Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Category: beauty (page 1 of 5)

The blessing of the youngest

The youngest’s birthday passed without much remark due to circumstance; we spent the day like the previous 4 and the following 2, at the beach and in the pool with the family. We had celebratory (GF) brownies and he managed to get everything he asked for throughout the day. The following morning he attempted to extort something from his papa, and he was informed that it was no longer his birthday, so he couldn’t have everything he wanted.

This didn’t compute for the little guy, mainly because most of his life he gets what he wants.

These babies of the family . They’re something else. And I argue there’s a mathematical equation that relates the number of children in a family to the yountest-ness of the youngest. The baby of two simply doesn’t bear as much youngest-ness as does the baby of nine. I’m sure someone has written a thesis about this. And while someone with a Ph.D. can argue that the trend exists, I’ll pontificate on why it tends to be, at least as it has grown from my own experience.

As parents continue to have more children, we have to open up our hands (and our hearts) a bit more to make it all fit. So, naturally, we let go. Those firsts, we hold tightly.  The voice of our duty to love and protect rings in our ear. We want the best; we strive for it. We take in everything we can as we learn along the road of parenthood. We see things sitting along the side of the road and we put it in the garage “in case we need that someday” because we just don’t know what is coming along next. It’s likely we’ll parent our firsts all the way through in this manner.

As our youngests grow, we get more familiar with the terrain. We learn what we might need and what just gets too heavy to carry along. It’s like comparing our first trip to Disney last week, our backpack filled with all the “essentials” to my cousin, who makes multiple trips per year, and walks through the gate empty handed. He knows exactly what he’ll need in a day, and where to find it so that he doesn’t have to carry it along.

So in the experience of parenting our youngests, things get lighter. We still have the same desires to make things right and good for our children, to offer them the most opportunity and help them become the best humans they were created to be. Yet we also recognize that lugging along a spare of everything “just in case” won’t be what makes it happen. The day won’t be ruined because we didn’t bring a second tube of sunscreen, it will be ruined when we loose sight of the fun that exists without trying damn so hard.

And so goes parenthood. We won’t ruin our children because we didn’t do X, Y, and Z. I think our chances are much higher that their childhood becomes a negative experience when we carry the baggage of the shoulds, the musts, and the if-we-don’ts.

So, the baby of this family gets more of what he wants. (And let’s be honest. The little guy deserves to get a few privileges to make up for the the massive amounts of hand-me-downs he has had to, and will continue to, endure.) Now it matters less what he believes to be true when he gets to pick his own spoon rather than use the one I’ve given him. That’s a power struggle I no longer need to win, because I don’t carry the fear of being “wrapped around his finger.”  I’m making space to carry the parenting essentials for all of these children and the if-we-don’ts won’t fit in my pocket anymore.

Essentially, I fear less with the youngests. Fear is tiresome, and it has robbed me of too many beautiful moments with my firsts, and I don’t want it to get the best of my youngests.

I read an unattributed quote the other day that said, you can do things out of love or you can do things out of fear; but you cannot serve two masters. My parenting approach has shifted with more babies and much of this is because what I mistook for love was actually fear. And honestly, as I keep parenting my oldests, it continues to be the case. These unknown trails of raising humans are wrought with fearful moments and places. With every new developmental stage and age, I remember, once again, that I have no idea what I’m doing. (And I’m getting better of remembering that no one else does, either.)

As a human being, I’m wired for fear, to protect myself and my species, so there’s no shame in that. The gift of these youngests lies in familiarity, remembering that I need not to be afraid all of the time. Now I get to live – and parent – from a different place.  Instead of traveling with constant concern of what lies behind the bushes, I now get to walk the path of raising children with a bit more reverential beholding of the beauty of it all.

 

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Ordinary Magic

When I was growing up, our friend Erica had one of those big backyard trampolines. Because her parents and my parents were beyond  BFF, we spent many hours trying to conquer the butt-knees-back-up and playing add-a-trick.  It was magical.

It wasn’t until late elementary that my dad decided to get us a trampoline for our own backyard. We loved it. This set of springs got plenty of wear. Then we reached a point when the only time we played Popcorn was when our friends were over. We didn’t dislike it nor were we bored with it; the trampoline simply lost its magic. It became ordinary.

