Posted on | February 27, 2017 | 4 Comments
I am officially more pregnant than I’ve ever been in my life.
J was born at 37 weeks and five days, and here I sit at 38 weeks… plump with little C and wondering if this is going to be my state of being until he cuts his way out at 16 and asks to borrow the car.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad he’s safe and healthy. I just wouldn’t be too terribly disappointed if he decided he’s done baking and wants to arrive before next Monday’s scheduled C-section. I know that a lot of women prefer a scheduled birth; it’s certainly easier to plan around. But I just really didn’t want to have another C-section. The first one was almost too much for me to bear and I have this archaic notion that child birth just shouldn’t be… surgical.
I spent several weeks planning out my perfect birth. I made two “Labor Playlists” on Spotify… one with nice calming music and one with rap music, The Offspring, and Linkin Park… you know, just in case. I had it all prepared. I would go into labor. I would get to the hospital. I would graciously refuse the epidural and remember later that feeling everything means I get to feel my legs sooner and also not have a catheter. I would labor and then at the end of it all, I would have a baby boy and there would be minimal recovery time. I wouldn’t have to re-learn to sit up. I wouldn’t have to struggle to walk. I wouldn’t have to worry that the combination of sliced open abdominal muscles and a herniated disk in my back would mean that I would never fully recover to the point that I could run long distances again.
And I wish I could say that I’ve fully embraced the idea of this second C-section. I wish I could tell you that I’ve nodded and readjusted and smiled my way into realizing that a “healthy baby” is all that matters. Because, yes… that is surely what matters most.
But the truth is, I’m scared.
I’m frightened by the memory of the sheet so close to my face, the antiseptic smell of the operating room, the sounds and the tug and pull of my body being unwillingly ripped open by a knife. I am scared of remembering the feeling of helplessness as the epidural seemingly missed one spot and so the answer to every “Can you feel this now” was always a quiet and shaky “yes.”
Mostly, I’m scared that I’ll once again feel that inner control freak freak the eff out, attempt to rise up off the table with a defiant “Enough of this. I am done.” and then find myself waking up hours later in another room, while a different nurse fetches the baby that everyone has seen but me.
I want to be there for this baby.
I want to hold him in my arms the minute he arrives.
I want to calmly accept the surgery that will bring him into the world.
But I’m not quite there yet.
Posted on | February 20, 2017 | 3 Comments
The out of the blue reminder that there’s a tiny person in my uterus never ceases to take my breath away. Every roll and tumble, every hiccup, every karate kick to my rib cage. It’s like he reminds me every so often with a little kiss of understanding that yes, I am growing a person. Right here. In my body.
It’s a bit more than a miracle, isn’t it?
It’s absolutely astounding that my body can stretch and mold and eventually yield a little boy who will learn and grow and become a person all on his own.
This morning, I lay in bed with Banks and giggled with every hiccup. My stomach shook and my ever-disappearing belly button puckered like a surprised gasp of “oh!” and we laughed harder at the absurdity of all of this. We’re approaching 40… both of us… and yet here we are, arms and skin wrapped tight around a new life that is all at the same ours and his own. I am 37 weeks today, far enough along that no one will mind if our little one shows up today or tomorrow, or any time before the scheduled arrival of March 6th. He’ll be here in no more than two weeks.
It’s crazy how life can change, isn’t it?
I am 39 years old.
I am expecting my second child… any day now.
My stomach is stretched as far as it can go, pressed firm against the outside world. I am exhausted and shell-shocked and delighted and, yes, scared, about all that life has in store for this unexpected next chapter. There are so many things I had forgotten about pregnancy… the little things… the bumps and bruises, the kicks and punches. The gas. Dear Lord the gas. I’m like a frat boy after three day old pizza and beer binge. There’s heartburn and waddling, and the feeling that a very large bowling ball is about to drop and roll straight out from my legs. There’s interrupted sleep, and so many trips to the restroom that my feet automatically head that way any time I stand up. But mostly, I’d forgotten this feeling of carrying around a secret… a little person known only to me. For now. Eventually I will share him with his father and brother and extended family. Eventually I will share him with the world. But for now? He is only mine.
