Category: Family

Coming of Age. The Perils of Parenting Teenagers and the #MeToo Movement.

imageWell before I ever knew I was going to be a mother of daughters, I promised myself that I would teach my daughters to be feminists.  I would be the type of mother who would tell them they could be the next Madeline Albright or Eleanor Roosevelt or anything they wanted to be.  The most important thing being, that they were fully themselves, without inhibitions or worry about being objectified or less than because of their gender. I wanted to model for them and teach them that they could do any job, including one that typically was held by men.

Before I became a mother, I had a list of Do’s and Don’ts for raising a strong, smart daughter.

Don’t buy Barbies, or Brat Dolls, or any other “sexy doll.”

Do read Anne of Green Gables, A Wrinkle in Time, and A is for Abigail.

Don’t buy bikinis until they are 25.

Do buy Legos and other toys typically designed for boys.

Don’t paint the baby’s room pink, or put her in a lot of pink clothing. – Keep it gender neutral.

Make sure she takes a self defense class, so she can protect herself.

No make-up until, like, forever.

I look at these rules I made up back then, now, almost sixteen years later with two adolescent daughters and I realize that some of them were silly and some of them were pretty good pieces of advice.  Some of the rules stuck and some of the rules fell by the way side.

Today, in light of the #MeToo movement, and recalling my own stories of sexual harassment,  I realize that all of these rules I made up were to protect them from having a #MeToo moment.  I thought, maybe I could shield them, and make them so confident and secure that they wouldn’t have to experience the things I did.

If we are going to continue this conversation on sexual harassment and the objectification of women, we need to start with conversations with our boys and girls.  I didn’t realize until now, that for me, the fall of my innocence from childhood to adulthood came about when boys started making comments about my body.  When I was a girl, I was just a kid, just another kid on the block.  All of the kids around my house were boys and we all played Star Wars and Army and football. I would run and build forts and play.  It was fun.

And then junior high happened.

And everything changed.

I wanted to be one of two things when I was 14 years old, either a famous ballerina or an actress.  I wasn’t picky. I would lie in my bed at night and dream about being on stage.  In my dreams, I was amazing. I was also tall and thin and stunning. This why you call them “dreams.”

One summer day, I was walking to theater practice across the junior high foot ball field.  There were a group of boys standing in the door way of the school and they saw me walking. They shouted out, “Look at that bitch, with the big butt and no tits.”

At that moment, I prayed that the football field would swallow me up and I would be invisible forever.  I was exposed.  Right there, in the middle of the football field, with no other person that maybe they were talking about, or referring to.  Me.  And my body.

I walked to the theater and got on stage and all I could think about in my 14 year old brain, was that sentence and the terrible, shaming truth that it held.

It was at that moment that my innocence, my childhood ended. – I was now a woman and an object to be looked at.

It took a long time to get over that mortifying moment. I never told anyone. Even writing those  words almost 30 years later makes me feel vulnerable.

Of course, I wouldn’t even count that moment as my #metoo experience.  All of those experiences happened in college and grad school.  Each time something happened, rather direct, or overt I tried to counter that experience by protecting myself.  I think even becoming a pastor and wearing a long black robe on Sunday mornings is a way of me saying to the world, “Do not look at me!”

Today I am a mother of teenage daughters.  I would just like to say for the record, for any parents of teenagers that I counselled back in the day when I wasn’t a mother of teenage daughters,  I apologize.  Clearly I was clueless and had no idea what I was talking about. – Because being a mother of a teenager is way worse than being a teenager.

You walk up the stairs, and they know you are coming, and they shut the door before you reach their room. Nice.  You give them space and then they get angry because you don’t notice their hair. Whatever.  You ask them to empty the dishwasher and they roll their eyes and then ask to buy something on Amazon. Are you serious?!

And then you realize that all of your stupid baggage from being 14 is still with you.  The friend that abandoned. The boy that broke up.  The pressure to succeed.  The desire to fit in.  And you know, logically, that your life is not their life and you know you have to let them go and fail and succeed on their own accord, but you also know what is coming and you realize you can’t protect them.  And then it happens, and you watch your daughter have her fall from innocence.

