Tag Archive | parenthood

8/22/12 Today’s Advice to My Beautiful Daughters – You are not that girl anymore.

You are not that girl anymore.

This covers so much territory and it really is about the hurt child in all of us.   “Old tracks” play on auto loop and tell the story of who we used to be.  We tell ourselves constantly that we are still the forgotten daughter, the “smart one” (aka NOT cool), the overweight, underweight, clumsy, acne-prone girl who boys didn’t like.  We are still the self-conscious girl who starves herself to feel in control, the girl who sleeps around to prove that boys like her. We are still the girl who failed at marriage and screwed it all up.

That is the story we tell.  That is the story I tell.  That is the story of “that girl”.

I have spent the better part of my adult life in an argument with that girl.  The grace that God has abundantly bestowed on me, as evidenced by the bountiful joy in my life, is often overshadowed by the lies that I allow that girl to tell.

If there is one thing that I want you to know about your future and who you are, it is this. You aren’t that girl anymore.

You aren’t the girl who got rejected by friends and therefore feels unlikeable.  You are not the girl who boys don’t like because you don’t look right or wear the right clothes, or act cool enough.  You just aren’t that girl.  No matter how many times that story plays in your head, no matter how many hurts you encounter, those hurts don’t make the girl.  You are so much more than that.  You are the delightful, beautiful girl who loves people and is loved in return.  You are the girl who works hard and does her best.  You are the girl who learns from her mistakes and works things out.  You are the girl who isn’t afraid to get back up after a fall.  You are the girl who is loved beyond measure and has so much to offer the world.

You are the girl who really believes she is a princess and expects the world to treat her with princess-like care.  You are the girl who is so convincing that you can talk a friend into picking up dog poop so you don’t have to.  You are the girl who runs races through pain and doesn’t quit.  You are the girl who does her own thing, makes her own style and doesn’t just follow along.  You are the girl who knows that being smart is a gift and works hard to honor her gift.  You are the girl who laughs so much and long that she gets a belly ache and always cares about making other people smile.

When I look at you, I see all the beauty and possibility in my life.  I forget about my “that girl” and can remember that my mistakes don’t define me and the stories that I tell myself can make or break me, but it is my choice.  I see in you the truth about God and His love and know that Truth is so much bigger than the lies I tell myself when I put my track on auto-loop.

When your confidence is shaken, and that girl tries to make an appearance, shake her off.  She is not your truth and you are not that girl.

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This post was inspired by two pastors in my life.  Last Sunday, Steve North shared part of his emotional journey as he learned the truth about the man he is and the man he used to be.  In his poem, “Becky’s Thunder” he described the moment when  another pastor, Becky Przybylski, helped him see  that “You are not that man anymore.”  Listening to his story, I realized how much I let my own past tell me lies about who I am today.  I let “that girl” beat me down with the mistakes that changed the course of my life.  I continue to accept the guilt that girl heaps on, perhaps as punishment, perhaps as atonement and in the process, I forget who I am today.  I forget that those mistakes have shaped me, but they don’t define me.  Steve’s message helped me to  remember that the girl I am today has learned and grown and been blessed by those very mistakes, and that my life provides evidence every single day that God forgave me long ago and continues to prove it by pouring His grace into me.

God truly does set the brightness of our today into the dark mortar of our past so that we can see the contrast that He brings to us.

Thank you to Becky for being Steve’s thunder.  And thank you to Steve for being mine.

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8/17/12 Today’s Advice to My Beautiful Daughter – It’s your time to shine.

 

 

It is kinda weird isn’t it?  You’ve never been the only child.  From the day you came into this world, you have always been the little sister.  Because you weren’t my first, I didn’t have to figure it out as I went along (at least not as much), I relaxed a little more, and I learned from my mistakes.  I enjoyed your “firsts” differently because I knew they would be the last. Your first steps were my LAST first steps.  I was in no hurry for them to get here because for every first you had, I had to say good-bye to something that I would never get back.  So I cherished the moments differently (maybe better) and I got to treasure all the ways that you were different than your sister, which ignited that awe of discovery in you, even though you weren’t my first.  I didn’t rush you to the next stage because I knew that it was important for to enjoy every fleeting moment.  And as you navigated the world, you always had your sister by your side.  During good times and bad, whether you were getting along or not, she was here.