It’s a bit more than a miracle, isn’t it?
Posted on | January 4, 2017 | 4 Comments
This morning, I dropped J off at tennis camp and set off towards work.
It was just another average sort of morning… I got up, I ate breakfast with Banks, I complained about how slow J was moving towards the inevitable task of putting on socks and shoes. (If you’re a parent of a boy, you can feel my pain on just how many times a morning I say the words “Socks and shoes.”). It was just an average sort of morning.
But as I pulled onto the highway to work, blasting a playlist from a few years back, I suddenly realized something I hadn’t felt in quite some time:
I felt… happy. Content. Possibly even delighted with my average little life.
I’m 30 weeks pregnant with a second little boy.
I’m married to the most frustrating, lovable, obnoxious, and wonderful man.
I have a 7 year old who, for the most part, is one hell of a human being.
And I’m deliriously happy with my average little life.
Do you know how wonderful that feels? Have you ever lived through a spell of life that’s so heartbreaking that you wonder if you’ll ever breathe normally again? Because that’s what divorce and single-parenting was for me. It was a heavy, dark cloud of confusion and fear and worry. It was waking up every day grateful but also so frightened of the hours that spread out before me. It was wondering if I was unlovable, wondering if I was broken, wondering if I was breaking my child with the weight of my wondering and worry.
And as I smiled my way through the drive to my office this morning, it occurred to me that there are a lot of men and women going through that same thing this morning. There are a lot of people who woke up wishing for an average sort of life… one with a partner who treats them as an equal, who loves them as an equal, who speaks to them as though they are wonderfully and prayerfully made. So to those people… to those friends of mine who are hunkered down, weathering the aftershocks of a husband or wife who left, wondering if there’s life after the aching emptiness… I have to tell you… there is.
There is wonderful, glorious, beautiful life out there.
There is deliciously average life just waiting to be embraced with both arms… when you’re ready to stretch them wide again.
This morning I dropped J off at tennis camp and set off towards work.
And in the midst of my exhaustion and commute, I took one long lifetime of a moment to realize that I am so very happy. It is my hope for each of you that you find your own average little happiness just waiting to be owned in 2017.
Happy New Year!
Posted on | October 21, 2016 | 7 Comments
I ended my last post with just a sentence, nothing exciting, but some of you had questions. Did it mean something? Was there a hint of information behind that innocent little period? Was I trying to reveal a little piece of what’s been going on in my life… a life that has been unfolding in a real way rather than a written one?
The short answer is “no,” I wasn’t trying to reveal anything. I honestly just forgot that I was holding this piece of me from the blog, maybe hoping that by not putting it out there, everything would be fine. Perhaps feeling that if I didn’t mention it here then it wasn’t really real, you know? Even if everyone else knew. But the long answer is still very much “yes” with fireworks and that burst of hearts exploding on your screen.
At nearly 20 weeks, it feels almost real enough to say here, finally, that I am playing host to another little boy, a brother for J, a piece of our family we didn’t know was missing. But it’s only almost real; not fully real yet…at least not for me. I still have that moment of panic every time I use the restroom, waiting to see red and examining the tissue in my hand for even the slightest of pink. I wonder more if he’s okay, if he’s functioning properly… all fingers and toes and valves and bones rightly put together in a way that makes a keep-able baby… not a lose-able one. I poke more for motion, pressing gently as if to quietly but urgently ask “are you still there?” maybe more than I should. But every appointment, every ultrasound is one held breath away from loss or hope … wondering if this is the moment when he disappears but praying it is instead the moment I settle into mothering another child, expecting another child.
Because as much as I long to, I honestly I don’t feel “expectant”.
I feel anxious and worried, terrified and alarmed, and constantly prepared for only the worst of things.