My daughter had an experience in PE this past semester.  Boys were talking about her body and saying inappropriate things.  It seems like the comments have stopped out there in the junior high world, but they have not stopped in her head.  I watch her move from an innocent little girl, who loved to play and create and imagine, to a self conscience, body aware, teenager.  I watch that teenager brain getting it’s exercise as it grows inside her and she feels feelings of anger and strives for self determination.  I see her want to stay true to herself and want to fit in at the same time.  I see her want to be hugged and left alone at the same time.  I see her face the world of social media, and I realize I am parenting in real time, without any prior experience to fall back on.  I see her struggle, and I realize I could have probably painted her room pink.

I wonder how we can change the script of coming of age in overly crass society, where boys and girls are exposed to far more sexually explicit activities than I was at their age?   Does the fall of innocence and the rise to adulthood, always have to include a moment of shame?

Maybe it does.  It may be impossible to get through the first 20 years of your life without someone objectifying you in someway.  There is something to be said for learning resiliency and overcoming adversity.

But I hope and pray this movement changes things for our kids.  I hope my girls don’t have experiences like I did and I hope my son never finds himself in a situation where he thinks he can talk about a girl’s body like it’s a piece of merchandise.

I don’t have any answers, but parents, I’m with you, man.  This is hard. Really, really hard.  I don’t have any great pearls of wisdom to wrap this up. I am too much in the thick of it myself, to see outside and tell you that everything is going to be alright and that they will get through it and not hate themselves or you.   I think the only thing we can do is remind them of the same thing we told them when they were four years old and screamed on the floor, just because their little brains were growing, just as they are now. And that is, “You are safe. You are loved. You are not alone.”

I also find that wine, coffee and chocolate helps.





Parenting through Disappointment

pictureGimian- Disappointment

There are hard things about parenting. There’s the potty training and the bed wetting, the biting and the thumb sucking. There is the first day of school jitters and the uninvited birthday party.  There’s the struggle to write and tie shoes and sit still and use a pencil. There’s manners and bed time and screen time and video games and the monitoring of phones and i pads and computers.  There’s the neighbor’s cool scooter, and spring break trip to Hawaii and the latest $150 shoes -on sale, “Can I have that too?!”  There’s the stress of academic achievement and the pressure to be in Honors this or in AP that.  There’s the pressure to be. To be excellent. To be outstanding. To be the best.

Yes, there are hard things about parenting.

But the hardest thing of all is walking with your child through disappointment.   Here’s an example: There are just so many spots on the travel baseball team. – And why exactly do we want this in the first place? – But we do!  Because if you don’t sign your kid up for travel baseball, and all of the other parents do sign their kid up for travel baseball, then their kid plays five times more baseball than your kid and then your kid doesn’t have a chance at the next tryout, or at the school try out.  So you suck in the air, write the check, fork over your time and put your kid out their to try out.  And then you hold your breath, and wait for the email to come.  The email arrives and says, “Sorry, please try next year.”  And you have to go into your son’s room, sit on the bed and say, “You didn’t make it.”  Whereby he walks out of the room and slams the door, and you sit there on his bed and wait until he comes back and lays his head in your lap, while he softly cries, but doesn’t want to talk about it.  And then he gets up, wipes his eyes, and goes outside to play some more ball.  And you sit there on his bed,  take a deep breath, cry a little yourself and think, “Man, that hurt.”

It’s at that crystallized moment when  parenting happens.  How we as parents talk about disappointments, respond to the disappointment and move on from it, is what helps create a healthy person with strong self esteem, because life is full of disappointments and if we teach our kids that they were robbed or somehow entitled, we do them no favors.  If we act like everything is o.k. and just pretend like we don’t care, we do them no favors.  If we get mad, throw a fit, or try to persuade with money or power, we do them no favors.

My kids have had more disappointments than “achievements” the beginning of this school year.  They have had visions of what they wanted to accomplish and where they wanted to be and they haven’t achieved those visions.  So we have had to  welcome disappointment to the table.   Here is what we have learned. It’s important not to make disappointment bigger than it has to be.  After all, it was just an audition and there will be many more auditions. It was just a tryout, and there will be other tryouts.   So, we need to settle down and remember it’s not the end of the world.  While disappointment has a voice at the table it does not get to be the only voice.  So let’s not get too crazy.

On the other hand,  it’s important to let disappointment have room to express itself. Name it.  Cry.  Stomp your fist. Shout.  Give kid’s space to express disappointment.  Here’s the kicker – make sure you aren’t crying, stomping, or shouting louder than they are.  If your disappointment is bigger than their’s, then their disappointment loses power.   So keep your ego in check.  We can be disappointed for our kids, but we have to keep ourselves in check and ask the question:  Are we living vicariously through our kid’s lives and thereby not letting our kid’s have their own story?

