conveniently troublesome

March 13, 2017 § 5 Comments

Our daughter’s school trip utilized social media for the purpose of sharing photographs with parents and permitted cell phones for communication, time (in place of a watch), and camera use. When they first outlined these details in the family pre-travel meeting, my daughter was uninterested in bringing a phone. My husband and I suggested she use her phone for photographs but resist the temptation to check in with us. To disconnect from her phone and connect with her environment.

In the same meeting we listened to humorous anecdotes of previous trips, parents calling the chaperones to ask questions based on social media snapshots of the trip. My husband and I laughed along with the collective amusement of the other parents at the obvious interference of helicopter parents and pledged not to disrupt our daughter’s exercise in independence.

Then, our daughter left home and early online images of her trip challenged our conviction. Looking at the social media snapshots of our daughter’s first day, I wondered such insignificant worries. Why are some chaperones so much more thoughtful in their documentation, while our’s appears lacking. Other times I would catch the corner of my daughter’s image and wonder if she were warm enough, tended to.

The pictures were inconsequential to my daughter’s experience and their value disproportionate to my doubts.

It is a strange disparity in pictures. The stories we tell ourselves and the meaning we infer. This age of hyper-connectivity invites unwelcome comparison and worry. These conveniences meant to lend comfort, invite opportunities for troublesome interference and undermine the illusion of independence our children need for maturity.

Modern conveniences let us meddle in a way that sabotages mindfulness with a distortion of truth. At the end of the second day it took every ounce of willpower not to pepper my daughter with reminders, to use the information I had been given to assume and infer, interrupt and instruct.

Today I’m celebrating the invitation to succeed with an imperfect practice of patience. Setting aside the stories I’ve created for my daughter’s photographs, to better fill in the space of her absence with the stories she tells face to face. Honoring the spirit of our first instructions with actions, disconnecting online to reconnect in realtime.

to my daughter

March 12, 2017 § 2 Comments

Saying goodbye, as you prepared for your first trip without us, was almost too easy. The effervescent enthusiasm of your anticipation was contagious. You were eager to leave; waking hours too soon, ready to take flight.

It was barely after one in the middle of the night when you woke me, draped in a blanket and wide awake. Worried you had overslept and ready to begin an adventure, you were restless. You curled up beside me, completely unable to sleep, perpetually checking the time and losing the struggle to silence with fragmented bursts of disconnected chatter.

When at last I conceded the hopelessness of sleep, you raced efficiently through your morning routine. It was, perhaps, the first time all year you were untempted to play when there were tasks undone.

At school, as the groups of families gathered for goodbyes, you bounced between friends and raced through impatient hugs. I tenderly and with great amusement remembered the little girl who clung so tightly to my legs each morning of kindergarten drop-off. Gone was the hesitation that informed an uncertainty, in its place a fierce independence.

It is as it should be and so your father and I were pleased when you messaged us late your first afternoon away that you missed us, but only a little.

Soon we will sift through photos of your school trip, a visit to a place we once traveled as a family. I’ve been peeking at old images in your absence, lost in the space of so many changes. The shape of your smile as you’ve grown further into yourself and the lingering traces of an essential self that sparks humor with a twinkle in your eye.

I wish for only a moment, to be your companion on this trip; to share your awe and gather your wit. Instead I am contentedly eager to be the recipient of your stories. To save you a place of homecoming.

Love, Mom

last month

March 11, 2017 § 4 Comments

February lingered unwritten in my memories; a month misplaced.

There was an unhappy argument whose sadness I dragged through unremarkable days, counting the hours until sleep. Not quite prepared to name my emotions, I would draft the day to dog-ear my thoughts; folding a corner of my attention over complicated emotions.

It was an unexceptional argument, but one that weighed on my thoughts and kept my spirit hemmed in. I couldn’t shake the tenderness and so I distracted myself with routine responsibilities, new book titles, and fresh air.

It was almost a week before I unfurled myself from caution and even then I was reserved in my joy. I had only just begun to relax into the luxury of a rare school day off from work, savoring the sweetness of unhurried errands, when our daughter returned home heavy-hearted over the unexpected resignation of a favorite teacher.

My own unhappiness had waned enough to absorb the balance of our daughter’s disappointment and I was reminded of a favorite quote by Ray Bradbury: We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.

It was a month of filling our cups and then spilling beautifully.

A day after our daughter’s teacher resigned brought another abrupt goodbye. Again my husband and I sat with our daughter, listening while she wrestled the emotions that accompany people leaving us unexpectedly without reason or closure. Days later we would revisit the language of change as we scheduled classes for the coming school year.

This time it was our daughter drafting unexpected changes, setting expectations and expressing greater independence as she outlined class requests and the logic behind her decisions. Some of the choices begged patience enough to empower our daughter with something Brené Brown calls an “inspired yes,” giving our daughter ownership of her schedule and accountability for her goals.

