The Lesson I Keep on Learning

all of the things melissajenna

You can’t do all of the things, all of the time. It’s simple, but it’s so so hard for me to remember.

Typically, I’m a fast learner, but with this lesson, it’s like I’m stuck in a repetitive loop. The majority of it has to do with the fact that I have not yet made peace with my newish reality. I’ve been living this life of working parenthood for about a year and a half now,  and I just can’t get down with the idea that I’m going to have to let some things go. I still feel like there’s a trick I’m not aware of. As if someday I’ll read a post about “5 things working parents can do optimize their efficiency,” and BOOM. The problem will be solved.

But my brain knows it doesn’t work like that. My brain has a firm understanding of timelines, and workloads, and resource availability…but my heart? My heart has not let go, and I’m not sure that it will.

I was wondering to myself how the writers I admire do it. How do they work full-time(+), remain engaged with their spouse and children, give to their community, maintain their spiritual and physical health, AND maintain their awesome blog and social presence? It was a mystery to me. Until I realized that they don’t.

Of all the writers I read and admire, none of them do what I just described. Some of them are stay-at-home parents, but for many of them, their writing is their job. Many of them even have assistants! People to answer their emails, manage their social, and do their design. There isn’t a single prominent blogger in my world whose full-time job isn’t related to their blog. In a way, that’s comforting. But also, it’s another reminder that you can’t do all of the things, all of the time.

Somehow, that’s a relief.

So that’s where I’m at, and where I’ve been since I went back to work full-time. What I long for is alignment between my brain and my heart. That I can have peace in the circumstance, and enough grace for myself to take me from day to day.

And it would be pretty tone-deaf of me to not openly acknowledge and celebrate that I live an amazing life, full of love, and inspiring people, and beautiful experiences. I’m endlessly grateful. I have more than I deserve, or would ever have dreamed to ask for. My angst has nothing to do with my beautiful life, but everything to do with my heaven-high expectations for myself (which, strangely, I never asked for).

 

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Dove Recognizes that Fathers are Not Inept, Mouth-Breathing, Man-Children

Join me in having a cleansing, happy-cry at your desk, won’t you?

This is such a beautiful advertisement. I don’t know about you, but as a wife, and mother, and human being, I am sick to death of seeing dads (and men in general) portrayed as inept, mouth-breathing, man-children in media. The ad above? That’s more like it. And it’s sad that it should stand out so much, don’t you think?

Is it possible that maybe (just maybe) our culture is ready to acknowledge fathers as true partners in parenthood, and not inept babysitters of their own children? Gosh, I hope so. It’s about time. Round of applause to Dove for once again pushing advertising in a more positive, healthy direction!

Thriving Through Transition

I’m the type of person who is most comfortable when following a routine. But I also know that I grow the most when I’m not comfortable. For me, discomfort is a catalyst for growth. My heart wants consistency, and finds security it knowing what comes next, but my head needs variety, ambiguity, and unexpected challenges in order to level-up, leadership wise. Learning to intentionally put myself outside of my comfort-zone, to embrace risk, and to value potential for growth over comfort, has been one of the great lessons of my late-20s.

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Motherhood has a way of teaching you how to thrive through transition. Pre-motherhood MJ was on a conquest for peace, routine, and balance. Mom-MJ has since recognized the value in finding the peace within times of uncertainty, transition, and discomfort. It’s all very zen, I suppose.

This is all to say that transitioning back to working full-time has been quite the time of growth for me. (In case you’re wondering if it’s as a hard as they say, transitioning from stay-at-home/work-at-home parent, to 9-5 working parent, let me just tell you: yes. Yes, it is.) Elle, on the other hand, has never been better. She loves all the time she gets to spend with her Nana, and is just as much the little angel as she always has been. I think it’s hilarious how differently Elle and I react to my being away from home.

Lest any of this is taken as complaining, I suppose I need to say: I’m over-the-moon about my new job, and I’m delighted with how easily Elle has transitioned. Life is good, all around. Am I a little heartbroken, watching my little love grow more and more independent every day? Of course. But at the same time, I’m just so proud of her. One thing is clear: I’m the one with separation anxiety, not the child.

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It’s beautiful, the way motherhood simultaneously softens your heart like an overripe piece of fruit, yet at the same time thickens your skin, and toughens you up, and increases your strength. I’m the toughest and the softest I’ve ever been, all at the same time. And it’s a great–albeit uncomfortable–feeling.

mj

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Let’s be friends!

