Sunday, September 21, 2014

Beards, Bangs and Bigger Fish...

My husband recently grew a beard.  Not your typical, nicely groomed beard.  But a gruff, scruffy, long, full-on mountain-man beard.  He and 9 of his buddies had decided to hike Mt. Whitney and in a spirit of manliness, outdoors-ness, and all things rugged and mountain climb-y, Jon decided to stop shaving until the hike.  Now the day of the hike has come and gone, but the beard is still here.  Jon hasn’t gotten around to shaving it and he’s kind of indifferent toward it.  What’s interesting though is that I get approached ALL the time - by both husbands and wives, friends and strangers - with the exact same question:  “So, how do YOU like the beard?”  This is usually posed by wives who can’t believe I “let” my husband have a beard or husbands who are trying to convince their wives to give a green light to facial hair.  The first time I was asked, without even pausing to think, I blurted out, “His beard? Oh gosh, I have way bigger fish to fry than to spend time hating on Jon’s beard.”  My response surprised even me a little.  But it was true.  Time has a way of offering perspective.  Years ago, I would have absolutely cared.  Who wants scratchy kisses?  I mean, really.  Until your husband has a brain tumor and survives and then you realize that the person who wants scratchy kisses is you.  I want them.  I want his kisses in whatever form they present themselves.  It’s interesting how Life does that.  Refocuses you. Jon once spent 2 years saying he wanted to shave his head and I kept talking him out of it.  Then one day, he said in passing, “Man, I just want to shave my head.” And I paused and thought to myself, “Why the heck do I care so much?  If he wants to shave it, he can shave it.”  And so we did it right then and there.  And guess what?  The world didn’t stop.  “But he has the best hair!  Many men would kill for his thick, beautiful hair.  Why would you ever want to shave it??”  Well, because…  Bigger fish. 

I remember when I was a new mom and my son Jackson wanted to wear his Superman costume to the grocery store.  “Sweetie, that is not appropriate.  We wear clothes to the store, not costumes.”  Fast forward 8 years as our 4th child heads out the door in her princess dress.  “You look beautiful, Snow White!  Let’s go shopping!” I exclaim, much to my daughter’s delight. 

Time.  Life.  Perspective.  Oh how I wish I would have had that from the beginning.  How much time did I spend ‘Majoring in the Minors?’ Too much.  Taylor begged to cut bangs for a full year.  “But honey, bangs are more trouble than they’re worth.  Growing them back out is such a pain.”  But after a year, I took a deep breath and thought to myself - Bigger fish.  So we cut the bangs.  And she looked beautiful.  And she loved them.  And I did too.  And now, a year later, she wants to grow them out again.  And so we start the growing process.  And if she isn't patient enough to let them grow out, and decides to cut them again?  Bigger fish.  

What are the bigger fish?  I want my kids to be kind.  Compassionate.  Generous.  Forgiving.  I want them to reach out to the kids in their school who are “outsiders.”  I want them to love mercy.  I want them to walk humbly. I want their hearts to break for those who are in need.  I want them to know that God loves them.  No matter what.  And I do too.  I want my husband and  I to have a thriving marriage.  I want him to feel respect and I want to feel loved.  I want to parent our children as a united front.  I want to be on the same team.  No matter what.  I want to encourage him in his passions and experience him encouraging me in mine. I want our intimate relationship to always be exactly that.  Intimate.  I want to be a kind and loving light in our community.  I want to model to our kids the compassion, grace, mercy, generosity…  And on and on the list goes.  

SO.  If something conflicts with those Big Fish, then I will give them time and attention.  If something doesn’t conflict?  Then we cut the bangs.  Shave the head.  Grow the beard.  

There is freedom in Majoring in the Majors.  A release of what other people think…  No more people pleasing.  No more unimportant standards / expectations.  Allowing my husband to be a grown-up man and choose his own darn haircut.  ;)  Allowing my 7 year old to stretch her creative muscles and experiment with bangs.  Because as time goes on, the battles we face in life are going to get bigger and more important.  Our battles must be chosen wisely and with intention.  

And so today I will run errands with Belle and Ariel.  I will pin back my 8 year old’s bangs as they are in that “awkward” stage, and tell her how beautiful she looks.  And I will grab hold of my husband’s long, scruffy beard, pull it toward me, and smooch those lips.  If I can find them in there.  ;)  Oh, and just for the record, in case he reads this:  Yes babe, “no motorcycle” is still on the GIANT FISH list.  ;)
I’m still a work in progress…  ;)  


2nd grade birthday book for her classroom... "Really honey? You get to pick only 1 picture to put in your book. You want this one? Of you last year? Dressed like Anna?"
Perfect. Bigger Fish. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

TO: My Husband FROM: Your Stay at Home Wife/Mom

I wrote this "Note" on Facebook about a year ago.  I wrote it at 9am while my 8 month old sat on my lap and I typed with one finger while watching The View.  Seriously.  
I did not write it about my husband.  My husband actually does all of these things.  Well, except for the boob thing while nursing.  And the non-sexual touch.  (To quote him: "Non-sexual touch? What the heck is that?")  ;)  
I wrote this because of the many young mom's I have had the privilege of encountering over the past 10+ years, since I became a mom.  So many moms shared with me the exact same story with the exact same frustrations.  So on a random day in August last year, I posted this without even a thought.  After 17,881 Shares on Facebook, I realized this topic hit close to home for many women.  Is this Note exhaustive?  No.  Does it cover the other side of things for the man?  No.  But did I get hundreds of emails from strangers (many of them from men) thanking me for starting a much needed conversation in their marriage?  Yes.  So I thought I'd post it again.  A few words revised.  But the same note, 1 year later.  In case someone needs it today....