Disappointment is part of life.  It’s the way it goes. But, building yourself up from a disappointment, getting out there and trying again, not letting the negative out way the positive, having fun, thinking about other kids and building empathy, not giving up, that is the building of some strong bones.  Those bones will support them when life brings bigger disappointments, more life changing disappointments, when a job is lost or relationship breaks up. They will have the resilience to know that they will endure and persevere.

Lastly, I think the best thing I did for my kids this fall was empathize with them.  I told them stories about when I was kid and tried out for a play and didn’t get the part I wanted.  I had my sister, who played ball, call my son and share her baseball scars.  We found stories almost by chance about achievers, people we admired who were had far more disappointments in their life than accolades and kept going.  I let them know they were not the first kid in the world to have that feeling in their heart, and they will not will be the last.  So when they see kids who are disappointed, they can empathize with them and be a better friend.

Then,  when it was all over and we had cried, thought about what we learned from the experience, thought about how they could get better, or not, we moved on, changed the subject and told funny stories. We held each other a little tighter.  And then we went out for ice cream.

It’s just the way it goes.




Hold Fast

20158044_10214020877984918_5158460179042341788_oHe grew up in a house that could easily catch fire.  The roof was made of tinder wood and at night mice would scurry along the roof with the makings of their nest,  forming a match that would put the house ablaze.  He would get up, sprint two miles to his grandparent’s house where he could get help.  Once he would get there, with sweat soaked pajamas, he would vomit from fear and fatigue.

He stayed in school until his was 15, working as the school janitor at night to pay his way.

When he was 17, he was forced to leave his Missouri home –too many mouth’s to feed.  They gave him a pony, his few belongings and maybe a dollar or two, and he was on his own to figure it out, survive and somehow live.   I often think about that day when he left home.  What went through his mind?  Was he sacred?  Determined?  What did he carry with him that was not seen?  Did he carry integrity?  Humor? Honesty?

This is a snapshot of my grandfather’s life and events that took place in the 1930’s.  A time that seems long ago and yet, in the grand scheme of things, was not so very long ago.  A time when everyone knew something about being poor, and childhood wasn’t worshiped and life was hard and yet somehow, ironically easier than today.  He had no cell phone. He would need both hands to catch rabbits and squirrels for supper.  He had no education beyond 8th grade.  He never took an AP class, or was on a formal athletic team, or read Jane Eyre, or typed on a computer.  He knew every tree, bird, plant, how to wrestle and take apart a car and put it back together.  He was forced to enter adulthood before childhood ended — if he ever knew childhood at all.  And when he was old, his childlike curiosity attracted everyone to him.  No one ever told him to stop being curious. Nobody worried about his future.  Nobody really worried about him at all.

Why, am I telling you this story?   Because all of us have moments in our lives when it feels like our house is on fire.  We all have moments when we have no control over what is happening to us,  or the people in our family or in our country, or in our world.  Because life brings about adversity all of the time, and it is how we live to tell the tale that matters not only for the present day, but for the future.   How we confront the fires in our life impacts how future generations will face future fires.  Because it’s easier to tell a historical story of adversity than a present day one. It’s easier to talk about someone who overcame, than to confess a story about how hard it is to overcome.

We have all been told, and I’m sure it’s true, that character building comes through the hardest moments that you mark on your time line as a time of adversity.

The time you were rejected.

The time you were lonely.

The time you failed.

The time you got up and tried again. And failed again.

The time you realized the world was bigger than your own world.

The time your heart was broken.

The time you weren’t invited.

The time you were embarrassed.

The time you felt vulnerable.

The time everything fell apart.

These are the times that build character.  It’s not the awards or the accolades or achievements.  It’s the hard stuff of life that we all have more of than we care to admit and that we try to numb or avoid or pretend aren’t occurring as we paint perfect pictures on social media and to the world. —  It’s the hard stuff that creates character.  You cannot know humility if you have not been humbled. You cannot know perseverance if there was not something you needed to overcome.  You cannot know forgiveness if you have not sinned.

If we want our kids to people of strong moral character, and I believe most of us do, then we have to accept and know that their character will only be built out of struggle, humiliation, pain, loss, disappointment and heart break.

