from a myriad of old-wives opinions. Even during our longer-than-expected labor, nurses would laughingly predict we were having a boy, based on “all the trouble he was giving me.” We had prepared ourselves in the end for a boy. Of course, the moment we met Bea, all thoughts of boys were replaced with our sweet daughter.

1 day old
1 day old

When people asked us what we “wanted,” the first answer was, of course, “a healthy baby.” But, Frank had images of a son in his mind. He and his dad have a close relationship and Frank wanted to pass on his love of camping, exploration, and boy-activities to his son.

It’s been amazing watching Frank soften into a dad of a daughter. He and Bea are constantly exploring, looking for bugs, and dreaming about backyard camping. When Bea has a question, Frank explains it in such detail, I find myself learning new things, too. Frank spoils and treats Bea as his princess, but he also gives her the courage and identity to play in the dirt, dig around, and ask questions – just like he would have with a son.

I’m glad Frank got to be the one to share Bea’s sex. In that split-second, he shifted and embraced all that being a dad to a daughter means. Almost two years later, I know our daughter has an exceptional foundation because you’re her dad. Happy Father’s Day!

Linked with Lisa-Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing.

Being Human

“I don’t want to be a girl; I don’t want to be a boy; I just want to be human,” my four-year-old niece told my sister-in-law over Christmas. Mary Beth is an amazing mom, and she lets her daughter’s humanness shine through, no questions or comments. My niece is every bit a four year old: She loves imaginative play – sometimes she’s a princess, sometimes she’s a Lost Boy. She tramps through leaves on the winding trail behind her house, wearing a pink tutu-skirt and furry boots. I wouldn’t call her a tomboy, but she’s not a girly-girl, either. She encompasses the balanced humanness of a young child.

I’m not sure where I fall on the nature-vs-nurture spectrum. I know there are some boys who are rough-and-tumble, and others who are nurturing. Most boys I know are a combination of those two. I know there are some girls who quietly read for hours and others who are outside climbing trees. Most girls I know are a combination of those two. I know there are innate differences between boys and girls, but I also wonder how we, as parents, help create boxes of otherness in our children. When we encourage boys to be boys and we try to protect our girls, are we creating divisions that wouldn’t be there otherwise?

We were at a party last year and I was talking with a mom whose boys were running wild laps through the house, knocking things over, and screaming. Bea was quietly doing a puzzle with another little boy. The mom of the wild boys laughed and said, “You’re so lucky to have a girl! I can’t even imagine my boys sitting quietly for anything!” She laughed at how boys will be boys as I watched one of her sons smear a chocolate hand print onto the wall. I debated if I should point out that my daughter was playing quietly with another boy but decided to just smile and nod. Later, I wondered how much of that behavior is boys being boys and how much of it is parenting choices.

As Bea’s personality is starting to assert itself, I see wild moments of running through the house, roaring like a lion followed by quiet moments of having a tea party with her dolls. In this stage, Bea doesn’t know what girls do and what boys do; she just knows how to explore the world as a human. I hope, as I encourage and create boundaries that I allow her humanness to be at the forefront of her play and her exploration. Maybe she’ll end up being a flowery princessy girly-girl. Maybe she’ll end up being more of a scraped-knee tomboy. Maybe she’ll be some sort of mix of the two, and most likely she’ll be someone more amazing than I can even imagine.

What I want to learn from this stage of life, and what I hope I can remember as I grow as a parent, is that my daughter is first and foremost a human. And I hope my words, encouragement, and actions reflect that back to her.

Where do you fall on the nature vs. nurture spectrum? Veteran Parents: How did you encourage your children’s humanness?