Watching my own children jump with glee the other day, I reflected on how frequently this happens. We allow the magic to dust off when we make it commonplace, which I believe to be the real reason God tells us to “be holy.”

Much of the first testament gives instruction about how to keep certain things separate: men from women, wheat from beans, cotton from polyester.* Often we read this with a cultural lens that one of those things is less than the other. Not good enough. Even, dangerous. We approach the idea of holiness as if the ordinary makes the holy dirty; hence “unclean” (literally, “polluted” in the Hebrew).

I see this change through the words of Jesus. He tells people, often through parable, to let the weeds grow among the wheat. He says God will sort the sheep and goats. This makes sense, coming from a ridiculously terrible farmer who believes good things can grow in hard places.

The common, the seemingly less-than, can do nothing to change the nature of the holy. Like a life-long islander, we get used to the scenery and forget its magic. The mountains aren’t less majestic or the waves less soothing. We’ve simply made the holy, ordinary.

The good news: we can reverse this. Actually, when you read many of God’s commands and you find this great reversal at work.

Three meals a day, every day, often made from the same thing? The people could complain of another bowl of lentils but God says to bless them. Give thanks for the rain and the sunshine, miracles outside of your own control, required to make them grow. Did you know that the most devout Jews pray a toilet prayer (my term, not theirs), thanking God that all systems work like they’re supposed to? If ever there was a place to mix the ordinary and the divine, the bathroom is a good starting point.

My cousin works in the bridal industry. Every day, she sees young women on the cusp of what they imagine to be the most amazing day of their lives. Each and every one of them are special and unique; yet she can see 5 of them in a day. The 300 dresses hang on the rack as inventory. They’re numbered.

But when a bride walks out of the dressing room, sometimes with happy tears, it’s no longer a pile of satin or lace – it’s the dress. At least, to this bride, it is. Laura’s job is no longer to take measurements and find a matching veil; it’s to honor the magic amid one of her most ordinary days.

And this is the work for most of us. Teachers may tie shoes or plan lessons on long division or recount the events of the first world war. Ordinary, everyday stuff. Or, they’re inspiring children to ask questions, to follow their curiosity and find solutions to problems. Inspiration. Literally: to breathe into. (You know who did that first, don’t you? That first, holy work of making things come to life? Oh, yes, I just compared teachers to Genesis 1.)

A dentist or a doctor might feel as if they’re diagnosing or prescribing, but to the person who finally feels relief, they’re doing the holy work of healing.

We tend to make the magical into the monotonous. It’s just another day, another school year, another student/customer/patient/client. But we can seek the divine spark in the most ordinary of all things. By the nature of creation, God’s fingerprints cling to every day, person and place. The work of holiness is to see it and honor it as such.

 

 

*I’m being funny. I know the cotton/poly blend was not an ancient stumbling block. But something was, because Deuteronomy 22:11 exists.

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Arm Wrestling Fear & Making Memories (A Re-Do)

Much love and conversation gathered around yesterday’s post on making memories, not money. Thanks. And while I believe my words to be true, I’m also wrestling with another feeling. I would compare it to a doctor who diagnosed you with pneumonia and even said it might be life threatening and sent you home with instructions but withheld the fact that the pneumonia would be much easier to beat if your body wasn’t dealing with AIDS.*

You see, pointing to consumerism was my easy way out. When I sat down to write, to shake out those thoughts and feelings, I held up the first shiny thing for all to see. I didn’t dig deep enough. When I finally did, the gem required a bit of polishing. My goal in this space is primarily to give honest writing. Yesterday wasn’t untruthful; it simply wasn’t the whole story.

So what is sitting wrong with me when it comes to contemporary memory making? If you’re a modern parent, it has to do with our hands. Take a look at them. Notice the knuckles. For most of us, they’re a tad white. On the other side, we might even find metaphorical blisters from hanging on too tight.

Did you catch that in Inside Out? When we dip into the mind of the adult characters, who was in charge? Who shined most brightly? Which feeling did the others turn to when things got crazy? Anger. Fear. Even Disgust was as large as Joy. I don’t think Pixar was being mean, I think they were being honest.

Being a parent is a hard gig. We love so much. When it comes to raising little humans, so there is so much room for fear. Sometimes, rightful fear. We should fear toddlers alone by the water. And by the road. And in the car. (Clearly, toddlers anywhere is a justifiable cause for fear.) Yet I say, it’s not fear itself that is the problem – it’s what we do with the fear.