Then, with all the ceremony of adolescent milestones, our son began wearing braces while our daughter prepared for her first long distance trip away from home. It is a season of change, unexpected endings and new beginnings. The days are longer, but the hours fuller.

Maybe this is why I miss writing most, time stands still long enough to capture a memory as we spill the beautiful moments of ordinary lives into words.


a walk in time

February 25, 2017 § 5 Comments

This morning I walked our dog, her dark fur and my bulky attire cutting a strong contrast against the pristine snow in the blinding sunshine. The wind was mischievously inconsistent, the sun undermining the temperature of the air, and so I prematurely cast aside my scarf.

It was the kind of morning I intentionally plan for, the simplest excursion made predictably unbearable by the folly of my last-minute recklessness. I was simultaneously curled against the sun and braced against the wind, my eyes stung by the brilliance of light against snow and my neck too bare against tendrils of wind that wound deep inside my collar.

Lost to discomfort I almost missed the happy delight of neighborhood children playing quietly, their sounds muffled by my cap pulled low against my ears. They looked like crayons overturned haphazardly against the snow; mix-matched snowsuits and cheerful mittens a riot of color against the quiet. Without their sounds they might have been a memory of my children’s childhood displaced against the indiscernible backdrop of a timeless winter day.

The vastness of uninterrupted snow and the solitude of my footsteps against old memories I might have been invisible, the cumbersome bulk of my shape frivolously insignificant; a trick of light against snow.

words between us

February 11, 2017 § 3 Comments

My son is in the luminous stages of love, the sappy entanglements of easy infatuation. Words of endearments tumble recklessly with an enthusiasm that spills unchecked across the miles and throughout his days. It is a lavish generosity of appreciation for which there is never enough time for him to properly gather his thoughts.

From a distance, I understand the fleeting forever in these moments. The logic that measures the optimistic reality of an uncertain longevity against the pessimistic expectations of a perspective cluttered with the jaded assumptions of age. Still, I quiet the caution and invite my own memories.

Early loves are great educators of the impossible. The unlikely certainty that allows us to leap against the unknown bound by promises and dreams that forever tether our expectations of love in pages of old letters freckled with daydreams that parade as plans.

It is the love that comes before the labor of love that is marriage, the work of navigating an imperfect partnership for the grace of unconditional love, and the epiphany of emotion that is unique to the experience of becoming a parent.

On this, a month for lovers and friends, I’m reminiscing old loves and honoring first loves, forever loves and family with memories of Valentines past. The clumsy card stock of elementary shaped hearts and finger paint handprints shaped into talismans of love. Nursery school rhymes and the poetry of true love.

in good company

February 10, 2017 § 5 Comments

This morning the library was a contrast of sunlight and shadows, soundless save for the quiet industry of my work; staccato keystrokes interrupting the gentle hum of a singular overhead light. The effervescent conversations that drift across Friday’s desks were replaced by the intermittent punctuation of unanswered calls as the telephone marked time with tones that wound through the air like the plastic cords I once twirled around empty thoughts.

I nestled into the noisy silence with the delight of my childhood fondness for the company of books, moving between the dust motes as I navigated well tread routines to a soundtrack of solitude. The occasional scrape of metal against the book depository or the weighted thump of materials tumbling into the carpeted recess of the cumbersome bins were mischievous reminders of my luxury. I was a child left to wander familiar nooks, curiosity curbed by the holiest of admiration for the sanctity of so many carefully constructed stories.

Hushed footsteps and squeaky cart wheels I drifted down empty rows of sleepy books, while outside the sun chased away the new fallen snow as the gutters shed their burden in pregnant raindrops against the concrete.

to my daughter

February 9, 2017 § 5 Comments

Tuesday someone treated you unkindly, a new harm in a recent series of unhappy events. This experience of manipulative acts of mean spirited aggression is not new.

The first time you saw a child mistreated, it was your brother. Standing up and speaking out you held everyone accountable to their words and choices. Later you would do the same for classmates when peers were unkind.

It was in elementary school that you learned telling an adult did not insure safety, sometimes it emboldened the aggressor with a language of entitlement and misunderstanding by explaining away unkindness with empty platitudes.

It happened at the playground, in the lunchroom, after school in organized activities, and in living rooms between neighbors.

Generic statements of kids will be kids and vague I’m sure they didn’t mean it. Instructions to turn the other cheek or forgive and forget. We quiet the words that call us to action because they make us uncomfortable.

I failed, too.

When other parents didn’t want to talk about bad behavior, I smiled away the harm with polite silence. Other times I named the unkindness but failed to hold other adults accountable outside our conversations. I let discomfort create a passive permissiveness, but you haven’t.

This week, in the face of unkindness, you voiced your value and insisted on respect. Even when tears threatened to fall and your voice wavered, you knew your worth and you didn’t disappear into polite silence.

You said that it’s not okay to treat others unkindly. Period.

I wish I could say that things will get better, easier, but I can only tell you that it gets harder to stand up for yourself once you settle for silence.

Love, Mom

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