This morning ended with most of the living beings in our house in tears. The dog can’t cry, but if he could he would have sobbing because I was really mad. And the dog gets scared when I’m mad. Honestly, I get scared when I’m mad, too. I really value peace in our home, and when I’m mad there isn’t any peace for anyone. Today, there was no peace.
Today’s anger came bubbling out of a long-standing stalemate over math. What could have been done in 20 minutes lasted over an hour and half, mostly while I lectured and the perpetrator hid her head in her lap and sobbed (both real and fake tears). School is hard. And it’s harder when it’s the very beginning of the year. And for one of my kids in particular, it’s hard no matter what; homeschool, or school-school. And it’s hard for me to know that letting a kid play with legos and talk with me about outer-space is what would make a kid happy, but it isn’t what would make a kid grow into a real thinker who can get things done. It’s hard to be the tough guy.
But then I remembered that the nice thing about homeschool is that if we keep getting stuck…. maybe it’s the plan that’s not working. It’s not me that’s the problem. It’s not my kid that the problem. It’s that the plan we have set in motion isn’t achievable. We need a new plan. So, I switched math curriculums today. Just for one kid, and maybe even just for one week. But at least we can move forward. And hopefully tomorrow won’t be so full of tears.
Our family honors and respects life. Sometimes I don’t know exactly what that means when I look at the world around me and see the violence and harm people commit daily. I struggle to learn how to disagree with someone while still upholding their dignity. I forget how to discipline my kids without relying on subtle shame. I don’t always know how to eat ethically. I don’t always know how to spend my money without supporting unsafe work conditions. And sometimes I just want to stop thinking about the inherent outcomes of the millions of decisions I make daily. I count on grace for the things I have done and the things I have left undone, but I don’t think that excuses me from making deliberate choices to honor the dignity of life in this world.
Our 7 year old is reaching the stage of childhood where justice is very apparent, and injustice is unacceptable. The weight of every living thing is heavy on her heart. At our county fair she took a pony ride which she looked forward to all day. She struggled to be patient, waiting for her turn. And when it finally came she got on the little pony and started riding around and around. Surprisingly, she struggled to hold back her tears the whole time. Afterwards her Aunt asked her if it was fun and she said, “It was kinda fun for me, but I don’t think it was any fun for the ponies. I don’t think they do anything but walk in a circle all day.”
Here is a very dignified grave site for “Delicate” the Painted Lady butterfly
She is also raising some Painted Lady butterflies in her bedroom. Three of the caterpillars didn’t survive their life cycles, and one of the butterflies never fully expanded her wings. As an adult, I know that this is the reason why insects reproduce in such large numbers. Their delicate lives require the strength-in-numbers strategy of carrying on the gene-pool. Ants will cannibalize their dead so that they can reuse the nutrients for the survival of the colony. There are no individual ant’s right, or respect for the individual butterfly in the animal kingdom. But she doesn’t know that yet. She is grieving the loss of each one, and feeling terribly guilty that their short lives are happening in a mesh cage in her room, not the big green world of flowers.
People are animals. But they’re more than animals. The world is a ball of resources. But it is more than just resources. Having respect for the dignity of a butterfly is a small act, but it is one that I hope will translate into having respect for the dignity of all life. We won’t always know how to respond to that dignity, but at least we will acknowledge that it exists.
When I am hiking with my family I know who I am, because the world is a beautiful thing to be reflected in. Too bad we can’t live in the woods all the time.
If you want to learn how little you know about yourself move across the country. We heard a sermon in Akron before we left where our pastor used the illustration that you don’t know who you are until you see how you are reflected back by your community. You do something good for people, the community reflects your generosity, you learn you’re a generous person. That reflection forms your identity.
He then used the same illustration to explain the Gospel. Well, this blog post is not about that. It’s only about the first part of the illustration, how your self image is made up of reflections from your community. I know about 15 people here now, maybe 30, but only 10 or so I know well and see regularly. In Akron I knew every one and everyone knew me. I knew everyone because that’s the way Akron was. It was the biggest small town I’ve ever known. It was both comfortable and overwhelming. And all of that identity reflection was very comfortable after beginning a family life so quickly I felt like I was reeling a little. Put the pieces back together, make some good plans, do some quality work in the community and next thing you know I’ve got some pretty good self esteem and life is good. Then pick everything up and leave that mirror behind.
Trying to get back to work here has been hard. I have learned about myself that I’m not very good a being only a stay-at-home-mom. I’m too worried about what I’m going to do once the kids are gone and I’ve spent the last 20 years driving back and forth from playdates. I haven’t said that out loud very much because I don’t want to insult my fellow stay-at-homers who feel complete in their callings. I steer away from controversy because I can hear it clanging in my ears. But I’m going to try to be more honest in my writing. It’s time.
So, I have been struggling to get back on the doula-work bandwagon. I went from 9 births in one year, to 1 birth in a year. The silence is deafening and misplacing my doula-work identity mirror has left me wondering who I am again. I’ve been trying to fill in some of the gaps in my knowledge of web design while I wait for my birthworkers network to grow. Some things about web design are well suited to my natural strengths, some are a major struggle for me to understand. I spent a few nights trying to hash out the discrepancies between my understanding of php and the reality of php only to come crashing head-on into an identity crisis. I am trying to get positive feedback about who I am as a person based on how well I understand computer stuff. I am lacking something.
Out of the group of wonderful people I’ve met here I’m growing close with a handful of them. I was very blessed that one of these people texted me for an impromptu park date the morning after my php-meltdown. She is going through a similarly disruptive year so we can talk about the things that are hurting us …and there is the mirror I’ve been looking for. She called me out for being too hard on myself, and said important things like, “You have to let yourself feel what you’re feeling.” And together we puzzled over what is going on and that’s how I figured out that I’m struggling to know myself as a mom.
I want to write about this. I want to figure out what’s going on in my mind and in the collective American mind. How does feminism and parenting fit together? How can I build my own life confidently while not pointing out how others are doing it wrong just to make myself feel better? How can I share my experience as someone who’s survived some really rough times, and how that informs my choices as a parent? And how can I do it without letting myself be a victim of the random internet-shaming from strangers? So much is going on in the collective American Woman experience that I have to share about, from the #yesallwomen movement to airlines continuing (STILL?!!?!) to harass passengers for breastfeeding on flights to trying to raise three STEM strong girls in a bro-technology culture. I’m going to start talking about this instead of just puzzling over it while I drive or take a shower. I’m going to share my struggles about it because it wouldn’t be Love and Blunder if I didn’t. And I’m hoping that once I find my voice again I won’t spend so much time looking for my reflection in the wrong mirrors.