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Glennon at Momastery, who I read often and have quoted here before, is starting a new series on her blog. It’s called Sacred Scared. I love what she’s doing and I find it powerful and moving. I encourage you to read it.
Here’s what she writes about it.
We hear a lot lately about the importance of being vulnerable in front of others, but we haven’t been taught how to respond to someone else’s vulnerability, so I’ll be offering suggestions about how to receive vulnerability during this series. Here’s the first one: When someone lets you into her Sacred Scared – she is showing you her messy insides NOT because she wants you to fix it, but because she trusts you enough to let you know the real, true her.
Imagine that you have a new friend that you just love, and she’s coming to your house, and you finally liberate yourself enough to skip the panic-clean before she arrives. You decide that you trust her enough to walk in and see your messy house and you just KNOW that she will GET IT. She will LOVE that you just Let It Be for her. But she walks in and instead of flopping down on the laundry covered couch, she starts cleaning up the mess. Your mess is making her too uncomfortable. She starts to FIX IT instead of appreciating your mess as a trust offering. How do you feel about that?
Let’s not try to fix each other’s Sacred Scared, if we can avoid it. The people in this series are letting you in to see their Real, Beautiful Mess. Let’s not try to fix them, because they don’t need to be fixed. Neither do you. Let’s just try to find some comfort and love and maybe even Me Too in the offerings.
Verizon repairman is here to address phones, wifi, and cable that went out yesterday. And I just called the washing machine repair person to deal with the source of the water saturating the carpet around the washing machine.
But I did get a letter today from Brother Francis, my favorite monk. Admittedly, I only know one. He always writes a kind missive on loose leaf paper in response to receiving our Christmas letter.
In today’s letter he wrote, “So when I asked GOD what GOD called the ROSSO family, God said….’MY DELIGHT!'”
So what’s a little appliance malfunction when you know that God is delighted by you?
I remember when Zoe was about three, we went to a barbeque hosted by the family of one of her preschool classmates. Many preschool families were there. I remember watching the younger sibling of one of Zoe’s classmates wander around the courtyard where we were gathered. I’m not sure how old she was, but I’m guessing between 12 and 18 months. She was toddling around reaching her hand into whatever snacks she could find, and investigating anything she cared to investigate, and generally being a healthily curious little girl. And I kept thinking, “why isn’t anyone watching her?” Besides me, of course.
And now I get it.
As the parent of a first grader and a nine-month-old, I just don’t watch my baby every second. I know where he is. I generally know what he’s doing. But he’s a lot to keep up with, and I have to interact with my big kid, and I have to put in another load of laundry, and run the dishwasher, and feed people. And I have a good idea of what he’s up to and can hear him and tell what particular toys he’s playing with or messes he’s making. But I acknowledge that the constant vigilance of the first-time parent is gone. I am not careless or unconcerned. I am also not as panicky or inclined to hover.
One result of this, unintended, is that my first grader has taken on some of the vigilance herself. She is constantly chasing after her brother and dragging him back to where he was 30 seconds earlier. She says “NO, ZEKE!” often. I remind her, sometimes, to reserve the loud no for important things like cords and electricity and imminent danger, and not just for “don’t crawl off the rug where we were playing” or “don’t grab the baby wipes.” I have had to say to Zoe a few times, when she says “will you watch him?” that I am his mother and I am taking care of him and I will not let him get hurt. When he tries to climb the stairs (which he’s done now three times) I always walk right behind him with my hands out to catch him before he plummets to the bottom. When he crawls into the bathroom I retrieve him before he plunges himself or anything else into the toilet. But if he crawls behind the couch and tears up a newspaper ad, that is fine by me. I don’t shop at Macy’s anyway. Even when he makes a grab for the mustard when anyone opens the fridge, it’s not an emergency. What’s the worst that could happen? Spilled mustard, if he could even get the cap open. If he tasted the mustard I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t like it and that would be the end of that.
Aside from the watchfulness standard, the cleanliness standard has pretty much flown out the window. I swear I do the dishes every day. The washer and dryer are running all the time. And yet piles of dishes and laundry materialize as if by magic. The recycling spills out of cardboard boxes from which diapers and toys and baby play yards have been born. But who cares. Those cardboard paper towel rolls and empty juice bottles make excellent toys for a baby to play with.