But, dear parents,  here is my word to give you,  two words actually:  Hold Fast.  Hold Fast.  I know this parenting journey is a rocky road. I know you look at your kid and think, “Will they be o.k.? Will they overcome that friendship that has gone sour, or that challenging subject, or the pressure to fit in, or whatever obstacle they are facing?”  The answer is “No, of course they won’t overcome it. They will face it, deal with it, grieve it, grapple with it, and then and only then will they overcome it.  And you will find that they have new skin on and they have weathered the storm and they are better person because they went through it.  So, hold fast. Hold Fast.”

Everyone one of us has a story of a relative who found themselves in places that were not of their choosing and they had to decide how to  survive and persevere.  We stand on their shoulders.  We need to believe that our kids are as capable of overcoming adversity as those who came before us were.  Indeed, we need to believe that we are as capable of overcoming adversity as our ancestors were.  We need to accept that really challenging, awful things will happen in our kid’s lives and in our lives, and instead of fearing them, we need to welcome them, because it’s the struggle that will work the muscle of faith.  It’s the struggle that will build compassion.  It’s the struggle that will make a person of character.

Let’s hope and pray that we adults can pass the character test we are facing  today, so that our children will some day tell our story of how we confronted the fires in our world, and overcame. If we want our kids to be grounded in strong moral character, and I believe most of us do, then we have to remember our humanity.  We have to remember where we came from. We have to remember the people whose shoulders we stand.

Hold Fast.




A Mother’s Day, Without a Mother


When my children were little, there were some standard books that we read every night before bed: “Good Night Moon,”  “Is Your Mama a Llama?”  “If you Give a Mouse a Cookie,”  “Are you my Mother?”  The Sleeping House,” and “Blueberries for Sal.”  I can recite them all for you now, if you would like.


I can still hear the cadence of the writing, and feel the little body breathing on my chest, as we turned the familiar pages of these weathered books for the 100th time.  I can still remember the routine of bath, book, bed; the soft, cotton pajamas and the padded feet.  Night time rituals change as children get older.  Bed time becomes a requirement, instead of a sacred ritual.

Many of the books I read to my children,  are the same stories my mother read to me.  I loved when my mom read to me. I loved her voice. I loved the way she curved sentences  and how her voice changed with characters.  I loved the way she painted pictures in my mind by taking me into a story.  When I was little, our favorite books were, “Are You My Mother?”  and “Blueberries for Sal.”  Later, we would fall in love with “Little House in the Big Woods” and “A Wrinkle in Time.”

As I look back on these stories, and their underlying messages, there is similar message of comfort and safety in each of them, and that is “your mother is always with you,” and “if you are lost, she will pursue you, and until she finds you.”  These messages stay with us into our adulthood, and we trust in them like scripture.  So it’s a soul-shocking moment when one day our mom isn’t around anymore.  We only get one mom, and nobody really believes in us like they do.  This Mother’s Day,  my heart is heavy for those grieving their mothers.

But here’s the thing about our mothers – they pursue us even after death.  The children books we read about the pursing mother, aren’t giving us fall hope.  Nothing can separate us from the love of our mothers. They are relentless that way.  She’s with you.  She’s the voice that reminds you to wear a coat and to mind your manners.  She’s the smells of Sunday dinner and clean sheets on the bed.  She’s dirt on your hands, as you plant flowers for the spring and the touch of pages of the hymnal as you sing her favorite hymn.

To all of you have lost your Mom’s this year, I know Mother’s Day is going to be really, really hard, and you will want more than anything to see her laugh and let her tell you her opinion on your outfit.  I know you will feel like the little bird, looking for his mother.  Remember, the mother bird wasn’t really that far off.  She was always right where she was supposed to be.  I know you might feel lost and frightened, like Sal, but do not worry, she’s not very far off- she’s just on the other side of the mountain.

Close your eyes.  See her face.  Hear her voice.  See, she hasn’t gone far after all.

You are loved, always.







Falling in Love with Alex P. Keaton

When I was in junior high, I fell in love with Alex P. Keaton – not Micheal J. Fox, although I loved him too, but specifically Alex P. Keaton.    My family and I watched Family Ties every Tuesday night without fail.  We loved the story of the liberal family and the conservative son and their conversations and convictions about the world.  We loved their banter, and the way in which they were a family first and respected each other’s points of views, even though they were not shared.  Near the end of the series Alex falls in love with Ellen.  Ellen is an art history major.  She is everything that Alex is not, and yet they fall deeply in love. The romantic in me was hooked.  I can still hear that song they played at the train station when he ran after her…..


