Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Category: desire

Raising Nerds

While at the lake, the young boys contemplated fun things to do that didn’t involve screens. Now one to contribute, my eldest offered, “I had math homework. That’s fun!”

Part of me is so very proud. This will put me in a top-notch nursing home someday. Upscale with organic applesauce and fair trade decaf coffee. Only the best and (most expensive) for this genius’ dear mama.

The honest part of me will say it scares me. If you’ve had a child, sibling or even a dog, I think you know the feeling. A sense of wondering, will he be included? As his mother, I love him in a particular and all-encompassing kind of way. I’m aware the rest of the world doesn’t have such thick ties – they’re free to love their favorite parts and tease about the rest, which is terrorizing.

We want our children to be loved and accepted. This is why we buy Under Armor, yes? Those little 10-year-old bodies don’t need power-wicking and compression. We’re buying a Sense of Enough because we desperately want them to be enough. To be included. Whether or not we had a place there, we want our kids to sit at the Cool Kids Table.

Except, I would argue, we actually don’t.  We just think we do.  Most of us don’t want to make cool the ultimate goal – it’s simply the most visible one. If other kids are flocking to your kid, then your kid must be someone good, right?

We mistake popularity for connection. I think perhaps  when we say we hope for our children to be “included” what we really wish is for them to be known and loved for themselves. We want them to have friends who appreciate and honor them. We want them to feel the connection we have with our closest friends, families and partners. (Or that which we wish we had.)

The easiest and most readily-available solution is to help them become what is likable. There’s a profile out there (one, I would say, that is much more rigorous for young girls, but that is another post). Depending on your context you have to put in the ingredients for the right amount of brains (but not too nerdy), athleticism (in our parts, there’s never too much of this), good looks (but not to the point of vanity) and charm. When we succeed at this potion, society readily responds by asking other children seek out this prototype.

I absolutely love that I’m raising a little nerd. I think it’s cute and inspiring. I don’t want him to change – to love math less, to care if his clothes match more. But I do want him to be accepted. To be valued. True friends will do this, I know.

The easiest thing to do is ask him to be like everyone else. The risk of hurt and rejection seems slender when there’s less differentiation. As usual, I’m not in this for easy – I want the good. But I’ll be honest… living my values is hard, especially when my kid’s childhood is on the table. What if I’m wrong? What if these values aren’t worth it? What if the hurt he feels when he’s not popular leads him to other, less desirable ends?

I tell you folks, this parenting gig – it’s not for the faint of heart. Especially when you’re trying to change the world at the same time.

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On Not Being There

My newsfeed erupted in photos capturing one of the most joyous occasions of my family’s shared history. I have to ignore Facebook altogether to avoid crumbling because it’s painful to be reminded over and over how I wasn’t there.

I didn’t smell the dust and beer and sweat of a day’s worth of celebration. I didn’t hear the jokes and laughter anticipating the big race. I didn’t pet Limelight Beach to give him a pep talk or a congratulatory hug. I didn’t see the horse take off out of the gate. I didn’t get a jab in the ribs when he never let up. No one hugged me in celebration and my cheeks didn’t burn from smiling in the hours following the winner’s circle picture.

Pile this atop the growing list of the ways in which I’m limited by my present reality. Living far from family with a gaggle of young children results in multiple occasions of sitting out the opportunities presented.

“It was just a horse race,” we can try to convince ourselves. (Yet all of the harness racing junkies will vomit in their mouth a little when I refer to the Jug as “just a race.”) Sporting event or not, the family experienced together. It will go in the books as something akin to Cruise 2000. My face will be absent in the pictures because I got the van fixed instead. Not by choice, but a result of circumstance.

Which is where it gets tricky. It was our choice, or so I hear, to have all these kids and move away and attempt to do this unassisted by kin. And while we mostly chose the size of our family and the way in which we spend our days, aware our life won’t share all similarities as others, we didn’t get any fine print to examine.

We anticipated having to rethink the way in which we vacation. We knew Christmas would be consistently small. It’s always been clear we would have to make hard decisions in regard to how we spend our time, specifically around extra-cirricular involvement by our kids. It was obvious money would always be in short supply. We weighed those decisions and found them worthy trades of the added personalities to our little homestead.

I love the little buggers, but nothing prepared me for the heartache of missing life’s moments like Thursday because we couldn’t find an all-day sitter. I wouldn’t trade our little big family for anything, but that doesn’t mean I can easily brush aside my frustrations. Joys outweigh hardships, but the challenges can still be heavy.

Similar to how it’s hard to say I’m pregnant, it’s difficult to share my feelings of frustration – I feel I don’t have a right to complain about the circumstances of life which I chose. Any parent is free to express feelings about challenges of kids, but the number of kids you have increases, so does the times you hear “well, you chose that” when you say these things out loud. As a result, I feel I must be silent about what keeps me up at night.

(Except for this blog, where I get to voice what ails me and put words to the feelings I didn’t fully realize until I start typing.)

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a bedtime story with don

still in my amazing, thought-provoking book. woke up in the middle of the night rehashing some main points, wondering if I was prone to play the victim, villain or hero in my own story. i agree, counting sheep would probably be more effective.

tonight’s passage: “I was watching the movie Star Wars recently and wondered what made that movie so good. Of course, there are a thousand reasons. But I also noticed that if I paused the DVD on any frame, I could point toward any major character and say exactly what that person wanted. No character had a vague ambition. It made me wonder if the reasons our lives seem so muddled is because we keep walking into scenes in which we, along with the people around us, have no clear idea what we want.”

so i got to thinking. what do i want? sure, there are lots of things – starting with wanting jj to graduate. soon. living opposite, inconsistent schedules is waring me down. but it seems that recently the things that i want (health care, normal schedule) are seemingly transient. that will change with life – it always does. but what do i really want?

i started thinking about the people around me. my sister really wants to raise well-rounded kids. and she wants to do the work of it herself. i’m not saying that moms who work don’t want to raise well-rounded kids, it’s not a mutually exclusive thing. but i’m saying that my sister puts her life into it. she reads, she studies, she asks around. and she puts a lot of herself into raising her kids. jj and i were once discussing life for our children if something should happen to us; i said that of anyone i know, my sister would do the work of reading up and learning how to deal with kids in such a circumstance and finding what the best approach would be. granted, especially with raising children there will always be someone to disagree with “best” but having done the work of understanding the entire scope, sister would be able to provide a very reasonable answer to all decisions. but sister wants to do the work of raising a family.

my friend wants to make life better for those stuck in a cycle of misfortune. if it’s offering an ear or a bit of advice, encouragement, or just empathy (a newly named but always present gift of hers), she wants to help see these people to a better situation. she also really wants to get married, but that’s in the same boat with me wanting jj to graduate :).

i have another friend who loves to build things. he’s an engineer by trade, a tinkerer by home and a twilight church trustee. he wants to see ideas realized right in front of him.

another friend loves to preform music. he loves to see it affect people. he wants people to be changed by music.

i’m sure this is all directly tied into a sense of calling and purpose. mine has only come in a vague revelation. i can tell you what elements are a part of it, but i cannot clearly “step into the horizon” as don says. so maybe this is something i can work on. what about you – what do you really want?

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