I Totally Sweat the Small Stuff

I totally sweat the small stuff.
You’d think I wouldn’t, right? I mean, six kids. Yikes. Probably doesn’t have time to worry about details. But that’s exactly why the little things take on so much importance. For the same reason I make an effort to keep my social media accounts positive (honest, but positive), it’s also important to me to not let my family’s size make me overlook the details. I want to be a good Large Family Ambassador, to show that large families are a blessing, not a curse. So, all of the following create way more anxiety than they’re worth:

– When we are late, or the slightest possibility exists that we might be late

– When one of my boys is clearly overdue for a haircut

– The possibility that my child might be the last one picked up at practice

– That I can’t always stay and watch my child practice

– When my children are wearing clothes that aren’t weather appropriate
or clothes that don’t match at all
or clothes that are clearly too small or too big

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– When I don’t help my child with his school project, so the project looks like I didn’t help him with his project

– When any of them misbehaves in public

– That I might be feeding them too much sugar or not enough vegetables

– That they watch too much tv

– That I don’t listen enough

– That maybe I should get them that dog, because kids should have a pet

– That they watch too much tv

– That I ask them to do too much

– That I ask them to do too little

I think parents of one child, or two, or three worry about these things too. What amplifies it for me stems from fear of judgement.

There, I said it. Healthy dose of fear of judgement with a generous sprinkling of good old-fashioned guilt. I know it shouldn’t bother me, and I’m working on it, but I’m afraid of being judged. Or more accurately, I am afraid of being judged based solely on the size of my family.

I know our family is different because it has more people in it than most, but I hate the idea that people might think that I (or general “you”) can’t be a good parent because of it.

Before you tell me it’s all in my head, please stop for a second and remember the magic of the internet and its glorious comments sections. Remember that poor family that lost a little boy a year ago while on vacation in Florida? Remember the backlash of  “Well if she’d only been next to her kid…” (even though the father was)? Now imagine if they’d had five other children to watch, or six or seven. How might the judgement have gone then? It doesn’t matter that a mother of two is no better equipped to wrestle a gator than a mother of seven. And only children sometimes need haircuts or outgrow clothes or are late just like children with many brothers and sisters. But for some reason, when it comes to larger families, “Susie’s mismatched outfit is so cute” turns into “Susie’s mom has so many kids she can’t even bother to dress her kid properly”. So yes, I think twice before letting the girls wear those Punky Brewster-esqe getups to Publix.  And “Oh, look at that toddler throwing a fit. Two-year-olds certainly have a mind of their own!” turns into “That lady has so many kids with her she can’t even control them. Bless her heart.” So yes, I immediately stress out when my kids are being too loud when we’re out, or running around where they shouldn’t.

I know. Stop reading the comments, right? All parents think about these things. Those people’s  opinions don’t matter. And those who say things directly to me such as “Well we wouldn’t expect you to worry about x or y with all those kids to handle…” probably have good intentions. I know.

I know. And still (in my head?) there’s that tiny voice that says “Well, maybe if you didn’t have six kids…”.

I could, what? Never be late? Eat all organic? Probably not. But knowing won’t keep me from paying attention to the little things, making sure my children thrive in the family they’ve been given, with the mother they’ve been given. Thrive because of, not despite. And I do think they are thriving. They love us, each other, and God. So I might sweat the small stuff, but by the grace of God and a whole lotta prayer, I have faith that we’re getting the big stuff right.

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Dance Lessons

My oldest daughter took her first creative movement class when she was two. Ten years later, it is clear that dance will always bring her joy.

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For the past eights years she has been at the same studio, with wonderful teachers and friends that have been instrumental in her development not just as a dancer but as a person.

She’s learned that she needs to show up. One missing person in a small group class throws off the learning of choreography, not to mention the choreography itself if it were to happen during a performance. You go even if you’re tired. You commit.