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When You’re Mothering From Scratch (Coping With Absentee Mothers)

I popped into Sally Loo’s this morning (espresso con panna + molasses spice cookie = happy mama), before I headed into the iFixit office, and the place was crawling with babies and toddlers. Makes me wish I had Ellie with me, so she could meet some kiddos, and I could have an easy transition to talk to other coffee-loving parents, but I digress.

There was a woman in front of me, presumably about my age, with a little girl on her hip who looked to be about 12 months. Judging by the still-matted patch of hair on the back of the little one’s head, and her lack of desire to be put down, I’d guess she’s not a proficient walker, so maybe she was younger than 12 months. Regardless, the little girl was adorable. Bright blonde hair, rosy cheeks, and tiny little fingers that unconsciously swirled themselves in her mama’s hair. As she rested her chin on her mama’s shoulder, we had a staring contest. She won, on account that I smiled first. (Couldn’t help it.)

After a minute or two of us making eyes at each other, the little girl’s nana walked up, and gave her rapid-fire smootchies on her big soft cheeks, and the little girl giggled. It was too cute. Shifting the little girl to her other hip, the mama looked over at the nana, and asked “ya want a cappuccino? I know how you love ’em.” Nana nods her head, but never loses the little girl’s gaze, now playing tickle on her tiny palms. “Ooooohhh, I just wanna eat you up,” coos Nana, again with the rapid-fire smootchies.

It’s a perfectly normal, perfectly natural interaction, and I’m sure I’ve seen many like it in recent weeks, but for some reason this particular exchange stung me. My throat got tight, and my eyes began to well up, and I ditched my spot in line in favor of the privacy of the restroom.

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It’s harder, some days than others, coping with the absence of my mother. Most days I recognize her absence the way one recognizes a blank wall in their home, knowing that there should be a photograph, or a piece of art in that spot, but not having a vision for what it might look like exactly. But other days–days like today–I see a completeness, and a love that I know I don’t have, and I feel envious.

I’m not kidding myself into thinking that if my mother were in my life, that our relationship would be as warm, or as familiar, as the two that I saw in the coffee shop today. I’m not idealizing the relationship. But I want the chance to know what our relationship would look like, if it were healthy. I’m 29 years old, and to this day, I do not know what that feels like. I suppose it’s okay to respect those feelings, even if they hurt, in order to grieve properly, so long as I’m not wallowing. I have very little patience for wallowing.

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In so many ways, I feel as if I’m doing this mothering-thing from scratch. Seeing three generations of women all together really pushes that button for me, I guess.

I wonder, does having an active and involved mother of one’s own give one more confidence as a mother? Does having that support, and that wealth of knowledge and experience equip women better for their marriages, and for raising their children? Does everyone else have resources, and support, and knowledge that I don’t have? (That’s my insecurity speaking.)

I wasn’t planning on posting anything today, but it’s rare that I spontaneously cry in public, so I figure maybe I needed to get that off my chest. And hey, silver lining: I’m not wearing makeup today, so no scary mascara tears!

Some of you have shared having similar relationships with your mother. Do you experience “flare-ups” the way I did today? What triggers them? How do you cope?

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Let’s be friends!

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“Cherish These Years”

Ahhhh, so peaceful up here.

I spent part of the morning re-reading a book I like, and enjoying a cup of coffee up on the deck. It’s nice up there there for a lot of reasons, but a good one is that’s where the garden’s at, and Ellie can entertain herself with plucking cherry tomatoes off the vine and eating them until she’s full. So I don’t have to prepare a snack, which satisfies my lazy efficient disposition.

Whenever I’m reading a book (or doing anything that requires an amount of focus), Ellie becomes an urgent snuggler. Like, a “put-down-whatever’s-in-your-hand-and-hold-me-this-instant” kind of snuggler. (Also, a gaze-into-my-eyes-otherwise-you’re-not-paying-100%-attention-to-me kind of snuggler.) And, to tell you the truth, most days I get a little annoyed by this. (“Where’s all this snuggle-love when I want it?” I ask myself.) But today was different. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s 70 degrees in late October, or the fact that the tomatoes are perfectly ripe and delicious, or the fact that the breeze is just breezy enough, but today I didn’t get annoyed.

