Tag Archives: parenting

On Tying Shoes

It is the dusk of my 35th birthday.

Wow. 35 years. I can see tinges of the classic “midlife crisis” creeping in. All day I found myself looking back and wondering if I have spent the last 3 1/2 decades well.

I think I can say that I am (mostly) proud of the person I have become. I have (sort of) learned to stop and think before I speak. i have matured to the point where I can (grudgingly) admit that my parents were right about many things (shhh…don’t tell my dad). I can (sometimes) admit that I was wrong.


But there is one thing I have always known about myself, but did not realize was a problem until today.

I am not a process person.

I am a results person. Unlike my sister, I do not revel in the repetitive and routine. I mean, I like to be clean, but if I had the choice between showering and pushing a “clean Kristin” button, I would choose the button every time. For me, the process is just the means that get me to the results.

It is not that I don’t recognize the importance of process, of how process impacts results. I took ballet for 12 years, and ballet is all process. How you learn and practice your movements determine how well you can perform. The way you move your body into each position is as important as the position itself. Quality process equals quality results.

I know process is important, but I just hate having to do it.

This summer, we made the brave idiotic decision to ditch the velcro and purchase tie shoes for our 3 and 4 1/2 year olds.

Kristin! What were you thinking?!

I know.

Honestly, I’m not sure what possessed me to do it. I think the girls told me they really wanted tie shoes and I thought, “Wow! How mature of them! I should encourage this!” So with visions of my prodigy preschoolers tying shoes themselves flashing in my brain, they were purchased and brought home.

My positive enthusiasm lasted for about 3 days before I realized that Lidia did not have the dexterity to tie her shoes yet and Madeline was just way, way, way too slow. Most mornings, we left the house with both girls crying and me screaming to just “grab those (mumble under breath) shoes and don’t you dare try to tie them in the car and get them all tangled up and I will just have to tie them when we get to where we are going.”

Over the past several weeks, there has been a recurrent theme. In conversations. In prayer time. In watching an amazing artist chronicle the creation of her works. In the post on how you respond when life changes…or doesn’t.

The message is the same:

The process is not just important because it gets you results. The process is important because it is a result in and of itself.   

So this morning, as we were getting ready to go, I sat down with Madeline to help her tie her shoes. I stopped, took a breath and really paid attention to what I was doing. As Madeline tied her first shoe, I watched how the muscles for fine motor skills were honed as her tiny fingers had to work really hard to correctly grasp and twist and pinch the strings just right. I noticed how she stopped everything else and really concentrated on what she was doing. I marveled at how she handled the frustration of dropping a lace by closing her eyes, taking a deep breath and trying again.

Strength. Concentration. Perseverance. Patience. All the things needed to climb giant rope ladders at a playground, have healthy friendships, and succeed in the future. All this gained from the stupid process of tying one stupid shoe.

Then, as I tied her second shoe (because, really, preschool shoe tying is SO SLOW), I took the opportunity to look right into her eyes down at her level and smile. She flashed an enormous, rare, giddy smile, said, “I love you, mom,” and gave me a big bear hug.

Wow. So much better than screaming and crying.

This. This is what I need to work on during the next 35 years. 

Ugh. But it is so hard for me.

I need to take lessons from Nick. You see, I am married to an extreme process person. Nick is actually an ancient Japanese man born into a modern American body. Results are important to him, but it is the process, the howthat gives him joy. He becomes alive doing all the tedious things that would drive me crazy: gardening, cooking, practicing scales on his guitar, shaving with a straight razor, fitting a hearing aid. Nick graduated with a Japan Studies concentration in college and he tells me that the traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony, Chado, epitomizes traditional Japanese culture. People would spend their entire lives working to fully engage in and master the process of their craft. The beauty and joy lie not just in the end result, but in the journey of getting there. If you have ever read Marie Kondo’s Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, you can hear this undercurrent running through her words.


As I thought through this today, I realized that this is why this phase of my life is one of the most challenging. So much of what I do is purely process. The changes and results of the work I am doing with the girls are either so far in the future, are imperceptibly small or are so short lived, that I often feel like I am achieving no results at all.