Alex  was this great character.  He was over achieving, idealistic, cocky and caring.

When I went to college, I met and fell in love with my own Alex P. Keaton.  I fell in love with a Ronald Reagan loving, Richard Nixon defending, Political Stats obsessed Republican. He and I came from different religions – he was Southern Baptist, I was Presbyterian.  He was raised in a rural community, I in a college town.  He was raised in a conservative family,  I was raised in a liberal family. We could not have been more different.

We both loved politics.  In college, we would watch C-Span – for fun.  We loved the conversations, the debates, the strategies.  Some couples watch sports together, we would watch both conventions together.  It was fun. My relationship with my Alex P. Keaton has been the longest friendship of my life.  We will be married 20 years this July, after dating forever before that.  This year, we sat together on the couch,  with our kids and watched the election process and first we were humored by the rhetoric, and then we were angered, and then saddened, and eventually we were so numb to it, we weren’t even shocked anymore, we just despaired. – It wasn’t fun anymore.  It became dirty.  The democracy we believed in, was replaced with Jerry Springer.  What would Alex P. Keaton say?

Perhaps you have heard the news that our country is more polarized today than ever before – race, religion, culture, socio-economic, gender.  A recent survey learned that today more than ever, parents would not want their children to marry someone from a different political party.  I can’t imagine my life without coming to respect and understand someone who came from a different political party, community and religion than I.  I humbly believe that we make the world better, together than we do apart.

I guess what I want to say is this,  go hug a Democrat.  Go hug a Republican.  Sit yourself down at a coffee shop, or go for a walk and just talk.  Talk about your kids. Talk about your worries. Talk about your lives. Listen.  Listen. Listen. Hear each other’s fears. Hear each other’s concerns.  Do not belittle your friend by resulting in name calling or blaming. If you think  Hilary or Donald are Hitler, they’re not.  Hitler was Hitler.  Stop calling people Hitler. It’s not helpful.

If we are going to heal this pain, we have to be the ones to do it.  He have to stop shouting into the wind. We have to turn down the rhetoric and turn up the civility.  We have to model for our children the ideals and values,  I truly believe most of us hold in common.  He have to find the humor in each other, accept each other, and love each other.

Thanksgiving is in a few days. I imagine we will all be sitting across the table from someone in our family who is either grieving or celebrating this past election. Most of us will come to the table with someone who feels differently than we do — thank God for that!  Those differences are a gift. Start listening and striving for a solution, together. Our families can model for the country, how the country should behave. It begins with family.– Too idealistic? I pray, not.

I pray that as we pass the dressing and the green bean casserole, we start to see each other again. I pray that through our conversations and mutual respect for one another- through the bonds of family, healing across our beautiful land can begin.

For those of you who love Alex, as much as I do… enjoy.









That Moment

That moment you know there has a been a shifting in the universe, and life will never be the same.  It is neither good, or bad, it just is.

It’s just a moment and you think, “I know longer fall into a category I always took for granted.”  New Mom. Young Adult.  Girl.

That moment when the doctor tells you, you need an extra pair of glasses, or will some day need a hip replaced.

That moment you no longer know, nor care to know, who is singing that  God- awful song on the radio.

That moment when you look at the people in your house and you think, “who are these people?”  Their voices are lower, their bodies are bigger, their doors are closed, their eyes roll, they wear make-up, they know everything.  You are wrong before you speak and when you speak, you are doubly wrong.  YOU ARE CLUELESS.   And in a way you are. Because keeping up with I-phones, u-tube, I-tunes, snap chat, Instagram, texting, Twitter, web grades, and God knows what else,  is exhausting, and so very annoying.

That moment when you read a quote like this from Joanne Felder, and think, “Is this my new reality? Is this what I have to look forward to?!”

You will need to stay calm as you witness the candy floss in your daughter’s smile harden into brittle bitchiness. You will need to muster a new resolve as your son’s fascination with Pokémon shifts to porn. You will have to recalibrate your mothering instinct to accommodate the notion that not only do your children poop and burp, they also masturbate, drink and smoke. As their bodies, brains and worlds rearrange themselves, you will need to do your own reshuffling. You will come to see that, though you gave them life, they’re the ones who’ve got a life. They’ve got 1700 friends on Facebook. They’ve got YouTube accounts (with hundreds of sub- scribers), endless social arrangements, concerts, Valentine’s Day dances and Halloween parties. What we have – if we’re lucky – is a ‘Thanks for the ride, Mum, don’t call me, I’ll call you,’ as they slam the car door and indicate we can run along now.” 

