Journals

Journals

Friends,

I know some of you read these letters to my children religiously, and I’m sorry to keep you waiting. Your delight in witnessing my kids grow, and perhaps even your encouragement through my ponderings, is a happy by-product of this practice of mine, and it’s important to me. So consider this an almost-promise that you will see these journals again, probably soon, and probably even the ones that I’m not posting these days. (I am still writing them.)

I’ve wondered now and then if the publicity of this forum is appropriate. I’ve imagined that in future years it might not be, and I’m still open to that possibility. I’ve  even talked the issue out with several of you and that’s been helpful. It’s also been surprising to hear just how much you love these rambling epistles. For the most part, I’m still in the game: still intending to offer these letters up not only for my kids in the future but for you in the present. But I’m finding myself in a season where it seems good to try out stepping back and writing without anyone looking over my shoulder, so please be patient with my silence for a little while. You can think of it as summer break for Wednesday Grace.

Susan

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Meredith: 44 Months

Meredith: 44 Months

Sweet Meredith,

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Most of my pictures of you this month are adventuring pictures, which is a fun coincidence since you and I are about to embark on our biggest adventure yet: a road trip just the two of us (if you ignore the small matter of your baby brother) out to the Rockies and back.

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This month our escapades weren’t quite as ambitious, but they were nothing to sneeze at. Maybe the most amazing was the night almost a month ago now when Daddy had to be gone during dinner time and bedtime and I didn’t relish the idea of waiting out the witching hour at home with four kids (including our Safe Families baby). So I got this insane idea that we could walk to the park and we set off, you on your bicycle, which you’d only just that month discovered you could actually ride. Still, you were in for a challenge so off we went, Joshua in the umbrella stroller, baby in the Moby, you and Jacob biking. On the way there you were afraid of hills enough that on any degree of slope you dismounted and walked your bike, though when that resulted in scraped up ankles one too many times I became the designated bike carrier. So whenever you needed a break there I was, stroller in one hand, bike in the other, newborn on my chest. I’m going to state the obvious and comment that, well, I am a strong lady. But the only reason is that it’s the way you spoke of yourself, which I found completely adorable and bewitching. Yes, yes you are. You were so proud of yourself, riding your bike so far beyond your own known abilities, and you looked at me with amazement and said “Mom, I’m a very strong lady.”

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The very same week our next escapade took us around town to enjoy the things we love, starting with lunch at Noodles & Co., running a few essential errands, and then wandering the science museum, the town square, the historic downtown mall, and down the walking trail to a coffee shop where we sat out doors and the grown ups read books and the kids colored. We returned home and ordered pizza and ate on the picnic blanket in front of the TV while we watched the 1966 Batman movie. It was an excellent day.

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Then there was the zoo adventure, which began with breakfast at our favorite cafe in town and then took us 80 minutes up the highway to the zoo, where we spent four hours seeing everything, including a mesmerizing dolphin show and some earnest attempts to pet sharks.

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And last weekend we had a little Girls Staycation when Daddy & Jacob left for a weekend. Sadly, we were miserably sick with colds, but that didn’t stop us from eating jelly sandwiches in front of Winnie the Pooh, coloring, snacking on chips and salsa, painting our nails (we’re talking multiple colors with flowers), and doing some pretty serious dancing, all of which you did while wearing this amazing hand-me-down formal dress you’ve got in your closet. It was cute to see you gravitate toward princess business in the absence of your brother’s strong personality, since most of the time you tag along with him and his emergency vehicles, the Robin to his Batman.

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Aside from princess business, there’s a lot of creativity oozing out of you in every way. And a little role-playing and mothering on the side, as you’re starting to tune into the presence of your dolls and speak up for them and identify with them like they’re your very real babies. Maybe the most darling thing of all is the way these two things – creativity and mothering – have combined in a way that amazes Daddy & me. Most nights when I’m rocking Joshua in his room before we kiss him goodnight you come in and announce that you’re going to sing him your goodnight song, and then you launch into a completely improvised melody with a mash-up of words drawn mainly from “Lullaby and Goodnight, go to sleep little baby,” a standard for several years now, but also often including lines from other songs or story books (think “rubber ducks”) and usually ending with a very serious “All-men.” All of the sweetness.

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You color ALL. THE. TIME. Skinny markers, big markers, crayons, colored pencils, watercolors. Lately there’s been a lot of scissor action happening, too, and you’ve begun delivering messages abroad, strings of the letters you’ve learned to write at preschool. I can’t wait for you to discover the little canvas bag I’ve prepared for our trip, with these cute little stubby markers and a dozen sheets of princess stickers and a stiff spiral bound notebook of blank pages. That should definitely get you to Colorado and back. On our Girls Staycation weekend, when we were eating the aforementioned chips and salsa and I was casually and stupidly ignoring you, you finally got my attention, communicating to me that you had drawn a furious dragon. I’d heard you narrating information along the way about “purple fire” and “claws” but I hadn’t bothered to look, busy with my own coloring probably. But then I looked over and there it was: a for real dragon, claws, purple fire, and all. My mind is STILL blown and that dragon is STILL glaring at us from the fridge door.

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Then there was yesterday when we were at our neighbors’ house for dinner and you saw their framed print of Picasso’s Starry Night. Remembering its appearance in your current favorite (“The Boov”) movie, you informed me: “I know what that is! It’s art! It’s in the Boov Movie!”

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The reality obvious from all these tales (and all in a month) is that we’re living full, good days. We’re happy and your childhood is brimming with beauty and wholeness. But sometimes it’s hard for me to see that, and sometimes I feel so depressed or anxious that my perception gets badly skewed and I begin to think I’m failing on these fronts.

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February and March were very difficult months for me on the inside. They usually are, as months go, but this year it was particularly bad for several reasons. On one of my routine Wednesday mornings a few weeks ago I found myself sitting in Starbucks before dawn sorting pictures of you from the year you were two, preparing to create a Shutterfly book. Seeing that whole year’s events march across my computer screen, and seeing your smiley (if usually filthy) face brought this enormous wave of emotion over me and I sat there with tears streaming down my cheeks, simultaneously awed and horrified.

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I wanted to hold that little girl and hug her and tell her I was sorry that her year had been so full of upheaval and anxiety and stress and chaos and even danger and loneliness. I was horrified. I wished you hadn’t lived all that and I wished I’d been better able to embrace you in the midst of it all and I even wished maybe we’d have made different choices. But there was your grimy little smile, and I knew (because I was there) that those pictures weren’t selective memories, journalistic deception. And that’s where the strong emotion came from: I was actually looking at the life we actually lived. It was shockingly chaotic but it was somehow good, and there was the awe: We did it. You did it. We made it. You are amazing.

