Friday, February 20, 2015

Keeping It Real

A friend and I (hello Marilyn) were recently discussing the whole . . . oh, I don't know . . . the whole business of sharing – both in the social media world and just in general among those we associate with. We were pondering over where to draw the line; where being open, and honest, and “keeping it real” becomes just . . . being a glass-half-empty, constant complainer.

It's a fine line. And neither of us knew exactly where one should draw it. There seems to be some obvious good in . . . giving others things to relate to, in opening up so others know they aren't alone in their strugglings; that they aren’t failing when they find life feeling overwhelming or hard. And, I suppose, letting our guard down and sharing our struggles allows people to strengthen and lift us when we need encouragement.

The tendency to showcase life as a bunch of picture-perfect, everything-running-smoothly moments seems . . . like a bit of a trick (though I have often argued for looking for, embracing, and capturing those moments of joy – the good and the “worth remembering”). And yet . . . moaning and broadcasting every difficulty and unfairness seems like . . . grasping a hold of Laman and Lemuel's perpetual “murmuring” and claiming it fully as your own.

In my own life, while I don’t mind carefully crafting a post about a struggle here and there, I am, I admit, . . . a bit overly attached to, if not actually feeling, then at least appearing in control and on top of things. Reading about it is one thing, but I shudder at the idea of anyone actually seeing me stressed and exhausted, out-of-patience and overwhelmed.

But, in truth, the past month or so has had me, off and on, hanging on by my fingernails a bit as I've tried to manage my home, children, and other obligations. For weeks and weeks (and weekends) Mike's work demanded impossibly long hours. We saw him little, if at all; and running our home without the comfort of knowing I had reinforcements coming was, at times, utterly exhausting. I lost patience, felt overwhelmed, disappointed myself, dropped the ball on numerous things with my children, and barely managed to pull together my outward “all is flowing seamlessly” appearance. (Heaven knows we must keep up appearances!) There were many moments like the other night: Anders sobbing hysterically over a pinched finger, Summer crying to be fed, Penny repeatedly demanding – in escalating tones of whininess – for me to please help her with something on the piano that absolutely could not wait, and Goldie holding our her new violin book asking if I could quiz her on something or other. All, of course, when bedtime should have long-since been well underway and dinner was still far far from anything like cleaned up.

Perhaps it’s important to let down my guard a bit and let others know that day-to-day living around here isn’t all Instagram pics and clever toddler remarks. And yet . . . shrug . . . I don’t know . . . it is also those things. The things I’m about to record – the cell shots and the moments (which were actually the only things I intended to record in this post) – were all there, interspersed among the difficult. They were real. And, to be honest, they more clearly represent the majority of the time (although one moment of numerous kids whining amidst sudden mess can quickly make the whole day feel disastrous). But what a loss if the “hard” made me blind to these perfect moments . . . to all their brightness and happiness and . . . goodness.

So . . . I guess I still haven’t come to any real conclusion at all over how and what to share. Still, there was so much to laugh and smile over and enjoy this month. I’m just going to go ahead and share.


First off:

The other day, Jesse was mentioning something or other that Summer didn’t know how to do. After detailing it, he added that, at this point, “she mostly just knows how to be awesome.”
Photo Feb 15, 12 09 31 PMPhoto Feb 16, 8 03 40 AMPhoto Feb 16, 8 03 41 AMPhoto Feb 16, 8 04 01 AM

I’ll be the first to admit that that’s true. She does, mostly, just know how . . . to be AWESOME.
Photo Feb 14, 1 12 43 PMPhoto Feb 14, 12 19 45 PMPhoto Feb 14, 1 13 02 PM
But, she sure would have liked if I would have swapped her bottle out for the sugar cookie I was eating on Valentine’s Day.

Also: rompers for life, why are the kids all making her cry?, she keeps shocking me by appearing in places where I did not leave her (a little army-crawl, pulling, and dragging all at play), and a few other cute Summer pics.
Photo Feb 18, 9 37 04 AMPhoto Feb 16, 9 03 54 AMPhoto Feb 18, 9 37 13 AMPhoto Feb 20, 10 05 33 AMPhoto Feb 20, 10 07 09 AMPhoto Feb 16, 3 22 03 PMPhoto Feb 20, 8 20 39 AM

Oh, and . . . that little mouth. And chin. Does anyone else find themselves kissing that soft little chubby spot right under their baby’s chin (maybe I should just call it a double chin)?
Photo Feb 20, 12 03 07 PMPhoto Feb 20, 12 03 08 PMPhoto Feb 20, 12 03 27 PM

Moving right along. Penny is quite into writing and “illustrating”. She constantly tells me she wants to be an author and illustrator. Her teacher, who, quite honestly, nearly swoons in adoration over Penny (“Never!” she tells me. “Never! In 20 years of teaching did I ever even imagine there could be a Penny!”), certainly encourages her. Still, for all her certainty, and all the encouragement . . . she is sometimes . . . at a loss.

Last night she sat, ponderingly, on the couch next to me (when she was supposed to be in bed). “I want to write a book,” she told me. “I just don’t know what to write it about. There are A LOT of good ideas out there. I just . . . don’t think of them.”