That moment when you look at yourself in the mirror and think, “Good Lord. What happened?”   You start pulling your eyelids up and back, considering a tuck here, or a tuck there, but then you let you let it fall back and scold yourself for being so shallow.

That moment when you go to the store and buy a bottle of wine and the teller who is 20 years younger than you doesn’t card you, and  you curse the lad on the way out the door.

That moment you get your college newsletter and you recognize none of the names of the faculty  because they have all retired or past on.

It’s just a moment. It’s not good or bad. It just is.  You have crossed a threshold and you are now on the other side of where you once were.

There is really no reason to grieve or lament, or get angry.  There is a resigned acceptance to it.

There is no denying that things have changed and a reshuffling is required. So get to it.

I wonder in your reshuffling, will you think about the same things on this side of the threshold as you did on the other side?  Will you learn from your failures and keep your prejudices?  What will you carry with you and what will you let go of, on this side of the threshold?   Will you care less about what people think? Will you become more set in your ways?  Will you resist new inventions?  Will you scoff at progress?  Will you be kinder to those younger than you, or will you patronize them and act as though you know more than they do?  Will you love in a different way?  Will you speak your mind more freely? Will you worry less?  Will you pray more?

The moment that one reality ends, a new reality begins is neither good, nor bad. It just is.

It’s life.

Accept what is. Embrace the good. Keep it in perspective. And remember, there will always be another moment.

And remember that those other people in your house are having moments too.  Remember the moment you realized you were no longer a child, but a full-bodied teenager?  That was one crazy moment. So give them some grace, and let them have their moment.



Getting it Right , Eventually


I have always envied the people who seemed  to “get it right” the first time, whatever it was.

I always wished I could be one of those people.

I remember learning multiplication in third grade. Everyone seemed to get their multiplication tables faster than I. God knows kids got the hang of driving a car faster than I. Oh, and being able to sing, and learn how to tap a Time Step, and how to type, play Chopin, and learn Hebrew (Lord in your Mercy, that was hard), and figure out how to Relevé en point, and write a good paper, and run, and work a sewing machine (gave up on that one)  and read (and understand) Karl Barth, and the list goes on…..

I assumed, as I looked over the proverbial fence, that everyone was catching on faster than I. I assumed that because I had to work at it, revise it, redo it, and struggle with it, that I wasn’t good at it.. and therefore that I was less than.

I also assumed that it was a race to catch on – that somehow the kids that caught on before I did were smarter than I, and that I was smarter than the one or two kids that were still figuring it out after me.  This of course, is untrue.

I have never been a person who has gotten it right the first time, and I think in truth none of us are. We live in a world that values the finished product: the winner of the violin contest, the art on display in the museum, the performance on stage, the published book.  What we don’t see, nor can we fully appreciate, are the hours of practice, discipline, drafts, and retakes it requires to get it right.  Furthermore, is it ever really right?     There is always one more word choice, one more touch up.

If it is true art, even finished products are never finished.

My oldest daughter is about to start high school, and let’s just say I’m an emotional basket case over this.  A. I’m too young to have a high school student. B. That went WAY too fast. C. High School is when everything starts “counting.”  D. What if she doesn’t get it right? E. What if we don’t get it right?   Slow down there, sister. High school is but a heartbeat in the scheme of life.

Here is the thing: life is not about getting it right the first, fifth, or 100th time. Life is about the practice of living. It is the exploration of the self.  There is no right. There is only the practice of living.

What we practice at, whether it be the practice of being a good parent, a good friend, a good leader, a good student, a good athlete, a good citizen, these are things that shape our lives and make us who we are, but we never get them right.  We just keep at them, shaping them revising, breaking them down and starting over, working at them until we…. well that’s it isn’t it?   There is no end to the practice of life, until there is no life.

Our vision of what it means to achieve, excel, or accomplish is far too short-sighted.  We need to take the longer view and change our expectations of ourselves and others.  Everyone is working on and practicing living life.  What if we acknowledged that in each other?  What if we valued the work in progress, instead of the final product?

What if we could see that each of us are ultimately a living piece of art?