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There was so much beauty and happiness even in the mess. You are lovely and I want to notice and celebrate that every single day. I didn’t, that year. I survived. Barely. I don’t this year, either, to be honest. I can’t believe the love and joy and amazingness on your face, and all you went through. I’m so sorry I haven’t treasured and sheltered you better through this past year or two as you’ve emerged from your place as our baby. I wish I could go back and do better. I hope I can do better today and tomorrow. So there I was, crying over photos and fully aware of my own depression that I’ve had to fight through the winter, and simultaneously full of life and joy and satisfaction and hope, and that’s when I remembered the Ampersand: Life is hard AND good. I am broken AND beautiful. 2015 was immensely awful AND beyond wonderful. This is how life looks under the sun, and it is good this way.

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How about we road trip to Colorado together, OK?

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I love you.

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Love,
Mommy

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Meredith: 43 Months

Meredith: 43 Months

Sweet Meredith,

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I’m a little late with this. March tested my limits and now I am picking up the pieces. We hosted a little Safe Families baby for almost two weeks. It was a precious time for our family. We grew and learned together and we experienced so much love and fellowship (as in “The Fellowship of the Ring”) from our various communities. Perhaps best of all, it was beautiful to see you and Jacob grasp what we were doing; beautiful to see you put flesh (spitting up, screaming flesh at that) to the idea of Isaiah 58 which we rehearsed early in Lent: “Is this not the fast that I shall choose?…to bring the homeless poor into your house…”

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Now we’re alone again and the Easter feast, the grandparents, even Jacob’s birthday have come and gone and we are taking some space to regroup, just the 5 of us. I think this month has strengthened the bonds among us – made as glad we belong to each other in a deep and exclusive way. The house is tidy now and this morning as we got ready for a school day things felt normal, easy even by comparison and by virtue of the growing pains of last month: magically it seemed there was time to start a load of laundry and read a story before we grabbed boots and backpacks at 8:30.

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I know it’s Easter now, but it’s finally time for me to write about this idea of incarnational parenting that I have had bouncing off the walls of my brain all winter. While I spent a lot of time this year thinking about the how “the power with which God raised Christ from the dead” defines and orients our parenting (all is healed; anything is possible), it occurred to me around Christmas that the incarnation is another big pillar that we should be embodying in this endeavor. I think if we can infuse our living with these two realities we are going to be OK.

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The incarnation is tough for me to put into practice both because I tend towards an aloofness created by internal stress and anxiety and because as an idealist I am good at envisioning how things should be and then measuring you by those expectations. It’s easy for me to notice you flipping out and generally being a banshee at dinner and start working towards appropriate behavior. It’s not so easy for me to recognize that maybe the reason this is happening is because you got left with a babysitter for four hours (and smacked by her 1yo, to boot) and that I haven’t connected with you ,the way 3yos connect, for at least a day or two. But slowly I’m practicing stepping back in those moments. Withholding my ideals and giving myself.

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That’s what Jesus did for us, after all. And while as Creator God He possesses a right to us on the level of ideals, in a way He did not exercise that right. You could almost say He chose to earn it by coming down to us. This is the incarnation, and this is what I’ve been using as my yardstick lately. So in a moment where I want to manage you with my ideals I stop and ask myself first if I have come down to you yet. I’m asking myself whether I have a right, in that moment, to offer rebuke or reproof, or if it would be coming from a place so removed that it would only serve to deconstruct your identity. If I want to parent according to the incarnation then I have to meet you where you are before I try to make you what I want you to be.

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It seems to be helping.

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The point, in the end, is “Jesus Loves Me.” One day you came back from a walk with our neighbor/adopted-grandma and serenaded me proudly with this song, which she sang with you as you walked. Then you ran to find Daddy and gave him the same performance. You were so happy with your new song and it made me happy, too. I’m embarrassed to admit that we hadn’t taught it to you ourselves yet. Professional liturgists we, you know many more complicated and esoteric things already, but somehow we overlook these basics so easily. At any rate, it struck me that the whole point is for you to know that.

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I’ve been reading an incredible book by Dallas Willard this spring, Renovations of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ. In it he quotes Henri Nouwen, who claimed that our primary identity is that of “the beloved.” That was a paradigm shift for me and I recognized that I agreed, though I’m afraid it’s more common in my  Calvinist tradition to drive home the identity of “total depravity.” Reading Willard & Nouwen made me pause and check my inner theological constructs. Doing so, I had to affirm their claim: Depravity is only a secondary identity at best, not original to who we are as God’s creations: objects – products, even – of His love. He delights in us. It’s so easy as parents to hold you up to our ideals, and from this I fear often comes a wrong primary identity. (“I am depraved. I am not good enough.”) So I’m working on that – working on making sure you know what you are (beloved) at least a little more than what you should be.

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Speaking of identity, there’s a story to tell from a morning back when it was still cold and dark at breakfast. I’d fixed you something warm to drink in your matching little espresso mugs that Gramma gave you. One of them has a tiny chip on the handle now, and Jacob always strives to have the “not broken” one like it’s essential to his happiness. I slid them across the counter to you, and seeing that you had the “not broken” mug you turned to Jacob like a reflex and apologized to him, like it was somehow his by right. That made me feel really mad. I saw you hardwired to defer to your big brother, which has happened by birth order and by the strength of his personality. I fought back right away: Meredith, you are just as important as Jacob and you deserve to have that unbroken mug. I saw in you this assumption about your own value, and it was plain how much work I have to do to cultivate the kind of audacity appropriate in a beautiful “beloved,” which is what you are.

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I love you.

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Love,
Mommy

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Meredith: 42 Months

Sweet Meredith,

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You are just pretty. Prettier and prettier every month. And now here you are, halfway to four and I can’t believe it. Your hair is getting long and full and your thick, dark eyebrows are amazing, almost as amazing as your smiley dark eyes and the sharp little point of your nose. And your darling toes and your cute feet and your strong tiny limbs!

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There’s this thing that bounces around the internet these days and I see it every few months. It’s title is something like “Talking to your Daughter about her Looks” and the bottom line is “Don’t.” I agree with almost every sentence in the piece except for that bottom line. I agree that you should never hear me criticize my own body and that I should encourage you to run because it makes you feel good and eat good food because it makes you healthy and that you should never encounter the concept of a diet. I get all the stuff about body shame and how a girl should feel like her self-worth is in her smarts and her strengths and her interests, not in her appearance.

