Today was a crazy day. My husband is out of town for the weekend, so I am on my own with the kids. I woke up this morning with my three-year-old's feet by my elbow, and my 11-year-old on the other side of him. I took them all outside to play, and Cameron fell down in the driveway and his face kind of bounced off the concrete. Anya is grounded this weekend, and she spent a good part of the day trying to find loopholes to make her punishment more fun. Logan took a nosedive into crazytown and was a wiggly, running, head-butting, hitting handful all day. I didn't get even half my to-do list tackled, and I still have dirty dishes to take care of.
But you know what? The weather was beautiful, and my kids and I had a great time running around together. You know, until the face-meeting-concrete incident. When that particular incident did happen, Anya ran and got a wet washcloth, and sat by him while I cleaned him up. She also carefully disinfected his scrape and put a band-aid on it for him. And yes, my kids slept in my bed with me last night. It was a very content feeling to wake up with them snuggled up next to me. It's perfectly fine with me if I wake up the same way tomorrow morning. The dishes will not get finished tonight, but I will spend time with my daughter. The day is coming when she won't want me to finish up my work quickly so I can have girls night with her. I'm going to go enjoy it. The dishes can wait. And Logan stopped his uncontrolled running around at each meal time so he could carefully and slowly carry everybody's plate out to them, because he has a servant's heart and he loves to help.
There have been times when a crazy day would completely throw me off. When I wouldn't notice how Logan settles down and focuses when he has a kitchen job to do. When I was so focused on the need-to-do's that I wouldn't have treasured the feeling of having my babies close and healthy and safe. When I would have skipped over how lovely the sun felt on my back, or how chasing and laughing with my kids makes me feel more alive. I still have times like that, actually. But I'm trying. I'm trying to focus on the positive, look for the moments of wonder, and stay mindful of what is happening in front of me in that instant. Let me tell you, it is HARD. Thankfully, I can try again tomorrow. And the next day. Seeing the beautiful in the middle of the mess is something I have to keep working on, all the time. But this is my life, and it's worth it.
The husband here to give you his thoughts on the matter at hand. As this is my first blog post here let me introduce myself. Here is what you need to know: teacher, artist, father, son, husband, ordinary guy. I am not a writer by trade but when Amy asked me to contribute to this blog I thought..."what the hell, could be fun," so here I am, writing on the blog on what fills my mind in the moment and trying to decide if I want Amy to edit my words for grammar or if I am hoping she will let it be. I suppose only time will tell. Either way, lets get started.
Fathers Day. A day to honor the hard work that our fathers do in order to support (financially, spiritually, emotionally and all those other "ly" words) our families. I have a difficult time with this day. Always have. And in the spirit of "THIS BEAUTIFUL MESS" let me give you some insight to my personal mess.
My dad was an absentee father. He still doesn't have a lot of presence in our lives. Long story short (dear Lord help me keep it short) he left when I was 13 (my brother a mere 7) and was separated from us for 3 years where we would see him every other weekend before he decided to actually file the divorce paperwork. During this time I remember more of my dad getting drunk while watching old movies and passing out on the couch.
After my parents both moved on I remember this time when my dad's new wife made an insulting remark about my mom. If you knew me and my dad you know this is an act that cannot go unchallenged. You just do not do that. So, (in keeping with the short story) I wrote a letter. 18 years old and I wrote a very strongly worded letter to my fathers wife calling her out on her lack of respect towards my mother. My dad sided with the wife. I wasn't allowed in the house after that. Sure they showed up to my high school graduation but the phone calls stopped and I was forever (at least it felt like forever) cut off from my dad.
Hard to celebrate a holiday dedicated to fathers when your own was pretty much absent most of your life. But I'm not going to leave you with this funk of depression hanging over your head. Couldn't do that now could I?
When Amy told me I was going to be a father for the first time I freaked out. I'm not talking that TV show freak out that we all know and love. You know the one where the mother says "I'm pregnant" and then the father to be sits there in stunned silence trying to figure out how this sort of thing could happen while the audience is left to assume he spent a minimum of 3 days in said silence. You know, that one.
Sure, I was stunned but we had talked about trying to have kids for...well, about a month. But over the course of 9 months my stunned silence was focused on things like, my dad passed out on the couch or taking the wrestling matches way too far. How was a supposed to be a good father when mine was absent?
Don't get me wrong, I know I'm not alone in this. Not once have I ever thought that I am the only one having to deal with this sort of thing. In this day in age we live in a society where more and more sons are learning how to be a man from mothers or other father figures who are not our dads so I know I'm not alone here. I (and those like me) spend our days facing the reality that just because you're a father doesn't mean you're a good one.
There's the mess. And here is the beautiful. It doesn't matter. It really doesn't matter. I look at my three kids and I see the adoration in their eyes. Even when I don't deserve it. I see the look of joy on my daughters face when I go to her dance recital dress rehearsal or my son's constant presence by my side simply because I am daddy. There is a movie that we like to watch that I think puts it best. At the end of the movie the daughter hands her dad his first grandson and says, "You've taught us that there is no such thing as a perfect parent. But there are a million ways to be a really great one."
I know I still make mistakes, but hey, who doesn't? Sure does make a beautiful mess though.
Happy Fathers Day 2015 to all of those really great dads out there.