Entitlement in the Village


In 1996, Hilary Clinton used the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child,” as the title of her book, It takes a Village.  The origins of the proverb cannot be found.  Those who have gone looking for the  proverb’s origins, haven’t found its roots and aren’t quite sure where Hillary heard it, but that doesn’t matter – because we in America like it and we believe it. We like the idea that we parents are not alone in raising a child, that it takes neighbors, coaches, teachers, tutors, pastors, other parents, instructors, pediatricians, and civil servants to help raise a child. We like the idea that our children have a net underneath them to keep them from falling or failing. We like the idea that there is a village of people out there helping us raise our children, filling in the holes we have neglected to fill, offering the life lessons we have forgotten to teach.

I have always liked this idea; that we are all there for each other and for each other’s children. But lately I have begun to wonder:  Is there entitlement in the village?    We don’t hope that teacher’s mentor our children,  we expect them to see our children for the shining star that they are. We don’t appreciate when coaches tell our kids they did well, we expect them to pay them special attention. We want our children to be seen,  recognized, given a star, be first, and noticed for the awesome child that they are, and if they aren’t recognized, we become offended, we take it personally and demand justice.

We have moved from “it takes a village to raise a child,” to “the village better love and appreciate my child!”  What is the result of that shift? – Entitled, self-absorbed children, who become entitled, self-absorbed adults.

Don’t get me wrong, I love when other people love my children. I need other adults to guide and nurture my children. God knows I can’t do it by myself. Where I am catching myself is that sometimes I want the village to fix my children – to take care of them because I know they are lonely or insecure, or struggling.  I know they need something I can’t give them, and I keep waiting for the school, the church, the coach, to swoop in and see what I see and to save the day.   That is not the role of the village.

We all need to learn how to be lonely. We all need to work through our insecurities. We are all left out from time to time.  We all need to learn humility.  We all need to learn that the world does not revolve around us. We all need to learn how to be good winners and losers. We all need to learn to fail. The village cannot save children from the pain and challenges of growing up and it doesn’t do them any favors if it tries.

Our job in the village is to treat children as human beings, respect them and hold them accountable as fellow participants and contributors to the village.  Our job is not to worship them, or protect them from life, or expect less of them because they are children. The village is responsible for forming community in which there is a deep sense of belonging, in which there are agreed upon norms and behaviors, and shared values and beliefs. The role of the village is treat all children equally, to teach what it means to be a good neighbor and to hold them accountable. The village it is not responsible for the happiness of every child.  The village is not the Super Parent.

As I write this, the world seems more unstable today than it did yesterday – although I know that’s not true. Yesterday’s violence in Paris just brings the instability of the world into focus.  I am reminded that all too often my understanding of the village is far too small. We live in a global village. What happens to children in every corner of the world, impacts the global village. When God’s children suffer, the whole world groans.

The village has work to do, love to give and compassion to offer.  The village needs to be looking outward to a hurting world, not inward to self acclamation. Let’s be certain we are not hurting the village by demanding more than it can give and taking more from it than we need.


Teaching our Daughters about Being the Odd Girl Out

oddIt’s going to happen.  Let’s just start there.  It’s a fact of life that sooner or later everyone is going to feel left out.  In this day in and age when our culture tries to encourage inclusion and acceptance, it’s hard to know how to navigate the experience of being excluded and unaccepted.  How do we help our daughters when they are the Odd Girl Out?  (See Odd Girl Out, by Rachel Simmons)  I remember it well, don’t you?  That feeling in the lunch room where everyone had a seat at the table, or on the bleachers at the football game, or got invited to the sleep over?  Am I over sharing here? I mean didn’t everyone spend Friday nights at home watching Nova with their parents?

Everyone. Everyone at one time or another, feels left out.  Everyone goes through moments of self-consciousness, and the feeling of loneliness even when they are not alone.   The first thing we need to teach our daughters when they are the odd girl out is that this is not a new phenomena. It’s normal. It’s going to happen. So while it may feel yucky, we need to teach our daughters that it’s part of life to sometimes be left out.

And when it happens, our daughters need to know that their self-worth is not based on being included. If we teach our daughters that their worth is based on how accepted they are in a group, or that happiness only happens when you fit in, they will eventually lose sight of who they are.  See the children’s book Stripes, by David Shannon. stripe

We adult women need to be self-aware enough to know when our stuff is being projected on to our daughters.  If we carry baggage that we have never dealt with from those adolescent days, chances are, we will project our story into our daughter’s story.  We need to deal with whatever messages we have recorded in our self-esteem file and make sure we are not replaying them for our daughters.