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But the other day I saw something different come across social media and it said you should hear me say you’re pretty, because yes: you won’t believe me. You’ll still think you’re not for this reason and that but that you will know for sure that TO ME you are pretty and you will know that this is what matters; that there are people who find you lovely. And they are the ones who are worth anything to you, because you are worth something to them, and this will give you the confidence not to care what the masses say your body should be. I think you’re pretty because you’re my girl and I know you.

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Also, I think you’re pretty because you’re pretty, and I guess this makes me sexist but there it is. I believe a woman’s worth is not in her appearance and I believe it is in no way relative to a man’s estimation or use for you. You do not belong to anyone and the reality that you will belong to your spouse someday is beside the point and does not contradict what I am saying. Your body and your beauty is yours. However, I don’t want to qualify myself to the point of not saying what I intend: You are pretty.

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You are a girl and I would be bullshitting, if you’ll excuse the expression, if I didn’t acknowledge that somewhere in your core is a sacred delight in your own beauty, and it’s not something I conditioned. And actually, I’ve been realizing that if anything I am falling down on my job of welcoming and fostering and celebrating your girlishness. I love that you love trucks and emergencies, but I also see that you love mothering and people-ing and princesses and sparkles, and I’m afraid you don’t get as much opportunity for those within our four walls as you maybe should. It might be something I try to rectify as I contemplate 4yo birthday gifts.

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I noticed all this when I saw you availing yourself of some friends’ dollhouse toys, when I saw you absorbing all their girlie play (several of your friends come in sister-pairs), when I saw how you 100% lived in the Tinkerbell dress we borrowed from them one day, announcing in your usual way: “My name is going to be Tinkerbell FOR EVER.”

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It makes it impossible for me to turn down an opportunity for painted nails or coloring princesses and impossible for me to argue with you when you put eighty-five “bows” in your hair at once or beg for a twirlie dress. It even means that when you emerge from your “nap” on my bed with lotion plastered all over your scalp I can’t point a finger. And when I go to bed that night and find that you hadn’t been drawing from just one of the lotions in my bottom drawer but eight my only response is to laugh and grin, satisfied that you are finding your girlie outlets where you can in this house of brothers.

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This month has been a strange mix of peaceful quiet and all the unquiet things. The weirdest part of your world has been a new obsessive skittishness. You constantly ask to make sure we aren’t going to leave you downstairs if we’re going upstairs, or vice versa. You freak out if we ask you to go to your room to get something or go potty by yourself. If we press you to do it you end up sobbing hysterically. And after having been pretty successfully potty trained for several months you are now peeing in your pants several times a day. I ask you if you know why you’re afraid and I love your answer: “I don’t know.” I love that you are wise enough to leave it at that, and I’m trying to follow suit and just give you reassurance till you get past whatever your little subconscious is sorting out. I imagine it has something to do with starting school last month.

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School is going fabulously, though. (I have to mention how adorable it is when you say “fabulous,” which you do regularly.) You love it, you love your teachers, you love your classroom. You love waving me off so you can go do your own thing when I drop you off and you love hugging me tight when I come to pick you up. I’m proud of you for taking ownership of this new thing and for finding so much delight in it. I’m happy to see you feeling like you belong there.

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The biggest frustration I’ve felt this month, even more than your hysterical refusal to be left alone, is your inability to listen to me. It makes me crazy and I do not handle it well at all. I think it might even be the point of the most stress in our household these days. I’m not sure I know HOW to handle it well, and that in itself is frustrating. But I do know how to NOT handle it, and I still choose those methods over and over again, out of my own selfishness and anger and delusions of self-importance. I’m sure the ongoing nature of this issue is in large part because I am cementing these patterns for you by responding destructively. But we will get through it, and on most days I leave it there: We will get through it.

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My head is swirling with several huge, random things today. Like the way every soul is uniquely shaped or my growing conviction that shame doesn’t have get a place at the table of Christianity. Or what it means to reflect the incarnation as a parent… When I sat down I thought I’d say a few of them here, but I don’t think I will try now. It’s almost 4:00 and we have friends coming for dinner and even more friends coming for drinks after that to enjoy the presence of one of our recently-departed colleagues who’s in town for exams and staying a few nights with us. I need to wrap up here and move on. And probably paint your nails. You’re currently busy taping freshly-colored princesses onto the glass door.

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I’ll just content myself with one, as a placeholder of sorts since I think it needs more unpacking and certainly needs to sink into my own ideals and practices more than it has in the last day since I encountered it in a parenting book I’m reading. It’s a real “bottom-line,” a show-stopper. I have this feeling that if I took this alone as my model I would be much closer to the parent I want to be. The authors suggested that our job as parents is to preserve and protect and affirm our children’s innate belief that they are lovable and capable. That’s it. Lovable and capable. It rings so true, as I think about a tiny human with an “I can do it by myself” confidence and a “Look at me!” honesty. Already I recognize how often and easily my choices as a parent run against that grain and it’s something I’m going to be keeping an eye on in the weeks to come. I may not always know how to be true to that ideal, but I do know it’s true.

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You are lovable. You are capable. You are also (as you’d say) “gorgeous.” And I love you.

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Love,
Mommy

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Meredith: 41 Months

Meredith: 41 Months

Sweet Meredith,

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It’s been a month of celebration for you, starting with Christmas and ending with your long-awaited First Day of School. Daddy and I are so proud of you and so delighted with how you’re growing into this new adventure.

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You loved Christmas. It’s hard to say what your favorite present was. Not that we measure Christmas in terms of presents, but you are three, after all, so kinda we do actually. Daddy & I presented you with a new stroller for your babies and a beautiful handmade doll crafted by an old friend of mine. In true preschooler fashion the expensive new heirloom got cast aside and you ran for your old factory-made affair in your room and took her joy-riding around the house. Slowly you’ve been warming to the new doll and she’s just beginning to emerge as one of your treasured possessions. But I think you were more interested in the markers and washi tape and watercolors that spilled out of your stocking, and perhaps most of all the little folding mirror-hairbrush and the new hair clips. And you surprised us by handling the 100-piece family jigsaw puzzle Like A Boss. Miss Nicole gave you some adorable make-your-own-bling headbands and bracelets and you’ve been pretty serious about those. And then of course the huge jar of snap-together plastic beads from the Haxtons is going to be a staple around here for awhile. They’re so cool I’d even wear them. From Nicole you also got a bright pink t-shirt with glittery gold lettering that says “Merry and Oh So Bright.” You went around informing everyone that you were, in fact, “Merry and Oh So Bright.”

