To My Boys on Their First Day of School

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My Dear Boys,

The thing that I love most about both of you is that while you are mine, you are utterly yourselves.

Your souls cannot be contained or controlled, and that’s exactly what most terrifies and thrills me about being your mom.

Today you started school.

And what I know is that while you are not alone on your new journey, neither am I. I’m surrounded by other moms and dads who are doing the same thing, loving their kiddos while they are with them and while they aren’t.

So here’s what I know.

Transitions hurt, and stretching feels like a small kind of death, and that's okay.
There’s this saying, “Distance makes the heart grow fonder,” and I feel that already, felt it the moment we stepped out that door and left you for a few hours to learn and grow.

When you wake up in the morning, there will be things like oatmeal and strawberries waiting for you, and when you go to bed, there will be stories of Grandmother Moon and Waynaboozhoo.

And the next morning, I will be waiting with sage, so that when we burn it we can remember who we are. And when you go to bed that next night, there will be stories of Harry Potter and Hagrid, Ron and Hermione to lead you to the deepest parts of your imagination.

You see, this is why the stretching is both beautiful and hard.

Because of the stretching, we will make room for the sacred. We will gather when we are together, and when we are apart, we will do the work we’re called to do.

 

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My Dear Boys,

When you see the world, both now and later when you’re grown, I might ask you to report back to me.

I might ask you to let me know what you’ve seen and heard, what overwhelmed your senses, what distracted you, what brought you comfort, what hurt you.

I might ask, because for now, we’ve got things to share with each other, before the leaving and the cleaving that one day will come in one form or another.

Before that, we report to each other so that we grow together, so that this world experiences all of us, our stories meshed and molded with one another’s stories.

We do this now so that one day, when you build family and community far from my grasp, I can watch in awe of the people you become.

I can watch in awe that your souls grew and stretched to bloom into exactly who you were created to be.

 

So, my dear boys,

Go, and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t be exactly who you are.

Go, and when you come home, I’ll be there, waiting.

Go, make the world more beautiful and right wrongs, because that’s the shape of you.

Go, and as you go, I’ll be going, so that when we come together we will know how to be ready for whatever lies ahead of us.

 

Albus Dumbledore says, “there are all kinds of courage,” and I know that to be true, because I’ve seen it in you time and again.

Let your kind of courage be the thing that guides you.

 

I love you.

 

Mom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Does it Mean to Become an Adult?

 

I’ve been thinking for the past six months or so about the process of becoming an adult. This idea was brought on by a few things in my life, one of them being the fact that after ten years of marriage, we are in desperate need of a new couch. I walk across my house, eyeing the black piece of furniture that has been so kind to us over the years, over four moves into different living spaces in different states and seasons of life. I look at her, despondent as she is, and say to myself, I’m ready for something new.

 

I’m ready to be an adult.

 

I will be thirty this year, and it seems that after publishing a book last year and beginning therapy this summer, I’m coming into my own way, at least for the next season, at least for the next month. And while I’m so grateful to be where I am, there is always this nagging voice, much like the one that comes right before New Year’s Eve, right before resolutions are pinned to the wall and written in our planners: get your act together, that’s what adults do.

 

Make more money.

Clean up your house.

Figure out parenthood.

Get your exercise schedule together.

You need to work harder.

You’re lazy.

Adults know what boundaries are.

You should know more by now.

No adult actually watches Netflix this much.

 

 

If ever imposter syndrome abounds, it’s in these kinds of thoughts and feelings, telling me I’m not enough.

 

I’ve seen people my age and into their early thirties who have nicely dressed kids and the perfect patch of yard outside their dream home. They get up and go to work every day, they make wholesome meals and attend church regularly.

 

They are doing adulthood right.

 

…right?

 

Then I think about a lot of other adults I know. People with scars and stories, people who are still trying to get it together in their forties, fifties, sixties. In other words, they’re human.

 

And what I realize is, that’s what we all are, and the dream of being “an adult” isn’t as cookie-cutter as we say it is.

Adulthood, instead of a series of steps, is an ever-forming cycle of being human on this earth.

 

Adulthood isn’t that you’ll have kids and a spouse with a perfect A-frame house. That idea carries with it the American dream, an ideal held by the wealthy but unavailable to the poor, an idea that says things need to look and be a certain way to be successful.

It leaves out a lot of us.

 

And the ones with the perfect yards and the pristine children are also struggling with something, trying to learn what it means to love and live a better life, trying to learn what their journey looks like in that cycle of things.

 

So that’s what it must mean to be an adult: an awareness of our ever-evolving stories, an awareness of our scars and what they teach us to be in the world.

 

I’ve just started reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone with my sons, and at the beginning of the book, not long after Harry received his infamous lightning bolt scar, Hagrid asks Albus Dumbledore if he should remove the scar so that Harry can live without it.

 

Dumbledore responds with this:

 

 Scars can come in handy.

 

What if adulthood means we find ways for our scars to come in handy, for our mistakes and our successes to integrate themselves into our story?

