Parenting Together

Cuddled together in our partnered embrace, all I see is the echo of a semblance of a face. Too close to see and the whole of my vision, we twine ourselves together in comfort and comforting presence. 

Reminding me that we are together, we are one, we are on even ground even though we see things differently. We learn as we go. We make our own way. We grow together. 

We’re tired today. The baby will cry again soon, the toddler will ask for another wet kiss. Another day is coming of constant requests and continuous conversation. The “why”s have begun. Patience is a never ending attended skill. Parental responses must be immediate, while the preschooler can take ten questions to find a single answer. 

Even so. Even still. I’m glad I’m doing this with you. We partner and parent together, learning from our two girls and from each other as we go along. 

The challenge is to not lose our temper. The challenge is to offer grace to our daughters, each other, ourselves. 

It is not impossible, but it is very, very hard. 

And so we steal fifteen minutes between bedtime and the first time Roar roars to rest in each other’s arms. It’s doesn’t seem like much. But the touch is different than the constant contact with out children. We offer each other a resting space, a time to be off as much as possible, providing touch that doesn’t ask for anything but what we exchange. 

The presence is healing. Your presence is healing. Comforting. Restful. Good. 

Eventually fifteen minutes will be only the beginning. For now, it is enough. What we have to give each other is enough. More than survival, we have enough. Thank you for enough. 

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Learning from Each Other

When John and I were getting married, Jason Byassee, our friend whom we asked to officiate, gave us these instructions in the midst of his wedding homily. 

“Repeat after me: I’m sorry, you were right, I was wrong.” At least I think that’s what he said. I don’t remember the words that way, but this is what John has borrowed for each wedding homily he has preached over the last seven years. I, having never had the opportunity to preach a wedding homily, didn’t have to call them to memory as soon, so I re-wrote them in my head to echo Derek Webb: I’m sorry, I was wrong, I love you. 

I like my version better… because I really don’t want to say someone was right if I don’t think they were, and I am far more capable and comfortable in claiming my wrongness than in granting someone else their rightness. (Yes, yes. This is a growing edge. But regardless.) 

I also really like ending with the statement of the foundation of the relationship: I love you. It says that the most important part isn’t that we argued, it is that we are deciding to continue to live more fully into our relationship. But we need to say we are sorry, too. It’s probably one of the hardest parts of a relationship, saying “I am sorry” and meaning it, knowing that I really did do something that was harmful or hurtful. 

“I’m sorry” and “I love you” are both critical for relationship, but what has surprised me about what I need to hear from my husband on a more regular basis in the last couple of years is “I hear you.”

One of the things that is most aggravating about the personality differences between my husband and I is that I feel and experience just about everything at eleven, and he takes things in, turns them over in his head, and processes them at a gentler level. (I don’t know, sometimes it feels like he’s hitting a three, at most.) For example, I’ll be terribly angry about something in the news, livid, even, and he will say: “but, what about this side of the argument?” 

He’s not being unreasonable. Not really. But in that moment, I don’t want to hear it. I’ll come up with the seventeen reasons that whatever issue it is has me basically on the balls of my feet in excited rage, and he will be looking for the rationality of all sides. 

I’ve learned to express when I need him to respond to my emotions before going towards rational disconnect. (What a radical idea, asking for what you need in the moment.) I’m also working on learning from his ability to rationally disconnect. I need that side of his perspective. I don’t always use it, but it has helped tremendously when I need to take apart an issue and look at how all the different pieces connect. 

He’s really smart, and anytime I bulldoze his processing for the sake of mine, I lose out. 

Don’t get me wrong. I still am processing on my level. And he is learning from my ability to feel so deeply that I vibrate with emotion. 

We’re learning from each other. 

I imagine that it will be a longterm process, not something that we can claim we’ve completed when we reach the ten, twenty, or forty year mark. It just keeps going. 

Traditions in Watching and Waiting

Hurricane Florence is about to make landfall along the coast of North Carolina. It will probably be the last Florence, the name will probably be retired, because Wilmington is currently forecast to have 30-40” of rain in addition to storm surge and wide flung winds. It’s not looking good.

Closer to home, we are looking at rain for three days, estimates are 6-10” with local higher possibilities depending on rain bands. Winds should be down, but with how wet the ground is, trees still might come down, and we might lose power.

Hi Florence

And at home, I’m looking at the creek in our back yard, wondering if it will jump its banks again, and if it does, how high the floodwaters will rise. The house has flooded before. It might again. I’m having a hard time figuring out when I need to make the call for us to leave, if we need to. I really don’t want to wake up to a flooded house with my baby in my arms.