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I can’t stand it.

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Christmas was one of the best days our family has ever shared together. It could hardly have been more perfect. I think my favorite part was spending most of our playground time that afternoon “spider swinging” with you. But perhaps the most memorable part was the peppermint candy situation. You were sucking on a hard candy – the classic stripey peppermint kind. Suddenly I realized that you were carrying around my water bottle and taking regular swigs, and in the same instant I realized it was your way of coping with how spicy the thing was you swigged that candy right down your throat. You completely freaked out, crying hysterically for endless minutes as we sat with you and tried to figure out what was actually going on with that candy. Our best guess is that it was somewhere halfway down to your tummy, but we couldn’t convince you to take another drink for a long time. You insisted you wanted to throw it up instead. You calmed down eventually and we were thankful that we never saw that candy again, but every few minutes you’d resume weeping, whether from trauma or from lingering pain it was impossible to judge. So we just snuggled you and listened to you declare that you don’t like those hard kind of candies anymore.

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The day after Christmas we collected Mocha on our way towards St. Louis and then drove all day to get to Nana & Papa’s house in Kansas. It was fun having “our” doggie again for a few days, and it was fun seeing you sort out your feelings about large dogs in general. When we first arrived the five assembled dogs created mass chaos, which was nothing out of the ordinary for Daddy’s family’s house, but it wasn’t something you’d ever experienced before since we hadn’t been there since you were about eight months old, and even then there were only two dogs around. So you clung to Daddy & me and refused to get down from chairs for awhile, but slowly you learned how to handle those puppies, and you grew confident that you could take care of yourself. You figured out how to be Alpha to them and I felt so proud of you as you got comfortable asserting yourself.

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You also loved being with your two big girl cousins, Kodi and Jazmyn. They’re 11 and 10 years old now and you were enthralled with them and annoyingly interested in all the big girl stuff they wanted to do and all the big girl presents they wanted to play with. They seemed to love you a lot anyway, and thought you were pretty dang cute.

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After Joshua and I flew to Florida for a few days you and Daddy and Jacob made the return home from Kansas. We reunited on a Tuesday and it was so special to see you and feel your dear, affectionate welcome, so glad to have your other two people back where they belonged. When, on our way out of the airport, you announced with glee that you’d cleaned the whole house and bought me flowers, Daddy rolled his eyes a bit, laughing that the mission he’d always been able to keep as a surprise with Jacob as his henchman had no chance of secrecy with you on the team.

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And now we’ve settled into quiet days of playing together and snuggling a lot, and that’s pretty much what we’ve been doing ever since, except for the big event of your first week of school. It’s been cute watching you await this monumental day, asking over and over your common question in response to my promise “Tomorrow you will go to school…” “Is it tomorrow now?” I’m pretty sure you think Tomorrow is a day of the week.

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But “Tomorrow” finally came and you anticipated it with wide eyes and earnest predictions of what you’d do and how it would all go down, and on Sunday afternoon we celebrated by covering a few pencils with your Christmas washi tape and putting them in your princess backpack, and on Sunday night you picked out a dress and we laid it on the bench in your room, and on Monday morning I woke you up at 7:00 so we’d have plenty of time to get ready. You barely had time to rub your eyes, so excited you were. I got you dressed and we sat in the kitchen sipping tea together in the dark by candlelight while your breakfast of choice – oatmeal with blueberries – bubbled on the stove.

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There was no hesitation, no second goodbye, when I dropped you off. Just bubbly excitement and that inspiring Meredith Confidence. We hung your coat and backpack in the locker next to Jacob’s and with a big kiss and hug you were gone, positively running into the classroom you’d seen Jacob inhabit so happily.

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So now we have our new normal: Jacob has “graduated” out of Mrs. H’s room to spend both his preschool mornings in Mrs. G’s room, making space for you to have your own experience of preschool instead of living in his shadow, which is how it would’ve been if we’d waited to start you after your 4th birthday this summer, since you’d have shared a classroom. Instead you go to school together on Mondays and you go to Mrs. H’s multi-age room and Jacob goes to Mrs. G’s Pre-K class. Then on Wednesdays Jacob goes back to Mrs. G and on Thursdays you go all by yourself to Mrs. F’s 3s class.

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You were so tired after your first day and you’ve taken a couple naps this week to make up for it, a rare occasion for you these days. On Thursday morning when I woke you at 7:00 you were cold and fussy and groggy. As I set out your clothes in the dark you informed me that you didn’t want to go to school, you wanted to stay home with me all day. I was flattered and touched, and not about to trigger a quarrel that could lead to separation anxiety, so I let it stand and just worked on making you feel warm and calm, suggesting we could decide after you’d had some breakfast. And within a few minutes you were all excitement about your first day in Mrs. F’s class.

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Monday night you were exhausted, having more than one melt-down before you made it to your 6:00 p.m. bedtime. Daddy commented that night as we went to bed later that it’s clear you need so much more sleep than Jacob does, and you’re not getting it. Tuesday morning I heard Jacob stir around 6:30 and raced downstairs to intervene. When it was clear that he wasn’t going back to sleep I beckoned him to leave the room while I stroked your sleepy head and invited you to go back to sleep. Exhausted after your first day of school, you were happy not to get up, so we left you there sleeping and you pattered up the stairs after 8:00 a.m., bright eyed and darling. Jacob and I had shared an omelette at 7:00 a.m. but you opted for a bowl of dry cheerios and raisins on the couch where you could look out the window at all the snow and watch for birdies. You stayed there a long time, luxuriating in the novelty of being your own person, while Jacob went about his morning business seeming by comparison to be a real grown-up.

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It was an insightful moment for me, realizing how little you still are by comparison with him, and how much better it is for you to be in your own category, apart from him. You two are joined at the hip, to say the least. You are so invested in each other and such inseparable companions. But it isn’t fair for you to have to wake up at 6:30 just because Jacob invites you into a fresh, exciting day of playing fire emergency. And it doesn’t make sense for me to send you off to do your “Morning Responsibilities” in the same fashion I send off the almost-five-year-old whose personality needs frequent shoves toward self-reliance. Besides, when I do send you off together I always have to go disentangle you from quarrels (you like to hit and growl these days) or get you back on track when you’re lost in some silly game involving throwing jammies. And while Jacob really needs to handle flushing the potty without a cheerleader, it makes sense for me to come with you, stay with you, help you with your pants.