 

 

What if we hit adulthood for a few years only to realize we need to turn back to our childlikeness?

 

There is this idea that if we get ourselves together, if we fix what is broken and clean up what is messy, that means we are healed forever, we are ready to be healthy in every way and will never make the same mistakes again.

 

But, dear friends, that is not humanity.

 

Maybe being an adult means realizing there is true, sacred beauty in childlikeness.

Maybe being an adult means we are called to remember our smallness in a huge world.

Maybe being an adult means we become a lore more like Fred Rogers and a lot less like Donald Trump.

Maybe being an adult isn’t just about independence but about recognizing our interdependence on a world that needs us—our gifts, our wholeness, our love.

 

What if our old, beat up couches and our ungroomed yards are just as much a part of our journey to adulthood as the pristine yards and the brand new pieces of furniture?

“Our work, then, is to become the healthiest possible version of who we uniquely are,” writes David Richo, author of How to be an Adult in Relationships. Maybe being an adult is endlessly asking what can bring us true joy and call us to life.

 

Maybe being an adult is realizing that working through healing is a necessary part of our wholeness.

 

In that case, the house isn’t the most important thing.

In that case, our children will be loved as we learn to love ourselves alongside them.

In that case, we learn to do this work in community, and we become stronger together.

In that case, the comparison game can’t get to us anymore.

In that case, as we dream about the kind of person we want to be tomorrow, we know that who we are today can count our successes, too.

 

In that case, adult on, friends. I’m right there with you. 

 

 

 

Practicing Parenthood In a Time of Chaos

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During long drives in the car, I’ve had some difficult conversations with my boys about justice, the law, the difficult history that we’re a part of as native people and as Christians, and the overall climate of our nation today.

A hundred years ago, we probably would have been told that parenting is hard– just like it’s hard today. Maybe the world is worse in our century, or maybe it’s a little better– whatever it is, chaos is still present, and as parents, we still have a job to do.

So with that challenge in place, we pray that we lead our little ones both in the right way and in their own way— we help them find their gifts, we walk beside them, we teach them to value the journeys and stories of others, we discipline and shape their character, and we let them see the world with the tethering of hope through which Jesus saw it.

Even so.

I don’t like living in a world in which I have to tell my son that laws are meant to protect people…usually.

I don’t like living in a world in which the history of indigenous people is known by stories of kids being taken from their savage parents and placed in boarding schools or with civilized, non-native families.

I don’t like living in a world in which my child’s sexuality is defined by their favorite color or toy preference or ability to be creative.

I don’t like living in a world in which the word enemy is defined by political party and reconciliation is not practiced enough between people of faith.

And yet.

I love living in a world in which my boys can grow up to change laws.

I love living in a world  in which we can challenge social norms with the power of shalom.

I love living in a world in which they can change history for their own people generations down the road,

that they can redefine what it means to be strong and brave and smart,

and that they can love their enemies and engage reconciliation on a daily basis.


 

Sometimes I wish Jesus had been a parent. Then maybe there would have been stories about his encounters with his kids that we could draw advice from–

That time his toddler threw a tantrum in the synagogue and he had to compassionately parent him into understanding;

That time they saw someone poor neglected by the law and he had to tell his kids why before they engaged in protest for the least of these against the rulers of their day;

That time he had to tell his teenager to fearlessly pray for a society  that objectifies her, the same way he told her to stand tall and proud of who she is, that her voice matters, and that love trumps hate.

But we don’t have those kinds of stories.

We have stories that tell us he healed lepers and looked children in the eyes, that he challenged the concept of seen and not heard.

We know his heart, and it guides us in these days, in this country, in this world, in which we have all the things that make living difficult and all the things that make living sacred.

So if we know what Jesus was like, we walk in that spirit of shalom.

We teach our children the lessons that we learned and the lessons we should have learned. We teach them to be better and we don’t fear learning from them.

And in our social, political, and religious climate, we follow the rules of shalom– the rules of peace– and they guide us in our conversations, in our actions, in the way we interact with other human beings.

Because honestly, I don’t know how to be a parent now. I know that there is a Mystery within the realm of God that gives me strength when I need it, and that Jesus leads me, often through the lessons my little ones teach me.

I don’t know that the world today is any worse or any better than it was.

But I know that chaos cannot last forever, and in the midst of it, Jesus still makes all things new.


Jesus,

Teach us the lessons we don’t read on scripture pages.

Teach us the lessons that give us grace in our everyday lives,

lessons that remind us we are not alone,

we are not abandoned,

that you are the partner in all things we do.

You are the partner when we are at our wits’ end.

You are the partner that pushes us through the next challenge.

You are the partner that gives us grace to say no,

grace to change direction,

grace to start over.

So much is given to us in the words of scripture,

and yet,

we learn so much in our humanity,

in our person-to-person encounters,

there is no way we can say

that we did not see you

here in our day,

in our time,

when we thought chaos would win.

And so we remember that you are better.

You are stronger.

You are a kind leader.

And we rest in the lessons you teach us right now, today. 

Amen.