Catching Up

She wouldn’t respond. 

Instead, she seemed to crawl as far into her shell (me) as physically possible. 

“What’s your name?”  “What’s your favorite color?” “Can I get a high-five?” 

All met with the same response. 

Eventually, I faced her and explained, “When someone asks you your name, you say, ‘My name is Elizabeth.’  When they ask you your favorite color, you tell them.”

A light-bulb went off- for both of us. 

Elizabeth’s entire life has been permission-based.  She does not try a new food, unless explained-by-me that it is safe for her to eat.  

And as the youngest of four sisters, she has always looked to others to lead the way. 

So it finally made sense, why she had never responded before: she had never been told to.

And it finally made sense to her, that is was ok to respond. 

She was simply catching up. 

I shared this revelation with a friend of mine  and her response, more-or-less was, 

“Well, yeah.”  

We dove into a conversation about our childhoods, how they’ve shaped us and ultimately how different they were. 

Her military-based family traveled. 

But her mother was always there and my friend always felt seen, supported and loved.

My mother traveled and always asked if I knew how much she loved me, for her own reassurance.

I realized, no one ever taught me, like they taught my friend. 

I’ve always just figured it out, on my own. 

I left home at 15 for boarding school, never to return home. 

I married at 27, had a child by 29

Making my own sense.

Exploding lightbulbs.

Catching up. 

Camille Vaughan Photography

Let Them Fly

I can see her now. 

Sitting on a landing, just outside her window; her legs folded closely to her chest, her arms wrapped securely around them.  Her forehead pressed against her knees.  

She is so very lonely.  

*********************

I can see them now.  

Four little girls, each creative, unique and beautiful soul looking to me, their mama, for guidance. 

When the pandemic hit, I cradled those babies in my arms, protecting them from the dangers that lie outside our loving nest.  

But life, ever-changing, continues.  

And lately, I’ve come to the stark realization that in my desire to protect my children, I am, instead, preventing their growth.  

How will they learn to adjust, when they are always accommodated?

I thought quitting homeschooling mid-year was the equivalent of failure. 

Now, I know that doing the same thing over and over, when it isn’t working, is the definition of insanity.  

In this case, quitting isn’t failing. 

It’s adapting. 

The course we are on is no longer what is best for my children and while making that pivotal turn towards something new is scary, it is also necessary for their continued growth.

*********************

I approach that little girl on the landing, placing the palm of my hand on top of her head, whispering, 

“One day, you’re going to be a mommy to four little girls and as much as you are going to want to shelter them, you don’t have to worry.  They will never be lonely.  Because they will have you.”

New Leaf Parenting. 

Every Day is a Fresh Start.

Turn the page. 

Start a new chapter. 

Let them fly.  

Camille Vaughan Photography

Equality

It’s one of those moments in life where you realize . . . 

Maybe they were listening after all.

At the dinner table, our third-borne was lamenting about the unfairness of it all when our second-borne calmly, and matter-of-factly, repeated my exact words:

“Emma, it’s not equal at the same time.  It’s equal over time.”  

I smiled at her.  

Yes. 

Yesssssss. 

That’s what I’ve been saying, all along. 

When you have multiple children, they are always concerned about equality.  

She gets this, so I should get it, too. 

An impossible task, day-to-day. 

Instead, it’s not equal today, child. 

But in time, it all levels out. 

Not equal at the same time.

Equal over time. 

Equal over time.  

Camille Vaughan Photography

Our Way

I’m not sure if it was the package of Bertie’s Every Flavor Beans or the recent memory of Halloween, but when one of my daughters asked our youngest if she wanted to try a questionable jelly-bean and I hesitated, not knowing the allergens involved, I saw, for the first time, our youngest change. 

She understood and was affected. 

Rather than ignore, I followed her into her bedroom and quietly conversed, “Hey, how are you?”

Forlornly, she looked at me and I knew the jig was up.  

There was no more fooling this three “and-a-half” year-old.  

I decided to meet her where she was.

“Are you sad because you aren’t able to eat the same things as your sisters?”

It was a first admission of mine. The terrible truth almost always substituted or downright avoided. 

Instead of answering, she buried her head into my shoulder and wept.  

What is a mother to do?

Pancakes, muffins, cupcakes, waffles, even popsicles I can substitute.  

But jellybeans on the fly?  I’m out of my realm.  

She’s too old to fool. 

Instead, I meet her. 

Yes, this sucks. 

No, this isn’t fair.  

Yes, you can be sad and angry.  

And together, we will find your way, child.  

We are more than the worst thing that has ever happened to us. 

We will find our way.  

Help

Lately, one of our daughters has been suffering from extreme anxiety.  We’ve been in counseling and seeing her pediatrician on a regular basis.  I’ve also supplemented my daily reading with a plethora of parenting books and podcasts and today, I wanted to share some resources that have been particularly helpful.  

1).  It all began with this book my friend, Leslie, recommended.  Sissy Goff is a Christian counselor MEd, LPC-MHSP based out of Nashville, TN.  She works exclusively with young girls who are suffering from worry, anxiety and/or depression alongside a counselor for boys, David Thomas, LMSW and Melissa Trevathan, MRE who started their practice Daystar Counseling in the 1980s.  This is a workbook designed for a parent to work through with their child and it has been an absolutely wonderful resource for our family.  

