Pointe Shoes and What Ifs.

I was a late starter in the world of dance.  At the age of eleven I decided that dance was something I really wanted to do and had to do and couldn’t live without.  So I entered the world of leotards, tights, shoes and buns.  I started with modern jazz and quickly added ballet to the list of classes.  Now with ballet you really need to start with the basics and build up from there….so I was placed in a class of five and six year olds.  That’s quite a good motivator for anyone….to be twice someone’s age and to be learning something new……I practiced and I pranced and I danced and a twirled and I skipped, all with good toes and bad toes….and I worked my way up the grades….and I sort of caught up to my age group, but never really got there…

While I had determination and drive, its fair to say I never had a huge amount of natural talent.  I was never going to be an Anna Pavlova.  But it is amazing what you can accomplish through lots of practice and a sheer will to succeed.

Pointe shoes.  They were my nemesis.  They hurt.  They really did hurt. I was never comfortable in them, never felt at ease and never really loved them.  Those pretty, shiny pink satin covered blocks of wood became the enemy.  My barrier to success.

A couple of years ago I was online looking at ordering some pointe shoes for a friend, to send back to NZ from America.  Everything in America was cheaper.  Everything.  I came upon an article on how to find the right size of pointe shoes for your feet, and I realized that all along in my experience with pointe work, I had been wearing the wrong size shoes.  I’d never been properly fitted, never had the best fit for my feet.

And thus began my brief flirt with the idea of the ‘what if?’.

What if I had actually been wearing the right size shoes and what if pointe shoes had no longer hurt?

What if I grew to love them and wearing them became such a natural and easy extension of my life as a dancer?

What if I flew through the upper grades of RAD and my level of talent actually matched my level of enjoyment?

What if?

Now I quickly came to realize that even if any of those things had been true…..I was still not a great dancer….but for the meantime, that flirting with the idea of ‘what if’ gave me a false sense of reality…a warped view of the truth.  Allowing the ‘what ifs’ to creep in….overshadowed some stark realities.

And isn’t it the same with parenting?

Any and every time that we tango with a ‘what if’ with regards to our children, when we’re looking back in hindsight, from my experience….that ‘what if’ doesn’t do us any favours.

These ‘what ifs’ can be anything from:  what if we’d noticed such and such earlier?  What if we’d been more proactive in this area?  What if we’d made our kid do x, y and z?  What if we’d stopped them from doing x, y and z?  What if we’re not the right parent with this job?  What if I don’t how to handle this issue?

Big and small ‘what ifs’ surround us.

If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time you’ll know that for me, personally, the fact that all three of my boys have speech impediments/ issues (all three are different too!), has been a big thing for us both practically and for this Mama’s heart.  I’ve battled sooooo many ‘what ifs’ over this one.  I once got an email from a well-meaning person with a link to a (poorly written and badly researched) news article about a link between television watching and speech problems in kids.  Whammo.  There’s a massive ‘what if’.  It wasn’t until a saw a speech therapist with my oldest boy and she sat me down and told me straight….GENETICS…..that I realized I could no longer hold onto these ‘what ifs’.  I can’t escape the fact that these issues have been a part of my boys’ journeys, but I can control how I react to these situations.  And believe it or not, I am equipped to help my boys.  While I am lacking in a whole bunch of good qualities, just ask my kids, they’ll put you straight.  One thing I do possess is patience in bucketloads. And patience is what I need with these boys and their impediments.

If I have what I need, to parent my kids as best I can, both in me and my husband with our giftings combined and with calling on friends who are that little bit further along in their parenting journeys, not to mention as a Christian I believe so very strongly in the changing power of prayer….and I’m just as flawed and a mess as the next person, then I believe you too, have in you what you need, to parent your kids as best as you can.

Whatever the issues you’re facing, I’ve found that you can’t hold onto your ‘what ifs’.  They skew your reality.  They take your eyes off the goal.  I’ve found it takes a lot of energy to focus your thought life on all your negative qualities, all the things you’re lacking in.  That energy surely is better spent by focussing on what tools you do have at your disposal to approach different issues, as best you can.  Whether they are tools inside of you, or in people who are alongside you.

What ifs?

So what.  Let’s all work on eliminating parent guilt.  We can live without it.

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Beyond the smiles.

It was my husband’s birthday yesterday. To honour the spunky hunk I posted a reasonably recent photo of him on Facebook, along with a few lines about how I feel about him. Then I got to thinking about that particular photo and what it represented.

