This brave person shared her story with me.

Remember the prompt I sent out a few weeks ago: What is one thing that motherhood has taught you this month? Our friend Michelle wrote on the prompt and sent it to me! You guys - this is what I have been asking of you and one of you actually did it - YAY!! Please use Michelle as an example and try it. You don't have to send it to me, but if it's as awesome as I think it will be, I would love to share it. I really hope to add other voices to this newsletter on more of a regular basis. 


Questions by Michelle Small

The other night I saw something that just didn't seem right.  I ask, "What happened today?"  Silence follows.  I ask, "Did this happen at recess?  Who were you with?" She stares at me with her lips as straight as a line and her eyes completely glossed over.  I tell her I love her and I am only trying to help and she holds her hands up to her ears and walks away.  Exhausted, I want to just yell after her “Fine! Forget it!!”  I look down and there is my five year old, laying on the ground incredibly lethargic - an instant sign sickness is coming since he rarely ever is still for more than 20 seconds. 
 
I give my daughter some space for a moment while I try to get my son to get up and put on his pajamas, knowing tomorrow I will likely be taking him to the doctor’s office.  He refuses so I ask him “What hurts?”  “How do you feel?”  “Are you hungry?”  He stretches his arms out and whines, “Momma.  I want momma.”  I give him a hug and then he lays back down.  I let him lay there while I go search for the thermometer and check on my daughter. She is in tears and yells, “Don’t ask me anymore questions!!!  It is too hard to talk about it!!!”  

Reflection on my quest to help them both, I am realizing that asking a bunch of questions - a strategy that always helps me and also my students with their comprehension - is not always helpful.  In motherhood, I am learning, sometimes silence can produce the answers.  Sitting quietly with my son after taking his temperature (he didn’t have one at the time), I was able to check in with my gut feeling to know he needed to go to the doctor (he wound up having a high fever the next morning and an inflamed throat that needed medicine).  Since the blow up with my daughter, I have stopped the constant peppering of questions and wait for her to cue me she is ready to talk.  Amazingly, last night, she asked if she could read to me a part from a book she was reading.  This book is one I actually recommended to her and, for the first time EVER, she took me up on the recommendation, AND now she wants to show me a part she likes and connects with.  I feel like I finally have a win.  

I learn and grow by questioning, but I am learning that isn’t how my kids necessarily learn or grow.  It also does not seem to be a method to helps them to open up to me about what is going on in their lives.  For my kids, the more questions I ask, the more unwilling to share they become.  My daughter gets tense and stressed and my son just flat out ignores me and/or dances around (sometimes with underwear on his head) repeating my question or words in a sing song voice and refusing to answer them (He is feeling better today!).  

It is SO hard for me, but I am learning to look for those opportunities to sit in silence or just side by side, waiting for them to be ready to share.  I won't stop asking questions, but I will start pausing more before I do.  It will help me decide if the questions I am bombarding them with will produce the answers I am hoping for.   

A Frowning Smile

I've had a rough week full of disconnection with my nine year old daughter. Today I noticed she was getting dressed without prodding, brushing her hair and doing what she needed to do to get out the door on time for school. I was so proud of her and she seemed so beautiful and precious to me in that moment. I made eye contact with her and smiled. Not a huge wide-toothed smile, but I felt my facial muscles move into the place they go when I smile.

She stopped in her tracks when she saw me staring at her and said, "What?" Let's just say I sensed some venom in her voice.

I just love you and I'm proud of you.

Then why are you giving me that look?

I'm smiling at you babe.

That's a frown trying to be a smile.

Here I was showing up with the absolute best of intentions trying to connect and she still didn't see it this way. How bad must it feel when I'm reacting out of a place of anger or irritation? It was a reminder of perception and how much our kids feed off of our energy. We have to literally ask them the question to make sure we are on the same page.

This applies to all relationships in our life. With our partner, at work, with our friends. Unless we have the courage to check in, "You seem a bit off today, did I say something that upset you?" we could be two ships sailing on different rivers, in opposite directions.

I wrote today's post in response to a podcast interview question from the amazing Maria Alcoke of The Engine Mom podcast. Use this question that Maria asks all her guests as your writing prompt for this week:

What is one thing that motherhood has taught you this month?

For those of you without kids, simply substitute partnership or yoga or nature or life for "motherhood". I’d love to read your response - email it to me!

This is 40.

One of my earliest memories is celebrating my dad's 40th birthday. It was a surprise party and I got to lead him around to the back of the house where all of my parents friends were waiting on the deck. There were circular cement stones on the side of our house - a little path leading to the back. This is where my memory is clear, leaping from one stone to the next, each of them surrounded by bright green summer grass. Feeling joyful and special to be involved in a secret. An adult secret no less. It was 1987 and I was eight years old. 

Over the next year my husband turns forty and my daughter will be eight. I can't help but to compare and contrast my parents lives to ours, my childhood to hers. How do you measure a good life? Compare it to your parents, I guess.

Most parents want a better life for their children than they had for themselves. What does that mean, exactly? Materials things - like a fancier house, better paying jobs, a bigger retirement account? By those comparisons we are falling short. When I dive into the details of my past - that's where I can see comparisons that make sense. Like how, in his 20s, did my dad get to Yale for his doctoral degree from Buffalo, NY where his mom had recently died and his father was not exactly a model of support?

That journey must have taken determination and a deep belief in himself. I hold those values dear to my heart and try to keep them in the forefront of my day to day. It does make me feel close to my dad and like he is still part of my life when I can act in the light of his best qualities. 

Naturally, I also observed and internalized other aspects of my parents' lives that I did not want to emulate. In this instance, I'm trying to bring something different to my life based on what I absorbed from theirs. Both are important - the values we adored in our parents and the ones we have known for a long time that we wanted different for ourselves. 

What values are guiding your decisions? Where did they come from? Are they similar to the values in which you were raised or different?  Maybe you were raised mostly by your single mom because your dad left when you were five. Maybe you were adopted after ten years of infertility struggles. 

Whatever it is - your story began with your parents. Reflecting on how their choices and actions influence you today is critical to understanding who you are as a person. 

Your Story is Your Strength - I so firmly believe this. 

favicon.png