When our daughters come home and express that feeling of being left out, not fitting in, do we run to their aid, call the other mothers, get angry, take them shopping, get out chocolate, cry, decide to home school?  Or, are we still for a moment and listen?  Do we give them power, by letting them express their feelings and then validate what we heard?

Dear Mothers of Daughters who feel left out, hear this: you cannot fix it.   You can only receive the painful, confused, sad, daughter in your arms and listen.  Let her know she is safe to tell you she feels left out and don’t try to fill the void with food, or shopping, or quitting.  All of this affirms the belief that something is wrong with the one who is being left out. Rather, we need to teach our daughters that its ok to be alone. It’s ok to be independent. It’s ok to be themselves.  It’s o.k. to be left out!   They need to know they are loved just the way they are. (See Mr. Rogers) mr rogersThey need one place where they are safe, accepted, and heard.  They need one place where they are not left out. Hopefully that is home. If our homes are safe places where we fill their emotional cups with good thoughts of self-worth, then when they go to those places where they are emptied, they have something to draw upon to sustain them.

What do we tell our daughters when they feel left out?  We tell them we love them, just the way they are.

“When I say it’s you I like, I’m talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. That deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed.” 
 Fred Rogers




Control and Letting Go



I decided to download all of my pictures off of my Facebook page and place them in photo albums.  Remember photo albums?  You know, it’s not easy finding photo albums these days. It’s been a while since I have placed pictures between the sticky paper. By a while, I mean a good five years.  As I sifted through the pictures,  noticed that besides Christmas, Easter and Birthdays, the picture that was taken the most, was the first day of school.

I have marked this passage of time, more than any other. More than the loss of the first tooth, or the first ride without training wheels, or the first time on skis, the first day of school gets top billing.

The photo serves as a way of trying hold time in place.  As if by taking the picture, there is a false promise that nothing will change. And yet we know, that another year means another set of challenges and possibilities, and that we as parents have little control over what will happen next.

There are all of the little things we try to control like school supplies, schedules, haircuts, physicals, new shoes, and a good night’s sleep.  We might even try to control who are kid’s get for a teacher and where they sit in class, and how they do on a test.

But you know, all of these things are distractions to avoid that reality that another school year is another step in the parenting process of letting go.

Letting go is the cruel lesson of being a parent. I’ve known few parents who have done it gracefully, and none who have done it perfectly. These human beings come into the world fully reliant on us for their very survival and gradually, slowly, their survival is up to them, and we relinquish any control we ever thought we had.

What does it mean to let go?

  • It does not mean that we ever stop loving our children.
  • It does not mean we  ever stop having hopes and expectations for them and of them.
  • It does not mean we ever stop seeing a portion of ourselves in them.
  • It does not mean we ever stop praying for them.

To let go means to separate, to differentiate yourself, and to recognize that our children’s lives are theirs to live. Their third grade spelling test, is not our third grade spelling test. Their junior high drama is not our junior high drama. Their home run is not our home run. Their marriage is not our marriage. Their lives are not our lives.

And yet. And yet, we worry. We grieve. We suggested, advise, lament, yell, scold, shame, argue, push, fret, and try with all of our power to control the beings that were formed in our womb to make sure they are going to be okay!

Will they be okay?

Yes and No.

They will bleed and rejoice.

They will hurt and be whole.

They will make mistakes and have great luck.

They will live.

Just as you will.

The final scene in the movie A River Runs Through it, speaks to this truth:

I remember the last sermon I ever heard my father give, not long before his own death:
“Each one of us here today will, at one time in our lives, look upon a loved one in need and ask the same question: We are willing Lord, but what, if anything, is needed? For it is true that we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don’t know what part of ourselves to give, or more often than not, that part we have to give… is not wanted. And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us… But we can still love them… We can love—completely—even without complete understanding…”
Now, nearly all those I loved and did not understand in my youth are dead, even Jessie. But I still reach out to them… When I am alone in the half-light of the canyon, all existence seems to fade away to a being with my soul and memories of the sounds of the Big Blackfoot River, and a four-count rhythm, and the hopes that a fish will rise.

Eventually all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the earth’s great flood and runs over the rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words. And some of the words are theirs. ‘I am haunted by waters