Today, each time Elle interrupted my reading–26 times in 16 pages, but who’s counting?–I was patient. She’d wiggle underneath my book, while saying “pick you up, please” (she doesn’t get the difference between the words “me” and “you” yet), and I happily scooped her up 26 out of 26 times. Then she’d put both of her hands on my cheeks, turn my head towards hers, and hold my face about an inch away from hers, and just smile. The picture that kept appearing in my mind’s eye was of an Ellie in her mid-20s, and how bizarre it would be if she held my face so close to hers at that age, and how it’ll never even occur to her to want to sit in my lap. So, take it while you can get it. That’s what I say. Grimy tomato-hands and all.

A rare snuggle, caught with my iPhone

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I keep forgetting, and then re-remembering, that all of this is so temporary. Ellie’s time of blissful, self-unawareness is only going to last so long, and then it will be all “could you drop me off a couple of blocks away from school, mom?”

Sometimes I lose sight of the preciousness of these few years, and I find myself feeling envious of my friends with older, less dependent children. The way they have time to go to cross-fit, work on their forthcoming books, and go pee by themselves. But then, on days like today, I remember. My perspective has shifted back into place, and I remember that every parent I’ve ever met has told me to “cherish these years.” And I aim to say I did just that, even if it means never reading more than 16 pages at a time, and having dirty tomato gunk smushed all over my face.

How about you guys? Do any of you have older children? Do you have any words of wisdom for me?

“Smush bananas in mommy’s haaaaair!” says Ellie.

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Let’s be friends!

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“Balance” as a Process, Not a Destination

So here is a really basic thing I learned recently:

My idea of what “work/life balance” is, is wrong. I’ve always thought of “balance” as a destination, as a sort of nirvana to be achieved if I would only get more sleep, drink more water, and follow all of the rules set out for me in well-meaning blogs by women who “have it all together.” And if I could just do those things, I could “have it all.” I thought that it was my failure to follow those rules that was holding me back from achieving “balance.”

But it’s not like that, is it? This whole time I’ve been stressing myself out, trying to achieve balance, without realizing that balance isn’t a singular achievement, so much as how you walk out your days. Individually. Curveballs and all. Balance is not a destination that I can reach, and from thenceforth live in perfect tranquility. Balance is more like making the best choices I can, as they come, and trying not to let things get too out of hand.

I’ve been driving myself crazy, chasing down this mirage of “balance,” which would suddenly disappear once I reached it, only to reappear way over there, in the gluten-free aisle of the health food store, and again, over there in the books about Attachment Parenting, and again, over there on a Pinterest board full of crock-pot recipes/seasonal wreaths/crap made out of mason jars. And chasing down the ever-elusive mirage of “balance” was freaking exhausting.

Adjusting My Expectations

So lately, I’ve had this image of a tight-rope walker in my head. As she’s walking the tightrope, she expects to be wobbly, and she knows that the feat isn’t simply making it to the other side of the rope, but taking each step as well as she can. She does not expect perfection. She does not expect to “figure out” balance halfway through, and walk, perfectly balanced down the remainder of the length of the tight-rope.  And I think she has this balance thing a bit more figured out than I do.

Adjusting my expectation and understanding of balance has given me a much needed shift in perspective. It’s going to take some repeating for me to completely unlearn my unhealthy understanding of balance, but the more I reflect on my image of the tightrope walker, the less anxiety I feel about not getting things just right all of the time. Wobbles are totally okay. And I know that’s not a revelation to most of you, but it is one to me, and I am so grateful to be continually discovering that I don’t have everything all figured out.

Young and Foolish

When I was younger, I thought I knew everything. There’s something in the combination of book-knowledge and untested theories and ideologies that affords young adults a powerful sense of intellectual superiority. Learning that I do not, in fact, know everything, has been simultaneously one of the great joys/disturbing truths of growing up. It’s such an adventure, constantly re-exploring my beliefs and opinions, and understanding of the world, but at the same time, it’s somewhat frightening. I feel as if my character is in a constant state of revision, and that sensation, of never really knowing who, exactly, you are (and who you are becoming) is ultimately humbling.

