I have thought a lot about what it may mean to raise a boy. While I was not completely set on having a girl, I knew that if I had one I would make sure she was a badass. Knowing that I am having a boy, I often think — how do I make sure he is strong while also gentle and sensitive? What happens in a boy’s life that makes them want to kill everything they see, or punch everything? Is it nurture or nature? I guess I will find out soon enough.
I grew up with a dad that would remind us that we were to “be seen and not heard.” I have the smallest of bladders and would always have to go to the bathroom (and still do) and my dad always made me feel horrible about it. As though it was my fault that I had to go to the bathroom 30 minutes later. Thank you to my wonderful, patient husband who might sometimes think: “Seriously? You just went.” but still makes sure we can find a bathroom. (That was the case pre-pregnancy too).
In any case, a line from the book “Rising Strong” by Brene Brown reminded me of my childhood:
“In my family, being high maintenance was a huge shame trigger, especially for girls. Be easy, fun, and flexible. Need a bathroom break on a road trip? We’ll pull over when we don’t have to cross the highway to get to the gas station. Don’t like what we’re having for dinner? Don’t eat. Carsick? It’s all in your head. Unfortunately, being low maintenance also meant not asking for what you needed and never inconveniencing anyone.” Page 100
I cannot tell you how many times I was told by my dad that it was all in my head. I remember one summer we were told we needed to shuck about 6 dozen ears of corn. We would buy a large quantity when it was the end of the season, shuck them and then freeze them for the rest of the year. Supposedly it still tasted just the same (but corn was just corn to me). I vividly remember sitting on the front porch step, making a mess of all the remnants when I felt a sharp pain in my thumb. I look down and my thumb is covered in blood. Now, I have a very high pain tolerance, but I have NO tolerance for seeing blood (mine or anyone else’s). I yell for my dad and we go inside. As he is rinsing it off we realize there is a piece of glass in my thumb. It must have been in the soil and grown in with the corn husk. We get it out and I literally pass out from all the blood. When I am back and normal again my dad basically tells me it is all in my head and that I am a wuss. Seriously.
That and many other situations throughout my childhood made me not ask for help, and honestly it is hard for me to do so today. I did what I could to not be high maintenance, to figure it out on my own, and not be in the way. It was easier that way. However, I do not plan to raise my son that way. I want him to use his words, and speak up — whether he is high maintenance or not. I want him to be just who he is without being squashed by the judgements of others. Is that too much to ask for?
There are times when we all get frustrated and act out, not always exhibiting our best selves to the world. Maybe we are having a rough day, are cranky, tired, and in my case potentially hungry. Chris has a joke for when I am cranky and he knows I am probably hungry. He says: “Do you need a Snickers bar?” It is his nicer way of telling me that maybe my grumpy mood is connected to my hunger. Often we also have too high expectations (I know I do) and those lead to disappointment.
“There are too many people today who instead of feeling hurt are acting out their hurt; instead of acknowledging pain, they’re inflicting pain on others. Rather than risking feeling disappointed, they’re choosing to live disappointed. Emotional stoicism is not badassery. Blustery posturing is not badassery. Swagger is not badassery. Perfection is about the furthest thing in the world from badassery.” Page xxvii
So how do we go about focusing more on how we are “feeling” rather than transferring our pain and disappointment to others. First, you might read “Rising Strong.” Another simple way is to talk about it. Chris and I have been talking a lot recently about how we want to raise the son we will meet in just a few months. One of the things that comes to me so strongly is encouraging and creating an environment where he feels comfortable to share his words, emotions, and feelings. I did not grow up in such an environment, and Chris keeps a lot to himself. I want to make sure that we are not doing anything as parents that closes any doors for our son to freely be himself.
A more open and free person feels their hurt and disappointment and acts out less to others. Remember that when you watch someone live their pain, they might just need a bit of help to see what they are doing and how to change gears.
It has been a while since I read a book that brought so much inspiration to how I approach life. The last one that probably topped this book was “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown. The new book? “A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life” by Brian Grazer. Grazer is a Hollywood producer (known for Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, Frost/Nixon, 24, and his crazy spiked hair), and while reading about a Hollywood producer would normally turn me off, the book is about his lifelong pursuit of curiosity. He lives and breathes it and it has contributed to how he has lived his life and his many successes. The book showcases his “curiosity conversations” where he has been led to talk to anyone and everyone about how they live their life. He is a listener and learns by asking questions. He talks about curiosity in relation to his professional and personal life.