She’s learned that everyone has strengths and weaknesses. She learns choreography with relative ease and has excellent timing, but she struggles with flexibility. She’s learned to identify what needs work and then to work on it.

She’s learned to be organized. Balancing time at the studio and school and still having time to relax and play takes a lot of self-awareness and time management skills.

She’s learned to take care of her body – to fuel it with proper nutrition and stretch muscles and soak in baths when needed.

But I think one of the hardest and most valuable lessons she’s learned from dance happened just this weekend. A week ago we went to a fitting for her very first pair of pointe shoes. She was over the moon excited about this milestone since she learned she’d be starting the pointe program. She oohed and aahed over her beautiful, smooth, shiny shoes. I heard all about everything she learned from her teacher about foot care, injuries, practice, etc. Enthusiasm level: high.

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Then came the time to sew the ribbons. The practice she got sewing a ribbon to a piece of felt in class did not prepare her for this. Nor did all of the clothes she’s sewn for her American Girl dolls. Nor did the hours she has spent engaged in other crafts.

The knot isn’t in the right place. The thread keeps getting tangled. The needle won’t go through where it’s supposed to go through and she can’t push it without hurting her fingers and something is wrong with it and with the whole world.

If you’re a mom and you’re reading this you can probably imagine how hard it was for me to resist the urge to snatch away the shoe and do it for her. But I didn’t. I helped untangle the thread, modeled one stitch and handed it right back. In the midst of the irritation I knew this moment must not end in defeat. For this particular child of mine, too much comes easily. School is a breeze; she makes friends everywhere; she swims like a fish and it took her about six minutes to learn to ride her bike at the age of four. She doesn’t have a lot of experience with frustration, so she hasn’t had a lot of experience developing patience with herself.

Tears threatened; feet stomped. Watching her, I had a sudden flashback to myself at that age, so frustrated with my hair that I threw a brush  against the floor hard enough to snap it into two pieces. I told her to put the shoe down and take a break and come back. I told her that some things are just hard and you have to figure out a way through them. I told her to breathe. I took a peek at her work and it wasn’t perfect but it was coming along. I recognized this as a test for myself as much as for her. Do I step in and help her with something new and unfamiliar? Or will she get more out of the obstacle if I do not save her from it? I went upstairs to put the baby down for his nap and when I came down she was finished. And because I know she has a wealth of tenacity inside her, I knew she would be. She beamed with the satisfaction of having accomplished something difficult. I hope she remembers this feeling every time she ties those suckers on her feet, and every time she struggles with anything, really.  Her countenance had changed entirely when she proudly held up the shoe to show her work.

Yes, shoe.

Singular.

One down, one to go.

On Hypocrisy

Alice is in town one day and sees a homeless man asking for food on Main Street. “What a pity!” she thinks. “I should do more to feed the hungry.”

The next day at the market she shops for her family’s groceries but she also shops for the local food bank. On her way out she walks by the same man asking for food and hopes he will make his way down to the food bank.

The next week she does the same. She goes shopping and again shops for her local food bank. She has a sincere desire to end hunger in her community. Again on her way out she walks by the man and she thinks of approaching him. But is she imagining things or is he looking at her with anger in his eyes? And goodness didn’t someone get mugged on this street just a few weeks ago?  Best to play it safe, so she continues to the food bank to deliver the food.

Another week passes and Alice goes shopping again. Her two children are with her because she wants them actively involved in her efforts to help ease hunger. She has them select the food for the food pantry, 15 items each. On the way out they again walk past the same man. “Should we approach him?” asks her daughter. Alice thinks about it, but her children are with her. Her first duty is to them and she could never forgive herself if he did anything to hurt them. So they walk by and deliver the food at the food pantry.

Later that evening over dinner Alice and her husband are discussing the man. They decide that the next day they will go and ask him if he would like anything to eat. But by this time it is too late and the man has died of hunger.

