While our daughter and I share many attributes, our shared foot width was apparent from her birth. So when she got a pair of shoes in the mail she said, ” oh I love them and they do squeeze a little bit but my feet are too wide so I’ll just have to deal.”
After living through many years of squeezy shoes (and uncomfortable feet), I cringed at the comment and couldn’t help but turn it into a conversation.
“Hey kiddo!” I said, “You don’t need to squeeze into shoes that are too tight. Your feet are just the right size. We just need to find shoes that match your feet.”
“Really?” She replied. “OK, I would like that.”
What if we gave ourselves permission to find the right fit, from shoes and clothes to friends, careers, vacations and religious practice?
I keep going to the physical therapist to get the adhesions broken down holding down the nerves in my leg each time the physical therapist breaks down some of the same adhesions he worked on last time.
As teachers and parents we are also held down in familiar patterns by adhesions. We often know it would be beneficial to approach fractions or bedtime routines in a new way. We succeed in trying something new. It is establishing that new pattern that gets painful.
My body is trying to heal but habits have been formed and starting a new pattern takes time, pain and courage.
When I was little I wanted little to do with my dad. He was wonderful and kind and knew just the way to do my hair for dance class, but I eagerly anticipated my mom’s return home. He loved me regardless. At the age of thirty, I finally figured out that I could love my dad through projects and road trips. It wasn’t the same kind of snuggly, chatty love I shared with my mom, but equally as profound.
My mind jumped to the thirty year wait ahead before Freya and I would have the relationship I longed for. I tried to model the same beautiful routines and relationship her birth mom Laura had developed, but I always felt as if I were falling short; time with me was the consolation prize.
There were no “how to books”. Tears dripped down my face as I prayed lonely prayers. My saving grace were the afternoons when I was the only parent home, slowly connecting, building trust, charting our own path.
Parenting is humbling, all of it. I set out with visions of idealic strolls through the park, sweet cuddles and cherub like grins. Then I was thrown into the role of non-bio Mom with an infant who only wanted my wife.
Contrary to my fears, Freya and I found our own kind of love while she was still small. It began as soon as I was able to let go of the image in my head of how our relationship “should be” by making huge baking messes in the kitchen and painting together in my studio. While her public admiration is usually reserved for my wife, our late night chats and back scratches are something that Freya and I share with a unique sweetness. Our love is different, but equally profound.
I have learned that sometimes love comes sweeping in, other times it builds to grand heights over time. Regardless of love’s pace, letting go of what a mother/child relationship “should be” in exchange for authentic connections will win every time. Sometimes, it will even result in a batch of cupcakes.
My kids love to read a classic Sesame Street book called, “I Can Do It Myself”. In it, Ernie and Bert comb their hair, get dressed, and make their beds all by themselves. It’s great encouragement for early childhood independence. However today I saw the cover and had another thought; sometimes I can do it by myself. Other times I’m really grateful for the community of support that lifts my family and me through thick and thin.
If I were to write a sequel, it would be titled, “I am Glad I Do Not Always Have to Do It Myself”
Our neighborhood is ugly. All of the houses were build in the sixties (the raised ranch genre is limited). Even though I intellectually knew it was a wise purchase because of the schools, commute, and yard, I still inwardly cringed while strolling down the street.
All of a sudden today I saw beauty for the first time. Not in the standard concrete steps or routine brown paint but rather in the soul of each house. I gave thanks for the neighbors who have brought over food and helped with kid care during my recovery. I smiled at the connection with the other two mom family with twins living on the corner and the three generations of Vietnamese neighbors we are lucky enough to live next to. My heart went from door to door, thankful for the community we call our own.
After five long years and all of a sudden, I live in the most beautiful neighborhood one could imagine.
Our three-year-old twins are the learning how to skip count by twos at local rallies and marches. At home they shout: 2,4,6,8 we will not be ruled by hate!
Three months ago they had no idea what Washington D.C. was or what was happening in our government. Now my children are no longer innocent. While the twins ask about a bully president saying mean things, our nine-year-old has asked us about what the purpose of pussy hats is and what pro-choice means. We give answers that seem to be the best in the moment. Developmentally appropriate, but not glazing over the truth of our present reality.
This is the brave new world of parenthood. We are doing our best and trying to remember to breathe.
Our youngest one decided yesterday was a great day for a ride to the playground. Once she arrived at the slide, her monologue went something like this:Whoa, whoa, eke! This isn’t going very well. I huff and I puff and I go go go!!!!
She summed up my post inauguration feelings exactly.