When Pixar invites me to write the sequel – in which Riley goes into puberty and a new emotion, Humiliation, shows up – I would portray the parents trying to entertain Fear by having him arm wrestle with Sense of Control. Sense of Control cannot actually touch the motherboard. She just occupies time and energy with all the other emotions by challenging them to arm wrestling competitions.

It happens from the moment we find out that a little peanut is growing inside of us – we arm wrestle with fear by avoiding a turkey sandwich. When the little one arrives and we have to drive him home from the hospital and we want to put a laser force field around the car to warn everyone on I-270 to stay the F*&^ away, my brand new baby is in here! so we pacify ourselves with the fact that we did our research on the safest car seats possible and we bought the one with the highest ratings, the most expensive model, but our “baby’s safety is worth it.”

Or we get stuck in the Food Vortex. We simply want our children to grow up healthy and give them long lives without fibromyalgia. This is a good and noble cause. I will support you in avoiding the HFCS and GMOs and anything else we cannot pronounce. But can we call a spade a spade? We’re not just “giving our children a healthy start” – we’re arm wrestling fear.

So now that I’ve told you about the life-altering disease, let’s get back to the current state of pneumonia and how our generation sets out to Make Memories. We venture out and pay the $74.95 because we fear we’re not living a good enough life. We want to Make All the Memories because we want to send our children away with something – anything! – that will bring happiness later on. That same sense of happiness we were given. But our mothers forgot to write down how they did it and because there were no blogs in 1982 we’re stuck reading all the car seat reviews on our own. (This, and the fact that they didn’t use car seats.)

I’m going to hypothesize here and reserve the right to edit it later. Our parents were clueless about the dangers of the world and parenting in general. Thus, the lack of car seats. And setting us up for an addiction to Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. But in their obliviousness, they were free from the fear of doing it wrong. They were free to worry less about giving their children All of the Memories and instead focused on things like having a good life, being a good friend and staying in love. At least, it seems that’s what happened with my parents. And grandparents. And for that matter, most of the adults in my life while I was growing up.

When I scan through my list of memories from yesterday – and the ones pointed out by others later – my grandparents didn’t sit down and play endless rounds of Skip-Bo because they wanted to give me a happy childhood. They loved playing the game. They did things they loved and invited us along with them.

In the end, we cannot manufacture happy memories for our children. We simply can’t. We could wake up every day with the intention of Going and Making a Memory (instead of buying one) but ultimately it’s up to some unknown brain cell god if the magical moment we’ve tried to conjure will actually lock down into long term.

The one thing we can do is give our children joy-driven parents. We are the only ones who can do that for my kids. I will never be able to create a Magical Childhood. But with fear silenced, I can be free to realize I don’t have to. This world is magical enough without me at the helm. There’s a Creator who’s much better at that job.

My job is to live a good life and invite my children to sit beside me. My job is to love JJ so much and so obviously that my kids want to someday get married. My job is to be a devoted sister and sister-in-law so that my kids will want to have those kinds of siblings (and, hopefully when full cognition is a go, be those kinds of siblings). My job is to be the kind of daughter that will inspire my kids to live in close relationship with their parents. My job is to be the kind of employee and employer that will make my kids believe that work is a privilege and a joy, not a punishment. My job is to be the kind of student of life that will encourage my kids to follow the curiosity and ask the questions that spurs creativity. My job is to live in awe of God so my children want to live lives that include Him.

In short, I don’t need to create a magical world, one that shields my children from the horrors of this world. I don’t need to Make Memories to block out the bad stuff.  I simply need to point out the beauty of the things right beside them, the things we all believe make living this life so worth it.

We don’t need to make memories and we don’t need to fear a life that isn’t good enough because life is beautiful and memorable on its own if you see it for what it is.

So, may you – may we – silence fear. May we stop “making” memories and instead enjoy the beauty that life already has to offer.

 

 

*In the world of bad simile, cancer gets the headlines. But too many people I love already hate cancer. I’m an equal-opportunity writer when it comes to using shitty diseases. If anyone out there keeps a running list of ailments that slowly destroys your body, feel free to share and I’ll add to my list.

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