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I guess seeing you grow up so much by your first adventure with “school” reminded me of how little you still are and how much you need those groggy morning snuggles, so I’ve done my best this week to divorce you from Jacob and re-envision you as my tiny girl. The extra time to hold you, to snuggle you, to listen to you, to welcome you as my sidekick and help you figure out your body and your emotions is already paying off. I’ve carved out space for slowness in our life at last, and it occurred to me that this is what it looks like to allocate some of that space to you. I can see you relaxing into it, trusting me to have time for you, feeling relieved of the enormous task of managing your own tricky socks or remembering toilet paper on your own.

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I’m loving the extra time with you, and I’m loving the sight of you being you (and of freshly made pigtails every morning). I’m insisting that you lie down for a nap every day, something that’s fallen by the wayside in the last few months, and I’m helping you wind down to that place of peace, inviting you to notice how good it feels to snuggle under your blanket (or swaddled into it from head to toe as is your current fancy) and feel warm and quiet and still. I sing to you, and I take the tempo slow and maybe sing the song twice, and it’s as much for you to settle down (my manipulative way of getting the nap time to actually stick) as for me to quiet my own busy self enough to notice and treasure you, to really be there with you. Most days that nap degenerates almost immediately into you playing in your room, but I’m happy with this, too, happy to go discover you discovering that new doll, playing who knows what with your collection of babies, all by yourself for a change, creator and regent of your own universe. I leave you there a long time.

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Yesterday you came up professing to need to go pee and I was surprised a few minutes later to find you’d actually followed through with going back to your room (usually you lose track of what you’re doing and sit on the potty yammering till I come usher you back to reality). I went to peek at you and found you back in your bed, sitting with your baby, pretending to brush her hair with the comb you’d snagged from the bucket of bath toys. Was it the pee or the comb that was your real mission? I kind of like to think it was the comb. I asked you what you wanted to do next for your quiet time – an invitation to get out of bed and choose something new – and you opted to stay, barely looking up from your play. It makes me so happy to see you finding this new space to flourish alone, out of the shadow of your brother’s grand schemes. Those schemes are great, too, and you love them, but I think we’re slowly figuring out how to let Meredith (Merry and Oh So Bright) shine on her own.

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Besides, if the maxim is true that absence makes the heart grow fonder, then every family needs to figure out how to carve out their own version of absence. For us these days it’s looking like separate tracks for you and Jacob in the first hour or two of the day, finally coming together after our morning responsibilities are finished to share worship and stories and play together, and then parting ways again at quiet time to play without company for a couple hours each afternoon. For another family I know it has meant sending their kids to school instead of home schooling so that they have that experience, daily, of re-convening under one roof and implicitly saying “I choose you” at the end of the day. It’s something I’m curious about exploring – how to create a family bond and a family identity that feels like a “home” collectively but is also true and honoring to the uniqueness of every member.

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I think the summary and synopsis of what I’m trying to get at here is pretty simple: I love the heck outta you. You’re beautiful and wonderful and amazing and I could practically get drunk off noticing you.

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I love you.

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Love,
Mommy

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Meredith: 40 Months

Sweet Meredith,

Here’s a crazy story: One week after writing to you about the profound, momentous health you were finally enjoying you ended up in the hospital with double pneumonia and a respiratory virus.

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You can’t make this stuff up! It was Thanksgiving week and we were expecting out of town company. It was also the week that we were finally ready to paint our basement. The drywall crew left on Monday at 4:00 p.m. You and Jacob had been coughing for days by then, and Jacob had already been diagnosed with pneumonia. You were both on an antibiotic and so we assumed you’d start to heal, but you just got worse and worse.

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We had you in bed about 6:30 that night and you were asleep in minutes, exhausted from night after night of poor sleep and day after day of a wracking cough and shallow lungs. Daddy ran to the hardware store for a tiny item he needed for his next project and I had the paint cans open instantly, ready to start rolling the walls of the guest room we’d host Uncle Peter & Auntie Lyssi in 48 hours from then. Daddy came in, set his shopping bag on the floor where it lay for most of the week: “I think we need to take Merry in. She sounds terrible.”

“In where?”

“Well, at this time of night probably the ER.”

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“The ER?” I stopped painting. Stared in blank disgust.

I protested. You were so tired and finally sleeping peacefully. I hated to mess with that. Surely it could wait till morning.

“I can hear her lungs from across the room. My mom says based on how her lungs sound they’re probably going to admit her.”

Your Daddy was an asthmatic as a kid. He still has his occasional problem. I’ve never been thankful for that. The one night he woke with an attack when we were newly weds and struggled for air on the edge of the bed for a long half hour I had dramatic visions of medical crises and I can’t say I wasn’t angry that it had to be this way.

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Now I’m thankful. Having never had lung problems or any siblings or friends with them I didn’t know what I was seeing and hearing in your illness. I figured you’d just heal. God made bodies to heal. I don’t sweat much. Daddy knew otherwise and he stepped in and took charge.

Feeling helpless, I packed my very own purse/bag for you full of comfort things. A surrogate for me. And then I let my love take my baby girl away to the hospital that I’ve been too familiar with this year.

And I? I went back to painting. It did not feel good. But the painting was therapy. Those walls experienced how I felt about not being with my sick baby.

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You were off on a grand adventure, as far as you could tell. Those eight minutes of sleep had given you a new lease on life. The adrenaline from waking helped, too. So in your darling jammies and your rain boots you tramped off with Daddy and spent the next few hours bravely following orders and happily passing the time with Pixar and Disney shorts.

I made it over to see you shortly after they’d settled you into your own Peds room, a bit after midnight. A night owl friend came over to sit with your sleeping brothers and I found you tucked into a crib forty inches off the ground, surrounded by sturdy hospital bars like a caged animal with an oxygen mask. Mommies don’t like seeing their babies looking like that.

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But you were happy, and finally getting a little sleepy, and when I declined spending the night since there was no bed for me you explained what was so obvious to you: I could squeeze into your bed.

So I did, and we snuggled until you were asleep. Really, the whole affair was ordinary, uneventful, calm, OK. It could’ve been a disaster: Daddy’s lungs were so bad that I had visions of spending Thanksgiving running back and forth between his hospital room and yours with my baby in his Moby. But the next day Daddy saw the doctor (he didn’t have pneumonia) and came back to relieve me just as Joshua had had enough of your hospital room. So you and Daddy and the medicine and the oxygen camped out for a day and another night, watched those Pixar movies half a dozen times, flew paper airplanes, raced cars. I came to say goodnight the next night when you were finally almost able to be off oxygen. You were finally feeling strong enough to literally bounce all over the room. And then in a split second you crashed hard and were sound asleep. I’ve rarely seen anything more darling.

