March 8, 2018 -- Rowen (6), Liam (5), Ezra (3), Finley (4 months)
I’m sitting in an airport, thrashing on my laptop while I await a flight home. It’s International Women’s Day – a day where we celebrate women across the nations. Of course, the “daughter gene” didn’t grace our family, but I couldn’t be prouder of my current “boy mom” status. It’s a good beat for me.
Given my role as “Queen Mama” [I’ll never tire of you calling me this – it melts my heart each time one of you says it], it’s imperative for me to teach and instruct you, especially when it comes to your privilege. This privilege – or honor – I speak of is this: you are Anglo-Saxon males, who are growing up in the Midwest region of the United States. You are free, you are full, and you have a responsibility.
Should you decide to marry someday [Rowen and Liam – you already chatter about wanting to “be a husband” or “be a daddy” when you grow up.], you must remember the script you write is a story you pen in unity. If your wife desires to stay home, serve to make this happen. [Should you bless us with grandchildren, let’s aim for at least one girl…you know, for your daddy’s sake!] Motherhood is a stunning responsibility and stay-at-home mamas are my heroes. If your wife desires to work outside the home, serve to make this happen. Respect her desires. Together you should sacrifice to make your lives work in harmony, and not clank like cymbals at a 5th grade band concert. [Please don’t ask to play the drums, unless you practice at Mimi and Poppa’s house.]
Specifically, I want to speak with you about mamas who work outside the home. [Currently, you believe my job is to “cut paper with scissors” all day. This is a misnomer; I work for a technology company and I am accustomed to minimal paper usage.] Don’t just invite women to the party; you must respectfully ask them to dance [When dancing, please keep your hands on the “equator” of the body – above the “southern hemisphere” and below the “northern hemisphere.” We’ll talk more about this later.]
1. It doesn’t matter who is the “pizza” winner. [Thus far, none of you like bread. I can’t send PB&J to school and you won’t even touch a grilled cheese. I will clarify this point using a pizza analogy.]
· Your father is the principal at your school [Don’t forget, it’s unlikely you’ll ever get away with anything without being in double-trouble.] and we took a leap of faith when he transitioned away from corporate America and committed to this role. He cares for his students, and he is gifted and talented at teaching and mentoring the next generation. It’s not a role with stellar pay, but it is a role with meaning and deep purpose. Be thankful for the pizza, but don’t fuss over who paid to put it on the table.
2. Most days I say to myself, “I have no idea what I’m doing.”
· This is a lie. Okay, it’s sort of a lie – I do say this to myself, but it’s a lie that I have no idea what I’m doing. I do know and I am confident in my approaches – even when it comes to raising you. This doesn’t mean I don’t make mistakes – I’ve got seven shoe boxes full of mishaps. Occasionally – in a moment of weakness – I confess this “no idea” lie to your father. This next part is critical: While he may acknowledge my fears, he does not entertain them. If I were to even consider quitting because “It’s too hard to lead,” he wouldn’t allow it. Not because of #1 [We’d have to swap out the $7.99 super market pizzas for beans and rice.], but because he knows pioneering and influencing is where I do my best work. I support his purpose, and he supports mine. You see how that works? Be a team player, and don’t let her quit [Unless she seriously wants to – because sometimes women say “yes” when they mean “no,” and other times they say “no” when they seriously mean “yes.” You know what? Just call me before you make any life-changing decisions.]
3. Marriage and fun are not mutually exclusive.
· I am crazy in love with your daddy. It doesn’t always feel like this, but love is a choice and not a feeling. It is a daily discipline to choose love. We celebrate our 10-year anniversary next month and we are intentional at keeping our marriage primary. Birthdays are recurring, but anniversaries are labor intensive. On Friday nights, your father and I go on a fun date so we can be Mr. and Mrs. – and you’re (typically) not invited. I expect you to do the same if you marry and breed or adopt your own loud and lively circus. We’ll be happy to babysit. [Just live close, please.]
4. I will not make Every. Single. Event.
· I will, however, make what matters. Your daddy, grandparents, aunties and uncles, and friends – this proximity tribe we are blessed to be entwined with – they’ll fill in the white space. And that’s okay. I will also not make all my work meetings because I’ll chose your events. It is not a question of love, it is a decision on where I must be when I am asked to be in two places at once. Learn to accept both truths.
5. We each have roles, but it does not dictate our value.
· If you are the pizza winner when you grow up, remember who sits beside you at the dinner table. Pass her the plate. Serve her first. Love her. Admonish her. She is beautiful.
· If you are not the pizza winner when you grow up, stand proud. Your daddy doesn’t flinch when I take him to a conference and he meets my male peers. He shakes firmly, smiles warmly, and is proud to stand beside me. You both are enough.
6. Lead. For real.
· Regardless of your path and purpose in life, you must lead. This doesn’t mean you must be a boss-man and formally lead people. However, you must never fail to lead yourself. [For example, leading yourself means getting out of bed each morning to eat breakfast, put your clothes on, brush your stinky breath, find your backpack/lunch, feed the dogs, and get in the SUV…by 6:45 a.m.). Be known for your gentleness and strength. Be candid – yet kind – and don’t fail to use the words “I’m sorry.” [By the way, a true apology is not “I’m sorry, but…”]
Boys – lend your (undeserved) freedom to others. I will challenge myself to do the same. When you courageously kick open a door, valiantly hold it open for others. Be respectful, empathetic, and remember that in the end, we all should sit at the same table, eating pizza, exchanging perspectives, laughing, and genuinely listening to one another.
Be the next generation of men this world needs.