I was one of those kids that always asked questions. I always wanted to know more and was never satisfied with pat answers — I wanted to know why. I wanted to understand how things worked and how people ticked. I am also someone who often talks things out. One of my favorite times of the day is my drive home from work with Chris. We have been married for 12 years, and have had only one car for 11.5 of those married years. I am usually quieter on the way to work. It is my last few moments of silence before a long and full day.
On the way home it can take us anywhere from 15-30 minutes depending on traffic and I find it the perfect time to debrief about our days. Sometimes I talk the entire way home because I have so much to share, sometimes it is Chris that talks the entire time, and others we banter back and forth and share intermittently about our day. When I get home I am off to go for a run, or catch up on a few more pieces of work to get it out of my head, so those minutes in the car are precious. They are one of the ways we connect and learn a bit more about what we each experienced that day. Grazer mentions this specifically in his book — how many couples do not ask each other or talk about their days:
“How many marriages that drift into disconnection and boredom could be helped by a revival of genuine curiosity on both sides? We need these daily reminders that although I live with person, I don’t actually know her today—unless I ask about her today.” page 160
And later on that same page…
“We don’t just take our relationships to those closest to us for granted. We take for granted that we know them so well, we know what happened today. We know what they think. But we don’t. That’s part of the fun of curiosity, and part of the value of curiosity: it creates the moment of surprise.” page 160
I love this. I am voraciously curious about Chris and what continues to make him tick. I am curious about those I work with, my friends, and family. How are they changing? What is bothering them? What continues to make them happy? Promise me to not take each day for granted. Ask the questions. Be curious. And, if you want to read a good book, pick up “A Curious Mind.”
Goodness. Somedays it is hard to see it. Somedays are a struggle and it is harder to see the goodness in our lives. I ebb and flow with reminding myself that I need to focus on the good that is all around me. Usually when I have a moment of struggle and frustration I go down on my knees and am reminded of all that I have, all the goodness that surrounds me each and every day. Those moments of gratitude helps me to see what I am forgetting. Those moments remind us of the bigger picture.
Recently, I came across this excerpt from Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love)’s Facebook page:
“The other day, the great author and sociologist Brené Brown (my sweet friend!) was asked, “What do you know for sure?”
She replied: “Fear is dangerous. But people are good.”
The evidence that people are good can be found all around us.
The evidence that fear is dangerous can also be found all around us — particularly because of the terrible things that fear makes people do (both to themselves and to each other.)
We all live amidst fear and goodness — and their consequences.
We are all composed of both fear and goodness.
You have a choice. Every moment of the day, you have choices.
You can follow your goodness, not your fear.
You can feed your goodness, not your fear.
You can support and encourage the goodness of others, rather than preying upon their fears or adding to their fears.
To choose goodness over fear is the single most life-affirming path a human being can ever possibly take.”
It was a good reminder for me. There is goodness in watching my niece do things for the first time. There is goodness in my day-to-day world. My marriage, my job, my family, friends, and home. Lots of good is happening around me. We all have a choice to decide to see the goodness or not. I choose to see the goodness. I choose to be happy. I choose goodness, not fear. That does not mean that I do not have fear. I do fear, but if I can focus on the good, it means I am seeing the light, not the darkness.
Say what is on your mind. Say it directly. Say exactly what you mean. Do not hold back. What do you lose by saying exactly what you are thinking? Will others judge you? Maybe. Will they laugh at you? Possibly. Does it matter? No. If you want to be completely and utterly yourself, then you have to be you and part of that means saying what is on your mind.
I am direct. I have an opinion and it can come out strongly. Does that mean that I do not want to hear what others have to say? Not in the least. I encourage a healthy debate. Your opinion may sway me. I may learn something new that just may bring an aha moment for me that will create a speedy excitement of new ways of doing things. You never know.
I see it all the time. Individuals that suppress their feelings. They are afraid to say what is really on their mind. When that happens it means they are not really being true to themselves. They are hiding behind what they think others want them to say, do, feel. Why do we do that? Why is it so hard to be unequivocally ourselves? Why do we sometimes sensor ourselves? Or not share what we are really feeling? I constantly go back to ideas that resonated with me from Brene Brown’s book: “Daring Greatly” such as:
“Give me the courage to show up and let myself be seen.” Page 42
Is that what we are doing when we say what is on our mind? When we have no filter, and do not suppress our thoughts?