Today I was sitting in the library of my daughter’s school while her class learned about alphabetizing. I had just spent an hour in the classroom reading with struggling students, and hadn’t left yet because Zoe wanted me to spend a little more time with her.
Then he principal came on the PA and announced that teachers and staff should implement the lockdown procedure, emphasizing “this is not a drill.”
Five words you never want to hear.
Zoe’s teacher, demonstrating admirable calm, led the class into the nearby teacher’s lounge since the library is a large open space, as is their classroom. Everyone sat on the floor and she closed and locked the door and turned off the lights. I held Zoe’s hand. A few kids asked what was going on. They are savvy enough to know “this is not a drill” is not good. Zoe’s teacher kindly asked them to be quiet.
Immediately I wondered what I was going to have to do if there were a shooter. How would I help protect the kids? What if I had to confront a gunman? What if I had to throw myself in front of Zoe and her classmates to try to save them. I was so thankful I was there with Zoe but also terrified about what it might mean.
A few minutes later the principal’s voice came on again saying we did not have to lock down, but we did need to shelter in place, and that no one would leave the building and we should limit our movements if possible. Whatever that means for a building full of hundreds of kids. Zoe’s teacher took that to mean we would continue with the day as best we could, so we returned to the library and our lesson on alphabetizing, and then the kids browsed for and checked out books. A few of them asked me and the teacher what was going on and if there was a bad guy outside. The teacher said if there was a bad guy, he was far away from us, and we were just being extra careful. None of the kids seemed extremely upset. Zoe said later that she was really scared, and we held hands pretty tightly, but they seemed to get on with things. Zoe did tell me that she hoped Zeke was ok, and she was afraid someone would shoot him. I assured her that he was fine at day care and no one would shoot him. One of Zoe’s friends told her that her dad is a lawyer and used to be a police officer, and somehow he would make everything ok.
After the library, back in the classroom Zoe’s teacher read a few pages of a Junie B. Jones book and talked about realistic characters. Meanwhile, I was searching my phone for news about what was going on. The library assistant came over and asked me in a whisper if I had any information. I heard another first grade teacher tell one of her colleagues that 15 schools were on lockdown.
I appreciated and admired the ability of all the teachers and staff to remain totally together and seemingly normal during all this. Clearly that was what was best for the kids. It was helpful to me too.
Then it was time to head to the computer lab. By this point I was just trying to make myself useful since I couldn’t go anywhere. I went around to help kids figure out which math games they were supposed to be playing, closing errant windows and plugging in stray headphones. I gave people permission to use the bathroom and reminded students when they dropped their coats.
I had heard from Randy via text that news outlets had reported the school lockdowns were lifted–although they had never listed Arlington schools as affected, only Alexandria, while I knew that wasn’t accurate. About 20 minutes after Randy’s report, the principal said dismissal would proceed as usual. I stayed on in the computer lab until it was time to go, and decided to bring Zoe home instead of leaving her there to go to extended day.
The cause of all this was a shooting in a neighborhood a few miles from the school. A man shot two women in a home. One has since died. There is no information about motive or whether the suspect is still at large. I assume the police decided it was an isolated incident and the man was unlikely to roam around to nearby schools to keep shooting.
Regardless, there are shootings every day in this country. In schools, shopping malls, movie theaters. There is no sense that you could do anything to absolutely stay safe and protect your family. And I feel like there is nothing we can do. The NRA is so powerful in our country that Congress seems afraid to pass any kind of meaningful gun control. And so there are shootings every day. I feel completely powerless and hopeless. Should I write letters to someone? Who? Would it matter? I realize there are far more dangerous countries than the US, but I feel like the danger level here is rising dramatically for no reason. There is no war going on here. But there is more violence than we can handle.
On good days, parenting is made up of many ecstatic moments interrupted by a few exasperating ones. On bad days, the reverse. Some days as a parent I can rejoice in the trivial triumphs, like getting Zeke’s nails clipped so he won’t claw himself or us in fits of excitement or fatigue. Other days I look around at the colossal mess and the long list of undone items and struggle to see what I’ve accomplished, other than keeping everyone fed and alive. Which is something, but sometimes seems like a low bar.