The NOAA weather radio will be on alert. The phones will be charged. The car will have supplies in it. What more will I need to do?

It is our family tradition to watch the weather when a storm is coming. I remember watching the weather channel when Jim Cantore was a newbie. Now we get to look at the various social media accounts of meteorologists as they give updates from their living rooms and home offices (Thanks Brad Panovich).

And everyone in my family, from North Carolina to Georgia, all the way to Macau, is checking in on each other as we make sure we share our plans ahead of the storm.

Its a tradition.

We prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

The kits are packed, the snacks are stored, the laundry is done, and the storm is coming ashore.

Now we hope that the floodplain drains before it brings the water to our doors. We might get to spend some time with friends before the weekend is over.

The Gloaming

Last night the gloaming was exceptionally beautiful. It’s one of my favorite moments in the day, especially after a rainstorm. The sun is setting and the world becomes golden and everything glows. The moment is perfect for photography, lights emerge and highlight what has been hidden, greys become silver, greens become verdant, and the impossible seems possible. 

Its what I think of when I imagine that magic is possible. Creation takes on a glow and shines. 

I grew up with stories of magic that ranged from Tolkien to Ms. Piggle-Wiggle. From the magic-filled dreams of the BFG to the transformative power of the witch in The Beauty and the Beast. Even Santa Claus had his own magical pomegranate seeds that helped him deliver his gifts each year. (Persephone, Much?) 

Stories about magic allow us to imagine a new world in the place of the one we inhabit. They allow us to think beyond our normal constraints and imagine a place where all we need is a wand or the power of our will to transform the world. 

But the magic in the stories wears out. The carriage returns to a pumpkin at midnight. 

The power active in the BFG is really in the courage of the small orphan Sophie rather than in the dreams cast by the giant who catches, blends, and carries them. The stories teach us that our power comes from our ability to imagine a better or different world. 

I believe in magic insofar as it is that sign that with the proper application of will and the unification of force, we can change the world. 

I’d rather carry a wand than a weapon any day. 

Navigating the Crowd

I have always been fascinated by how things move. Even as a young child I was one of those who played on the beach by building dams and waterways in the sand, watching the different gullies being etched away, detecting the ebb and flow of the tides, following the eddies in the lee of the jetties, trying to predict how it would all flow together. And sure, this is part of my greater love of water, but it has also deeply informed how I watch other things move. Especially crowds. 

I don’t know exactly when I started, but by the time I was hitting puberty, I knew how crowds worked. I can predict their movement. I am easily aggravated when I know the best way to do something and the designers clearly do not. (Don’t get me started on bathroom design…) Probably the first time I remember really being aware of crowd disfunction was at a women’s conference and all of us were trying to get to the exit, and none of us were moving. Everyone was putting themselves first and so keeping anyone around them from going where they needed to go. (Is it irony that this was a Christian conference? I’m thinking so. We have so much to learn.) 

Since then, I’ve watched crowds at theme parks and ball fields, traffic patterns on hi-ways and parking snafus, people who are oblivious in conferences and airports, and the thousand other places I’ve been since. I get annoyed at people who don’t understand that they shouldn’t block an entrance, but simultaneously recognize that I have been thinking about the crowd around me while the individuals in the crowd are concerned with other things. On some level I know that I am over-thinking how the crowd moves, but I also want each individual in the crowd to know the best way for the crowd itself to move. I don’t believe that is ever going to happen. I’m not even sure it should. 

When I was in Tokyo my sister informed me that the cultural pedestrian right of way is passing people on the right (always take the left side of the sidewalk when facing oncoming walkers). I religiously adhered to this in the same way that I always take the right here in the United States. Sometimes I would forget, and it would cause a pause between the two of us. But, because I was a visitor in a new culture, I always corrected to fit the culture norm. I consider it one of the most important things about travel, observing and respecting the culture of those with whom you walk, both metaphorically and literally. Don’t walk into people seems like something that shouldn’t have to be said, but I am constantly surprised of the number of times this feels like a relevant reminder. 

When I watch crowds, it is always a dynamic observation. I know how to interpret these people in each individual place, and each group can move slightly differently depending on whether they are hungry, scared, joyful, tired, friendly, cautious, or anxious. Interpreting on the move can have advantages, but it also means that sometimes I leave people behind. I’m learning how not to leave people behind, but instead lead those with me so that we all get to the same place at the same time, together. It’s taken me over thirty years, but I have learned that getting somewhere together, with your people with you, is more important than getting there first. It is all about learning how to navigate the crowd.