Stay

She called and she said, “I don’t know what to do.”

And I said, “Here’s XY and Z.”  

All the places someone else can help.

“But here’s the truth.  

There’s no one more qualified than you.”

Listen, I have those kids.  

They need professional help.  

They need accommodations, counseling, services and meds. 

And we utilize them!

But at the end of the day, 

What do they need most?  Above all?  Since birth? In addition to God?

Me.

They need me to show up. 

Me not to punt them and their struggles for someone else to solve. 

They need me to hold their hand. 

When it’s ugly and neither of us know what the hell to do. 

They need me to just walk alongside them through it. 

I fill blanks with the qualified but I also remain steady. 

No matter what they are going through, 

I am here.

“And that’s what you do.  

You stay.”

I stay.

Camille Vaughan Photography

Brave Girl

“But the other kids are going to know I’m leaving.” She lamented. 

I could have lied.  I could have lost her trust by trying to convince her that, no, they wouldn’t. 

But I met her where she was. 

“Yes.  Yes, they will.  And this is a choice you have to make.”  I said, instead. 

“Either you endure a read-aloud that sends you into a full-blown panic-attack or you make accommodations for yourself, like anyone else with a disability does and you excuse yourself to the library. In other words, you own it.” 

For me, it’s environmental allergies.  When I pet a dog, I immediately wash my hands.  I’ve owned dogs.  I love dogs, I take allergy shots for dogs, but I am, alas, allergic to dogs.  I make accommodations. 

For her sister, it’s food allergies.  I make separate meals three times a day to accommodate.  

My daughter suffers from anxiety.  We treat with professionals and we do the best we can do avoid triggers, when we can. 

“What will I say, when they ask why I’m reading a different book?”

“You tell them the truth.”  I explain. “You own it, you brave, girl.  And you give others the chance to know that they are not alone, if they, too, feel the same way.”  

We are Carawans. 

We don’t run.  

We face, own and conquer.  

Here’s your chance to shine. 

You brave girl. 

[Posted with her permission]

Camille Vaughan Photography

Straight Up

It was our first meeting. 

And I told her, straight up: 

I won’t be able to tell you what I need. 

Instead, when I go into labor for the first time, and I’ve met you literally once, 

I  basically need you to read my mind and anticipate my needs. 

Welcome to the life of someone who has no gumption to ask for help. 

I didn’t say it in those words. 

I said it in apologetic, self-deprecating language.  

Like, I’m sorry I’m bothering you with paying to help me have a baby. 

I’m sorry I asked you to be my doula.  

I don’t know how to ask for or accept help. 

So, when I resorted to acupuncture to induce me, 10 days after her due date and a few days before they were going to induce me with pitocin, 

I apologized. 

My doula was a mother and it was a weekend, after all. 

She slept in a hospital room while Emmett and I labored all evening without the help I neglected to ask for. 

I had a perfectly, beautiful baby girl and I felt like a failure. 

Because I was too sorry to ask. 

And oh, was this not the theme of my life.

Too sorry. 

Too sorry to ask for help.

Too sorry for the imposition of my existence. 

Until I met others. 

And realized, I can’t change my past but I can forge our future. 

My daughters will be grounded and supported. 

They will not be afraid to ask for what they need. 

Instead, they will. 

Straight up. 

Lucky

I braced myself. 

Typically, it’s “You’ve got your hands full!”  Or “Wait until they are teenagers!” And “I hope your husband has a shotgun!”

But instead, this stranger at my door remarked, without hesitation, “You’re so lucky.”

And my heart smiled.  

The girls, never far from me, peeking from behind my legs smiled, too as I replied, “I really am.  I hit the jackpot!”

To be valued, to be appreciated, to be wanted- aren’t these all things that make us feel safe and joyful?

Getting my girls to the ages of 4, 6, 8 and 10 has been a rocky road.  In the back of my mind, I always held these particular ages up as the light to the end of my endless tunnel.  

And we made it!  We are here!  We are cruising and absolutely cherishing our baby girls.  

For the first time, I finally feel what mothers have been telling me for a decade now.  That it goes so fast.  That I’ll miss this time, one day.  Before, another baby always followed so I never felt like I had the chance to miss any phase. 

Now, I look at my eldest and I see her changing.  I want to bottle her up and cherish this moment in time.  But there she grows.  I find myself equal parts nostalgic and eager to continue to witness who she is becoming.  To know her. 

I’m no fool.  I realize the teenage years, especially with a house-full of girls (sharing one hallway bathroom with one sink!) is going to have its share of drama.  It already does.  

But I am actively choosing to focus on the light.  To focus on the blessing of their existence.  To feel lucky.  

Camille Vaughan Photography

Listener

Why didn’t anyone tell me this?

We spent K-12 in school learning the basics; 

Yet, somehow they missed informing humans that

They. Are. Not. Done. Growing.

We set a magic number: 

18. 

