Honor

I am a verbal processor. Ask any of our friends, and they will tell you that as I read or think about life, I need to talk out my ideas. Especially if I’m on the verge of shifting my thinking about something, I need to work through it with others. Frank, who is more of an internal processor, deals with the brunt of my questions, rants, and opinions and has – for the most part – learned that this is how I best learn.

One of the hardest things for me about being a mom is feeling heard. Bea is absolutely adorable but I need to feel important, too. It’s been tough – that balance of quality time before bedtime and learning to honor each of our needs and personalities.

Honoring the need for quality time with a zoo-selfie
Honoring the need for quality time with a zoo-selfie

When Frank comes in, he swings Bea up in the air and asks her about the adventures of the day. Usually, he’s home between 5:30 and 6:00 and with bedtime at 7:30, he needs to pack in the playtime, the snuggles and reading, and the memories he’s missed while at work. Bea adores this time together, showing off, laughing, luring him with just one more book… At our best, I have dinner ready and put aside dishes and cleaning up and we enjoy this time as a family.

Last week, in a not-best moment, I had just finished Lean In and was excitedly telling Frank what I had learned, questions I had, and the feeling of empowerment the book had given me. He was engaged at first, but I saw a familiar glaze in his eye as Bea ran across the yard, gardening tools in hand, stealing her dad’s attention. Later that evening, we talked about days with a two-year-old and how I’ve been reading more nonfiction the past couple years, trying to keep learning, to take advantage of this time at home. We talked about how, after discussing the nuances of Madeline and Daniel Tiger all day, I needed to talk with an adult, to have someone respond.

From the three book clubs I’m actively part of to my dreams of a next career to listening as I recount every amazing part of my most recent book, Frank honors my need for learning and connectivity. In order for me to feel excited, to feel like I’ve truly learned something, I need to share it.

I’m learning to honor his time as a working dad, too. I recognize the fact that he would much rather be home playing with us than on endless calls to the IRS, fixing other people’s problems. I also totally understand those precious minutes between walking in the front door and bedtime – minutes needed to establish trust and memories. Minutes he uses to honor his daughter’s need for attention from her dad.

As we shift and continue to figure out life as a family of three, I see how much adaptability is needed as we balance and honor each person’s needs. The core needs of being heard, of feeling loved, of squeezing in time together are important to all of us. As we recognize and acknowledge those core values, it seems easier to balance that time of play and listening and processing so that, more often than not, they weave together rather than stand alone.

How do you feel heard? What are some ways your family balances connecting with each personality type?

Linked with SheLoves Magazine’s monthly theme: Honour.

Girls

We decided not to find out the sex of our baby, so throughout my pregnancy people constantly would predict what we were having: Because I was carrying higher/lower than someone else, I was clearly having a boy/girl. Because I didn’t have morning sickness; Because I craved cheese; Because…. One sentiment that came from both moms of boys and from moms with girls was: Hopefully it’s a boy. Girls are so much work! Or, Girls are easy at first, but I wouldn’t want to be around during the catty teenage years.

Now, being the mother of an inquisitive, active, funny, loving, nonstop little girl, I am so glad we have the honor of parenting a girl. We are years away from the life-changing tween and teen years, but so far having a girl is so much fun. Bea has the freedom to run and get messy and dig in the dirt, all while wearing a pink tutu with her hair in “half pigs,” as she likes to call her favorite style. She is equally obsessed with dinosaur books, with the fashion primer of Anna Karenina, and with building the tallest Lego tower in the world.

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As Bea builds her vocabulary and forms her own opinions, we catch glimpses of those dreaded years when kids learn to be themselves, to have more freedom, and to eventually become the adults we’ve raised them to be. And here is where the claims that girls are so much harder than boys simply don’t ring true. I am excited for those awkward teenage years. I think it’s amazing that we have the chance to raise a strong, confident woman. My hope for Bea is that she grows deep and thoughtful friendships with other girls that will carry her through adulthood.

