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

Feet First

Life in our home has been extremely stressful, lately. 

And that’s saying a lot, considering the last four years with our youngest’s health issues.

When our Big Three returned to public school in January, we knew there would be a transition.

But I don’t think anyone could have fully prepared us for: 

The sickness: after living in a bubble for two years, this was inevitable but Lord, it has been relentless. 

The overwhelm:  “7 hours?!” They lament.  They are tired by day’s end and dreading the next. 

The pressure: to perform, to make friends, to survive. 

And yet, here we are.  Just beyond the Ides of March.  We are halfway there and I know we are going to make it after-all.  

These have been trying months. 

As much as I thought I would have “free time”, I have spent the last 2 months playing catch-up to all that I neglected while they were home the last two years.  

My husband and I look at each other and realize, 

There’s so much more to come.  

So, we hold hands. 

And jump in, 

Feet first. 

Here I am

“I’ll always love you but some days, I don’t like you.”  

I remember my mother saying this to me, as a child.  

It has never resonated with me more.

It sounds harsh, but as a parent myself now, I understand what she meant. 

One of our daughters has been having a really tough time lately and I’m going to be honest; spending time with her feels like work.

She’s struggling and her way of coping is to act out. 

This week my mom said, “They need the most love when they are the most unlovable.”

Ugh.  The ugly truth. 

She knows this from her experience of parenting me.

I was NOT an easy child.  Strong-willed, relentless, exhausting. 

But she kept on loving me.

Despite my outbursts and her exasperation, she held. 

I pushed, she stayed.

And here I am.

Exhausted and exasperated with my daughter. 

But I stay. 

I love. 

I hold. 

Like her behavior or not, here I am.

Camille Vaughan Photography

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