To: My Husband.
From: Your Stay at Home Wife/Mom.

I used to think it would be so romantic if you just knew me so well, that you knew exactly what I needed.  I would never have to verbally share with you my needs because if you really loved me, you would know what they were, even before I did.  You, my love, were to be nothing less than a mind reader. It sounded fabulous and romantic.   However, we’ve been married awhile now. And reality has set in.  You are an amazing man.  An incredible husband.  But I must tell you: You are horrible at mind reading.  And it’s not your fault.  I now get it.  It’s physically impossible. There’s nothing you can do to acquire this superpower that I wish you possessed.   So today, I am declaring that I am letting you off the hook.  No more guessing.  Today, I lay it out.  I’m giving you a peek into me.  You can choose to stop reading here if you enjoy the guessing game.  Ah, you’re still reading?  Awesome.  I love that about you.  You’re IN.  I knew it. 

Ok wait.  Before I express my needs, let me explain something that might be difficult to understand: 
I love our kids.  I love my role as a mom.  But honestly?  It’s tough.  And here’s the tricky part – those 2 things DO co-exist.  One doesn’t trump the other or cancel it out. I love it - And I’m tired.  It’s an honor – But it’s exhaustingly hard work.  I’m fulfilled - And I’m drained.  Get it?  Me either.  It’s tricky and complex.  But it’s called Motherhood and I’m in the thick of it.  OK, so in light of that, here’s what I need.  Or want.  TomAto….TomAHto. Here’s the reality in no particular order…. 

1) I need to refuel.  And it’s not by grocery shopping with only 1 kid instead of all 3.  I need to get out of the house.  Alone.  I need to ride in my car and listen to adult music.  I want to use the public restroom in the small stall. The one without the changing station.  Alone.  I don’t need extravagance.  [I mean, I won’t turn down extravagance, of course.  But I don’t need it.] ;) You know what I’d love?  To wander the isles of Target for an hour.  Or to sit at Starbucks alone for 30 minutes.  Or to walk in a shopping mall without pushing a stroller.  It really is that easy.  Will I come back completely changed and ready to conquer the world? Honestly?  Sometimes yes.  But sometimes, no.  But what I WILL come back with, is a little more life in me.  I will have a spring in my step.  It’s a little shot in the arm.  I reeeeallly need this.  When you ask if I want it, and I say, “I’m OK.”  I need you to tell me to go anyway. 

2) Please don’t call and ask what’s for dinner.  If anything, call and ask, “Do we have dinner plans?  If not, can I stop by the store and pick anything up?”  I love you.  And I love providing nourishment for our family.  But when I have spit up running down into my bra and a toddler who just learned to take off his own dirty diaper, I could do without The Call.  

3) When I take the kids to the pool, please know that I didn’t spend the day poolside with a cocktail.  Sometimes I feel like that’s how you view the life of a stay at home mom.  In reality, every 2 minutes, I’m doing roll call to make sure everyone is above water.  “1..2..3..…1…2…3…” over and over and over and over.  I’m changing poopy swim diapers on hot concrete and peeling wet swimsuits off of tiny bodies because they have to go potty AGAIN.  I’m schlepping towels and sunblock and swimming goggles and dive toys and flippers and water shoes and cover ups and diapers and wipes and snacks and drinks.  I have one child who has no fear of water and is jumping into areas he’s not allowed to, and another child who’s deathly afraid of the water and is leaving claw marks in my arm.  Blood has been drawn.  A walk in the park is not a walk in the park.  It’s chasing, and counting, and disciplining and refereeing.. A day at the pool is all of that, in a big hole of water.  Attempting to avoid death.  For real.

4) I’ve been nursing a baby all day long.  My “nursers” are over stimulated.  The last thing I desire when you get home from work, is to have one more person perusing the “food court.”  I realize it's probably hard to have parts of my body now belong to a bald, drooling, demanding "significant other."  I don't want you to feel in competition with our little one.  You win.  Except when it comes to my boobs.  My boobs are sustaining a human life right now, so you get trumped.  If you will understand this and not let it become a point of tension, I’m certain you’ll get extra rewards in heaven.  (or at least extra a grateful wife)  

5) However, when we’re home and you walk by me in the kitchen and grab my butt, and I swat you away, I don’t mean it.  I secretly love that you still want to be playful and frisky.  The timing may not be right, or I just don’t know what to do with your playfulness because my brain is counting the number of loads of laundry waiting for me.  But please don’t stop.  I need to know you still like me. Deep down I want to be pursued.  I understand this is confusing in light of the point above.  I can’t explain everything.  I’m just informing.  I’m complex like that.  

