tenderness & evolution @ big table while one teen is studying

I mentioned to David last night that we somehow leveled up in the parenting world. Language has settled in, values have taken root… These things have produced consistent messages to the kids that are starting to see anchors like time around the table and nods of agreement.

There was a while where one of us would process a kid and the other would get defensive. I bet that is common in blending families. If I zoom’d in on one of his biologicals, it would naturally feel like it was in comparison to one of my biologicals. At this point, if I am correct, we have both bitched enough about all five kids and praised enough about each of the five kids to have balanced out and earned each other’s trust that it is not like we were determining who are our “project children”.

Truly – they are all projects.

In my retirement, my bandwidth can get quickly sucked up in the parenting world and what all we need to address. It results, as mentioned before, in a lot of conversation with David about ideas and what we should try and what I envision for us in a year. It also results in a lot of hands on deep diving with each kid. And it is really not efficient to live like that.

Not only do I believe in the fact that at some point you have to stop talking about it and just do the things you think are so important. But it really isn’t practical to coach each kid one on one. Teachers, sports coaches, music teachers and therapists are – for example – great ways to outsource this, even if you don’t have a bajillion kids like we do. Said another way….

I remember thinking I broke Ellen at some point when she was 7 or 8. That somehow my parenting or her dad’s was so screwed up that we had turned this wonderful sweet adventurous girl into a headstrong pain in the ass.

In my regular bemoaning that I ruined my child and now had this selfish, pre-occupied, non-empathetic little girl, I conveniently recognized all of those same traits in myself. :-/

OH. How helpful, I realized in my yoga, we are able to recognize things in others because they are in us.

OH. How helpful, I can’t open Ellen’s brain and re-wire and jump into her memories and change however or wherever she learned this behavior.

I can. I can. I can model and reinforce. Model. Model. Model.

I am going through notebooks (which is literally and figuratively the story of my life) and it has been pretty wild to read entries from 2019: gearing up toward engagement, gearing up toward 2020, so blind to the reality the world can change dramatically. Amongst all the plans and lists and travel notes was this entry of 6 bullet points I had written as advice for myself:

  • Stand openly
  • Hide nothing
  • Refuse to defend oneself
  • Feel their pain
  • Understand needs
  • Vulnerability brings healing

In this season of motherhood, I find this list perfect.

One of the prayers I have for the kids is that they all let down their defenses. Not necessarily with each other as there is not any fighting in the house or anything like that. But there is a general guard up that quickly interprets “direction” into “discipline” or interprets guidance as limitation. It’s kind of interesting. They feel in trouble or stuck and excuse themselves, make shit up and or quickly interject what they want before hearing what they want was already on the way. Like. They are “jumpy”.

I think, for me, I have to remember the change they all went through and the ways they are growing and being stretched academically and socially during the pandemic. That’s hard stuff.

I think, for me, remembering to get on eye level and inquire lovingly to their real need is essential to continually grow the trust we all have in each other. I don’t need to explain they didn’t need to explain it. I just listen, reassure and follow through. Take it on the chin. Let them think it was their idea in a way.

Living with nothing to hide – being an honest, friendly expression – makes us safe as parents. Not explaining things or offering reasons, just “Yes, and I love you” and “No, and I love you” will suffice.

And even “standing openly” is applicable now as I see my motherhood as an act of generosity. Giving and being compassionate and patient and helpful. Letting the “work” of it all be a side note and letting the “service” of it all be a lifestyle and a calling.

And with all of this, like I was saying to a friend today regarding marriage, being subtle and letting body language and tone of voice be warm and safe is clutch. Building people up and encouraging them, knowing what it feels like to not be having a great day and so therefore not being a contributing factor to theirs.

Using a calming touch and stepping aside for time for yourself are as powerful as being the non critical recipient of another’s vulnerability.

“Blessed be the know it all” is not in scripture anywhere. Man, how I hope we all stop having reasons for everything.

I am not going to spend a lot of time proofing or editing this post. I just wanted to offer an entry real quick as I read through this notebook and find this 2019 advice super relevant to my current day.

Every day I remember I am the Queen and that I make the rules for my life, I grow more something (nicer? compassionate? gentler?) towards the grind of the day, towards the expectant demands of children.

It’s not that it is easy and it is not that I have been nailing it. (Hence why I welcomed these 6 bullets into my flow….) But I do recognize a difference in mothering over time and it has something to do with these things. For sure.

Towel Update @ Sitting with a Smoothie

Today, on my bathroom rounds, I had the surprise of (count ‘Em) *two* towels on the mini shelf in the main floor 2nd bathroom.

Now, I want to thank you all for the outpouring of support and encouragement after my last post about the towels @ coffee on the couch – saint louis. And I would like to invite you deeper into the mystery of the towel on the shelf.

Now, my working theory is that one of the daughters has an aversion to using the same hand towel as other people. Try as I might to offer and assure with the regularity to which this towels are switched out and washed…

That is why I have allowed myself to let the towel remain on the shelf for a day or two. I’m assuming somebody wants it for their use.

BUT. Now – now that we have two towels on the shelf, that tells me this theory can’t be right unless the child grows disgusted of even using their own towel to dry their hands…

Which presents now a different theory, similar to the one I have for the upstairs bathroom, that somebody has a towel preference… right?


