Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Category: reflection

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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The Summer of Five

It’s not even halfway through the summer and it’s been a big one for the eldest of my babies. I’ve read that the 6th year is a pivotal one; something changes in the brain and the body and the soul and these tinies transform into kids. Little people.

First came the non-grandparental overnight (with a cousin) which went exceedingly well. Then there was the Maiden Kayak Voyage. Yes – all by himself. (Well, with papa  nearby in the boat offering instruction and encouragement). He took it out past a marker and turned it. Later that evening we celebrated with icees (#dairyfreefun?) and then he took the longest ride on his big bike sans training wheels. He finally got the confidence, taking it from road to grass and back again. He hopped off the bike and exclaimed, “that was so fun!”

Every day I watch this little guy transform into something bigger. While his development progresses, his personhood hasn’t changed, a concept I’m hardly able to grasp. He loves to be helpful – he gets it honest, from his daddy – and is constantly looking to assist. For two days he watched his dad and grandpa wash and then paint the deck only to pick up a roller and INSIST on taking a crack at it. Tonight his strong arms, tanned from these glorious days outdoors, pulled the kayak out of the water for his grandma (mostly by himself, the big STUD). I believe the time elapsed since he fell in at that very point on the dock as a one-year-old was close to .42 seconds. Less than the blink of an eye.

I recently read a blog on raising teens that stuck with me. She says, “The weird thing is, those tiny sweet precious littles you are raising? The teens are the same people, just bigger. That humor? Same. That personality? Same. Those tendencies and leanings and giftings? Same. Your quirky 6-year-old who loves science and animal husbandry? Same, he just gets bigger with a lower voice.” 

I can hardly imagine how he will tie up my belongings into knots as a teenager. I shudder to think of my Amazon bill if he continues to hunger after books at the same pace. (Can we afford two bibliophiles in one home?) But this little person is slowly – yet rapidly – becoming this big person, containing the same gracious qualities yet growing more skilled.

This summer those words have swirled around in the back of my mind crying out to me, begging me to hold these days as a treasure. He will not magically morph away into something else someday, these days are the stepping stones toward that future self. At 5 he’s not half of a 10-year-old, he’s fully and completely his 5-year-old self. What a beautiful, kind, thoughtful, sometimes infuriating self continues to be.

Having one boy at the tail end of the early childhood years and one just beginning that journey pulls the tension tight. On the one hand we survive with the mantra, “Life will look different in 5 years!” Yet, on the other side, these past 5 years have slid through my fingers. At times, I begin to realize this and I find myself grasping and clinging, which seems to be the worst possible option. It turns out that children are like those weird distraction toys from the 80’s filled with water in a tube-like plastic container. (Surely you remember those from that stellar description?) Like this:  The more you cling and squeeze and hold tightly, the more likely they’ll shoot right out of your hands. Instead I’m trying to attempting to live palms up, holding these children with a generous portion of humility.

As I sat on a patch of grass by the cool lake today and stared up to the clouds, I was overwhelmed with gratitude. Sometimes I feel like my body can’t contain all that it feels when I catch even a small glimpse into the depths of my blessings. Who am I to be given these precious little lives in my home? To hear their giggles as they jump into the water. To watch them convince grandma to pick them up once again. To have them lay on the towel and warm up with the sun and declare to me not once, but twice, “mom, I love you.”

I can hardly fathom what “life will look different in 5 years”. To have Sir M the age of H Boy, steering kayaks and begging for another morning of fishing, quite simply makes my heart race in excitement while simultaneously attempting to freeze every possible variable that I can.Will I look back at this post in a mere 5 years and sob that I’ve not enjoyed the early years to the fullness that my heart can contain? Lord, I pray not.

The summer of five marks for me a new era of parenting – we move from wee littles into something bigger, slightly more mature and just as challenging (but in a new way). We begin to reap the benefits of the hard work in the early years – establishing a good sleep routine so that kids begin to go to bed without struggle. We can be thankful we started early, eating healthy foods regularly so they snack on more than just Wonderbread and Nerds. The efforts at growing patience and the ability to be entertained by crayons grow into quiet and uneventful lunches at a sit-down restaurant. (<- yes, this just happened. What a glorious day, today!)

In that sixth year we parents remove one hand, then the other from the back of the bicycle seat, hoping  beyond hope they don’t crash but recognizing that it’s part of learning to ride. It’s as formative to us as it is the children.

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a clean slate

One of my favorite times of year is the moment you pull out the new day planner and begin filling in the upcoming year. A wedding here, birthdays everywhere, maybe a trip or two if you’re lucky… and you begin to sense what the year beholds. I love the feeling of a fresh year, free of the scratches and doodles and absentminded notes that fills the current year. 

And this week is the National Week Of Looking Ahead and Resolutions/Goals in the blogosphere. How to make positive, healthy changes. Now that Christmas is over, we propel ourselves wholeheartedly into working off the holiday treats and becoming a New You for ’12. 
I typically enjoy this season of reflection and goal setting. I make my annual list of how to make the next year better. I examine where I fell short (and continue to lament about my inability to make a decent non-Velveeta mac ‘n cheese or throw a big party). I try to put myself into the right perspective and in action-mode to greet the new calendar year. 
This year, however, leaves me skidding on the breaks as we approach the big ball drop. I’m no more anxious to dive into the new year than I am for Baby C to start teething. As far as I’m concerned, Pause – or perhaps even Rewind – is my preferred mode. 
As I dug the calendar out today, I noticed that for the first full week of January the only that that differentiates one day from the next, aside from the numerical marking, is what is on the dinner menu. For the entire month, there lies a singular event which will require more than the requisite energy needed to supply the Typical Day.  Of the first 31 days, I have 3 that bear the marking of joyful expectations. 
I started reflecting on the upcoming year. A good friend of mine will make a lifelong commitment to a wonderful man. One of my “kids” will do the same with the “girl of his dreams”, as he put it his sophomore year of high school. And there’s a rumor that my large extended family will attempt a mutual vacationing in the summer. 
Not to take away the joy from these things, but it’s not much to really prop up the year. Perhaps it’s the letdown in comparison to of previous years’ events – graduation from masters’ programs, new jobs, new homes and new babies (this will be the second calendar year in 5 that I don’t give birth!). We’ve settled to a sense of normalcy that I may not know how to face.
Some might think that living through the past 3 years has been a climatic struggle for our household, with so many changes and unknowns. But upon reflection I’ve decided that sometimes it’s the storm that keeps the ship moving, and once the calm comes the captain must figure out where, indeed, we’re headed. When Light Speed becomes the operating mode, downshifting to 3rd gear becomes a challenge. 
I still plan on doing a List. There are specific ways that 2012 can be better than 2011, and I hope to target them to action. But this year I meet it all with a bit less zeal. I sense the prize behind Door #2 next December won’t be a new car, but rather the reward of steady progress. Not the exhilaration of surprise and change, but the peace of the regular and rhythmic. 
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