The photo was taken in New York, in Times Square. We’d been ‘given’ a glorious 56 hours away from our three kids, and my very generous brother had flown us over to NYC to be there while he was there. The time  was magical in a huge number of ways. I honestly wasn’t expecting to love the city as much as I did, it was awesome to explore it with my brother and his wife, the weather was beautiful, the sights were stunning, it was simply magical. The photo shows a very happy husband, thoroughly enjoying a once in a lifetime experience.

What the photo doesn’t show is that happy husband had at that time begun to exhibit some pretty severe symptoms for type one diabetes. That photo doesn’t show the seriousness of what he was facing. The week after we got back Michael went to the doctor and was diagnosed with this life changing condition.

Beyond that smile, there was a lot more going on than what that smile would let on. Yes, that smile in that photo was genuine. We had an absolute blast in those 56 hours and created memories that will last us a lifetime. But, I’ll always remember there was more going on, there was more beyond that smile.

Last year before my kids started their new school, I remember being weirdly freaked out and overwhelmed by the thought that my kids wouldn’t fit in. It felt like everyone else had it all together, that their kids were all extremely high achieving and I held onto a completely unfounded fear that my boys with their ‘point of difference’, their speech impediments, would suffer and not fit in, when all around them were ‘perfect’ kids.

Yeah, well, it didn’t take long to realize that as I said earlier, this was an unfounded fear. A stupid fear. Ignorant thinking on my part. You see I know, I really do know, that there are no perfect kids. Just like there are no perfect people. We all have our issues. Every kid has something that they struggle with, some things are obvious, others are not. My kids did fit in just fine, because it is an imperfect world we live in.

But that false thinking of mine prompted me to think, more often, what is really going on with  x, y, z kid? How is that family doing?  Just like so much was going on behind the scenes of that photo I took of Michael, a moment in time, in Times Square…..what’s going on beyond the smiles of your kids classmates? Your kindy teacher? The check out operator you see once a week? The basketball coach? Hairdresser? Friend you just texted?

Now I do know that most people aren’t going to open up, blab on your shoulder and tell you their life’s woes, just because you’ve bothered to take the time and noticed them, some may though! And we actually don’t have to be in the loop with everyone’s own private business. But I felt this worthy of a blog post because I myself need reminding that so often we only see people’s highlight reels. We’re exposed to all that is good and noteworthy and praiseworthy in life, and it is easy to think how easy some people have it. And that can isolate us in our struggles, especially our kid struggles. But we’re in this together. There are no perfect kids and there are no perfect parents, but we are better together.

We are better when we look beyond the smiles, when instead of highlight reel, we see a real life reel.

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Our paintbrushes.

Yesterday I may have been vacuuming up a mess, half the playground brought inside in a pair of shoes mess, and I may or may not have uttered a sigh and some grunts of exasperation.

A couple of hours later the four year old was trying to do something and was having difficulties and I heard the same exact sigh and grunts of exasperation that I may or may not have uttered only hours earlier.

Little sponges.

All the time.

Our children – big and small – are sponges.

I was thinking about this sponge business and thinking about how I need to reign in my silly displays of frustration, and then I was struck by a memory of something that happened a while ago.

Some time ago I was present when a friend of mine was with her Mother, and the Mum kept making remarks about the Mum’s weight.  My friend was in her twenties – but even at this age, I could see her crumble at the sound of these remarks.  You see the remarks weren’t even aimed at the daughter – they were a grown woman’s observation of herself, but spoken in her daughter’s presence, and in my presence, they made us feel……weird.  Awkward.  Unsure of where to take the conversation.  Unsure of what our response should be.  Those incidents – not a one-off event – but over a period of time – made me vow to myself that I wouldn’t make any judgement calls on my appearance in front of my children, and in front of their peers.  Especially if I happened to have any girls.  As it turns out we’ve been blessed with three amazing BOYS – but my stance remains firm – I won’t talk negatively about my appearance in front of my children.  Ever.  Because of how it made my friend and I feel, when we heard my friend’s fifty-something year old Mother talk about her appearance.

Sponges.  Our kids are sponges.

Now I know there are Mums and Dads out there who do have real issues with their own appearance and struggle daily with accepting their particular ‘package’.

Pregnancy changes your body in ways that are, quite simply, irreversible.  Blokes your bodies don’t change as a result of childbirth – but you’re often on the receiving end of the struggle to adjust to these changes and the ‘I have NOTHING to wear that fits me’ situations…..

Ageing changes our bodies.  Yep.  That ole Father Time has a lot to answer for.