It’s a two towel on the shelf kind of Wednesday

about the towels @ coffee on the couch – saint louis

This is going to be one of those posts that I read back in ten years and remember the sweet times of the pandemic, the newness of my marriage, the awareness of the kids and my transition to my fully creative life. It’s long but I want to capture my mind in this moment. :)

In exploring the mysteries of the towels, I also explore myself. My controls, my wiring, my growth and flexibility. This really may sound so incredibly trite but the fact of the matter is, when I go through the morning routine in the house (much like any one person going through any one routine), you begin to notice the things about your self and about others / the world that make the routine different. Like a rat in a maze, you evolve past certain cruxes, you recognize patterns and take advantage of them, etc.

After David and I have at least one cup of coffee together and some early morning conversation – which, if he is lucky, is dusted with the wondrous sharing of my dreams – I eventually get out of bed, get semi dressed for the day at home and I head to the laundry room off the kitchen.

I fold what is in the dryer, stacking it into piles by room on the washer then distribute the laundry accordingly. I live by medium sized loads, laundry by purpose or person and folding as it comes out of the dyer. Growing up in a massive household and years folding for the Gap have set the direction in my laundering.

With the laundry put up and what was in the washer switched or started, I make my way through the bathrooms. When David and I combined households, we brought together a lot of towels and I decided to assign each of our three bathrooms (thank God we have three bathrooms) a specific color towel. This allows me a certain level of situational awareness of what bathrooms factored by who needs to shower / who is home should have their towels washed and stocked.

The other life hack I put in place is I stocked each under sink space with some cleaning supplies so that, in the mornings, I can comet the toilet, wipe down the sinks, switches and handles, viral check anything, gather towels, gather trash and restock. Doing this for 5 minutes each morning instead of Saturday morning haul is honestly one of the best ways I have changed the game. It also has allowed me to step into this compelling mystery of the towels.

In the upstairs bathroom, the one for the four teenage females, there is a gold basket on the floor that takes the rolled up thick blue towels. They get a patterned towel over the side of the bathtub and they get the white and light gray washcloths. There is a hand towel ring to the right of the sink, a 4 hook rack on the back of the door, a hook by the shower and a towel rack by the tub.

On a routine basis, like genuine routine (regardless of the number of hooks I have added and put in place for bath towels) a bath towel is put through the hand towel ring along with the hand towel. The gold basket of neatly rolled up towels has one or two strewn in there on top of neatly rolled ones and the washcloths are all catty-wompus.

Are the towels strewn in the gold basket dirty?

Do certain people have certain towel / washcloth preferences?

Why is the bath towel on the hand towel ring when the hooks on the back of the door are empty?

The main floor 2nd bathroom gets the white towels and the mix a match wash cloths. The white bath towels get folded tightly and stocked under the sink, with a stack of washcloths next to them. There is a hand towel ring to the left of the sink. A bath towel hook to the right of the shower. And that’s pretty much it. There is a little narrow wooden shelf on the wall that I made out of the front of a drawer, it is really decorative only outside of if a makeup bag of a guest needs a place to hang out.

A normal day presents to me two mysteries in this bathroom: the hand towel hanging on for dear life (which may be the simplest mystery to solve: an impatient almost 8 year old) and one of the bath towels *on the little narrow wooden shelf*. The hook by the shower may or may not have a one or 5 towels hanging, which really is just about shower surges when multiple showers occur in a day. But it is the bath towel on the shelf that gets me.

I mean – just, why? This will happen even after I set the bathroom up, have a fresh hand towel hanging and after no showers have been taken. It’s a towel, still mostly folded, on the shelf.

The last bathroom is the master bathroom. This towel gets my hair and face towels (smaller, softer towels passed down to me from my Grandmother), the black and grey towels, the black washcloths and the funky colored washcloths. There is a hand towel by the sink, a towel rack on the shower door, a towel rack on the wall, a hook on the wall and a basket on the floor for the washcloths.

Things that are constant: David puts his shower towel over the shower, I put a hair and face towel on the hook on the wall and I put my bath towel on the rack. The towel stock goes under the sink. Once a towel gets a couple of showers, it becomes the floor towel.

The thing about the floor towel is that I don’t actually love the floor towel to stay on the floor in between uses. BUT. Every time I think to myself “David knows his towel is over the shower – that is where he puts his shower towel” – and confidently hang the floor towel on the vacant rack on the shower door to dry and available for re-use (literally every time I have done this), when I go into the bathroom after he has his next shower, the floor towel is still on the rack and his shower towel is on the floor and a new towel is hanging over the shower.

Try as I might, my words “if there is not a towel on the floor, it means I hung it up right here. A towel hanging on this will never be your towel and it will never be mine. It will only ever be a towel that has been on the floor and that you can put on the floor again…” just do not seem to provide the reassurance.

Guys. I know this is a lot about towels. But I find it absolutely fascinating. I am fascinated by my consistency, honestly. But I am also completely fascinated by observing my people. How they work, what they need. From a personal growth perspective, I am fascinated with my complete acceptance and the fact I am not trying to change any of this. I caution on the side of dirty and throw them in the wash. I let the towel on the shelf sit a day or two. I straighten up the bath towel on the hand towel ring. I leave the towel on the floor.

One of the main things I can feel shifting in me is how important it is to allow people their space among the expectations. How the system does work but it works better if there is grace and flexibility. I mean. These things are essential.

Ok. Time to put the blue towels in the dryer. :)