* yes, there should be FIVE sets of boots but Allen ignored my advice to get adequate rain gear...

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Look Up

A while back, I was reading one of those action adventur-y romance novels and the hero was instructing the heroine that she should always be sure to look up in whatever dangerous situation they were entering.  The point he was making was that we generally look straight ahead, if not simply down.  If we're really on the ball, we might look to our sides or behind us occasionally but that the smart attacker makes like and owl and swoops down on you when you least expect it.

I'm hardly in the midst of Constant Danger but I have tried to take the advice anyway.  Mothers have a peculiar mix of tunnel vision and constant perimeter assessment.  Somehow you have to be aware of the massive puddle your toddler is Just About to stomp in while also being sure that your adventurous and independent 4 year old isn't about to take out any pedestrians 1/2 a block away (or at least manage to holler loudly enough to give them fair warning).  You have to keep a watch on the pace to be sure no one is being left behind while still making it to wherever in a timely manner and then offer a reasonably coherent response to whomever is talking at any given moment.  It's pretty easy to forget to look up.


Neglecting the ceiling is a major misstep on a European tour.

Taking a decent picture, with your phone, while chasing children is pretty much impossible but take my word for it (or do a google image search) the ceiling is pretty much always worth a good look.

I'm a Methodist and an American.  On the whole, we don't do cathedrals.  On occasion, we have positively picturesque little country chapels.  The interiors are often nice and occasionally lovely but not so much awe inspiring.  We have a smattering of breathtaking religious architecture gifted to us by other denominations but it's a drop in the bucket compared to roughly 1500 years of European religious architecture.  It's enough to make a girl feel slightly hostile towards the Puritans.  Best of all, Europeans work in stone so there is some real staying power.  That's a lot of abbeys, chapels, and cathedrals, all built for the glory of God and all designed to take your mind to a higher plane.  It's architecture in one of it's purest forms and it makes me understand why creating publicly accessible beauty was a priority for first the Catholic Church and the many other denominations that followed.

Westminster Abbey

When we visited Westminster Abbey I was kept busy dragging Noah off of crypts and Very Historic Chairs when not telling Charlie, Megan, and/or Noah to stop running.  Someday I will publish a coffee table book of pictures of my children playing tag, chase, statues, and duck duck goose in sanctuaries, chapels, historic graveyards, Druid sacred spaces, abbeys and cathedrals.  We always make them stop and explain why but I also sort of think that Someone gets a kick out of the uninhibited joy of playing children as well.

When I finally did get to stop at at the transept and look up, it truly was A Moment.  In the space of a breath I was transported.  In the beauty of the soaring ceiling, the precise symmetry of the supports, the unfathomable effort that must have gone into building this all in a time when by hand was the only option, I saw why beauty and God are interlinked and the why of the toil was clear.

In other places, the vaulted ceiling, joists, and supports have been replaced by sky.  I see the beauty in all it's glorious permutations, cloudy, roiling, gray, alabaster, cerulean, slate, and indigo, perfectly framed by the soaring structures long ago built to inspire hope, reflection, and joy and am constantly amazed that those ambitions are still achieved, even in the ruins and crumbles.

Then I see a very few small people who feel so very moved that the only appropriate expression is a rollicking game of tag.


Don't forget to look up.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

My Hero

So, this post isn't about our time in Ireland but has been percolating about for a while.  And I never did get Allen anything for Valentine's Day so maybe this could count?  Plus, we've been watching The Big Bang Theory and there are enough echoes of our relationship that it inspires a bit of reflection.  

Megan drawing on chalkboard Allen made

Then I read this post from Grace about how her husband takes care of the children for a few hours after doing his night rotation as a Labor and Delivery resident so Grace can get some blessed sleep.  There's a lot of layers of love there on both Grace and Simon's part.  Grace is offering up some heroic parenting to support Simon's career and Simon is doing some heroic parenting to support Grace.  It's all just impossibly sweet wrapped up in This Is Life.

The thing is that that's my marriage, too.  I talk with other moms and they are so jealous of my relationship with Allen.  He supports me when I need it and how I need it.  He is an active father who changes diapers, gets up in the night, kisses boo boos, and reads stories.  He tells me how much he enjoys the dinners I fix and clearly values my role in keeping our family and home running.  But, it wasn't this mysterious happenstance.  It took time and effort and lots and lots of communicating.

