And I’m afraid of no one

Today Keith and I went to parent/teacher conferences at Molly’s pre-school. We basked in that particular parental glow that comes when your kid’s teacher tells you how well they’re doing – shapes, colors, letters, beginning reading skills – we’re all over it.

It was a good conference. There was a lot of laughing and love shared in the room about this little person named Molly. With a mind like a sponge, she is learning more and more each day.

There were some things we didn’t discuss.

We didn’t discuss if it was right for her, as a girl, to receive an education.

We didn’t discuss if attending school would make her a target.

Where we live we discuss homeschooling, public school, private school, standardized tests, grades, college prep, etc. I engage in these conversations frequently.

But I have never been in a position to have to defend my daughters’ right to learn. I have never had to put my life on the line for their education.

So, today, as I leave Molly’s conference, I can’t stop thinking about Malala Yousufzai and her father. I am simultaneously in awe of their bravery while heartbroken over a world that required such bravery.

I can only hope that if I’d been born an ocean away, I would have had such courage.

In an interview with CNN from 2011, Malala said:

“I have the right of education. I have the right to play. I have the right to sing. I have the right to talk. I have the right to go to the market. I have the right to speak up.”

It’s sadly easy to sit in my safe life and take these rights for granted.

There will always be tyranny and oppression in our world. There will also always be people like Malala. She is just one person … one girl … one child. Yet the ripples of her bravery and intelligence are felt across our globe. I can’t help but think about all the other people, like Malala, risking their lives for rights that I take for granted.

I can only hope for a sliver of her courage. If she can stare down the Taliban, I can speak up for the injustices I see in my safe corner of the world.

After all, in Malala’s words, “I shall raise my voice … If I didn’t do it, who would?”

Your voice is not raised alone Malala. 

Creating Shelter



Blog Bash

I missed my one year blogging anniversary so am excited for the chance to celebrate with the Blog Bash Link Up!  I chose this post as my favorite because it’s the one that still resonates with me.  Also, the one year anniversary of the Joplin tornado is coming up soon and I wanted to pick a post that wasn’t tornado related.  Because this year has been about so much more than that stinkin’ tornado.  It’s been about creating shelter in more ways than one.

The messages swirl around our culture mercilessly like debris in a tornado striking without discretion or compassion.

Your clothes are not good enough.
Your hair is not perfect enough.

I look at my two beautiful daughters and, knowing the hits will come, I try to build them a shelter out of words like brave, strong, smart, creative, kind, fearfully and wonderfully made — loved.

There’s something wrong with the color of your skin.
There’s something wrong with your body.

I build their shelters so words of hate and lies will bounce off them like debris off a storm shelter.

You are fat.
You are ugly.

And I stand watch. I watch for signs that the debris has left damage already. Because even the strongest shelter has points of weakness.

You are stupid.
You are worthless.

So as my seven-year-old daughter studied herself in the mirror and sucked in her breath, I tried to find all those words I’d practiced for this moment:

Our bodies are wonderful — they are strong and miraculous.
There is no such thing as perfect.
We are so much more than a body or a shape.
You are truly breath-taking and my eyes fill up with tears watching you because you are so, so beautiful.

But instead I simply asked, “Emily, what are you doing?”

She replied, “I’m trying to fly.”

While I thought I was seeing a little girl searching for worth in a mirror, I was actually watching a girl lost in potential and imagination.

While I prepared to repair and rebuild her shelter, I realized instead that she is my shelter. Because no matter what messages the world flings at me of unworthiness or less-ness, I am loved by this wonderful, joyful, beautiful child.

All the rest of it is just rubble.

And if this year has taught me anything, it’s what to do to with rubble.

Dancing girls

As I was walking through the parking lot with my left hand tightly holding Emily’s hand and my right hand clutching Molly’s, people were smiling, laughing, pointing … at us.  My two little companions were twisting and kicking and shimmying and attempting unsuccessfully (because of my tight grip on their hands) to spin.  My girls are dancers.  They dance everywhere.  They feel the rhythm of the grocery store and the beat of the parking lot.  They’re not hindered by things such as choreography or music – their dances in the produce aisles and parking lots are the stuff of rainbows and wind and starlight and freedom. 

So you can imagine my surprise when Emily (7) told me she doesn’t want to keep going to dance class.  Her reason why? Because they work too much on “all the dance moves.”  Pesky dance-move teaching dance teachers. 

And, yes, all you tiger moms out there, I agree.  Emily’s answer is precisely the reason why she needs to keep going to dance classes.  Because wind and starlight are wonderful (truly) but so is commitment, perseverance, and focus.  I know that.  Emily just knows that she likes to dance to the rhythm of her soul and her soul doesn’t care too much about ballet positions. 

The secret truth in this is that I don’t care so much about the actual dance moves either.  I just want my daughter to learn the value of giving her best so I reminded her of the recital coming up in May.  My hope was that the call of the spotlight would outweigh that inconvenient focus on technique and choreography.  I was wrong.  I forgot that Emily creates her own spotlight.

So, I fell back on a tried and true parenting technique – parental force.  I made her go.  I shoved away my fear that I was being one of those horrible dance moms on reality TV and reminded myself that kids don’t always know what’s best for themselves.  So my little free-spirit will have to don her pink leotard and coordinating tights and learn a little ballet.  It’s good for her and I say so.

Then some starlight fell my way.  During our last visit to the studio, they’d posted pictures of the costume the class will wear for their May recital.  If there’s anything Emily loves as much as free-style dancing, it’s a good outfit.

On our way out to the car, Emily told me that she’d decided after all to keep going to dance class.  I told her how proud I was of her improved attitude and how important it is to stick with something once you make a commitment.   I casually mentioned how dance class can teach her more than just dance – she can learn about things like grace, poise and teamwork.  As she skipped, bounced, and danced her way to the car, Emily replied: 

“Okay, mom.  But I’m just in it for the fluffy tutu.”

Good enough for me.