The thing is, no one can really prepare you for what it feels like to carry a child after you mis-carry one. No one can explain to you the reluctance to purchase baby items, the desire to forget you are carrying a child in case you carry him wrong… again. We haven’t picked out names. Our “nursery” is just a collection of boxes that haven’t made their way to the attic from when Banks moved in a year ago. And though I feel I am doing this child a great disservice for not talking to him more, not getting to know the life inside me, I am reluctant to let myself love in the grand, big way that a mother loves a child. So on top of the fear, I worry that I am also scarring him for life with my anxiety and my forced nonchalance that comes with desperately holding on to the pieces of myself so I don’t grow too attached… just in case…
So yes, I am having a baby, though I stop short at saying I am expecting.
I am, I suppose, only secretly hopeful and anxiously yearning for a far off moment when I am able to hold a second child in my arms.
Posted on | October 17, 2016 | 1 Comment
There are times in your life that you want to forget; times when you made terrible mistakes; times when terrible things happened to you or to people you love. There are times that when you think of them, you cringe and wonder how that part of your life existed in any form, ever.
For a lot of people, many of those times came around high school. And me? Well, like most people, there were so many things I thought I should have done differently then. There were people I hurt and people who hurt me… times that I thought my whole world would blossom or shatter over what he or she said about or did to me. Because when you’re 15 through 18, the world is that building and those people. You honestly and fully believe that your universe can and will be destroyed by one bad outfit choice or one awful hair cut.
When graduation came around, I was genuinely excited to move forward and away from the people who had known me through my awkward teen years. I was ready to leave the memory of that tall, gangling, moody girl behind and embrace some magical new me that would automatically spring into existence with her entry into “University.” For the most part, I made the decision to leave her… and have left her in my past… along with all the people who knew her.
But this past weekend, my husband, son, and I drove the long and winding road back to those high school years, presenting as requested by invitation in Greensboro, North Carolina, for my twentieth high school reunion.
Twenty. Years. (Let’s just not go there yet, okay? I’m not ready for that reality check.)
I’d love to tell you that I was confident and sparkly and ready to remember, but the truth is, I was terrified. Excited, yes… but also terrified. I am not the girl who graduated in 1996 in many, many ways… but in many ways I still am. And these were the people who knew that better than anyone. These were the people who held the memory of her in their heads, lying in wait to attack the me I am now and to remind me that I’m nothing if not awkward. And gangling. And moody.
I brought two dresses with me, figuring one of them would match the cryptic “dressy casual” attire listed on the invitation but on the night of the reunion, neither seemed right. I wanted to buy new shoes. And a new purse. Something expensive. Or something that at least looked expensive and lawyerly. Because I needed to look expensive and lawyerly so everyone would remember that I’m not 18 year old me any more… I’m now successful lawyer me, thank you very much.
In the end, I wore what I had.
With great trepidation, I let my husband convince me to exit the car and wander down the parking lot to the white sign with red and white balloons. It was going to be bad. What if no one talked to me? What if no one REMEMBERED me? A couple ahead of me turned and my head swam with memories: the roar of a basketball crowd, taped up gymnasiums and the squeak of tennis shoes against hardwood. A familiar smile lit up her face and before I knew it, I was wrapped in the first of a million hugs and just. like. that. I was only the best of me at eighteen all over again. No angst, no moodiness, no desperate quest to find myself… I was just me. Wrapped in the arms of a world of people who knew me when I didn’t even know myself.
That was how the night went… hug after hug, reminder after reminder that these people have changed and stayed the same, too. And the things I remembered about them grew blurred and faded like an old reel movie that skips a frame or two. The bad fell away and before me stood group of men and women who remembered when my face was less lined, my body less curved. They remembered the best of me: the moments I was kind, the moments I was helpful, the times I did something right and none of the times I let them or myself down.
This wasn’t a high school reunion… it was a rebirth of youth. A sweet, velvet-soft reminder that though we may not know ourselves at 18, those around us do. They know us and twenty years later they remind us that even when we thought we were floundering, we were still showing others pieces of our best selves to come. No one is a finished product at 18… hell, I’m still changing at 38… but this weekend, I was handed a rose-colored reminder of the “me in training” that I was… and she was more and better than I ever believed her to be.