Is Alice a hypocrite? She said she wanted to feed the hungry and didn’t she help do just that? Isn’t she right that her first duty is to her children? Isn’t it her right to protect herself against a perceived threat, even if it is imagined? Alice is not responsible for the man’s circumstance and truly did nothing wrong. Why didn’t he just go to the food pantry?  Imagine the difference she could have made in his life if she had just escaped her comfort zone for just a few minutes. If we can’t help everyone, shouldn’t we prioritize  those who are literally or figuratively  starving?

“Have you guessed the riddle yet?” the Hatter said, turning to Alice again.
“No, I give it up,” Alice replied: “What’s the answer?”
“I haven’t the slightest idea,” said the Hatter”
-Lewis Carroll

 

From the Abundance of the Heart

In my previous post I called out the manipulative language of the abortion lobby. As it’s important to address both sides of any issue,  I thought this deserved its own post instead of having it tacked on to the last one.

The goal of the pro-life movement should be to save as many lives (born and unborn) as possible, by changing laws and by changing hearts. And while many of us share this common goal, I often cringe at the counterproductive tactics and rhetoric pro-life men and women resort to.

We must always be honest when it comes to discussing topics such as fetal development and abortion procedures. And I acknowledge that righteous anger most assuredly has its place. But when you allow anger to guide your words, the only people who will agree with you are the people who already do. Condemn actions. Condemn laws. But be mindful and compassionate when addressing people.

People Including:

Women facing an unplanned pregnancy. In my birth group message boards there is always at least one woman who asks about abortion. It is always heartbreaking to see, especially when it was only a few days ago that that same mother was asking about names or baby gear. I am not unfamiliar with the emotions that result from an unplanned pregnancy.  I recognize that  many times the biggest hurdle is getting past that initial fear. To encourage someone to avoid making a permanent decision based on temporary (but very real) emotion, use kindness. Offer support. Link her to local resources. Speak with compassion. Guard your language.  “Murderer” should have no place in that language, unless you want to send her running to an abortion support group.

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Women who have had abortions in the past. Just don’t. Zero attacks. Full stop. Why? Our goal should be to save lives, not condemn or cause hurt.Some women may have no regrets. Some might be hurting and not realize it. And some are ready to accept help from an organization like Rachel’s Vineyard. Offer help or lay off.

Women (and men)  loudly advocating for abortion rights.The sad truth is that our society successfully sells abortion to women as a viable option. It’s no longer even talked about as something that should be “safe, legal, and rare”.  Women are encouraged to shout their abortion and fight for their rights to their own body while ignoring the life of their unborn child. Lena Dunham suggested it’s somehow integral to female solidarity (luckily that didn’t seem to go over well with anybody). There’s even a t-shirt for how awesome abortion is. The message is prevalent, inescapable, and loud. Could you travel to the 1850s and use your Angry Words to shame a plantation owner into freeing his slaves? Or would you be  ignored and ridiculed for suggesting that you shouldn’t own people? Seen as “backwards” even? Sometimes voices have to be added little by little, over and over, to create change.  We cannot expect angry words and hateful rhetoric in one social media exchange to convince women that a “right” that they currently have is not really a right at all.

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Abortion clinic workers. Now, I don’t have actual statistics for this, but I’m going to make a wild guess that people working at these clinics aren’t in it for the thrills that come from assisting in abortions. I will further wildly speculate that they are driven by a (misguided but sincere) desire to help women.

Consider the video posted by New Wave Feminists about a woman whose baby was saved because a Planned Parenthood employee thought she wasn’t in the proper frame of mind for an abortion.

Consider this video, in which it is revealed that most Planned Parenthood clinics do not offer prenatal care. You can hear the apologetic tone in the voices of the employees, and one even refers to Carenet.

Consider people like Abby Johnson. She has  been all of the women mentioned above. I think one of the most valuable aspects of her first book was the fact that she offered her perspective both as a clinic director and as a pro-life advocate. She also writes about who it was that helped her change her stance (spoiler alert: not the people holding signs with graphic images). As I am sure is the case with many, her goal was always, and is now as a pro-life advocate, to help women.