6) I need a Girls Night Out every once in awhile.  While we both know you rock, I  need some time with girlfriends as well.  Unless, of course, you would like to discuss bikini waxing, my period and the latest fashion trends with me.  No?  Cool. Girl’s Night Out it is.  

7) I need non-sexual touch.  I know you don’t quite understand what that is.  Just pretend it’s valuable and possible.  The grabbing mentioned above is fun and all, but sometimes I just want to feel your arm on my shoulder, without it slowly moving a few inches south.  I need your physical affection without another motive.  I need to know that you like to just be with me.  

8) When you walk in the door, let’s make a deal:  You won’t walk straight to the family room and collapse on the couch with the remote… And I won’t greet you at the door with all 3 kids, dump them on you and clock out.  When you come home from work, let’s do it together.  Share the load.  If you need to decompress from your day at work, please take the long way home.  Drive around the block a few extra times if you need to.  I'm not meaning to sound harsh.  And it's not that I don't want our home to be a safe place for you to decompress.  I do!  But coming home every night and making a beeline for the couch in front of the TV makes me feel not valued.  I need my partner.  My teammate.  And when it's been "one of those days" for either of us, let's give the other person a heads up.  That way we can intentionally create space for the other person to vent, rest, chill, whatever.  (I think it's a great learning for the kids when I can say, "Daddy has had a long, hard day at work.  Let's get him a drink and a snack!" and allow them to be a part of loving you on "Those Days.")  

9) That trip we took with the kids was awesome.  We created family memories.  We had fun.  But that’s exactly what it was – a “trip.”  I need a “vacation.”  A vacation is like a trip.  Just without the diapers and wipes and baby food and high chairs and primary color toys.  Oh, and without the tiny humans that come with those things.  Don’t get me wrong, I love those tiny humans. But a break to refuel, refresh, clear my mind, invaluable.  I have no way to explain what a true vacation will do to me.  Other than to say hotel room sex is fabulous.  The end. 

10) When you come home to a clean house, be assured it didn’t look like that hours earlier. There were crackers smashed on the floor, toys everywhere, food smeared on walls, 8 outfit changes from our preschool daughter strewn around the house…  If you come home to a clean house, please notice.  Please say something.  Acknowledge that it obviously took superhuman powers to get it to the state it is.  It sounds silly and needy.  Maybe I am.  But you know that “atta boy” you got from your boss at work that made your day?  Ya, I need that too.  And if your jerk boss never tells you "atta boy," I'm sorry.  Could you still tell me?  ;)  (Just to clarify, I'm not saying you're my boss.  It was just an analogy.  Settle down there, big guy.)  ;)  

11) When we go to a restaurant, sometimes I need you to offer to sit next to ‘The Kid.’  You know, the one that needs extra assistance.  The one that cries and grabs and throws and needs.  When I say, “No, it’s OK. I’ll sit next to The Child” I need you to gift me with the break anyway.  I’m not saying every time.  But we both know that going to restaurants with The Child is difficult. I’d so appreciate sharing that load with you. 

12) I need to go on a date.  With you.  I need to wear clothes that don’t smell like any type of child’s body fluid.  I need to order food for just me.  I need to eat it while it’s hot.  I need to look into your eyes.  I need to hold your hand.  I need adult conversation.  And while the topic of kids might creep into our conversation, let’s commit to keeping that to a minimum.  We spent so much of our dating years getting to know each other.  Asking questions.  I was your student and you were mine.  A lot has happened since then.  You and I have changed and grown. Let’s learn about each other again.  Re-discover who we are today.  Let’s know and be known.  Let’s date. 

13) Let’s commit to not comparing.  My friend might be prettier.  Or a better homemaker.  Or parent with ease.  Her husband might be more romantic.  Or more successful.  Or a more engaged father.  There’s always going to be someone who does what we do, but better.  Or so it seems.  Let’s commit to not comparing.  Comparison will steal our joy.  It will take the wind out of our sail.  It will make us feel defeated.  Or frustrated. Or angry.  Or all of the above.  Let’s be honest - everyone else is just as messed up as we are.  We just see the beautiful, shiny outsides of them that they put on display, and tend to compare it to the dysfunctional, broken insides of ourselves that only we know.  Let’s just be the best “us”we can be – keeping our eyes ONLY on OUR path.  I love you.  I chose you and you chose me.  Let’s be in for US and US only.

Thank you for hearing me.
You may not understand it all.  I don’t even know if I do.
This season is glorious and difficult.
And in all the uncertainty, the only thing I do know is there is NO ONE I’d rather do this with, than you.
You are exactly the “who” I need. 
The other stuff is just the “what” I’d love from you.  I ask you to just try. 
And if you’re willing, I’d love a list like this from you in return.
This is a tough season for us both. I know you have needs you rarely express as well and I’d love a peek into those if you’d be willing to share. 
I love you and love that we’re living in what we’ll someday call “the good old days.” 
You have my heart forever.