So I’m glad I made the journey back, even though my legs are still aching and the tiredness from the weekend has seeped in and over my Monday like a heavy black cloud screaming “YOU’RE SO OLD NOW”into my ears. I find I’m suddenly proud to have been the girl I was at 18, all awkward and strange, because she was and is a part of the woman I am today. It may have taken twenty years, but today I am embracing that girl with her too-poofy hair and penchants for wide-legged pants. So I owe you thanks, class of 1996 for not only remembering me twenty years later, but for reminding me that who I am is and always will be tied up in who I was.
Also? Let’s do this again soon. When I can drink, too.
Posted on | August 25, 2016 | 2 Comments
If we’re being honest, I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to make sure I’m not depriving my son of anything. Inordinate. And I’m not sure if it’s because I work outside the home, or because I was a single mom, or because his biological father is not a current part of his life… whatever the reason, I spend a lot of my time outside the office trying to provide memories and experiences and handfuls of magic.
And for the most part, I thought I was doing a pretty darn good job. I mean, he seems well-adjusted and happy… so how bad could I be doing? But then the other night, as I was putting him to bed, I realized I’d neglected one really important aspect of raising my son.
We were talking about his birthday dinner and he asked if I’d ever had one of the “Happy Birthday” chocolate signs that came on his brownie. I told him I’d had a “Congratulations” one when I went to the same restaurant for a bridal shower and he looked confused.
“I don’t remember that,” he said, and I smiled.
“Well that’s because you weren’t there, kiddo. It was just me and some of my girl friends.”
He thought for a moment and then shook his head.
“No. You don’t go anywhere without me or Daddo.”
At first I wanted to laugh because it was sort of funny that he thought that… and then I wanted to cry. Because somehow my son has reached seven years old and he doesn’t think I have a life outside of him and Banks. Somehow, I’d neglected to show him that I am a woman outside of being a mother and wife… that I am worthy of dinners with friends or pedicures alone. I have, instead, placed him in a world where Banks goes and does those things but I do not… I stay home out of some sense of responsibility or duty or some other nonsense. I have created a life for him where my only identity is as his mother or Banks’ wife.
And that, my friends, is SO not okay.
Because if my son doesn’t see me as a person… if he doesn’t see the primary woman in his life as more than just a housekeeper/attorney/wife/mother/cook/etc… then how will he view the women around him as he gets older? If they have vibrant social lives, will he frown at them? Will he think their place is in the home? Will he wonder why they aren’t busy tending their children, because his mother was always home… too tired after a long day of work to tend to herself?
I can’t have that.
It’s hard enough to be a woman in today’s society without making the mistake of raising yet another boy to believe that a woman’s place is in the home… tending the hearth, baking the cookies. I owe it to the future girlfriends, wives, co-workers of my son and those around him to get out of the house, to go dancing, to stay out past … gasp… nine o’clock.
I know we’re tired. I get it. I’m exhausted after a work week. And most of the time, I just want to curl up with a good book and ignore the world outside my home for a while.
But if going out on the town once a month does nothing more than gives my son the expectation that women… even and especially wives and mothers… need time out of the house without their children and spouse?
Then it’s time and effort well spent.
Posted on | August 22, 2016 | 2 Comments
I’ve stopped and started this post so many times that it feels silly to start again. The truth is, my words are stopped up; choked into the space between my heart and throat and filling me with the strangest feeling of fullness. Because, well, I am full today. Yet I can’t seem to find the words to express just how overwhelmingly good or maybe… dare I say it… great… that today is.
Because, you see, today is my son’s seventh birthday.
My lucky number since I was born. The number I tucked onto soccer jerseys. The number I write not once but three times, every time I write my birthday. My lucky number.
And J? Well, he’s my lucky number, too, isn’t he. The piece of me I never knew was missing. The wide-eyed, startling truth of a boy who made me a parent and re-makes me into a Mom every single day of the year.
