August 26, 2015 § 2 Comments
It was a predictable problem. Take one new student, place them in the company of children navigating the distractions of online social media, and you have crocodile tears and a self-righteous indignation for the contemporary convenience of cell phones in the unstructured space of the school day.
Today I listened as my daughter made a case for banning cell phones from her school. I paid close attention to her self-awareness when she acknowledged it would be worse to be the girl who took away everyone’s phone than it would be to sit ignored. I waited as she circled sadness and frustration for her to sound out the core of her unhappiness and then I invited someone wiser to offer a new perspective.
Given the source of my daughter’s unhappiness I holstered my phone, resisted the ease of e-mail and returned to school. Mom to educator and administrator, I asked for suggestions to ease the loneliness of our transition. In the space of a half hour we considered how technology use can sometimes be misunderstood; that a child disappearing into a screen may want an excuse to look up. We also considered that it is easier to assume “everyone” is using tech than it is to search out those who aren’t, but we balanced these possibilities by acknowledging the emotions of feeling ignored or left out then brainstorming active ways my daughter can facilitate a more rewarding experience with support.
Tomorrow my daughter is going to purposefully look for peers who aren’t online and she’s going to be more tolerant of those who exercise the choice to connect in a way different from hers. She’s going to hold tightly to her choice, but she’s going to respect other’s right to choose differently. More important than arguing policy from a perspective biased by a singular opinion on a difficult day, she is learning how to advocate for her needs in a way that makes happiness a product of her actions rather than a reflection of her environment. She is learning how to ask for help and how to extract insight from obstacles.
My children are growing up at a time when technology and social experiences are creating new lessons in communication. It is unreasonable to eliminate technology and irresponsible to make it a scape goat for accountability. It is a learning moment.
Tonight I’m thankful for complicated choices that invite greater consciousness for how we use technology and for the individuals who support us in real-time, offline.
August 26, 2015 § 4 Comments
It has been one week since we arrived on the outskirts of our new home; three days since our children began school; days still before we will settle into a greater sense of permanence within our community. Each day dawns full of uncertain possibility as we feel our way through the unknown in search of belonging.
The first day of school my son recounted the numerous hellos met with hollow echoes that never evolved into conversations. It was a long day of polite coexistence and no matter the population of his new school, it was a lonely experience. By day two my son had begun friendships, but my daughter was stranded in the social hierarchy of lunch without a place to eat. On the verge of tears she was saved by someone she might never have met had there been space for them elsewhere. On this, our third day, I stumbled through my own mistakes feeling hugely overwhelmed and alone until I remembered how my children have braved their own discouragements.
There is grace in acknowledging the honesty of our emotions while extending ourselves; standing publicly in clumsy efforts of earnest hopefulness and reaching toward an opportunity rather than curling against vulnerability to feign disinterest or posture a superficial image of strength.
These stories of our days are beautiful bruises, tender badges of effort that allow us to celebrate the path of our imperfect progress.
August 25, 2015 § Leave a comment
For as long as I can remember you have always been quick with a smile and kindness. My favorite recent memory was a moment of unabashed silliness in full public display. You silently dared your father and I not to laugh as you mimed a personality uninhibited by the company of strangers. We laughed earnestly and you leaned into the sound as if you might get lost in your contentment. It was pure joy made indulgent for the generosity of your offering.
Yesterday, knowing you carried that eagerness to share with someone new I understood the vastness of your discouragement when you didn’t find the same easy smile among strangers. It will come. Maybe not as soon as you would like, perhaps not as easily as you imagined. None of this is a reflection of your worth any more than it is a predictor of what’s to be.
Continue to offer smiles without expectation, to walk in your own certainty and trust in the goodness we cannot always see.
August 25, 2015 § Leave a comment
Yesterday you raced toward your homework, eager to complete your first assignment. You curved your arm and draped your hair over your work in a move that hid your efforts. Once finished you tucked your paper inside your folder and bounded away to a different perch.
Asking permission to snoop you granted me the right to read your answers but on the condition I wouldn’t edit your work. “I don’t care about making spelling mistakes, I’ll learn.”
You are a self-proclaimed poor speller. It has become as endearing as your dimples, little flaws that invite moments of beautiful admiration. Unguarded in your words you tend to speak clearly through poorly formed words, but here’s the thing: your spelling was much improved.
I had to reread your work for the errors you assumed, because my eyes were first drawn to the honesty and innocence of your answers. I won’t quote the entirety of your work, but I’m saving your assignment for years to come and ending with my favorite excerpt.