How about you guys? Do you ever find yourself struggling to live up to an unhealthy expectation? What’s been your most recent “revelation?” You guys are so wise, I usually learn a lot from what you’ve got to say. 🙂

xoxo,

mj
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Let’s be friends!Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram | YouTube
  • Balance, uncertainity, and blessings  via visibleandreal.wordpress.com (I found this post literally moments after I write the post above, and when I went through the pages in her site, I definitely became internet-infatuated with Stephanie. And if you check out her resources page, I can vouch for basically all of the titles listed. (She has great taste.) I’m looking forward to reading more of her work, and maybe even signing up for one of her classes!)

Mamas and Wine

Back when Ellie was an infant, I remember wondering to myself (sometimes desperately), when and if I would ever feel like “myself” again. To be straight with you, I’m not even certain what I mean when I say “feel like myself,” but I think what I was looking for was to rediscover the me that exists once I’m outside of a position of responsibility and obligation. (And if you’ve had a child, you very well know what I’m talking about.)

Once I had a child, I found myself in a perpetual state of responsibility and obligation, which is quite a “culture” shock (if you can call it that) to a woman who was used to doing basically whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted, and never having to answer to another soul for anything. So yes, I can remember times when I was nursing Ellie at half past three in the morning, with tears streaming down my face, wondering “when will I get more than two hours of sleep in a row?” “I love this so much. Why is it so hard?” and “will I ever just be me again?”

No. No, I’ll never “just be me again.” Since Ellie was born, and until the day I die, I’ll be me+. That’s just the way it is. And I wouldn’t have it any other way (no matter how hard it was in the beginning).

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Some of my mama crew, plus some friends!

Today, several of the other mamas in my moms’ group, and a couple of their friends and I got together and took an RV (Thanks B!) down to the Santa Maria Valley to go wine tasting, and we had such and excellent time. We left our kiddos with their papas, and actually got to hang out. I laughed way too loudly sometimes, and I got to hear SO many great stories. The lives these women have lived! It felt so good to just be, without feeling pulled in twelve different directions. To just talk and enjoy each other’s company. How refreshing!

That is what I was missing, back in the lonely nursing hours. And while I’ll never “just be me” again, I couldn’t be happier to be me+ alongside all these amazing women. Motherhood has been the greatest blessing of my life thus far; I thank God every day for my little Ellie Bean, and for the bonds that are being created between me and the rest of the mamas in my group. This is such a special and unique time of our lives, and I’m so grateful to have their love and support while we all begin to figure out what it means to go from “just being me” to being “me+.”

Trading Fashion for Wisdom: A Small Prayer Answered in A Big Way

Image from thecherryblossomgirl.com

A few weeks ago I made the decision to suspend my reading of my favorite fashion and style blogs. I never had much time for them anyway, five minutes here, ten minutes there, but after spending some time thinking about a thing some bloggers do called “What I Wore Wednesday,” (WIWW) I was inspired to make a change in my internet consumption. While WIWW is cute and fun and born out of the best intentions, to me, I can’t shake the way it seems to epitomize the me-centric culture of the Internet. (Maybe I’ll write more about that another day.) So I’m clear: I love the bloggers that participate in WIWW. I still read them on the daily. But WIWW just rubs me the wrong way, is all. (Bunkering-down in preparation for backlash.)

Before I go any further, you need to know that as much as quitting reading fashion blogs might not seem like a big deal, it’s actually somewhat of a sacrifice for me. I love the art of fashion (especially “high fashion”), and how subtle choices in personal style have the distinct power to communicate one’s personality and values. But my innocent penchant for blogs of the sartorial type was stirring a dissatisfaction in my heart. (I find “want” to be the root of most of any unhappiness I feel, so I’m very sensitive to snuffing out “want” when it rears its buttery cashmere or italian-leather head.) Thus, my decision to abstain from the world of fashion and street-style.

By quitting indulging my desire for fashion and style content, it was my intent to make room for something greater, but I didn’t really know what that greater thing was.

So I prayed. (Seems to me that that’s almost always the beginning of a life-changing story, no?)

I committed the time I gained by not reading fashion blogs to God, and told him that I trusted him to fill that void with something Him-focused. Something great. Something WOW. And guess what? He did!