It’s hard to believe that seven years ago I didn’t know this amazing person who shares space in my heart and head. It’s hard to imagine what the landscape of my life would look like without sharing his lopsided, over-eager, tender-hearted vision of the world. He is everything I ever wanted to be and so much of who I already am and I couldn’t love him one small smudge on the clear glass of his space in my heart more than I already do.
I have several friends and acquaintances who are just starting out on the adventure that is parenthood and more often than I used to, I have to choke back the “enjoy it while it lasts” that inevitably comes to the back of my tongue when they talk about babies or toddlers or pre-schoolers. But, oh my friends, please try to enjoy it. Even when it rips away at the very soul of your being. Enjoy it when you can’t tell where your tears end and the leaking drip of your breasts begin. Enjoy it when you want to strangle and prod and spank and scream.
Because it passes so quickly. It all speeds by in a whirl and tug of birthday parties and swim lessons and baseball games. It flashes past in a montage of never-ending days, one more push on the swing, one more nuzzle of the soft fuzz of new born hair.
It pains me, it does, to tell you to enjoy the late nights, the aching body, the frazzled mind. It pains me because I do remember those sepia toned days when the world was hazy with exhaustion and every hollered “no” echoed through my body like the sharpest of nails driven into my brain again. and again. But time paints and glosses and mends until the memories that stand the brightest are the curls and hugs and “I yuve yous.” Time waits and hands you a snow globe of the life you’ve molded, pressed and ready to view again and again with a smile at the images that peer out: first steps, spit prunes, puppy snuggles.
And before I know it, he will be even taller. Even older. Even farther away from the reach of my arms.
So today, on his seventh birthday, I remind myself to breathe in the sweaty boyness of him. I remind myself that these storms of attitude and anger and sadness will also pass. And in seven more years, I will look back on the memory of him now and wonder why it all changed so quickly and why I didn’t spend more time enjoying the multicolored moods and intense love of my long gone seven year old.
Posted on | June 20, 2016 | 6 Comments
Father’s Day brought out a whole mess of emotions this year, this first year where we have a stepdad and husband. There were obligatory pancakes and sausage and gifts and cards. There was a little tennis, a little playground time, and some shopping.
And then, as evening rolled around, there were tears.
So many tears.
See, something I haven’t written about on here is what’s going on with the other “dad” in J’s life… the one who helped give him life, the one who changed diapers when there were still diapers to change. Around this time last year, maybe a bit later in the summer, that “dad” decided he needed some time off… a little break from being a once a month visitation “dad” and time to be a “Not even a phone call” kind of “dad.”
Mostly, J has handled this turn of events the way he handles everything in his life… with a sweetness and understanding that surpasses his years. I told him his “dad” was sad… that he was trying to get his life together and needed some time to do that. I told him that dad just wasn’t at a place in his life where he could take care of J, so I decided he wasn’t able to see J right now. And J has nodded and asked pertinent questions about what he can do to help his “dad” feel better. Because he’s a great kid. Because he is as tenderhearted as he is strong.
Deep down I think he knows that I took the blame… but he lets me.
He gives me this burden to shoulder.
Maybe, even at six, he knows that I gave his “dad” an out… a way to step back in later with a smile and a “sorry.” A way to smooth over the hurt he might have caused our little boy.
But even if he knows, I still maintain that burden, that blame, that sadness. Because it’s what parents do… we shoulder as much of the hurt as we can to protect the little ones we love.
Oh but last night, we reached a breaking point.
J has seen his biological father twice in the past year, both times for less than two full days. He hasn’t seen him since Christmas. I can’t recall the last time he spoke to him on the phone, though I believe it was at least four or five months ago.
Yesterday was Father’s Day. Yesterday, after he loved on the stepfather who adores him, J asked to call his biological father. The phone rang less than twice then the voicemail kicked in. A brief message was left, and the moment the “off” button was pressed, my sweet, strong, amazingly wonderful child threw himself in my lap and sobbed a mountain’s worth of tears.
“Why doesn’t he want to talk to me, Mom?” He asked between sobs. “Why doesn’t he miss me?”
