Sisterhood

Let me tell you about this fragile relationship. 

It’s called Sisterhood. 

And in this house, it’s on Level 4. 

Competition.  Jealousy.  Friendship. Equality. 

The themes of this family.

When I say it’s all gravy one minute and WWIII the next, I mean it.  

That’s how fast things can change, in a house full of sisters. 

Tonight, a battle erupted over who gets to watch a show with mommy. 

Let’s be clear, people:  

I watch a total of 2- that is T-W-O- shows a week. 

They are Survivor and The Amazing Race. 

That is 100% completely it.  My total list. 

My husband sits down nightly and watches PTI on ESPN, a show about North Carolina fishing, Bob Ross painting, and bluegrass music without issue. 

As soon as I attempt to sit down, however, whether on the couch or toilet, I apparently have invited my audience to request things of me (I am, shockingly, sitting down, after all).  

So, I’ve given up!   I just don’t even bother trying to watch television because it’s too disappointing to try and claim that time. 

I’d rather hide in my bed and read or stay up way too late to write.  

Pre-children, I watched these two shows alone but since our second daughter, Harper,  has always been our night-owl, I started watching them with her a few years ago and, in addition to me reading Harry Potter aloud to her, it’s become “our thing”.  

It’s never really been an issue because my eldest, Aurora, has always been an early-to-bed, early-to-rise child but she’s growing and changing into a tween and tonight, she wanted to stay and watch. 

Cue WWIII.  

Harper wanted Aurora to leave but Aurora, not causing an issue, had every right to be there. 

I found myself in the midst of a mommy battle and quickly realized, this was a turning point.  

I could defend Harper, my second daughter whom I’ve always protected- perpetually considering her feeling inferior to her big sister.  They are only twenty months apart and her big sister is an awesome human.  It’s tough shoes to fill! 

Or I could stand by my eldest, who can’t help that she came first or that I chose to have three more children.

Ultimately, I stood my ground and my husband backed me up.

I am a mother of FOUR.  Not one. 

My time is shared as equally as possible (not equal at the same time, equal over time!).

Harper’s argument was that Survivor was “our thing”. 

I explained that before her, it was “mine”.  

But I chose to share it with her. 

And now, I choose to share it with her sister, too.  

At one point, Aurora apologized (for even trying) and attempted to give up. 

No.

We do not apologize for existing.  

As the illegitimate child of a love affair, this hits particularly hard for me. 

We do not apologize for existing. 

She had every right to be there as her little sister, whose feelings have always been considered.

All’s well that ends well. 

And that’s how things wrapped up tonight. 

Harper was put in her place.  

Desperate as she is to claim her spot, she learned that she is part of a family and no more important than each piece of the puzzle. 

Aurora learned that I would defend her.  When she snuck a note under Harper’s door stating, ‘I’m sorry”, I returned it, explaining that:

We do not apologize for existing. 

I hugged Harper, as I tucked her in, and reminded her that she is loved. 

I hugged Aurora, as I tucked her in, and reminded her the same. 

It’s called Sisterhood. 

It’s a fragile relationship. 

Camille Vaughan Photography

Shine

Recently, I was told that I am “overwhelming” and “exhausting”. 

And the thing is:  it’s not untrue. 

I am 100% both of those things. 

I live life fast and furiously, never wanting to miss a moment or waste a day- including days with zero plans because those often offer the best unplanned fun.  

And I document them!  

Boy, do I document them. 

Because I never want to forget.

But in my hard-life-living, I’ve also experienced personal casualties and wondered, 

“What’s wrong with me?” 

“Am I too much?”

“Am I not enough?”

The doubt creeps in and for a minute I think, “Yes, I should be smaller.”

Then, I remember a poem read to me by a speaker at a conference:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness
That most frightens us.

We ask ourselves
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.