If you’re having a hard time accepting what you look like, or how pregnancy has changed your outer shell, then please, can I encourage you to read the following two blog pieces I read that prompted me to focus on this issue?  Can I encourage you to have a go at attempting to be at peace with your body?  And can I encourage you to avoid projecting your negative feelings onto your kids?  There’s a whole bunch of junk that comes out of that, and nothing positive.

 

The first blog piece is by Emily Wierenga.  She’s a former anorexic and writes powerfully, from experience and gives really great advice for this journey we need to walk.   The blog piece can be found here.

 

The second blog that I’d love you to read is by Glennon Doyle Melton, who blogs under the name Momastery.  ‘Your body is not your masterpiece, your life is’.  Powerful words – and a good dose of reality that I think we all need.  The piece can be found here.

Do yourself a favour, and do your kids a favour…..remind yourself of these truths today….

‘Your body is not your offering. It’s just a really amazing instrument which you can use to create your offering each day. Don’t curse your paintbrush. Don’t sit in a corner wishing you had a different paintbrush. You’re wasting time. You’ve got the one you got. Be grateful, because without it you’d have nothing with which to paint your life’s work.’ – Momastery

If this accepting of yourself, of your outer shell, is something you struggle with, your partner struggles with, your sister or your cousin or your Mother or your daughter……point them in the direction of these links…..

And remember, as I am learning…..our children…..are little sponges.  Always.

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Picking and choosing

My family is made up of wannabe dog owners.  We have a habit of befriending our neighbours’ dogs and acting like they are our own.  Charlie the chihuahua was a firm fav, and Polly the schnauzer, then Tana the labrador/ border collie cross quickly became the most frequently walked dog in all of Cracroft, Christchurch when we stayed with him for three weeks.

At the moment Top Dog position is held by Frankie the unknown mix.  He lives to the left of us and we hold a relationship with him through the fence.  Somehow he even managed to score a starring feature on the personalized lego Christmas themed wallpaper that is currently on our desktop monitor.

One day, probably when we own our own home we’ll become dog people for real.  In the meantime I was humoring myself the other day by using this online tool – choosing the right dog breed for us (based on all sorts of interesting things) and I was struck with this idea – how completely different this is to how our families look, with the mishmash of personality types we end up in our family groups. Ain’t no pre-conception, before they are even a ‘twinkle in our eyes’ picking and choosing of personality types in our kids, is there?

You see one the most challenging things we face as parents is in seeing all the different personalities our children have, and learning to appreciate all that they encompass – and not try to change them into what is best suited to us, or to what we know and can understand better.

Our oldest boy is a planner and an organizer.  He’s extremely detail specific and has a very high idea speed.  He wants to know by 8pm one day, what the entire plan is for the next day.  Now both my husband and I are organized people too – we like routines and structure, especially my ‘oldest of 6 kids’ husband who has quite the reputation for organizing his whole entire family.  His rearranging of his Mother’s pantry in ’98 is still quite vivid in all of their minds and there may or may not have been great appreciation for this gesture.  Anyhoo – as parents we are organized. However, sometimes we’re tired, we’re hot and bothered, we’re waiting on other people, we’re doing housework or other jobs, we’re spending time with our other children or we’re distracted by a gazillion and one other things and we can’t answer the multitude of questions that are fired at us by Mr Tell Me Everything You Can Right Now.  Then I get frustrated by his need to know so much. Then I feel bad for getting frustrated.  Spiral, spiral, spiral.

But lately, I’ve been realizing more and more that Nathanael’s personality is a gift – it is part of a package deal of what makes him unique and gifted in what he is gifted at.  He is who he is for a purpose.  And although I wouldn’t have picked and chosen such a planner and such an organizer for a firstborn (and yeah I know it is a common trait in a firstborn) when I look at Nat’s interests right now those personality traits make complete sense – and fit him to a tee.  Right now Nat loves all things aviation.  His main interest is planes – and everything about them.  He can look at a plane from a huge distance and tell you what make and model it is.  He is adept with flying his plane simulator computer game.  If he continues with this interest, I can think of no safer hands at the controls of a big or small plane.  I would trust him in a heartbeat – he would be an educated, responsible, knowledgeable and ultra competent pilot – if he so pursues that career path.  And by golly he’d do his utmost to get you to your destination on time.

I need to see and appreciate all of Nathanael’s personality (as well as my other children’s) for what is it – special, designed with a greater purpose, well beyond my limitations and short-sightedness.

It is just as well you can’t pick and choose your kids’ personalities, otherwise I wouldn’t have daily opportunities to develop my patience in particular…….but you mark my words, I’ll be super picky about that breed of dog we eventually get……

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