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For days afterwards you were a hardcore Daddy’s girl. The bond I saw strengthen between you two made the whole mess more than worth it. It wasn’t just you that I saw attach to Daddy. I saw Daddy attach to you. Even more lovely given all this year has held, I saw him rest: sit back and take a load off. With nothing to do, he sank into being present with you and I could see how in love he was with you. That’s my favorite.

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You came home around 10 on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, and I got a little sneak-preview of that cliche “Home for the Holidays” experience of empty-nesters as I saw the car pull in and watched you climb the steps to the house.

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So we were back to normal, and NOW, FINALLY there was health. (Until the next cold, which we are currently on the tail end of.) We didn’t waste time. We had a blast with uncles and aunties (you especially) and every last one of us got down to painting on Black Friday and almost finished the whole basement and new doors for the whole house. Even you and Jacob had trim-sized paint rollers and you helped us prime the drywall until you were becoming a hazard to the well-being of the primer-soaked walls, whereupon we sent you to the dusty new tub with spray bottles and scrubbers and you got the tub and yourselves washed down thoroughly and bought us another hour of painting time without kids to worry about.

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Now it’s Advent and every day feels like a celebration of the finally-finished basement. How you danced and tumbled the night the carpet was finished! (And the next day you properly christened the space with your first carpet burn.) We do much less these last two weeks, and I am deeply thankful for that.

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I wrote last month that winter is a time for doing less. Advent even moreso. The big business of Advent is, in essence, not doing. It is waiting. Somehow we are managing to mark that well this year and I am so, so, so happy about this. Most nights you’re in bed closer to 6 than to 7. The days follow the cadence of the sun. You clamber up the carpeted stairs, groggy and jammied, around 7:30. You plug in the Christmas tree and play beside it. I emerge bleary-eyed to light a candle and then the sun comes up and starts our day. At the end of the afternoon we tidy, prepare dinner, and eat together. And while I put Joshua to bed you brush your teeth and get your jammies on and then we sit in the dark on the rug and only candles and the tree and a dim lamp or two light the house and we read story after story of people waiting. That’s the end.

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Then it’s bedtime and let me tell you how good that feels in the last week and a half since we got your bunk bed built. You’re so proud of those beds. Finally you’re “home,” really settled, after a complete year of epic upheaval. I am so, so, so happy about this, too, and so are you. I have to tell you, you and your brother have been valiant, resilient, amazingly peaceful in all that we’ve put you through this year. The contrast, seeing you asleep in an actual bed on actual carpet after months of making the best of preschoolers sleeping in a construction zone… The contrast was a little horrifying. We put you through a lot, and I want to thank you and honor you for going with the flow.

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I’m glad most of the work is done. I’m glad there’s space for us to just be with this new chapter we’ve just emerged into. (It feels like we’ve just come up for air after a dive a lot longer than we had lung capacity for.) I love the moments of holding you, snuggling you, dancing with you. I love the space I have to devote energy to you more now that we’ve laid down the tools. I love that you can paint and craft and bump down the stairs and watch movies. (Oh! the giggles at Paddington’s bathroom flood as we had our first movie night last week…)

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Of course I don’t know what a day or a year will bring, but here on the eve of 2016 I have this sneaking suspicion that it is going to bring rest and fun and calm. It’s going to feel stable and comfortable and sweet. I can’t wait to see how you will flourish and blossom and grow in it.

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I should end here, but I have more tangential places to go; things I’ve been storing up to say to you. I have to tell you how I wish grown-ups knew how to allow themselves the emotional honesty you exhibited in the hospital. You were stalwart about the whole thing, even cheery. You were having fun. But every once in a while you stopped feeling cheery and got upset, whether it was out of frustration with your itchy mask or the monitor taped to your toe or being cooped up in that sterile room or just plain feeling like crap. Something would trigger you and you would 100% stop having fun and you would cry your precious little eyes out. That finished, you were ready to regroup – to rest or to play again. It was precious to see that, and it made me wonder if a lot of people would be a lot happier if they could be that emotionally honest and free. Once again, you inspired me, baby girl.

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I have to tell you about how you need to teach a seminar on talking to bereaved people. How last week when my grandma died and I couldn’t find words, Daddy explained it to you at the dinner table. How I blinked through misty eyes in the kitchen where I’d gone to hide in preparing the cake. How you turned away from Daddy’s explanation to meet me in the eye. How you said all the things that needed to be said, like so many items to check off a list: “Mommy, your grandma is dead…” (This frankness took me aback and for an instant I was horrified at your tactlessness until you went on and I wondered at your perfect wisdom.)

“…Your grandma is dead and her body is going into the grave and she is going to be with Jesus and you are feeling sad but that is OK because now I am going to give you a big hug.”

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You said those actual words. I think that was it, word for word. You are not yet three and a half years wise and you said those words and if you could bottle them you could bring comfort to the whole world. I came to you for that hug and you made good on it and I cried my eyes out.

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I have to tell you, too, about you and me and how sometimes I don’t cope very well. How I’m exhausted and overwhelmed most of the time these last couple weeks, and how it has nothing to do with you or renovations. It’s just me and my heart and my limited strength. And my grandma dying. The bottom line is I’ve decided motherhood is exhausting. (I know I’m going to win a prize and worldwide notoriety for this observation.) I think about the concept of “decision fatigue” a lot and I realize the reason I’m so tired that I shut myself in the bathroom, so tired that sometimes I feel allergic to the sound of “Hey Mom” said in the particular inflection you and Jacob give to it in your rawest moments of unremarkable, humdrum, daily need. The other day you said it one more time and this visceral urge overcame me to put my hands over my ears. I just couldn’t. Motherhood is exhausting because you can’t just get busy doing your thing that you’re supposed to do like when you “go to work.” Instead you juggle anywhere from 97 to 1052 things in a single day, belonging to about sixty different categories and skill sets, sometimes three at once, sometimes a new one every six seconds, and the successful juggling and processing of all this is what is required not in order to just be abstractly “successful at your job” but to keep Actual Other Humans happy and safe and nurtured and not bringing the house down upon themselves. Having the emotional well-being of other humans as your immediate responsibility and task all day every day is crazy-crazy-hard. I’m feeling that a lot these weeks not just as I deal with my own emotionally over-taxed heart but with your growing and changing needs. (You rarely nap anymore and I spend a lot more time mentally engaged with you and your brother.) The main thing I’m learning these days is that if I want to love you well I have to take care of myself so that I have the reserves to treat you well. If I’m stressed or exhausted you will experience that. I will rush you to sleep or snark at your innocent requests or put my hands over my ears when you say “Hey Mom.” If I take care of myself and fuel up adequately and often then I can remember that you are my absolute favorite and this makes you feel awesome. Which is the whole point. It reminds me of your hospital room and that beeping machine that kept telling us your oxygen levels were dropping too low for your body’s needs. So we’d adjust the oxygen mask and watch the numbers climb back up. This is a separate discussion and I know I already said the bottom line is “motherhood is exhausting,” but the actual bottom line of this paragraph seems to have emerged as my 2015 Life Lesson: Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First.