Now, as your sister prepares to leave the nest, you have to contemplate this space without her.  You have to figure out how to be the only child…the good (the extra attention) and the bad (the extra attention) and you have to experience life for the first time without you sister by your side.  It will be weird at first, and sad.  We will all miss her, and we will have to figure out how to be comfortable in the space that she occupied every day.  But we will adjust.  We will figure out how to keep her in our day to day life even when she is away, and you will get comfortable in this space….and you will shine.

All the comparisons that are a natural part of being sisters will fade away, and you will get to be truly you.  You will get to be Becca.  You will find your way and your style and your light will shine more brightly because it doesn’t have your sister’s shadow holding it back anymore.

The next 3 years are your time to find out who you are apart from your sister.  You will come to love her in a different way, and appreciate the differences rather than feel diminished by them.  You will figure out that your style and your personality and your talents are the very best thing you have to offer the world and the world will respond by welcoming you into the spotlight.

Despite my many conflicted emotions about your sister leaving, I am looking forward to watching you blossom and grow and shine.  When you see my tears after your sister is gone, remember that I can be sad and grateful at the same time.  I will be sad that she is gone, but grateful that you are here, and that we have this incredible opportunity to get to know each other in a new way.

Prepare you light and get ready to shine.

 

8/16/12 Today’s Advice to My Beautiful Daughter – Life is full of contradictions

How else do I explain the roller coaster confluence of emotions that are happening right now?

Intense pride
Joyful expectation
Heart squeezing anxiety
Impending dread
Resigned sadness

I can’t even explain the reality of feeling all of these things, sometimes multiple emotions in the same heartbeat.  In one minute I am describing my pride, the next minute my eyes are filling up and I am choking back my tears.

This is it….this moment represents everything we have worked toward and everything I have always wanted for you.  I can’t even explain how deeply I long for you to leave the last painful year in the rearview mirror and move on to lasting friendships and a fresh start.  I am living vicariously through you as I relive those exciting moments of preparation for leaving home for the first time.  My heart just may burst from the pride I feel in all that you have accomplished and all that I know you will be.

But as I plan the menu for the last week of your favorite home cooked meals, I think about the number of days remaining to prepare them.  I shop for the things you like and realize that you won’t be here long enough for them to be eaten…and it makes me so sad.  I’m like a mother bird getting ready to push her baby out of the nest.  I know it is necessary and good and right . I know that this is what I want for you and at the same time, I dread the final nudge.

How do I explain to you that the tears are as full of joy as they are of sadness?  That these tears are the fullness of all that I believe in and want for you?  They carry the memories of your first moments on earth, those first frenzied sleepless days, your first laugh (the most beautiful sound I had ever heard) and your first tooth (that great big lopsided grin that went with it) and your first steps (you were SO excited!), your first day of kindergarten (I was so terrified!), your first kiss (“Mama, Hayden kissed me.  Where did he kiss you?  He kissed me over there.  NO!  Where did he kiss you ON YOUR FACE????), first bike success (finally!!), and your first heartbreak (caused by hurting someone else).  The tears are a celebration of all of those firsts and all the others that came before this one.  The salt of these tears cleanse, they heal, they are the release of the past and the entrance of the future.  These tears hold all the contradictions of the last 18 years.  I release them and I release you with the all the joy, the sadness, the pride, the hope and the dreams that those tears carry.  I release them in celebration of releasing you.

So in those last minutes before our good-bye when I am trying desperately (and failing) to control the waterworks, and you feel that pang of guilt at my sadness, please remember that life is full of contradictions and these tears are so much more than they seem.

One Month

My daughter goes to college in one month.  One month.

For those of you who are wondering why I haven’t been blogging much….my daughter goes to college in a month.

One would think this would be the perfect time for advice, the perfect time to tell her all the things that I want her to engrave on her heart, and you would be right.  Instead, I am just sad and all of my words feel inadequate and I’m so overwhelmed by all of the things I want her to know that I don’t know where to start.

As she pulls away, I am painfully aware that it wouldn’t make much difference anyway.  Do you remember how smart you were when you were 18 and about to leave home for the first time?  In the last days of your mother’s desperate advice, how much made you pause and how much went in one ear and out the other as you worked on having it all figured out on your own?  This is the thing about parenting.  All of these years are preparation for THIS TIME…the time that she will go out on their own, learn to live without me, figure out her own answers, and stop listening to me…at least for a little while.  (Don’t worry…I know she will be back.  We all come back right?)