I hear the platitude “enjoy the journey” all the time, but I never really grasped the depth of what that means in my day to day life before today. If I never do more than put up with the process while waiting for results, I will have missed my life. Because nearly all of life is just that, a series of processes that refine us and make us into who we are. The how is not just the how. The how is also the what.

The process is not just important because of the result it produces. It is important in itself. Because of what you learn. Because of who you become. Because it can be enjoyable, fulfilling and beautiful. The process is the result. The process is the now.

So, on the dusk of my 35th birthday, I make my quasi-midlife resolution. Much like Brother Lawrence that Laura just wrote about, I will seek to find enjoyment, beauty and appreciation for the tedious, mind-numbing processes that make up life. I will listen for God’s whisper in the common and the mundane.

It will probably take me the next 35 years to even start to scratch the surface. Because by later this afternoon, as we were onto the third iteration of putting on and tying the shoes to get somewhere, I was back to the screaming and crying routine.

Sigh.

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The Surprising Beauty of Poop

There has been too much depth and intensity around this blog lately. I figured it was time to lighten things up a bit with a topic near and dear to my heart, a topic that exposes my crazy like none other: feces.  

I could just be feeling sorry for myself, but I feel like in this household, we have shouldered much more than our fair share of poop over our parenting tenure.  

  
We’ve had constipation issues. There was a period of time where we should have bought stock in Miralax. We should have marketed our awesome homemade baby food concoction that we lovingly referred to as “poop cubes.” We had an ER visit for suspected rectal prolapse. We’ve had children crying when they even thought about having to poop.

We’ve had years of diarrhea issues. We’ve had two children with milk protein allergies throughout the first year of life, which involved all kinds of fun, including diarrhea 10-12 times a day with giant, weeping rashes wherever the poop touched their skin.  We found a child who, having gotten up in the middle of the night with diarrhea, was fast asleep on the little potty. We’ve had an entire month where diarrhea was so bad, we couldn’t travel, had to plan trips around town based on proximity to bathrooms, and supplement with electrolytes daily. Our toilet paper use to date could probably supply an elementary school. 

  
We’ve had issues we didn’t even realize were bowel related, including migraines, excema, years and years of night screaming and fatigue. I have been that parent who took pictures of poop and showed it to the pediatrician. I discovered an amazing app called the “Bowel Mover.” I’ve collected poop samples for lab tests. I’ve discovered that I have friends who love me so much that they will collect a poop sample of my kid’s poop to take to the lab (I love you, Sharon!). 

In short, we have been dealing with a lot of crap in this house. 

But, as I’ve been thinking over the common things in my life, looking for the fabulous, I realized something unexpected and completely ridiculous: our family poop saga has actually been a beautiful gift. Here’s how: 

Less embarrassment. Because we’ve had to be such close monitors of private bathroom time, we have been able to have lots and lots and lots of conversations about bodies and bodily functions. We’ve talked about what is “normal.” They have been able to see why it’s important to discuss and share the “abnormal” with parents and doctors rather than hide it, and how this information helps us find out what is wrong and make it better. We’ve helped to pass on the idea that all these gross things in the bathroom are just a normal part of life and they help us make sure everything is working OK on the inside. 

  

Greater scientific curiosity. Because of the aforementioned conversations, we’ve had LOTS of conversations about how the body works, where everything goes and why things come out looking like they do. We’ve discussed why tortoise and horse poop are great for our garden, but our poop is not. We’ve ventured into the realm of urine and chemistry and gotten urine test strips on Amazon to see how our liquid and food consumption affects the chemicals in our pee. Yup, we’re a normal family.  

  

Closer relationships. While there is still normal kid embarrassment with bathroom stuff, the topic is not taboo and they feel comfortable talking to us about what’s going on. Because we’ve been having these conversations on private topics as they have grown, we have established a respectful, safe closeness. This has allowed us to start to cross into other uncomfortable areas relating to bodies with less push-back. I am hoping this precedent continues into the teenage years. There’s nothing like poop to bring a family together.

I would never choose to have the string of digestive issues with which we’ve had to live. But I can see the glimmer of fabulous in our poop-filled lives.