And honestly, though words came out of my mouth, I had no real answer. This isn’t a puzzle I can piece together. This isn’t a booboo I can tape a bandage across and watch heal.
This is a heart wrenching, gut kicking, horrifying hurt and there is not one thing I can do to fix it.
So I did what we do as parents, when we don’t have an answer. I called for Banks. I held J close. I rocked him. I cried with him. I promised him that this isn’t his fault.
And then we both leaned into the arms of the man who is here every single damn day trying his best to love us both back to whole. We leaned into the strength of this amazing man who isn’t perfect but who is here, throwing the ball, answering the questions, reading the bedtime stories, and drying the tears of a child who isn’t of his blood but who is so much of his heart.
Because that’s what real fathers do.
Posted on | June 16, 2016 | 1 Comment
“You’re an idiot.”
“I hope one day you learn how to use your brain.”
“What is the MATTER with you people?”
“I hope they die in a fire.”
“This country is in a sad state of affairs when this person is a candidate for President.”
“A bunch of liberal morons.”
The quotations above all come from a variety of different Facebook posts and comments written by a variety of people… some I know, some I don’t. I’ve collected them over the past few days and weeks because I think they’re important. With the exception of a few, I can promise you that you can not determine with any accuracy which political party the speaker is talking about, or which presidential candidate’s supporters the speaker is talking to. Know why you can’t determine that? Because we are all saying the same things about each other.
Let that sink in for a minute.
You aren’t the only person thinking your neighbor is stupid.
They think you’re pretty stupid, too.
And to me, that was a pretty important realization. Because if the people I think are stupid are also thinking I am stupid, then either both of us are right, or both of us are wrong.
I’ve determined, hopefully, that both of us are wrong. Or on some days, that we’re both right.
See, I have a lot of dear friends who think about politics differently than I do. I have a lot of acquaintances who think about politics differently than me. And I’ll be the first to admit, that when several of those friends and acquaintances started sharing their support for a candidate I didn’t approve of, or their disdain for one I love, my knee jerk reaction was to say “What an idiot,” and dismiss them and their opinions.
Surely they are under educated. Clearly they are blinded by something. Obviously they are complete morons.
And then I took the time to read the posts on their page and the comments they made on other posts. And I realized they were and are saying the exact same thing about me. They believe that I am blinded, that I am an idiot, that I have no clue about what it takes to be President of this nation right now.
What that says to me is this… We have all stopped talking to each other and resorted to talking at each other. We’ve stopped listening and started yelling with our fingers in our ears. We are all, every single one of us, guilty of keeping up this ugly, ugly cycle of blame and inaction. We are all to blame for the continued divide in this country. Because until we stop calling each other idiots, and LISTEN to each other, ask each other what it is about a candidate that garners support… NOT what is it about the other candidates that doesn’t… then we can’t expect our politicians to work together. Why would they? Their voters aren’t working together. Their constituents are embracing the divide, creating the drama, making real the concept that there is no way a Republican and a Democrat and an Independent can ever work together in this world.
Except, listen to me carefully here… I’m living proof that there IS a way.
Because here’s the real deal: I’ve been called a bleeding heart liberal MANY times in my life. And I am married to a Republican. Some people can’t process that concept, but you know what? We agree on a ton of things. Do we always agree on politics or politicians? Nope … sometimes, but not always. But we do agree that deep down, people are good… they just need to be reminded. We agree that nothing in the world is better than hearing a child’s belly laugh. We agree that killing people is stupid, that homosexual rights are no different than heterosexual rights, that all the news is biased because PEOPLE are biased, that this election cycle is awful, and that at the end of the day nothing is better than watching sports while having a beer with friends. We agree on what matter most… we love each other. No matter what.
It’s easy to say that the other side is stupid.
It’s easy to say that anyone who supports ______ is an idiot.
It’s so freaking easy to wash your hands of friends who support this or that person or idea.
But don’t take the easy way out, America, don’t do it. The fact is that there will always be people who disagree with you on how to govern this country. Always.
The trick is to find a middle ground.