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This leads me to another tangential thing. Last week – that morning I put my hands over my ears actually – we were playing downtown at a community center with some friends. I was not coping well. I was freaking out for so many reasons. I was feeling on the verge of a migraine. I was over-stimulated by the presence of people, of light, of noise. Everything was triggering me. But I noticed myself successfully shielding you from that, going through the motions of how I want to treat you: talking slowly and calmly. Waiting on the sidewalk while you wondered at a helicopter, never betraying a hint of how stressed I felt, how inside I was run-walking down the sidewalk since we were late. That was my inside, but actually I was standing there smiling at you. Letting you count all eight octopus legs on the page of the book I was reading, never betraying a hint of how antsy I was for the book to be over since I was over-stimulated by the noisy environment and wanting to tune back into my friend’s conversation. That was my inside, but for all you knew, I was your awesome mom. Some days I am in a state of mind that wonders at helicopters and enjoys counting octopus legs, and that’s the best. But when I’m not (and that’s often), at least I’m able to protect you from my own stress and overwhelm, and I’m recognizing lately that this is an awesome feat I’m accomplishing: shielding you and making space for your childhood to be as slow and sweet as I believe in, even though inside I might not be able to be there with you because I’m not all I want to be. So instead of criticizing myself for how I feel I’m feeling proud of myself.

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The other night I read this beautiful little essay titled You’re Doing A Good Job. It was just what I’m trying to say: I’m not measuring up to my ideals, but this motherhood thing is hard and I am so finite and I’m doing a good job. The point that struck me most poignantly was that, in the eyes of our kids, we mommies are AWESOME. I loved this paragraph:

“What’s important are the big things, and the biggest thing is that your kids know they love you. They may not tell you they love you. They may be all kinds of pissed off at you for various reasons. But they love you. They love you because you kiss them good night. They love you because you get them a new toy when they’re sick. They love you because you played their favorite song for them 712 times in a row. They love you because you wash their favorite shirt. They love you because you remembered a funny thing they did last week. They love you because you take care of them.

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I never really thought about it from this angle until reading this paragraph. But when I put “the Crazy Song” on (Trepak from the Nutcracker) for the 20th time in a row so you can dance to it AGAIN you must think “Man, I am super lucky that she does this for me. This is super fun. And when I twirl she thinks it’s cool and she watches me.” It must be a big deal to you. I must be a big deal to you. You must think I am THE BEST.

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And this is why I say “Yes” to my kids. This is why I try to make as much of my parenting as possible be Yes, even when it means getting you water at bedtime when I’m so over it or stopping my work to cue up Bobby McFerrin or dance to Tchaikovsky. Because I want you to feel like you are awesome because this person who is awesome (that’s me) makes you feel awesome. Or as Aibileen would say: “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”

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You are, and I am too.

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I love you.

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Love,
Mommy

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Meredith: 39 Months

Meredith: 39 Months

Sweet Meredith,

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Winter is looming. Our first snow is in the forecast for next week and our luxuriously warm November dissolved into a big puddle of cold rain today. I’m coming to treasure winter more than I ever have because it means quiet oatmeal with a candle as the sun comes up and easy early bedtimes after dinner because it’s already gone down. Winter is a time for doing less. And for soup. And, at the start anyway, for anticipating Christmas. (You’ve put in a request for a pink tape measure.)

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These days are full of racing around the house playing emergency vehicles with Jacob, yanking on Joshua’s arms with big angsty love, taking walks down the sidewalk with your baby (and coming to my house for a “visit” at regular intervals along the way), and getting waist-deep in the river of your imagination, usually led by Jacob. We like to stay home all day when we have the chance, and sometimes I play with you but usually I don’t, because you do just fine by yourself. But I watch you and I grin and laugh and wonder, and I wish I were as good at it as you are. The days are full of reading poems under blankets and reciting the ones about mud and the bothersome baby brother at random moments throughout the day (with giggles). They are full of big nasty spats with Jacob over tiny things and constant reminders that you must always use a gracious voice. They’re full of the impossibly annoying moments when you decide to yell to me across the house and you can’t take the hint of my returned silence that you should STOP YELLING.

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This month you celebrated Halloween for the first time (you were a princess) and attended your first birthday party (the theme was princesses). You showed me the deep compassion and tenderness you are capable of when I broke my toe one morning in the library. And you showed me the devious abstractions you are capable of when you began saying “I’m sick” every time Jacob got a dose of medicine. (Work on your subtlety.)

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Nothing terribly profound has happened in your little world this month, aside from the second stomach bug in a row a couple weeks ago, dropped like a bomb right into the middle of Daddy’s and my anniversary stay-at-home date. Seven years to the day since we’d made it official as college students – since we’d finally gotten honest with each other about how impossibly terrible we’d become at living without each other. I feel like I need a nap when I think about how far these seven years have launched us – how deeply, irrevocably, exhaustingly into adulthood we’ve gotten.

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You are actually genuinely healthy right now, and actually I think that counts as profound because it’s the first time in weeks, maybe months. I reached a point this month where when people asked how things were going I explained that I was praying for Jesus to be our healer. Forget prayer for patience and strength and comfort in sickness, forget endurance or the ability to see God’s hand. In a quiet moment with some Christian sisters as we shared our most heartfelt needs mine was really basic, and I choked it out past tears: “I just really want my family to be healthy for a little while.” We’re not quite there: Jacob’s on steroid inhalers for wheezing and up freaking out over a severe cough at least twice each night right now. But you are healthy, so (as I’ve been saying a lot lately) I’m calling it a win.