Prompt: One day I would like to be a I want to keep on being a kid and when I’m in high school I will worry but right now I want to be a kid!
I wouldn’t change a thing.
August 25, 2015 § Leave a comment
Yesterday I watched my daughter hesitate outside the entry of her new school; early and alone, I wondered if she would find a friendly smile that might help her navigate the minutes before her first day. Gauging her image in the frame of my side mirror, I was tempted to rescue her from a solitude that felt larger in a backward glance. Instead I watched as she held a door open for someone else and stole away beyond the scope of my gaze.
It had been easier to watch her brother race, gawky and eager, toward an uncertain friend whose backpack invited an immediate introduction; a shared interest that might lead to a companionable moment on a day that wore a little starched for our unfamiliarity. I worried less about the outgoing teenager who didn’t look back than the child who watched me from the periphery of my mirror. It was the solitary figure who cast a larger shadow across my thoughts; I couldn’t imagine it might be my son who would struggle against the loneliness of missing companions as he raced to make new connections.
By dismissal my worries were exaggerated by the clumsiness of my own confusion at pick-up, congested carpool lanes crowded with children and adults all moving in chaotic circles of rushed energy. I anticipated need in error and allowed my thoughts to race toward false expectations.
My daughter had struggled against all the change with humor and humility, she counted each honest mistake while adding her strengths. By day’s end she stood a little taller in her knowledge, a little more comfortable among her mistakes. It was my son, the outgoing personality who so often speaks uncensored of self-confidence who struggled against a distorted measure of success. There were no mistakes to correct, no uncomfortable moments of embarrassment; only loneliness for friendships not yet formed.
Today I am trying to remember that challenges may feel larger than they appear, that success and error are little more than different perspectives of a shared experience.
August 24, 2015 § 2 Comments
Today was the first day of school. We moved through awkward morning routines with a tenderness for tradition, laughing our way through nervous energy to break up the quiet of our doubts. In all the anxiety of change, we’ve found a gentler peace in one another’s company.
Over the past week we have simplified the space of family. Days spread across boxed corners of a house crowded into storage; evenings gathered around the table of friends who nurture us with kindness; dwindling summer days straddled between play and preparations. Home is a mindset of togetherness, a place of belonging that shelters us through change.
There is a certainty of sentiment, a comfort in the intangibility of tradition. Milestone photographs to mark this day were tempered by a silly appreciation for the comedy of our surroundings. We are living from suitcases in want of nothing more than time together. Breakfast balanced on hotel furnishings and a bathroom to share are small sacrifices for pool playdates and complimentary cookies.
This morning we expected to feel uncertain and the imperfect wisdom of this assumption created room enough for us to lean into our insecurities with a collective confidence. We’ve become more comfortable with the unknown, more certain of ourselves and one another.
As the school clock swings a neatly postured arm toward dismissal, I am eager to unpack the day’s events for markers of new adventures to come. Snapshots that spool around our words into a place of home.
August 9, 2015 § 2 Comments
In marriage there are milestones that bring occasions for unhappiness and invitations to greater intention. Change is a great catalyst for conflict, it takes the silence of things unsaid and ratchets them into a language of assumption. We see one another through a lens that is sometimes informed more by our own understanding than another’s intention; hurt feelings that misconstrue a purer language of love.
I feel this more tenderly as my children grow into their own expressions of friendship and family; forgiveness and trust. We bring to new relationships the lessons we first exercised at home, respectful disagreements and fierce independence. Of all my failed endeavors the greatest is to consistently model understanding over error; communication over blame. It is an imperfect intention.
My husband and I come to our marriage by way of family relationships in which we were constantly held to unrealistic standards and unkind criticisms. My father and his parents. For us there is a rhythm to our conflict; misunderstanding that breeds defensiveness which guards against openness. Later an inevitable tenderness that informs a more patient dialogue.
Mutually stubborn and equally wounded we have a tendency to speak before listening.
Most recently, long days of physically demanding tasks and the emotional pressures of financial decisions antagonized by family stressors has created a minefield of misunderstanding. Some days we hear and speak with the experience of our childhood conflicts before we remember the language of a healthier wisdom shaped by the values of own marriage and family.
In the week to come there will be moments we exhaust ourselves physically and emotionally to the point of conflict, in these moments I hope we can find a quiet place to lay down our defenses and demonstrate a gentler example of strength and kinder language of love. Temporary stress tempered by the sacrament of a deeper faith in each other. To model for our children and gift to one another a more compassionate lens for understanding.