While I am a working mom, my work only happens during the hours that Zeke is in day care and Zoe is in school, or sometimes at night if necessary. Although night office hours are much fewer and further between since Zeke was born since his sleep patterns are utterly unpredictable. But I am on my own with the kids most afternoons, and with Zeke on Fridays, and typically on snow days, so I did identify with this post by The Ugly Volvo. Parenting a baby can be so spectacularly joyful and so thoroughly frustrating from moment to moment.
At this moment, thankfully, Zeke is asleep. It was a hard-fought nap. He has a cold, so he was only willing to nurse briefly because breastfeeding makes it hard for him to breathe when he’s congested. I knew he was tired and still hungry but he screamed and battled fiercely when I tried to keep feeding him. Eventually I liberated him from his napping cocoon and took him downstairs to play while I pumped four ounces. Luckily I was able to entice him to stay in the play area instead of crawling off to find uncovered electrical outlets while I was tethered to the breast pump. Then we returned upstairs and he sat up and gave himself the bottle while I sneakily eased him half into the cocoon. As soon as he finished drinking and discarded the bottled I zipped him all the way up, singing “The Wheels on the Bus” at the top of my lungs to distract him from his capture. Then I rocked him and toned it down until he zonked out.
At nine months, he seems gigantic. He’s wearing 18-month clothes and stretches out way beyond your arms when you’re holding him. And he’s so tough and sturdy. He hardly seems like a baby because he appears indestructible (don’t test this, please). He just steamrolls over toys of any shape or size to get what he wants. He crawls so much faster than you expect and then you really don’t have time to look away or do anything you thought you’d have time to do between when you put him down and when he’s at the top of the stairs, or in the kitchen. He’s made a game of taking a toy and throwing it on front of him and crawling to get it and can repeat this over and over circuiting around the first floor of our house. At long last, he has two teeth–one fully in and the other emerging–and loves to use them to crunch. In fact he’s so excited to feed himself that more often than not he wants cheerios and the other little crunchy things instead of the baby food. I think the baby food is getting boring. But we haven’t quite gotten to the point where he can eat what we’re eating. Probably what has to happen is us putting in the extra effort to make some table food that’s appropriate for him, but we haven’t quite managed to do that yet. And I’m also not sure that anything I can make will be as nutritious as these little pouches of spinach, apple, and rutabaga, or plum, berry, and quinoa.
Zeke recently discovered clapping, and today I saw him pick up two blocks and clap them together and enjoyed his reaction when he created his first hand-held percussion instrument (aside from one of his favorite hobbies of smacking and tapping all wooden surfaces). Much like his sister and his parents, he loves music. Yesterday we went to the open house at Zoe’s former preschool, which will hopefully be Zeke’s preschool next fall. One of the first people we ran into was the music teacher there. One of my favorite times when I used to co-op in Zoe’s class was going to music class and seeing the kids either enthusiastically sing and dance and stomp around, or just observe mutely. I am reading the book Quiet right now and gaining a better understanding of how personality develops and what it means when kids are introverted or extroverted or low-reactive or high-reactive or sensitive and the various combinations of all of those factors. And I know participating in preschool music class isn’t really everyone’s thing, but I think all of the kids are still taking it in on some level, and how it comes back out remains to be seen. Zoe was not always a jubilant singer, but that didn’t inhibit the development of her fascination with and intense enjoyment of music. Today in church, she was sitting with me in the front row, right behind the grand piano, percussionists, and bassist, with a great view of the choir. On the first Sunday of the month, kids start out in the sanctuary and participate in the first part of the service, then listen to a story for all ages, and then go to their religious education classes. But after the first couple songs, Zoe said emphatically, “I want to stay for the music. I don’t want to go to class.” So she stayed, and she seemed as entranced and moved by the music as I was, singing to herself quietly, but clearly part of the moment.
Is it easy to be hard on yourself as a parent, or as a nursing mom, or as a nursing, working mom. Sometimes things do not go the way you expected them to go, or the way you think they must magically go for everyone else. But sometimes they work out fine. And sometimes your baby beams at you for minutes at a time without breaking eye contact, showing you the best way he knows how exactly how much he loves you. And sometimes your first-grader holds your hand and sings with you in church, or snuggles up to read, or gives you a kiss when she knows you’re feeling beaten down, and she even says “I love you,” because she can, and she does. And a nap would be nice, but you know you’ll make it through one way or another.