2).  This is the companion book to the workbook above, also by Sissy Goff, intended for parents to read as they support their daughter through worry and anxiety.  I have underlined half of the book. 

3).  This is the INCREDIBLE PODCAST that I have been listening to with counselors Sissy, David and Melissa.  Each episode is only 20-30 minutes and is PACKED with useful strategies, many of which I have implemented that very same day!  Season 4 Episode 7 is specially about worry and anxiety and depression and since it was recorded so recently, it really discusses the effect the pandemic has had on our children.  I cannot recommend this entire podcast enough, but particularly this episode!  If you do nothing else on this list, listen to this.  

https://www.raisingboysandgirls.com/listen

4). Season 4 of the Raising Boys and Girls podcast is centered around Sissy’s newest book, Modern Parents, Vintage Values which I have in my reading pile but haven’t started.  Everything they discuss in the podcast is right in line with our family’s values so I cannot wait to begin this book! 

5). Finally, this is another book co-written by the same three counselors and another in my “to read” pile, by my side as I type.  

Philosopher Plato once said, “Be kind.  Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

Happy photos on social media tell only one side of a story- a book with many chapters.  My hope is that in sharing a battle our own family is fighting, you will know you are not alone in yours.  I hope these resources are as useful to some of you as they have been to us.  ❤

Camille Vaughan Photography

Fly

Y’all.  

I am in deep. 

These past two months, I have felt like I am trudging through thick, relentless mud.  

I haven’t had a lot to write about lately, simply because I haven’t had a nanosecond of extra time, nor an ounce of inspiration.  

It’s been really hard and really ugly. 

But I am here, writing to celebrate a little crack, a sliver of light that crept through today.

This past March, my youngest, Elizabeth, and I returned to mommy-and-me classes at The Little Gym.  They allowed me to stay alongside with her, even though she was beyond the age three limit.  They understood the impact the pandemic has had on children everywhere and that separating was more difficult than ever.  This Fall, however, it was time for Elizabeth to join the independent three year-old’s class.  

Lord knows, I knew this would be an uphill battle.  With so many health issues, Elizabeth is more dependent on me than most mother-daughter relationships. 

To her, I represent survival. 

For her, I want her to experience the joy of independence.  

We began in September with us sitting outside of class, watching the others play.  Gradually, we made our way into the gym, with her sitting on my lap against the wall.  Later, she would do a forward roll a foot away from me and then with bribery, she would run to an obstacle, complete it and run back to me.  I attempted to leave the room a few times that first month to no avail; instead, biding my time, sitting inside the room, encouraging her to spend more time off my lap.  

Today, for the first time in seven weeks, she completed class with me sitting outside, cheering her on through the picture window.  Fifteen minutes in, I announced to the lobby of parents, “Can we just all take a minute here to celebrate this milestone?!”  And they clapped and cheered right alongside me.  

I have four children and every single one of them has needs, specific to them. 

There were so many days that I wanted to throw in the towel but I am a mother. 

And mothers walk alongside their children.

Nudging, encouraging, lifting.  

Until their children discover the confidence to fly on their own.

Camille Vaughan Photography

Little Things

We moved here seven years ago. 

And there she was with a smile and word of encouragement as she witnessed our family grow from two to three to four daughters, surpassing her own three. 

She reminded me to hold these babies because soon, they would be grown. 

She encouraged me, “You’re doing a great job.”

And when you are a stay-at-home-mom with limited outside exposure, those little words go a long way.  

Once a day, 5-6 days a week, Diane delivered our mail. 

Until today, when I received her handwritten note, announcing the end of an era. 

Her sobs told me she hadn’t expected me to call. 

And I realized maybe she wondered the same thing I did: 

Did I matter to you as much as you did to me?

It’s the little things. 

Human connection. 

That matter. 

Together

It was an innocent assignment; written in the curriculum years before the pandemic even began. 

Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote a letter to children in 1947 and now it was my child’s turn:

“Write a letter to children in the future describing what life is like today for your family.”  

She began with the simple facts:  her age, family and hometown.

But by the second paragraph, my nine-year-old froze.  

Covid-19.  Living during a pandemic.  

And just like that- it was all too much to bear. 

It’s one thing to survive on a daily basis. 

It’s another to face it in words.

The fear, the masks, the social distancing.

“Mommy, I don’t want to do this.”  She cried.  

I held her, told her to take a break and later said, 

“We’ll do it together.”

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that we cannot do it alone.  

We do it together. 

Camille Vaughan Photography

Moving Beyond The Page, Epiphany Curriculum

Change

I can feel it in the air. 

Can you?

Change is a-coming. 

Tonight, one of my daughters wondered aloud how it could be so dark when it was “only 7 o’clock.”  

It seems like yesterday that it was light at nine.  

And yet, here we are. 

The constant we can always rely on: 

Change. 

Just as we adjust. 

As soon as we settle in. 

Change comes in like a thief and reminds us that if there were ever a thing to depend on it was her all along. 

Change. 

I can feel it in the air. 

Can you?

Camille Vaughan Photography