Your playing small
Does not serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking
So that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine,
As children do.
We were born to make manifest
The glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us;
It’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

—Marianne Williamson

I *remember* hearing this poem for the first time and the fire that it ignited in me. 

And as a mother of four daughters, 

I’ll be damned if anyone tries to put that out. 

Our girls will not accept mediocrity, if I have anything to do with it. 

They will strive for their best and nothing less.  

And you know why?

Because they are worth it!

Because we all are all worth it!

And because, as the poem says, we are all better when we let our light shine. 

Giving permission for others to shine, too.  

I considered shrinking 

And then I thought better of it.  

Instead, I shine. 

Camille Vaughan Photography

Value

“What do you love about me?” I asked him, directly. 

And I don’t mean my mothering or wifely duties. 

Or because I love you, for that matter.

Do you see me?

Do you value me?

Anybody can sweep this under the rug.

But not me. 

And guess what?

That’s what makes me, me. 

I’ve been through enough that 

I’m not afraid.

To ask the hard questions. 

To have the difficult conversations.

Instead of filling the awkward silence,

I allow it to marinate. 

And then I remind you of who I am and how I became that person.  

How lucky we are to have one another, individually speaking.

It’s easy to get lost in a family dynamic.

But we are worth the work.

20 years go by and couples can’t remember who they married.

Well, I’ll be damned.

I’m going to tell you what I love about you. 

And I’m going to insist that you remember not only why you married me

But also my value. 

Because I am.

Valuable. Fearless.  Courageous. 

All the things that make me that great wife and mother. 

And don’t you ever forget it. 

Just Like That

This one’s for all of my Empty Nesters out there. 

You think you’re ready. 

Joke as you “count down the days”.

And then, 

Just like that, 

They’re gone. 

Mine aren’t off to college

But the youngest is off to preschool this fall. 

And it’s been 10 years (and 199 days but who’s counting?)

Since I’ve been home alone. 

Let me repeat that. 

It’s been 10 and-a-half years since I’ve been home alone. 

I imagine that I will begin that first day crying and then laughing hysterically while eating ice cream in broad daylight watching inappropriate shows on Netflix. 

And on the second day . . . .

On that second day I am throwing myself a celebratory brunch because you know what?

I’ve earned it. 

And so have you. 

Take time to cry and then upon realizing that they will be just fine, 

Celebrate. 

Just like that.  

Camille Vaughan Photography

Carry On

I walked in and explained that I’d held on to this gift certificate since Christmas. That I was in the midst of a family trauma and that I was here to relax and let some of that go.

What I didn’t expect was to burst into tears 45 minutes through, as my massage therapist pulled the energy from my muscles and flicked it away. As she summoned my breath and thanked me for feeling safe enough to let it go in that room, with her, a stranger.

But there we were. 2 strangers united at 9 AM. She, not knowing the trauma and still, meeting me there. Helping me to release.

We hugged, afterwards. After all, after weeping, what else is one to do?

And then we carried on. Her next client. My day with my daughters.

We release and we carry on.

Show Up

Here’s the thing about mental health: 

No one knows what to do. 

Instead, everyone waits for someone else to solve it. 

Because it’s ugly. 

There is no straightforward “treatment plan”.  

When someone is in crisis, it’s scary. 

What do I say?  What do I not say?

How should I act?  

And so we freeze and wait for someone else to solve it.

But when it’s between life and death, 

What then?

Someone has to step up. 

That’s what. 

When everybody else waits, what are you going to do?

Are you going to wait?

Or are you going to show up?  

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. 

Parents

Oh, my. 

What is this?

We are now our parents’ caretakers. 

How did that happen?

Who told us about this phase?

Ah, clearly the same who informed us of the mesh panties after birth. 

In other words, no one. 

It is for us to discover. 

And here we are. 

So, now what?

Much like motherhood, it is for us to figure out. 

To each their own. 

Cheers and Godspeed. 

Send prayers and wine. 

Patience and understanding.

Parents included. 

Dee Akright Photography

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