Life Lessons

“Is this a life lesson?”

As we backed out of the snowy driveway, I muffled a laugh. So many things we say to our children are life lessons. Some seem more obvious than others.

“Wash your hands.”
Be kind.”
Don’t waste a 50 degree day.”
“Don’t bite your brother.”

Others sneak their way into everyday conversations. You don’t realize you’re imparting knowledge, important little facts about life that might help them succeed… or at least avoid catastrophic failure in life. But you are. You’re just talking about what you’re doing.

“Oh, see how they haven’t plowed the road yet? So we don’t know if there’s ice under the snow.”
“Do you know why bridges get icy faster than the road?”
“And that’s why you tap the breaks, not slam your foot on really hard.”

“Mom, I don’t think these things will make sense until we start learning how to drive.”

Yeah. Maybe.

But much of what we say as parents is like that, I suppose. When I think back to the things my parents told me, the lessons they tried to or accidentally imparted, I didn’t get any of it at the time. I didn’t understand why eating well-balanced meals mattered until I ate a whole bunch of junk in college. As a teen who had only mild acne, I didn’t realize the importance of removing all my makeup, washing my face, and moisturizing until my mid-30s hormonal change—when my face became ten times worse than anything I experienced as a teenager.

Nothing about relationships or respect—for others or myself—or faith or health or education or anything mattered when I was a teen, let alone a tween.

But still, they kept talking to me. They kept teaching me things by talking to me, talking with me. To boot, they answered my questions. I asked a lot of questions while growing up; I ask a lot of questions now. We missed some stuff, my parents and I, because it was a different time; the 90s were weird, no?

It shouldn’t really surprise me that my two sons ask as many questions as they do. Maybe I’m less surprised than I am overwhelmed with the fact that I, along with my husband, am tasked with teaching these kids so much.

Things about driving in the snow. Driving in general. And why deer will run in front of your car instead of further away from the road. I don’t know why they do that. But they do. Things like dealing with friends. With enemies. Both with kindness. With teachers and doctors and people in authority; why it’s okay to question authority and how to do so with respect and when respect isn’t warranted and how to protect yourself from adults who abuse their authority. And when to say no.

It’s this monumental task, really.

It’s kind of horrifying. Because I don’t really know the answers myself. I can drive in the snow; I drove us through a blizzard to visit their sister once. I’d do it again, though maybe with my glasses on instead of with contacts plastered into my eye. There are lessons you don’t learn until you’re there, in the moment, with the snow gathering on your car as you drive around semis and down four lane roads with only one set of tracks. But you just keep driving because stopping is not an option, and ohmygod, seeing your children together is one of the only things that keeps you alive.

I feel like I’m not the best person to teach them to stick up for themselves as I struggle so much with it myself. I let people say things they shouldn’t say to me or anyone, really because calling them out or correcting them feels too intense, too big. If I just behave and stay the course and keep my eyes turned down when a man makes comments on my body shape, then maybe it’s not really real. I’m a pro at avoiding confrontation; I don’t want to raise my sons that way. I don’t know how I ended up this way, but I want better for them.

I don’t know how to raise them into thoughtful, caring adults who know how to drive in the snow and can say no, stop, you’re being an asshole and I don’t like it. But maybe if I just keep talking, keep sharing about the time a baby deer ran out in front of the car or how I slid on ice because I slammed the brakes and ended up bumping into a hillside or how men sometimes say really yucky things to me and that’s not acceptable, maybe, just maybe, they’ll take these life lessons with them into their futures.

Maybe they won’t understand them until they’re ready, until the situation presents itself, until the deer on the right side of the road decides to sprint to the left, until they see a woman walk by; but maybe all this talking will click, make sense, fall into place and they’ll know what to do in the moment.

I bet they’ll know what to do.

Life Lessons

 

Fitbit Flex Activity + Sleep Wristband

Growing Up

Growing Up

I updated some picture frames today.

During the post-holiday sales, I grabbed some 8x10s from my favorite photo printing company. I needed to update the boys’ photo frames as well as our photo on the family wall.

And another one.

You see, one picture has hung on our family wall longer than any other photo. It’s a photo of me with my daughter from 2006. We both look impeccably young in the photo—because we are, in fact, young. But I didn’t keep it hanging on the wall because you can’t see any wrinkles around my eyes. No. And true, I used “I just want another professional picture” as my excuse. But that wasn’t it either.

I’ve watched my daughter grow from afar, in spurts and little bits. That first year of her life, her mom sent me physically printed pictures and scrapbook pages once a month. Every month. Lots of pictures and multiple pages arrived every month, and they were the highlight of my life at the time. I lived for those packages.

Then digital cameras became affordable, and she shipped over CDs on the regular. We took the photo that hung on the wall, and its sister photo which also spent quite some time in the spotlight on the family wall, sometime before social media exploded, before smartphones sent photos with ease; before I even really knew how to work my own DSLR. Professional photographs meant saving that moment, investing in the memory.

The years have passed. I regularly update all other photos on the wall, save for the boys’ firefighter photos with my husband because adorable and our wedding photo. But we’ve stayed frozen in a time before now. Was it easier then? No. Just different. The changing of the picture felt difficult. Keeping the photo meant keeping us frozen in time. Together.

The picture of the two of us hanging on the wall, so young and unsuspecting of all that awaited us, kept safe some bits of our innocence. It also kept me from having to piece together the time spent apart; if she was always young, then I didn’t really miss anything. If we were always together, then we were never apart.

My husband encouraged me to change it over the years. But I couldn’t. Didn’t. Wouldn’t. When she visited me in November and my oldest son snapped a photo, I knew I would replace the old photo on the wall. I knew it was time; we’ve changed so much, been through so much.

It was time.

Now we hang again on the wall, in the same place and in the same frame. We look different. Older, yes. There’s an interesting gray streak through my hair; I see the lines around my eyes. There’s also the fact that my daughter is, oh, taller than me. Maybe I’ll make a goal to change the photo more often. Maybe I’ll stand on my tiptoes next time.

But she will always, always hang on my wall.