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You’ve been doing your fair share of freaking out too these days, though thankfully it hasn’t usually been in the middle of the night. After so many nightmares in the last year you are rarely waking to scream and scramble up the stairs. Only once lately has this happened, and I ran down to where you were crying in your bed and snuggled you. For the first time ever I heard the story. Nothing gruesome or tragic. No hints at your future in therapy because of the traumas of your toddlerhood. Nope, this nightmare (and I wonder how many others before it) was about bees. Just bees. I always ask if you want to tell me the story of your dream and you always bury your head in me and decline. But this time you sobbed it out so I squeezed you tight and we shook out your blankets just to make sure all the bees were gone and then you were back to sleep. Obviously we’ve been reading too much Winnie-the-Pooh.

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No, your freaking out has been very conscious these days, and often very calculated. Your tiny groaning voice, barely crackling out of your throat, supported by almost no breath, argues with my choices at the most unexpected moments. These subtle little tantrums blindside me over and over each day as you try to fuss your way out of basic things like putting on your pants or whether you ought to wear your new dancing skirt or your old one. Sometimes these little grumpy moments are so obviously chosen, unencumbered by deep emotion. You’re just trying to alter the situation and you think this is a good way. Sometimes instead I recognize deep emotions under the surface, because when I tell you to talk to me in a big and cheerful voice it comes out strident and steely, an epic attempt to squelch the tremors of oncoming tears. Then I know there are feelings afoot and I need to meet them.

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Is it a surprise to say we’ve been rehearsing Philippians 2:14 and 4:4 frequently with you these days? Not that you ought not to feel all those big, scary, grumpy feelings, but we are trying to help you learn when they’re inappropriate so you know they don’t control you; so you know they aren’t where your ultimate allegiance lies.

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Times that they are inappropriate include church when I whisper instructions like “Do not touch Joshua while we are in worship. He has to learn to be quiet just like you, so leave him alone.” Then your body starts to flop around in one big pout. And then (I’m talking about last week) if you’re not careful your attitude problem will flop you right off the front of your chair and you will face-plant into the one in front of you, banging your knees on the concrete floor. Then Daddy will scoop you up and run you out before you scream and I will follow so he can return to the organ before his next cue, trying to muster compassion to see past my irritation since, now anyway, you do need genuine comfort.

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Sometimes your feelings are appropriate, and it’s I who need to adjust my attitude. I’m not saying it makes sense for you to be scared of a loud-flushing potty, but it is a reality that I have no doubt about. So when you end up refusing to enter a public bathroom (I’m talking about last week, barely an hour after the face-plant incident) for fear of the loud potties, and you claim that you don’t need to pee, I should probably not push you to it. I should know by now that it will all dissolve into epic screaming and shrieking like certifiable PTSD, so instead of helping to lodge those feelings of trauma by refusing to accommodate your fear, I should probably just leave it alone and skip the bathroom trip.

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I’m almost as clueless as you are about how these things should go – about what’s appropriate and what’s not and about when the emotions need to be the boss or when Mommy should call the shots instead.

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I will tell you one thing I’m noticing, though: it’s my own selfishness toward you. Times like that bathroom shriek-fest I get this agenda in my head that I need to head those emotions off at the pass; shut them down; short-circuit them, so to speak. Sometimes there’s just more there than I want to do the work of acknowledging, so instead of honoring you and meeting you where you are I try control or manipulate (i.e. subtly control) you to stop crying or in general stop feeling.

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This is stupid. So I’m working on it. It’s stupid partly because it doesn’t work and partly because it’s not what I want for you anyway. I want you to feel safe with your own emotions and I want you to feel that I’m safe with them too. This stuff is more complicated than I ever thought it could be!

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I think my way – at least the one I’m blindly, cautiously improvising – is healthy and hopeful, but it feels complicated because it’s something of a hybrid. I grew up in a sub-culture that didn’t do much with emotion besides try to control or judge or discipline or ignore it away. I heartily believed by the time I was thinking for myself as an adolescent that all you could possibly need in life was God’s law (as if it were simple to parse into obvious minutiae!) and a framework governed by black-and-whites like obedience, sanctification, idolatry, depravity, and holiness. These are still concepts I espouse, but I’ve given up the idealism that held them front-and-center, immediate, and largely attainable and operable.

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What I mean is that now instead I believe in embracing any given moment, living in the present even when it’s a messy place full of brokenness and sin; refusing the tendency to fear it away, control it away, judge it away, shame it away. I’m not meeting our imperfections and our present with antagonism, but acceptance. This means that my intent is not to control you or see your present struggles as failures. The road of sanctification is long, and it is a road. Judging or shaming the way-points is a waste of energy.

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At the same time I don’t want to leave you at these way-points, and I don’t want to celebrate present struggles as though they are an end in and of themselves. At the opposite end of the spectrum from that black-and-white sub-culture I just described is our modern religion of self, which guides us to pledge allegiance to our feelings. It takes a therapeutic approach that never moves past feelings, and a child learns to be his own measure. Do you feel angry? Do you feel sad? That is the terminal question, which sets up emotions as an idol and results in a world full of people that don’t have the capacity to love beyond their own selves and their own immediate needs and desires; a world full of people who never experience the voluntary subjection of themselves for the sake of another or for the sake of an external standard.

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Emotions are good and important, and acknowledging them and dealing with them is healthy and wise. But they are not ultimate, and where I have a problem with this end of the spectrum is its unwillingness to go beyond identifying an emotion and letting it run its own show, because this is often at the expense of love for God and neighbor. Rather, I want us to ask two more questions after we figure out what’s going on emotionally: First, should you be feeling this way, or is it sinful and/or foolish? (For example, feeling grumpy when I tell you to put your shoes on suggests that you are failing to be thankful, to honor your mother, and to submit yourself to authority.) And second, how can you express your emotions in a wise and Christian way? This is where God’s word comes into play, and its teaching on what it means to love our neighbor, to honor each other in our various relationships, to cultivate virtue and strive after holiness and uproot sin, conscious of our identity as God’s called-out people, eager to put on Christ because of our allegiance to Him, governed by the hope of becoming like Him. These are the ultimate things, more important than how you happen to be feeling.

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One of the other important things I have to teach you before you stop listening to me (Oh wait, that already happened) is about that timeless classic The Princess Bride. I’ll start today, with a quote from this eminently quotable movie: “Let me explain. No, it’s too long. Let me sum up.” What I am trying to do for you is to patiently nurture you into an ability to work through heart issues with a long term and distinctly Christian view, to ask two questions simultaneously, trusting that in God’s kindness they will never be at odds with each other. I hope you’ll keep asking these questions every day for the rest of your life: “What does my heart need?” and “What does holiness look like?”

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I love you.

Love,
Mommy

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