Amy Lanham

finding beauty in the middle of the mess

Category: Parenting (page 1 of 9)

Fitting in vs. Belonging

I sat my two months shy of his 13th birthday son down and told him I wanted to talk with him about a book I just read.  Me reading a book certainly isn’t unusual to him, and we often talk about what I read, so he wasn’t too suspicious.

You see, I just finished reading Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown. In chapter 7, she talks about the difference between belonging and fitting in. She interviewed 8th graders to find out how they would define the distinction between the two. The three conclusions that she included were spot on, but my favorite was this one: “If I get to be me, I belong. If I have to be like you, I fit in.” What a huge topic for a middle schooler to explore!

If you are reading this and you are a parent, then you know the worry of hoping your kid can find a tribe. And, usually we say we want our kids to fit in, but I think what we should want more than anything is for our kids to belong. I don’t want my sons to be anything other than what God created them to be. I want them to be loved for who they are, not who they try to be.

The part of the chapter that made me think more than any other part was the fact that the kids told her that not belonging at school was one thing, but not belonging at home was ultimately even worse. I thought home is where everyone is supposed to belong, but that’s just not the case. Here are some of the examples the kids gave her:

  1. Not living up to you parents’ expectations.
  2. Not being as cool or popular as your parents want you to be.
  3. Not being good at the same things your parents were good at.
  4. Your parents being embarrassed because you don’t have enough friends or you’re not an athlete or a cheerleader.
  5. Your parents not liking who you are and what you like to do.
  6. When your parents don’t pay attention to your life.

So, my son and I talked through these. I wanted to make sure his dad and I weren’t doing any of these six things. I remembered at the end of last school year when he wasn’t sure he wanted to continue with trumpet. He was so remorseful when he told us since his dad had been such a great trumpet player. Neither of us cared, but he had been so worried. Then, I thought about how he loves Pokemon and I am 100% clueless about it. He reassured me that he knows we don’t care if he plays an instrument, and as for Pokemon, we listen to him tell us about his great finds and take him places to play. For him, that’s enough.

We had such a great conversation, and I can’t believe the young man he is turning into. And, I’m so relieved he feels like he belongs at school, church, and at home. There have been various scenarios throughout my life where I felt like I didn’t fit in, but ultimately I knew it was okay, because I always had a place to belong. Some of us are square pegs in round holes and instead of complaining about it, maybe we need to embrace it, or go look for a square board.

If you haven’t read any of Brown’s books, I highly recommend them. She puts language to things we feel inside, but weren’t sure how to define. Braving the Wilderness was an easy read and opened up great dialogue with my kiddo.

Where do you feel like you most belong?

Blessings,

Duped

clothes

The offending clothes.

“Mom! Tomorrow is dress like a grown up day at school. I need you to help me put an outfit together.”

This from the mouth of my youngest son as he was getting ready for bed. He was already going to be late turning in as it was.

I had that momentary mom debate. Do I draw the line and tell him we’ll take care of it in the morning, or just say sorry, he should have told me earlier? Or, do I take a few minutes to help him gather some things? I opted for the latter, mainly because he rarely wants to participate in events such as these, so I actually felt a little encouraged.

He proceeds to pull out a white dress shirt from the closet and put it on. Next, he hunts down a tie he is happy with. Third on the list is pants. Keep in mind, the seasons are beginning to turn. I haven’t pulled out all of his brother’s hand-me-downs yet for the new season. I trudge into his brother’s room and dig through a storage tub in the closet for a pair of dress pants that will hopefully fit. Now, he digs through the drawer for a belt. There are two and we have to make sure which one fits him now. At this point, he begins insisting on a jacket. His brother has a black suit coat and he wants to wear one like that (which we don’t have in his size). I remember we have a nice dress coat hanging in the entryway closet. I drag it out and he tries it on.

People, this has now been a nearly half hour process. I woke up at 4:30 that morning and couldn’t get back to sleep. I am beyond ready to crawl into my own bed.