A few days went by wherein I simply had a little more time in my day to use however I saw fit. Mostly I did housework. Sometimes I read scripture. But really, I wasn’t feeling God pointing me towards anything in my new-found “free-time.” And I really wanted to sit down and read thecherryblossomgirl.com. But instead, I kept praying, telling God that I’m happy to wait as long as he wants me to in order to discover more of His heart.

familylife.com family life today

Logo courtesy of familylife.com

One day, in the moments after I finished my morning housework and before Ellie woke up from her nap, I sat down at my computer, but instead of going to thecherryblossomgirl, I went to familylife.com (home of my favorite radio program, FamilyLife Today), and WOW! I’ve been listening to FamilyLife Today for over a year now, but I had no idea of the wealth of information available on their website. I struck gold in their “audio” section. Literally hundreds of hours of podcasts from years past on topics ranging from parenting, to feminism to guarding your safety on the Internet, all for free! I downloaded everything. We’re talking gigabytes of audio podcasts, and each of them is so good.

Through the archive at familylife.com, I’ve “met” Susan Hunt (who I wish would adopt me as her honorary granddaughter), Carolyn McCulley (author of Radical Womanhood: Feminine Faith in a Feminist World, and an absolute treasure), Dr. Tim Kimmell (author of Grace-Based Parenting), Dannah Gresh (author of What Are You Waiting For?: The One Thing No One Ever Tells You About Sex) Nancy Leigh DeMoss…I could go on and on.

The wisdom shared in each episode is nearly overwhelming, and has provided so much food for thought and conversation with my husband. What an incredible answer to prayer! I’ve grown so much just in the past three weeks– it’s more than I could have ever thought to ask God for, and has spurned a whole new passion for my calling as a wife, mother, home-maker and woman. What a blessing! I love the way God knows my heart, and knows exactly what I need and just doesn’t hold back. I feel like a kid who asks for a serving of ice cream for desert, but instead her parents fill a kiddie-pool with it and say “go nuts, kid!” I never could have imagined God would respond this way.

One last thing. Get this: I look forward to washing dishes, steaming our floors and folding our laundry, not only because it blesses my family, but because during those times I get to listen to the wisdom and insight of so many leaders on FamilyLife Today, growing me up as a daughter in Christ. Anything that can get me excited to steam the floor has got to be a good thing! And I can share the fact that I downloaded, literally, gigabytes of their past episodes without shame because I made a donation in support of their ministry. If you happen to get into their podcasts and love them as much as I do, won’t you also consider contributing? I’d love for them to stay on the air for forever. 🙂

I’ll tell you what: trading Dior and Alexander Wang for dishsoap and some podcasts was totally and completely worth it! And I cannot wait to see what God has in store next.

I Am Not a Mom-A-Tron

Something that’s become particularly clear to me this past week, is how easy it is to fall into the maternal trap of trading one’s individuality– that is, the very qualities that make one unique– for the quest of becoming the very best mother one can be. I advised a friend via email recently to give no consequence to his feeling “too old” to attend certain concerts, because “some of us are, by circumstance, made too old to attend” I knew, even then, that I was projecting my sense of loss onto him. (But I still find mine to be sound advice.)

But then I considered: what good does it do Elliott to have a mother who divorces herself from herself? Or for Mike to watch me slowly shape-shift into a single-minded Mom-A-Tron? (He did, after all, marry me, not Mom-A-Tron. Although the more I say it, the more awesome Mom-A-Tron sounds. Like a badass mommy-robot.)

My realization isn’t anything novel or groundbreaking, I’m sure, but here it is: Elliott and I were matched together as mother and daughter (and to Mike as father and daughter), because we are the individuals that we are, and because of the unique inclinations of Elliott’s heart that neither Mike nor myself are even privy to yet. I have to believe that my likes and desires are shaping me uniquely as Elliott’s mother, and that the relationship that Elliott and I are cultivating will be enhanced by those details.

The Happiest Baby

Gratuitous photo of The Bean. Sigh. Feel that? That's your heart swelling full of happiness.

I want Elliott to love me as her mother, but I also want her to know me as an individual that exists in roles in addition to my primary role as her mother. And rather than knowing Elliott singularly as my daughter, I look forward to knowing her as a person, gaining insight into her character, and watching her grow into the many roles that she will play.

I guess that’s all to say that it will not irreparably tarnish my relationship with my daughter if she watches her mother go to a Metric concert with her friends, continues indulging her fascination with haute shades of nail polish, or falls further into the vintage rabbit-hole, sartorially.

And, as usual, I’m not really sure about any of what I just said. But it feels right. As Walter Sobchak asks, “Am I wrong?”

(Polish en ce moment: Essie’s Mint Candy Apple)

Essie's Mint Candy Apple

Writing About Not Having Time to Write.