I am not proposing we excuse immoral actions on the basis that they may be done with good intentions. Applying moral relativism where human lives are involved is dangerous and unacceptable. But if we stop and consider the stories and hearts of everyone we encounter in our difficult conversations, it will do much to create respect and save lives.

Here’s the giveaway: I am giving away an audio copy of Abby’s book : Unplanned: The Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Leader’s Eye-Opening Journey across the Life Line  

To enter, comment on this post with contact information to a center or health clinic that offers free or affordable prenatal and/or postnatal assistance and care. Post a link or phone number and what state it is in; it doesn’t even have to be your state. I will select and e-mail a winner on February 14th.

The Greatest Trick

“Women’s Reproductive Rights” is the language of an industry that preys on the defenseless and on the doubts and fears of women. “Women’s Reproductive Rights” is the abortion lobby’s greatest trick, their biggest victory.   But in the clever ways it has hidden the atrocity of abortion, the phrase is intellectually dishonest. I think it’s essential to acknowledge how and why in order to properly refocus the conversation.

The phrase has successfully removed the child from the conversation on abortion. It places the right to an abortion along the same lines as the right to an unmedicated birth, or the right to a tubal ligation.  The manipulation seeks to avoid any mention of a second life. The pro-life movement hinges on the belief that every life, at every stage of development, regardless of the circumstances of conception or health or disability, EVERY life, has value and is worth protecting. So you can paint “My Body, My Choice” on ten million signs, but honesty demands we acknowledge that there are TWO bodies, two heartbeats, two lives in question.

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The phrase places the mother as a rival against her own child. An unplanned pregnancy is not a condition to be treated like an infection. A pregnant woman should not see herself in a battle between her rights and the rights of an unwanted dependent. If there is a battle at play, it should be a woman, fighting FOR her child, against the fears and doubts that tell her that she couldn’t possibly. Not right now. Not this child. A mother should not be in opposition with her child, she should be his or her hero. And if you do not feel like a hero, there are plenty of people willing  to help until you do.

The phrase places the woman in opposition with a Straw Man oppressor. Nobody wants to take away your right to vote, or get a tattoo, or dye your hair pink.  I don’t think the “right” to hurt a child is real. So I don’t want your “rights”. I want to protect unborn children.

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The phrase gives women something to fight for. Who doesn’t want to fight FOR something instead of against? But the fight for the legal right to hurt a child is not worth fighting. Instead, let’s fight for a woman’s choice to parent a child or choose a loving family to raise them. Let’s fight to get women assistance when facing an unplanned pregnancy. Let’s fight against shame and judgment and discrimination. Let’s fight for children to get a quality education and affordable healthcare and proper nutrition.

Let’s fight for truth; being honest about “women’s reproductive rights” is a good place to start.

Of Daisies and Violets

“I understood that every flower created by Him is beautiful, that the brilliance of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not lessen the perfume of the violet or the sweet simplicity of the daisy. I understood that if all the lowly flowers wished to be roses, nature would no longer be enamelled with lovely hues. And so it is in the world of souls, Our Lord’s living garden.”

-St. Thérèse de Lisieux

I am a violet, not a rose. My life is not extraordinary. Most days – those long days making up those short years –  are consumed with the many ordinary tasks of being a wife and a mother to six. Most of the work that I do is never felt beyond the walls of my own home.

But I do enjoy writing. Maybe most people have no interest in what I have to say. Maybe what I share will make someone angry. But maybe I can reach someone at the exact time where they need encouragement, or hope, or a laugh, or a moment of perfect understanding.

Because everyone has a voice, and no one else has mine.  It was silly to wait until I felt I could write as a lily, when I can write just as happily as a daisy.

So, welcome. Thanks for being here.

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