As if then, we are released to the world, ready to tackle it on our own!

What in the actual world??

Some of us go on to college, graduate or doctorate school. . . .

And some don’t.

Then, what?

We magically become parents who know it all?

No, no, no. 

The trickiest part of parenting for me is the revelation that I am growing right alongside with them. 

Who knew?

We are never done learning. 

There is no final exam. 

Just as they have their epiphanies, I have mine- only wishing I had mine first so that I could have led my children all the wiser.

Is this what they meant when they said ‘Life is not a destination, but a journey.”?

Oh. 

Perhaps, I should have been a better listener. 

Camille Vaughan Photography

Witness

Not for you.

Not in place of you. 

With you. 

My eldest is entering her tween years and as much as I want to save her from the harrows that lie ahead, 

I recognize,

It’s her journey

I’ve already lived mine.  

I wish I could change the hands of some times, 

But they’ve led me to this moment, right now. 

The time I let go and witness. 

Not for me. 

Not in place of me.

With me.

Us. 

Camille Vaughan Photography

Notice

Have you noticed?

I do not consider myself a “current’ person but if you are on any kind of social media these days you have witnessed Ryan Reynlod’s reaction to his wife Blake Lively’s dress transformation. 

It’s straight out of one of his movies. 

Moving.  What dreams are made of. 

The moment was magnificent.  They are both extraordinarily beautiful, stunning people.

But what about the rest of us?

I vacuumed out my disgusting van while also prepping lunches, dinner and teacher gifts.  

He mowed the lawn, took out the trash and fixed Harper’s fan.

And yet I did not stop dead in my tracks to ogle him. 

Welcome to reality. 

It’s not extraordinary or sexy. 

It’s so completely normal that I am literally closing the stinky trash-can lid as I type.  

But the fantasy has us. 

And what’s wrong with that?

Because without fantasy, what have you?

Reality. 

It’s easier to dream than live. 

Have you noticed? 

Camille Vaughan Photography

Tiny

Lately, bedtime at our house has been a scene of chaos.  

Commands of “Brush your teeth!  Get your jammies on!  Go potty!” are blatantly ignored, while my and my husband’s patience are next to nil.  

The littles go on the offense:  running around the house, slamming their legs down repeatedly on their beds as if they are mermaid tails or tossing stuffed animals back and forth all while incessantly giggling. 

This would be funny if it weren’t 9 PM and their parents weren’t desperate for a moment of peace and quiet. 

But it is and we are.  

Threats of no treats are empty, worthless ammo, so last week, I spent an hour reading articles about bedtime routines.  

I have to admit, since this isn’t my first time at the rodeo, I felt a little foolish having to research something I feel I should have nailed down.  For a time, I did but with the addition of each daughter, the loss of control has humbled me.  

Upon reflection, I recognized that if I want my children to be calm, I, too, must model the same behavior. 

Like most things, when it comes to solving problems, the change begins with me.

My days are spent in constant motion.  Even when they are at school, I am cramming in chores, particularly those which are easier without their presence like grocery shopping and laundry.  Throw in after-school activities, dinner-time and homework and next thing you know, it’s time to get the kids ready for bed. 

There’s very little time to wind down, for all of us.  

So, I asked myself: “How can I make them look forward to bedtime?”  Instead of this battle of wills, how can I get them to buy in?

Enter this article by Nurture and Thrive and this one by Picklebums.  Their suggestions include lullabies and massages, something I used to do when they were babies but have since stopped.  

I approached that same evening with a zen-like calmness rivaled only by Buddha himself.  

Instead of yelling at her to brush her teeth, I grabbed her hand and gently led her to the bathroom to begin the process.  Instead of picking up her room as fast as possible while tossing her the jammies, I sat down on the floor and helped her put them on.  I read her books, as usual, and stayed on the edge of the bed to sing a lullaby while scratching her back.  I then repeated this to some degree for three more children. . . . 

It seems like it would take longer but in actuality, my children were left calm and relaxed and thus, for the love of all that is holy, stayed put.  

Thank you Jesus and internet blogs.  

Slower motions.  Lower frequencies.  Tiny changes make the biggest difference.  

I approached that same evening with a zen-like calmness rivaled only by Buddha himself.
Camille Vaughan Photography

Forever Learning

I remember thinking, “No one taught me this.”

It began with the simplicity of taking notes.

I was a brand-new student at a Maryland boarding school.

We’d been asked to “take notes” on a couple of chapters. 

I looked like a fish-out-of-water when an experienced junior came to my rescue and offered to teach me.  

Her name was Pauli and she taught me how to highlight and write. 

Fast-forward to meeting my future-husband and his mother, Betty. 

She’d made a career as a homemaker. 

I’d never known one.

I started taking notes. 

How to cook, how to make a home feel like home. 

Four children later, I’m still taking notes. 

How to listen, how to heal. 

No one taught me this.

But I’m forever learning.  

Camille Vaughan Photography