So. Let’s talk about time. Time and parenting. Time and parenting and my self-centered needs.

You’ve heard it all before: between caring for a child, taking care of chores, grocery shopping and preparing dinner, there is a scant amount of time left-over for nurturing one’s marriage, or other less essential things like reading a book or painting one’s finger nails. I knew this. I mean I really knew it. So why did I decide to start not one but two new blogs? And have I mentioned that I’ve started a new (part-time) job? And that I’ve committed to working 10-15 hours a week at church? Just who do I think I am, anyway? Wonder Woman I am not; nor am I Bat Girl or any other female in possession of super-powers.

About a month (maybe a month and a half) ago, I was staying up until midnight or 1:00 AM writing for this blog and planning my future posts. I even have an adorable little “editorial calendar” to help me stay on track and remain as relevant as possible. (You know, because I have so very much time to write that I need a calendar to keep myself organized.) My system was worked well for about two weeks. Then I cascaded into a loosy-goosey semi-insanity called “sleep deprivation,” and that pretty much knocked some sense into me. As much as I enjoy writing, it just wasn’t worth sacrificing the precious hours of sleep. So now I try to jot down my ideas for posts, and as the list piles up I’m beginning to get the feeling like I might never catch up. And that’s okay I guess, so long as I write a bit here and there.

Sleep-deprived temporary insanity aside, here’s what the past few weeks have been like, in photos:

Among the images you’ll see my fateful encounter with a Google Street View car, and the Oscar Meyer Wiener Mobile. Both in the same week! Also pictured is the studio (work in progress!) that I’m recording in at my new job, and my very sad looking desk. Not a single tchotchke. Yet.

So I’ll just keep on going to bed before midnight if that’s okay with you all, and you can expect to see an update here once or twice a week. Deal?

Hugs from over the internets.

mj

Re: “My Son is Gay” (A Nurturer’s Perspective)

So this “My Son is Gay” post has exploded with comments recently, and I would recommend reading it because it’s the basis of this post.

Assuming you’ve read it, I’ll go on.

I completely agree with the writer as far as unconditionally loving and supporting my child is concerned, but this doesn’t seem to be about her son’s sexual orientation at all. No one she encountered accused her of  “making her son gay.” No one even implied it. The other mothers expressed concern that this little boy would be teased, something the little boy himself attempted to tell his mother three different times.

My opinion? Mom could have built trust and displayed acceptance by listening to her son’s concerns. What a great opportunity to have a relevant discussion about fear and bullying! Who knows, maybe with a few more years of continued nurturing and support, the little boy would have wore his Daphne costume all on his own, without having to be convinced it was okay. Mom’s confidence and cavalier attitude can’t simply be given to her son, he’s got to grow into his own secure, confident little man, and he’ll do that in his own timing, at his own pace. Maybe she wishes he’d develop those qualities sooner, but I can tell you from experience that rushing a child out of their comfort zone can be traumatic and cause the child to lose trust in their mother. Although long since forgiven, I carry those memories with me to this day, and I wonder what kind of person I’d be if I were nurtured rather than pushed.

I know that my opinion on the matter isn’t popular; most folks commend the mother for her courage, whereas I don’t see mom’s courage as the issue. She’s clearly courageous enough for the both of them. It would appear that she willfully risked her child’s feelings and sense of security by not listening to his concerns, and only to prove a point that I’m sure we all saw coming: parents are often judgmental. (See me ranting on about this? Case and point.) I could support her in this if she were the one in fear of being humiliated, but the fact that she risked martyring her five year old boy is sad and scary. It would appear that after getting 35,000+ comments on her blog, mom got what she was looking for.

That all being said, he made an adorable little Daphne!

Okay, I’ve braced myself and am ready for you to bitterly disagree with me. Go on ahead and let me have it.

Dear Elliott: Be More Melanie than Scarlett

While I was pregnant with my daughter, I started jotting down things I wanted to be sure to tell her someday, when the time is right. None of my advice is intended to make her more like me, but rather to save her the unnecessary trouble of figuring some of these things out the hard way. Every Thursday you can expect to read one of the many tid-bits I intend on passing on to my daughter, in a series I’m calling “Dear Elliott.”

