26 October 2012

A Heart to Heart about Family Life

Our family recently returned from a month-long road trip. We learned incredible things about ourselves and our family unit while traveling 2,000+ miles in our ’98 Subaru Outback.

During our trip, we also spent a lot of time in the homes of friends where I realized something incredibly profound: Our friends are all really great parents.

This is not unheralded flattery. I do not think for a second that any of them are perfect. But their resolve to be the very best parents for their children is inspiring. Undoubtedly, some of their children will make choices that are not optimal, but there was one thing that was very clear: each one loves their children with a fierceness that cannot be matched or surpassed, with the exception of the Savior’s love for us.

Even more striking is how similar they all are: to each other, to us, and to every other parent we know. No matter the tactic used, each family is trying their best. We most certainly don’t agree on every parenting approach out there, but we’re all on the same team.

We are striving to create more joy in our families.

I’ve wanted to revive this blog for a while and it’s finally time. Patrick and I have done tremendous work on ourselves and on our parenting with the desire to be a more cohesive family. My most valuable lesson in all of this?

We can’t do this on our own.

Parenting isn’t getting any easier. We don’t live in a tribal society anymore where everyone raises their children together. That is one reason we moved home. I remember the day when I distinctly realized, “I am not meant to be my child’s only mother.”

So if you will, please mother with me. Tell me the things that work, the things that don’t work, your pains and your joys, your triumphs and your failures.

For several years, I’ve carefully painted the picture of myself that I wanted displayed to the world. It isn’t a dishonest picture; it’s merely incomplete. It’s the same story I’ve been telling myself, truly believing that if I try hard enough, I can be supremely independent of everyone else and do everything on my own. It’s the part of me that is guarded and protective over my extremely sensitive heart, afraid that if I let the real me shine through, I will have no light left for myself.

For the time being, I’m dedicating this blog to a raw and honest conversation about family life. The ups and the downs. And boy, are there a lot of downs. I have finally embraced the idea that being heartbroken is not the same as being ungrateful. Being fallible does not mean I’m setting a bad example for the youth. Being angry, sad, petty, worried, discouraged, or depressed does not mean I don’t have a testimony of the Great Plan of Happiness.

I am finally ready to talk about my Real Life, but not in a complainy sort of way that hides what my heart is really saying. Not, “It’s so annoying that my daughter won’t sleep, I’m so tired” and laugh it off.

More in the way that says, “My daughter won’t sleep and it gives me anxiety. I fear she will never heal because sleep is so crucial for healing. What if she is sick forever because I can’t teach her how to sleep? What if she can never be a normal child? Or have children because she’s too unhealthy? Or…or...or...” 

The spiraling fears that seem so ridiculous when I write them out, but are genuine thoughts that crowd out the very best things in my life. The thoughts that aren't usually at the forefront of my mind, but are a constant buzzing in the background, despite fighting tooth and nail to eradicate them. The real pains of my heart that I can only give to my Savior if I face head on.

I love my children and they thrive when I am transparent, authentic, and genuine. The questions and the answers, the confusion and the epiphanies, the pride and the humility…these are all part of the Real Me. The Real Me is who I want raising my babies, because that’s who my babies want to raise them.

If you are still reading this nearly-defunct blog, please join the conversation. I know you are a good parent, even if you do not have children. And you are the light that I want in my life.

Much love,


Jackie Pickett said...

Your sweet sincere words made me smile Jennifer! Yes…I do still read your blog and check to see if there are any changes. Thanks for sharing yourself…I hope I can add a thought or two…Hugs…Jackie

Erica Huff said...

Beautifully written Jennifer! Oh, it is hard and I think too often we do put on the smile and tell ourselves that everyone else seems to have it figured out - why don't we when in reality, we are all fighting to be the very best parent. Matt and I have had to make a decision regarding Rebecca that most people might not agree with. For us, it is the best option that we see and we feel like any other way would set her up to fail and ultimately frustrate us. It might not be the option for others but it is for us - as we "resolve to be the very parents for our children."
Can't wait to read more!!

Becca said...

Oh how I love this!!

Mrs. Ordinary Part 2 said...

@Jackie: I did not realize you were reading! I look forward to your thoughts, as your words have had some of the most positive and profound impact on my adult life.

@Erica: Thank you for sharing your experience. I am especially moved by the difficulty you must be experiencing in reconciling what it means to be the very parent for your sweet Rebecca and what it looks like from the outside. Hugs to you and your sweet girl.

@Becca: We are kindred spirits, I am certain of it. I hope at some point, our paths cross in person again, preferably in Brasil.

Natalia Grajales said...

Inspired by your blog one more time, now want to agree with you about the fact that we are not raising our children surrounded by as many family members as it used to happen before. Distance keeps is from sharing much time together as a family and we have to reach onto other moms for input. Some of them have become very much like sisters who support or influence my decisions in life. I just hope I decide what is best for us and whoever might be affected by our choices. Glad to hear I'm not the only outsourcing motherhood "techniques"