Charlie at 3 months
There was a very clear moment when Charlie was 4 months old.  I was taking a shower and trying to enjoy my 15 minutes when I was Not On Call and Allen came in with a screaming Charlie asking me what to do.  I gave some suggestions but also firmly pointed out that Charlie did not come with a manual.  There was no secret mommy class.  I had not developed some sort of telepathy.  As Charlie's Daddy, Allen knew him just as well as I did and I had confidence in his ability to figure this out and if he couldn't well, that was not unique to him.  I spent a good bit of my days (and nights) holding a screaming baby pretty sure that I was the worst mom ever.  It took small steps.  It took a bit for Allen to stop seeing me as the expert.  After all, I babysat constantly as a teen, worked in nurseries and day care and even got a Master's degree in what was basically babies with disabilities.  But, Charlie, just like all people, was unique.  At first, it was Allen doing baby care while I made dinner then it was Allen taking Charlie out for a walk.  As Allen became more confident, it just became the way we parent.

Allen, Megan, Charlie first day of school
I never looked on my husband's parenting as "babysitting."  I never considered it especially noteworthy when he took the children out by himself.  He wasn't coerced into parenthood and this was what he signed up for.  I don't criticize his parenting.  I don't micromanage.  I respect his parenting decisions and if I disagree with something, we have a discussion where we both have equal weight just like we would about money or what movie to watch.  He, in turn, is obscurely insulted when praised for how wonderful a father he is for doing something I would be expected to do as a matter of course.

As our family grew, so did our skills and our relationship with each other.  We were blessed with fussy, particular, high maintenance babies (who turn into relatively easy toddlers and preschoolers).  It was eminently clear that if we didn't cling to each other, we would sink.  So, we learned how to cling and then how to swim and by this point we are hanging out on quite the lush boat.

I figured out the key to my husband and I sort of think it's the key to all of them so I'm sharing.

Allen wants to be a knight in shinning armor.  

He wants to save the day.  

He wants to be the hero. 

He wants to be the rock.

He wants to get the girl.  

Once I understood that, I understood how to communicate with him.  I could explain that the dragon was not experiencing a REM cycle for 3 months.   I could tell him the monster was trying to change a poopy diaper while in the throes of absolutely mind boggling morning sickness.  I could explain that the building needing to be lept in one bound was my need for 2 hours of silence.  I could tell him that when I called him weeping after one of Those Mornings, I really just needed my rock to tell me it was all going to be ok and that I was, in fact, a Good Mom.  While quests of the Round Table are something of fiction, being a White Knight was firmly in his reach.

Noah and Allen
I do my best to set my husband up for success.  I lay out what I need to feel valued.  At one especially stressful point in our lives, I put "give Becky a gift" on his calendar at regular intervals (Our Sunday School class worked our way through The 5 Love Languages and it was magic.  Nothing suits an engineer's soul quite like his wife taking a quiz that spells out Exactly what he needs to do to make her happy.)  I send emails with gift suggestions.  I give him warning when I can feel myself starting to get overwhelmed and tell him I really need some extra alone time or an extra date night or just some more chocolate around the house.

We talk about ways to meet both of our needs.  I lose my mind around 4:30 (as do most mothers of littles).  We figured out a way that he could get his work done but also get home around 4:30.  When that couldn't happen, we figured out ways to budget to have a babysitter come to help out for the OMG hour.  I tell him when I'm feeling down and could use some extra compliments.

This requires a certain effort on my part in terms of self awareness.  For instance, what I'm reading is almost always a good barometer for where I am in my head.  I read Alpha romance when I'm feeling completely overwhelmed and just want someone to swoop in and tell me what to do.  I read non-fiction when I'm feeling curious and/or understimulated.  I read inspirational romance when I'm feeling as if all is right with the world.  I read old favorites when I'm feeling insecure.

Becky and Allen
I tell him flat out that he's my rock and my knight in shining armor and how much I value him because he is and I do.

And, best of all, 

he gets the girl.