So if this is the goal, why don’t I feel accomplished?  Why don’t I feel like I made it?  Why do I feel so sad?

I will return to the advice when I can.  Right now I’m propping myself up for the emotional avalanche of the next 30 days. I’m thinking about how far we have come.  I’m reminding myself every day that she will be fine (after all, I’ve prepared her to not need me).  I’ll take care of the details like shopping for dorm room décor and making that first tuition payment and I’ll pretend I have more time, more time to imprint my heart on hers, to hope that the values I have taught her shine out of her like a beacon and that this separation is what it is all about.

Today’s Advice to ME

In honor of my Facebook advice “column” to my girls, I am feeling the need to turn things around a bit.  So here goes…

Today’s advice to beautiful me:

You are not responsible for everyone’s happiness.  It is hard enough to control your own emotions without taking on the added burden of everyone else’s.

Yet here I sit with  my neck and back holding so much tension that they are tender to the touch and the ceaseless thoughts about how to make everyone happy.  I know it isn’t logical and I know that I can’t possibly succeed.  But the more I know this, the more tightly I hold the thoughts, so tightly in fact that my muscles from the top of my head to my lower back are all knotted up from the effort.

I often feel like a phony in this virtual world.  I present mostly cheerful thoughts and declarations about my wonderful family.  And they are wonderful.  Those who know me best know that I hit the jackpot with my kids, my husband, my mom and extended family.  We have suffered no major traumas and for the most part, I have managed by some miracle to avoid the typical teenage disdain felt by most parents.  Life really is pretty good.

What I don’t tell the world in my Facebook statuses is that life can get messy at my house.  I scream at my kids sometimes, sometimes with cuss words.  I pout.  I stew.  I resent.  I get fed up.  I lose what little semblance of patience I have.  My kids seem to hate me sometimes.  They think I “don’t understand” and tell me so.  They reject my advice and nagging and do things their own way, to varying degrees of success.  And sometimes my perfectly blended family frays at the edges, and I am the thread being pulled tight between the edges that are my daughters and my husband.  The stretching and pulling can be so painful at times that I don’t know how to stitch it back together.

I worry. I fret.  I obsess.  I negotiate…with them, with myself and with God.

This may be the hardest time I have ever faced as a parent.  My oldest is preparing to leave for college in the fall and less than two months from her 18th birthday, she is yearning for the independence that comes with her adulthood status.  And I cling and grab at the little control I have left and wonder desperately if I have done enough to prepare her, if there is still time to teach the things I haven’t gotten to and whether she will be ok without me.  I have been preparing for this for 17 years, 10 months and two weeks.  I knew that her leaving the nest would be hard and I have prepared for how I would feel when I dropped her off at college.  But nobody told me about the ripping away that has to happen in preparation for that.  I wasn’t prepared for it to start so soon and I WANT MORE TIME

My youngest is now in high school.  She is at that stage where she is seeking independence and trying to find the balance between her need for direction and her desire to figure it out on her own.  I recognize the pattern now and am determined to right all the mistakes I made the first time around. I wrestle for more control and she senses a double standard and resists.  Tension.  Conflict.  A test of wills.

Each day seems to bring a new challenge, a new hurt, a new emotion to navigate.  And because I am feeling so unsettled, I do the logical thing…I dig in..  I hold tight.  I obsess.  I worry.

It seems that all I know about my ability (or lack thereof) to control everyone’s happiness is in conflict with the deep longing I feel for the little girls who hung on my words and smile and who thought I was the best thing in the world.  I feel that life slipping further away and my fear and longing resist the logic in the  natural order of things.  Mark reminds me that this is the way it supposed to go.   My mind knows he is right but my heart isn’t ready to accept it.

So friends, know that the advice I give my daughters is just as much my advice to me.  And beneath the put togetherness that I project to the world is someone who is figuring it out minute by minute sometimes.  I second guess myself more often than not and every day I long for the “do over” button.

Despite all that, I know that I am blessed with a husband who supports me in my neurotic need for control and with daughters who have made being a mom the greatest joy of my life, even when it doesn’t feel like a joy at all.  At the end of the day, I need to remind myself that I am enough, and I can only be responsible for what is mine…my emotions, my reactions, my example.  The rest I will have to give back to its rightful owner, and maybe then, my faith can take over where my trust has left off.