I’m currently reading Girls Will Be Girls by Dr. JoAnn Deak. In chapter 4, she talks about the teen years and how the stereotypes of backstabbing and cattiness can be in full swing. But, she also talks about the flipside to those actions and emotions:

The world often focuses on the cattiness and uncaring behavior of girls. The other side of that, which is just as powerful – perhaps even more so – is the caring and connection with friends, or others who touch their heartstrings. (pg 114)

Deak says that the cattiness is often directed toward close friends, people who girls deeply care for. She suggests that the cattiness is a form of vulnerability – something we want to create space and safety for (pg 115). She goes on to talk about how, because girls see the world in a multidimensional, nuanced way, if given the time and voice, they can solve problems in unconventional ways. She suggests that many wars wouldn’t be fought and that fights would turn out differently if women were given the power of their voice (pg 116).

I believe that when we empower women, we bring redemption to this earth. We catch glimpses of the Kingdom of Heaven when we give power to the powerless. By empowering my daughter, I hope to contribute to a world where women aren’t marginalized; Where the birth of a daughter is celebration for change rather than fear for her future. Rather than fearing an outspoken, passionate teenager, I hope to instill courage and confidence in my daughter so that she knows she has a voice. I want her to know that the way she sees the world is unique and because of that, she has the ability to transform the status quo.

This doesn’t end with just being glad we have a girl. If we have a boy I will be equally excited about the possibilities for empowering women. Teaching my daughter courage is only part of creating a safe world for women. If we have a son, I want to teach him to respect and appreciate vulnerability. I want to give him the courage and confidence to respect women so that he will contribute to a world where women can thrive.

How do you model courage and vulnerability to the kids in your life?

Independence

“Self!” is Bea’s new favorite word. She uses it for everything, even when she can’t do it herself. She insists on clipping herself! into the car seat; She doesn’t need a stroller – she can walk all by herself! She only occasionally needs help cutting her food, and she now washes herself! We try to indulge her independence as much as possible. Coupled with self! she knows when to ask for help. Usually a cry of “Help!” is followed by a statement of “Self!” Even though it’s exhausting, it’s been a fun stage to enter. It’s amazing to let our baby be an independent toddler.

Yesterday, we went on a hike. Bea started out strapped in the pack, but soon wanted to walk by herself! We had already passed the halfway point, so decided to let her out to explore. She loved climbing on the red rocks and tried very hard to stay on the trail, even when explorations took a detour. She would call out to other hikers to “Pass!” as we stepped off to the side. A new favorite activity is walking Daisy by herself! Daisy weighs about 50 pounds to Bea’s 20-something, so we usually try to hold the end of the leash as Bea “walks” Daisy. On this hike, she was having none of that, and insisted that she was old enough to walk Daisy alone. Fortunately, we were at a deserted part of the trail, so few distractions were nearby. Daisy walked next to Bea as she held tightly to the leash, proud of her responsibility.

Hiking with Daisy
Hiking with Daisy

It’s so much quicker and easier when we do things for Bea. The car seat would take a fraction of the time if she didn’t have to fasten the clips herself! Meals would be much less messy if she let me help her. But, as I watch her become her own little person, as she models our behaviors and vocabulary, I realize that this is the most amazing thing about this stage: The mess and chaos of an 18-month-old doing things herself!

At 18-months, everything is brand new. Bea is doing everything herself! for the first time. But, at 18-months, 18 years, 58, we’re all still learning things for the first time. One of my favorite things about college was learning so many new and amazing things – both academically and as an independent adult, living away from home. One of the reasons a friend and I started a book club after grad school was that we missed learning new things. We wanted to continue to challenge our thinking. When I look at my own activities, most of what keeps me energized involves learning new things, hearing new ideas, and discussing differing opinions. One of my birthday goals last week was to learn something new this year. I meant it as more of a skill and I haven’t yet discovered what that will be. Watching Bea discover her world has reminded me of how important that act of discovery is and how it shapes who we are.

What is something new that you have learned recently? How do you keep energized in your daily routines?