And if WE can’t do that as voters? Then we can’t expect our representatives to find a way, either.
I know it’s hard. I know that the rhetoric and shaming and hate is strong and to spend time around it may make your skin crawl. I know that it’s easier to shut the door, pull down the blinds, and hold on to the people around you who think and feel the same way.
It’s really easy to condemn each other in this political climate.
It is so much harder to love each other, even through our glaring differences.
Oh, but try… try to choose love, even in the midst of this madness. Choose to meet each other in the spaces we currently hold, even if we don’t understand those spaces, even when we are afraid of those places. Until we understand what brought us to the places we hold, we can not understand how to change them.
Don’t condemn… love.
Be the change… hold on to the hope and belief that this whole country, Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Green Party, Independent, and Abstainers, will one find its way back to a place where we can love and respect each other…
Not in spite of our differences, but because of them.
Posted on | June 10, 2016 | 3 Comments
“I have a girlfriend,” my six year old son told me one day. I sort of rolled my eyes, because he’s six and him having a girlfriend is ridiculous. But then he said something that made me pay attention.
“It’s okay though,” he shrugged and grinned. “She’s pretty.”
It was the “she’s pretty” that did it.
I sat him down at the table and had the first of what I’m sure will be a number of talks about boys and girls. Because, as I told him, boys and girls should always strive to be people of accomplishment. And boys and girls should also strive to date people of accomplishment: funny, smart, kind, good at sports, a good writer. Any number of things come to mind… things that are accomplished through hard work, practice, good study habits. Things that show that a person IS something.
Being “pretty” is not an accomplishment, I told my son. Because it isn’t. We either fit society’s ideal of pretty or we don’t… through no fault or accomplishment of our own. So why would I ever want my son to tell me first that a girl he likes is “pretty.” Who cares if she’s pretty? Who cares if she was blessed with an exceptional genetic code? That doesn’t tell me anything about who she is. Just the same as having someone tell me my son is handsome isn’t exactly what I want to hear. Don’t get me wrong, I think J is adorable. But who really cares? What does being adorable say about him as a person?
The thing is, I want my son to aim higher than “pretty” or “handsome”. I want him to aim for “Kind”. For “Funny”. I want to hear him talking about a girl he likes because she’s “smart” or “clever” or “well-read”. I want to teach him to aim for something that shows worth, for someone who shows diligence, who reveals a love of something more than the skin they were given. All too often I catch myself saying “Oh how adorable!” when I meet a little girl or boy for the first time. All too often, I hear myself tell J that this or that person is “cute” or “looks handsome” or “has great hair.” And there’s nothing wrong with those things… but man do I wish I could go back and compliment the important things just as often.
“Wow that kid is funny!”
“Hey she’s really smart!”
“He’s an exceptional reader!”
I want to teach my son to view “pretty” is an afterthought, that a woman is more than her face and figure, that HE is more than his face and figure. I want to teach him to ignore the surface and search for what’s beneath… to embrace the talents that make us all unique.
So I’m changing the way I talk about people… especially myself. No more “I look awful.” No more “I am fat.” No more off-handed comments about anyone’s appearance. Because it starts with me, I think. It starts with me saying “Man, you were really smart at work today” instead of “You look really nice.” It starts with me complimenting another attorney’s theory of the case, not her handbag or haircut.
It starts with me. Recognizing that I am more than my face and figure. Recognizing that I am smart and kind and funny. Recognizing that I am a person of accomplishment regardless of what size I wear or how my hair frizzes up in the summer.
I looked at J carefully to be sure he was listening.
“Never have any friends, boy or girl, if all you have to say about them is that they are pretty or handsome,” I told my son. “And never have any friends, boy or girl, who don’t have anything to say about you other than that you’re handsome. Because how you look isn’t something you’ve worked for… and it’s the things you work for that make you who you REALLY are.”
I honestly don’t know if it sank in. This time.
But I know that I will continue to remind him, again and again, that “pretty” isn’t an accomplishment, until the day I first hear him describe a new friend with words that tell me more about his heart than his face.keep looking »