2. Be more Melanie than Scarlett. In the book (and film) Gone With The Wind there are two major female characters, Melanie Wilkes and Scarlett O’Hara, and they couldn’t be more different from each other. I won’t spoil it for you, but keep a keen eye on that Melanie girl, because she’s got a heart of gold and would never betray a friend, even if that friend betrayed her. You’ll meet lots of girls like Scarlett; be sure to treat them as kindly and with the same love that you would treat anyone else. And don’t you worry, I’ll let you know if you’re behaving more like Scarlett than Melanie; we’ve all got moments that we’re not so proud of, and those moments can shape us for the better if we recognize them.

(Left: Melanie Hamilton Wilkes     Right: Scarlett O’Hara)


 

 

The Purity Discussion: Not Just For Girls

Recently, I read a good article on Focus on The Family called “Sexy Too Soon,” with the subtitle being, “Combating the Early Sexualization of Our Children.” It was a good article, but it struck me that the article only talks about how girls are influenced, and how we need to teach our daughters purity and modesty, yet completely leaves out the influence over little boys and their need to be taught and to value purity. I’m happy to assume that the writer had a word limit and simply couldn’t fit the other half of the article in, but if that’s the case then the subtitle should read, “Combating the Early Sexualization of our Daughters,” not “Children.”

This article aside, society (Christian society especially) has a tendency to place the responsibility of purity disproportionately on women, and perhaps even little girls. I’m very happy to do my part in showing purity as a value that I hold dear. It’s evident in how I talk, dress and behave in the company of others. But it wasn’t always an easy way to live, especially in my high school and college years.

Sure, I could blame my struggle with purity solely on the media. I grew up under Britney’s anti-purity anthem “Slave 4 You,” and Christina Aguilera’s “Dirrrty.” But what about Sisco’s “Thong Song?” And by that I mean, what about men’s responsibility to purity? It’s not just “bad girls” influencing our daughters, but boys too. More specifically it’s the boys whose parents didn’t teach them to live purely, or to value girls who live purely that made the struggle with purity a defining overtone of high school and college for me.

I knew back in high school that I wanted to date a Christian boy, because I expected that a Christian boy would value purity also, and I hoped that we could avoid that struggle down the road. My first crush on a Christian boy was shattered when he told me he wasn’t ready to date me because he felt that God didn’t want him dating yet. That was okay with me, and I respected his spiritual maturity. Unfortunately it appeared as if God didn’t mind him having sex with the Britney Spears lookalike that sat on the other side of us in history class. (Evidently everyone but me was aware of it.) The girl actually confronted me, “I heard you’re into “Chris,” and I wanted you to know that even though he usually likes dorky girls, he doesn’t date them because they’re too prude.” Ouch. Not only am I a “dorky girl,” but I’m also a “prude.” It’s hard to feel good about your purity in situations like that, and unfortunately, that situation was repeated over and over in high school, and each time I felt the pressure to compromise even more.

I didn’t totally lose pride in my purity until college, when again, the girls who dressed immodestly and behaved the least appropriately were the ones with boyfriends. And it wasn’t the media that broke me down, it was boy after boy who would stop calling me after I wouldn’t go home with him, or fool around in his car. Looking back on it, each of those boys is someone’s son. Someone’s son who should have been taught to live purely, and to value girls who live purely, too. And to leave that message out of the purity dialogue is to ignore fifty percent of the issue.

Eventually I felt like a fool for valuing purity for so long. I actually became ashamed of it! The whole purity fantasy just seemed like a big lie to me. So I began living like other girls had for so long, dressing immodestly (“if you’ve got it, flaunt it!”), drinking, dancing immodestly at parties and clubs, and dating boys that were fun, but only were interested in me because I was attractive and they thought they could use me for my body. And if you have any experience with that lifestyle, you know how undignified and unfulfilling it is; eventually it came full circle and I felt ashamed and embarrassed over my immodestly and ugly behavior. It’s true, Godly men aren’t interested in immodest women, and that’s exactly what I had become. And where were all the Godly men, anyway?

What’s unfortunate is that my story is many women’s story. How many girls and women’s lives would be changed if purity was taught equally to boys as it is to girls? It’s not just telling boys, “sex is for marriage,” and that’s that. It’s showing them real life examples of who’s living purely and who’s not. It’s by sharing with them (when it’s appropriate) your own struggles with purity, to save them from repeating the mistakes you might have made. And it’s teaching them to treasure girls the way God does, and to find value in a girl that guards her purity.

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