My job entails teaching parenting and child development to parents with young children. I love my job, although it's scary to me that I have to teach other people skills that I am still learning myself. Parenting is not something you can ever master. You never get to the point where you feel like you've got it figured out. You shouldn't, at least. If you feel like you've got all the answers, that's a giant red flag that you're screwing up. Because once you decide there's nothing more you need to learn, you stop growing. You stop evaluating. You stop thinking about what your kids are really needing and begin going on autopilot. Because of this way of thinking, I love getting questions. I love when the families I work with ask me what to do about a parenting dilemma, or when I see them struggling to figure something out. It means they are evaluating. It means they are growing. One of the questions I get on a weekly basis is about discipline. People REALLY struggle with disciplining their children. Even the good ones struggle. And I know that Leo and I have struggled with this topic on countless occasions over the years. Why is it that with all the advice out there, parents still rate discipline as one of their biggest stressors, and biggest areas of contention? It's because in order to have effective disciplining, you have to pull a Jedi mind trick. Please don't get offended when I say this, but in one particular area, disciplining children is like training a dog. Before you get all shocked, please understand that I'm not comparing children and dogs. I'm simply saying that in order to be an effective disciplinarian, you need to be the alpha. You need to have complete and utter confidence in the fact that you are in charge, and that you can handle whatever child naughtiness comes your way. If you falter, your child will sense it. They can smell fear and uneasiness, and if there is a millimeter of uncertainty in your mind, they will wiggle their way through until they've blasted pointy shards of self-doubt all over, like little pieces of glass ready to stab you when you step on them in the middle of the night. So the trick is to believe that you can do it, before you see any evidence to support that. Like so many things in life, you have to just close your eyes and jump. You can do all the research you want, you can and should consider your child's temperament and your own belief system, but once you have done all the thinking you need to do, the last remaining step is to fully believe in yourself. And yet you still have to be able to step back and evaluate if what you did worked, and if you need to tweak anything in your approach. It's a very delicate balance of toughness and softness. Structure and flexibility. And it's one that is truly difficult to master. The slightest wind can throw you just a bit too far in either direction. And then even the most secure of us can start to question our own abilities. It doesn't help when we question each other. We become what we believe ourselves to be, so if you believe you are capable of disciplining your children with firmness and love, then you will do it. Regardless of what your mom or neighbor or the stranger in Walmart thinks. If you believe you cannot do that, then you won't. So take a deep breath, disregard the doubts and fears that other people throw your way (because that doubt and fear is probably a reflection of their own crap and actually has nothing to do with you anyway), and trust yourself. You are exactly the parent that God knew your kids needed.
Do you remember waiting for something when you were a kid? When time seemed to move so slowly, and with each passing day you got more and more excited? A knot of anticipation would form in your stomach, and you would excitedly visualize what it would be like when that blessed event--whatever it was--finally arrived. And when it actually did arrive, the joy would be so great that you would be literally jumping with it.
I've been waiting for this moment for weeks. Since March we have known that we needed to move. We were living in a rent-to-own property, and for various reasons we ended up being unable to buy it, so had to move. We were sad to leave the home we had so many plans for, but were also looking forward to being out of that situation. And so we moved ahead, and in so doing we made plans. Moving is a great time to change things up, and we had lots of things we wanted to change. We cleared out clutter that we didn't want to take with us, and my husband and I decided to set forth some new household rules and routines. We planned to do things right this time. Get up early every morning to work out and spend some time on various hobbies before the kids get up. Wash the dishes and clean the kitchen after supper every night. No eating food anywhere other than the kitchen and dining room. Play outside more. I was filled with anticipation for these new changes coming up, and couldn't wait to be in our new house and start our new (better) life.
We moved into this new life over this past weekend. Now I am sitting at our computer in our new office, in our new finished basement. Yesterday I drove home from work to find my family playing outside in the front yard. Last night we ate supper at the table, and I cleaned the kitchen and washed the dishes afterwards. And this morning I got up early and went for a walk/run, before sitting down to work on this very blog post. Sounds great, right? And it was...kind of. I loved seeing my husband playing outside with our kids, until Logan ran out into the driveway to greet me and I worried about him getting hit by the van. I felt good about getting the kitchen cleaned up, but a little annoyed that I was doing most of it myself (which was stupid, because my husband was not helping only because he was out getting ice cream for everyone). My alarm went off early this morning, and I remembered why I often fail at getting up early. I like to sleep. But I went outside into the early morning air, and reminded myself that I don't like to run. I just like the idea of running. I made my sweating and gasping way back to the house, and stood in the shower wondering what on earth I was going to write about.
I need to be doing all of these things. I need to not live like a pig. I much prefer a tidy, uncluttered house. I need to exercise, not only to lose baby weight but also because my body feels better when it gets regular physical activity. I need to have creative outlets, and time in my day to focus on myself. But sometimes the doing of these things is not filled with jumping-for-joy-happiness. Sometimes it's a struggle to do them. I don't know why it takes discipline to do things I want to do, but it does. The anticipation of looking forward to these plans was so much more thrilling than actually doing them. But having done them fills me with a sense of contentment that is more meaningful than the anticipation could ever be.
I am so glad you are here! Welcome to my blog. Look around and make yourself comfortable, because this is your space, too. My name is Amy, and I am no stranger to the ups and downs of life. Join me as we search for beauty and authenticity, tell our truth, and hold space for each other in the messiness of life.