Yes. That’s a trouble for sure.
Photo Feb 20, 7 18 43 AMPhoto Feb 16, 8 06 55 AMPhoto Feb 20, 7 18 49 AM

Whether she writes a novel or not, she’ll always have one thing going for her: her eyes that go into nearly-shut slits when she smiles. I love that so much. And if all else comes to naught? Those eyes. They’re enough. (At least in my book.)

Jesse hasn’t loved reading quite like his older siblings have. It is usually a bit of an ordeal to get his daily reading in. (The only thing that encourages him to press on at all is the enticement of someday being able to read instruction manuals with ease.) I am always telling him that if he would just do his reading “happily” it would go much better. After a spell of smooth out-loud-reading earlier in the week, he commented, “I wasn’t reading too good before because I was spending the time mostly grumpin’” Hahah. Dear boy. I love him. Here he is watching a youtube video on how to fix a toilet flush valve – not because ours is broken, but, because . . . it’s fun. (Also pictured: Goldie very excited to have just started violin, and, posing quickly by the garage for me one morning before school.)
Photo Feb 17, 1 36 25 PMPhoto Feb 17, 6 44 52 PMPhoto Feb 13, 8 18 22 AM

A few more Anders’ questions:

“Is Darth Vader real?
“Is Summer real?”
“Is it fun to be bad?” (No! No! for the love of all things! Noooo!)
“Are our flamilies in our tummies?” (Uhhh? I guess . . . if you eat them.)
“Can Tess eat garbage?”
“When did we get born?”
“Do you and dad not go to bed?”
“What happens if you put your hands in your mouth?”
“What happens if Santa falls down a chimney?”

Here the little stinker is. (Along with some other miscellaneous pictures – including one of Mike strumming his mandolin late one night. He keeps forcing whatever kid he can grab to come sing Arkansas Traveller while he plays. I like it.)
Photo Feb 19, 11 19 34 AMPhoto Feb 18, 8 34 17 AMPhoto Feb 14, 9 04 21 PMPhoto Feb 14, 2 58 31 PM (1)Photo Feb 18, 8 39 25 AMPhoto Feb 18, 8 52 41 PM


Linn said...

I love this. And I adore your family. So much.

With a husband that is, again, gone pretty much every week with work travel, I related so much to this post. My life is wonderful and good and I am oh so blessed. But having a day like yesterday (you don't need details, we have all been there) felt like it ruined the whole week. I was just so weary. And "mostly grumpin." (Thanks Jesse!) And this morning I still feel murmury. So silly with the great life I have. And yet, so real.

Thank you sweet friend!

PS. Did I mention I love your family?

Marilyn said...

Well, I think you strike just the right balance of "realness" and optimism. But this is tricky (as I know we've dsicussed)! I was also thinking about how it's just certain things I feel most embarrassed/defensive about sharing, and I'm not sure why. Like, I can joke about how I always forget to give my kids baths or how when they fight and bicker it drives me crazy--and that feels fine and real--but any _real_ battles or tantrums are harder for me to admit or talk about. Or, it's kind of like taking naps. I love taking naps and think nothing of anyone else taking naps too--but somehow I am embarrassed to ever actually be caught taking one. If anyone calls or comes over when I'm napping I say I wasn't asleep and try desperately to look like I was awake and busy. Or if someone calls before I'm up in the morning, same thing. Someone could call me at 3 a.m. and I would insist I was already awake. I don't know why, because as I said, I'm totally on board with naps as a principle of happy life--but I don't know. It's just part of my self-image to want to seem industrious, maybe?

Anyway. It all plays into "keeping it real," I guess. I'm happy to "keep it real" in ways that don't threaten my pride too much. :) But I think your point is so good that all those good, happy moments should be recognized, because they can so easily be forgotten otherwise! The "mostly grumpin'" parts stick in memory so easily, if you arent careful you will think they are all there is! I've had many days like that--especially when Sam's not around--when I feel so tired and discouraged at the end of the day, and I get really resentful and self-pitying, like "I never have any help, no one appreciates me, everything is so hard"---and what good does that kind of thinking do me? It certainty doesn't HELP, and it often makes things worse. So I'm on the side of choosing to highlight the good, when possible.

Also--Anders' questions are SO GOOD. So glad you're writing them down. And Penny's teacher's comment is one reason I miss sending the kids to school. So fun and validating when other people see and appreciate the amazingness of your kids!

And, we call that little round chin-spot the "smile button." Because it makes people smile when you push on it. Try it and see. :)

Nancy said...

Linn -- yes! You do this husbandless survival business so much! And I know exactly what you mean about one bad day making the whole week seem like a fail. That's what I meant about one insane moment of whining and fighting among kids in an otherwise pleasant day. It consumes pretty quickly! Sigh. But there is so much good! Even in the roughest times. Life is tricky.

Marilyn -- I know! I hate admitting that I fall into the whole "keeping up appearances", but I do! I laughed at your "No! No! No worries! I'm awake!" Hahaha. But I think that partially relates to not wanting anyone else to feel embarrassed or awkward like they called at a bad time. And that is to your credit. (Though I'm still laughing at the idea of someone calling at 3 am and you insisting you were wide awake.) I do have pride things though. I can admit openly to some chaos and stress, etc, but there are plenty if failings and weaknesses that I would be utterly humiliated to have open -- no matter how human and understandable they might be. And sometimes, like we discussed with your one very difficult experience, maybe if we'd drop that fear a bit and share, we'd be surprised at the support and encouragement where we might have feared judgement, etc.

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