Finally, he’s satisfied and I tuck him in. I sing him the two songs I have sung every night for as long as I can remember and say the prayer I always say. As soon as I head to his CD player to turn on the audiobook he is currently listening to, he begins to cackle. Not a gentle chuckle. Not a snicker. A full-blown, laughing his head off guffaw.

“Why are you laughing?” I ask.

He laughs harder.

“What is going on?” I press.

He looks at me with sheer glee. “It’s not dress like a grown up day tomorrow!! I tricked you!”

Me: Silence. Dead, furious, livid, stunned silence.

He sees my rage…a bit of a look of panic on his face.

Quietly, “Um, I’ll still wear it tomorrow if you want me to, Mom. Anyway, all isn’t lost. Now we know what I can wear for my school program.”

I maturely leave the room with no words and a slam of my own bedroom door, much to my husband’s dismay. As I relay the story, he sees more of the humor than my distress, which doesn’t help. The ridiculousness of it all strikes me and I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I choose to laugh, although I’m still pretty darn mad at this point. How in the world did I give birth to this kind of menace?

A word of warning if you have children. Do not under any circumstances allow them to watch YouTube videos about pranks. I can’t help but think that’s what made the idea enter that little head of his.

I still remember as a kid pretending to be a spider, crawling out from under my bed at bedtime and biting my dad on the shoulder. Unfortunately, I bit way too hard and took a chunk out. No joke. Let’s just say that didn’t go over too well.

Parenting is dangerous, no question about it. At least I get good blogging material from my kids.

Oh, and if your kid tells you it’s a certain dress up day at school and you haven’t heard anything about it, be very, very suspicious.

Blessings,

 

Supporting Your Kid’s Interests

spell bowlDo you ever have moments where you wonder how your kid can be so different from you?

Recently, I’ve had several friends post pictures on Facebook of their kids reading by choice during their free time. As someone who values books, I indeed find these photos share-worthy. I will admit, when I see them, I have this small, fleeting thought of, “Where did I go wrong?” I have my library science degree, read all of the time, and neither one of my boys could provide me a photo opportunity like this. They are both excellent readers, and my oldest read voraciously until the end of fifth grade, then it came to a halt. He read his tail off all of his fifth grade year to earn an award for a reading program they have at their school called Accelerated Reader. The previous year they had honored the top ten readers at the awards ceremony at the end of the year. They decided not to give that award this particular year, so all of his hard work went unrecognized. He refused to pick up a book all summer long. As a former teacher, I felt horrified that my kid went a whole 8 weeks without reading a single thing, but I worried that forcing the issue would only make him resent it even more.

My husband was an amazing trumpet player. One of our kids plays, but can take it or leave it. It’s not a passion. I didn’t participate in any sports, but my oldest enjoys track. I didn’t love sitting in the cold rain a time or two for meets, but I’m pleased he wants to be a part of a team and do something physical.

Our youngest wants to be on the spell bowl team. This requires studying 25 words a night, every night for about six weeks with no guarantee of making the team. I was a good speller, but never had a chance to do something like this. I may lose my mind quizzing him on the words, but I appreciate his interest and perseverance.

I have a friend whose daughter recently made the cheerleading squad. She confessed that just about everything about cheerleading is unfamiliar/unappealing to her (her sport was swimming), but her daughter loves it, so she is along for the ride.

Sometimes what we envision or hope for our children doesn’t become reality. Sometimes our kids’ interests push us outside of our own comfort zones. What is most important to me, as their mother, is to shape my children into the people God created them to be. And, I suppose one of the reasons I care about this topic is because as a teacher I saw some students forced into activities that they didn’t enjoy or care about because it was their parent’s interest, and not their own.

Admittedly, it is easier to cheer your child on when you share the love of the activity, but don’t let your passions overshadow your child’s. Kids can do amazing things when they are allowed to pursue the things that naturally drive them.

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