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. 

Advertisements

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. 

Remain

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch can’t produce fruit by itself, but must remain in the vine. Likewise, you can’t produce fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit. Without me, you can’t do anything. […] “As the Father loved me, I too have loved you. Remain in my love. —John 15:4-5, 9 CEB

Remain.

Simple small voices call us to stay.

When my daughter goes down for her nap, she generally has this moment when she seems asleep and yet she isn’t quite under enough to keep her from wanting me not to leave. I’ll back up, disengaging her latch, and she will whimper and root back onto my breast, not yet ready to give up this form of comfort.

She’s still growing, still used to resting in my arms, and she is definitely ready to let me know if I have backed away too soon.

She remains in my love, even when she finally sinks deep enough into sleep for me to slip away as she hugs Peter Jiwe, her bear that I kept for myself for similar comfort over ten years ago.

Remain.

I’ve been married long enough to have an argument or seven, and last night I was in a funk and so everything my husband did was wrong. He just couldn’t get it right. We argued over the closets… It was not one of my finest moments. I realized, after a while, that I was hearing with the wrong ears, and he needed a little more grace. I apologized, though I did let him know that he shouldn’t try to discuss anything else with me, mostly because I was not ready to listen.

I think I was tired, or exhausted, or touched out, or weary, or all of it.

(But this is not one of those mommy blogger moments in which the evangelical christian holy woman tells you to be a submissive proverbs 31 wife. No. I just realized I had angry ears on. He’s been wrong before and deserved it. In love.)

Remain.

I know I disagree with you over something. We’ve got heads. We’ve got to have something that we don’t fully agree about. But I need to be in relationship with you. I need you to stick around and love me when I’m hard to love. I’m willing to do the same.

I want to bear the fruit of a beloved community with you, wherever you are. We can do this, no matter what comes next week, next month, or next year. Or the next four years. Or the next ten. I’m committed to sticking it out, loving through it, staying even though it is difficult.

Simple small voices call us to stay.

Promise

Promise is the sister of hope. She is given and creates a home for grace.

We have been given a promise of hope in the form of new life that we can live now. We need to live into it a little bit more each day. The promise extends past those who are consciously awaiting it, the promise shines into the darkness.

The promise that we celebrate this season is the pure embodiment of light eternal. It is a light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it. The light does not go out.

Tonight is the darkest and longest night of the year. The Solstice comes tomorrow before the sun rises. We have less than ten hours of daylight where I live. And the daylight that I do have is heavily laden with clouds banked against the sunlight. Darkness cloaks the day early and remains far after I arise from bed.

But there is light.

Exciting things are in store.

Family is coming to celebrate, new presents are being purchased, and my favorite day of the year is only 4 days away. I know I’ve written about my favorite day before, but in case you missed it, my favorite day is Christmas Eve, and this year I get to do the whole thing with my closest family, a gift that we haven’t had in five years.

The days are dark and covered with shadows but light and promise peek through, illuminating times of joy and hope.

Five and a half years ago I promised to love and cherish the partner that has walked with me through valleys and over mountaintops. We keep learning from each other, encouraging each other, extending grace to each other. It’s not always simple or easy, but the promise that we made together those 66 months ago have found us a better and stronger team together. Remembering our promise.

Looking Forward to Celebrations

My anniversary is coming up. My husband and I have been married three years come next Thursday, and we tend to have a hard time remembering the date we got married. Last year, one of his church members congratulated us on our big celebration coming up that week… and we couldn’t remember what it was.

I mean, we don’t forget that we are married, we just kinda forget the date we got married. There was some calendar shifting back when we were setting the date and so the best reminder that we have is the collection of photographs that my cousin Julie made us of found numbers which display our wedding date. It was a good wedding, don’t get me wrong. I was honored that so many people decided to change their plans in their lives so they could celebrate the beginning of our lives together. But there were so many other things going on at the same time that month and a half that I’m pretty glad that we remember we got married in May.

There are other dates on our calendar of memories, like our first kiss, that have a bit more of a distinction because of the utter shift in our relationship a that point. When we got married, it was more on a continuum of our relationship and a gathering of our family and a celebration in the context of a worship service. It was a holy moment of pause in our lives, marking a change in our lives. We were able to celebrate and demonstrate our love for each other, entering into a new covenant relationship together in the presence of God and the gathered community.

But see, that’s the thing. We do that nearly ever week. Granted, our gathered community is sometimes different, we don’t form a new covenant each week, and we don’t always get to gather together (nearly) everyone who has meant something to us in our lives up to that point. But when we gather for worship, the most important thing is not our romantic love for each other, but the love that God has for all of us.

The love between me and my husband is strong, tender, affirming, and intimate. The love that we build within our community should have the same kind of strength. I’m not expecting anyone to snuggle with me, but as a community we should share the same kind of love that flows from God, a love that is even better than that between a happily married couple.

I deeply love my husband. I can’t wait to see him again after I’ve gone to see friends for a overnight trip or even if we’ve spent the day apart. I love him more intimately than anyone else in the world. Already in the three short years that we have spent together he has seen me and stuck with me at my utter worst and at my very best.

But God’s love is bigger than ours. Maybe that’s why I have a hard time remembering the date of the celebration coming up next Thursday, but don’t have trouble remembering the coming Sunday’s celebration.

Photo Credit: Amy Hoffman
Photo Credit: Amy Hoffman