Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Football and Philosophizing

A football post without a single football photo. This isn't what you think it will be.
 Evie and I spent our day yesterday making 140 enchiladas for Ben's football team.  How long did it take to roll 140 enchiladas, you may wonder.  The answer is almost two hours.  The things we do for our kids . . .

We took the three littlest kids with us to watch the game.  Ben had a great game--GREAT game.  A touchdown, a two-point conversion, a punt block, two pass receptions, and quite a few great tackles.  It was not the most interesting of games; in fact, I can't even remember the final score, but it was something like 287-0  ;o).  I always feel bad for the losing team when they lose that bad.

We sat in a pack of our friends and Ben's friends, talking and laughing and occasionally letting out appropriate cheers for the action on the field.  I don't know how the conversation turned this direction, but I overheard Micah saying, "I'm the musician. Tucker's the singer. Heidi's the oldest and most perfect. Hyrum's the  . . . " and Hyrum quickly said, " . . . artist . . ." as Micah continued with "Ben's the athlete. We don't know what Evie is yet.  What's Lily?"

I found myself bristling at the chosen labels for himself and each of his siblings. I try very hard to not label each of them--to allow them each to find their path and try different things.  I always hope that they don't compare themselves to each other, but his evaluations struck me.  No matter how hard I try, they do compare themselves to each other--compare their strength to another's weakness, and conversely, their weakness to another's strength.

I wondered: Is this okay?  Is it healthy?  Should I try to change his perceptions? Is he wrong, or is he mostly correct? Do I do this?

Although I'm not blind to my children's weaknesses, I see each child as so much more than their achievements and challenges.

Ben is so much more to me than "the athlete."  He is brilliant, kind, thoughtful, quite silly, and one of the wittiest people you'll ever meet.  He also struggles to focus on boring school work, procrastinates horribly, and leaves his room a stinky pile of "athlete" much of the time.

Lily loves people and reality TV, but she's so much more than that.  She sparkles, and when she walks into the room, you know it.  She's a great tumbler, and she has more tenacity to conquer a challenge than anyone else I know. She also fights to control her tongue, her temper, and the clutter accumulated on her bathroom counter from trying so many different hairstyles and nail polishes.

Although Micah is a great piano player, he also writes clever and original stories, loves mythology and reading, and enjoys soccer and basketball. He remembers to make his bed almost every morning but rarely remembers to take his library books back to school.  And for all his trumpeting about his piano skills, I wish he wouldn't yell, "I HATE PIANO!" at least once a week.

Hyrum has the astounding ability to make me flaming angry one moment, then in the next split second make me hug him till his stuffing pops out.  He fills reams of paper with his drawings, can almost outrun his older brother, and can complete sixth-grade level logic puzzles, yet I already see him resigning himself to never playing the piano as well as Micah, and he pulls back when faced with tasks he deems too difficult, like reading a book that I know he is fully capable of reading.

Miss Evie--she's still so young, but being the baby of seven exposes you to things earlier than the older kids were.  She copies Hyrum's love for art.  She knows every word to Lily's favorite songs on the radio.  She plinks out a few notes on the piano, with Micah's music spread out before her.  Yet I see part of her own little self in there, still developing and getting ready to surface: Hints of a dancer? Simple math problems at her age? Hair stylist? Who is she?

My two older kids have grown into amazing adults who have taken their personal strengths and used them well.  I see them both still struggle with challenges, but I also love who they are becoming--changing the perceptions of who they always thought they would become into who they actually are now.

Who are these children of mine?  Do I define them by their abilities or challenges, or do I try each day to see them for not only who they are, but who they can become?  How do I help them to see past these self-imposed and society-imposed labels placed upon them? How do I encourage them to try new things, even if it's scary to possibly fail? How do I walk the line between effective teacher, unflagging cheerleader, and grounded realist? Do I expect too much of them?  Not enough?  How do I find that balance? Do I allow them the space to change who they are--who they think they are or will be--and embrace their new life direction? This is one of the great tests of motherhood, and our children are the hapless experiments.  And this may be the greatest question of all--How do I accomplish all of this without them needing years of therapy to correct my mistakes?

Who knew so many deep thoughts could be triggered by a painfully one-sided victory on the football field?

What are your thoughts on this?


  1. Well said, Jenny! And I find myself asking the very same questions of myself. Jokingly, I tell people my most fervent prayer is that I will not mess up my kids too much...the whole therapy thing? yeah, I get it. You are so eloquent, I LOVE reading your posts. I do not really consider myself a blog reader, but I find myself reading the logs of the sanatorium frequently. Thank you for sharing bits and pieces of your life here.

  2. the above comment is from me, Melissa, not Spencer, lol!

  3. I really enjoyed reading this! After living in your guys backyard (guesthouse) the last few years it's been so fun to see your kids grow and develop their own personalities and skills. You've got some great kids and Taylor and I feel so blessed to be able to see them learn and grow. This post makes really excited to see what my future children will grow up to be!

  4. I think Evie can be the "Tinkerbell" - spunky, expressive, sweet when she is sweet, angry when she is angry, tags along with the her lost boys, not afraid to fight, and now has the hair to go with it. But I think you were trying to refrain from categorizing your children...

    I hope the Heritage girls have fun discussing your new post at lunch ;)

  5. Its funny but I hate to have my kids labeled, too... I have often wondered if its because I have so many kids and I want them each to have their own unique voice and place in our family or because I was always compared to my sister, or just because I hate labels in general....sometimes I wish we had connected in real life not in bloggy land...would love, love to have coffee with you and dissect all our deep thoughts...

  6. Ugh, you always get me thinking and then I become emotional...thanks for the that. (Being sarcastic)
    Everyone has labeled my child...and I know he could care less because it's how he sees himself too. I on the other hand know that he is so much more and I want him to have balance and be well rounded. So cute that Micah said Heidi is the oldest and most perfect. Awww. It is cute how he sees his siblings...I bet that's a good kind of pressure to have. :)

  7. I think it's healthy that Micah sees himself as being a good musician. I doubt that's all he sees himself as, but how great that he values that accomplishment. How he sees his siblings are just his observations - they may not see themselves that way at all. As you aptly put it, we are all a jumble of lots of things, not the least of which may be stardust and sparkle. We all need someone with an ample amount of that in our lives! I love how your kids are so diverse, yet so united. You've done an awesome job there, Mama!

  8. I don't think he wa so much labelling as much as observing the strengths of his siblings. We all shine in one way or another...and it isn't our only quality. But in big families...I come from a family with 8 children, we have to find out niche....our forte. And then be proud of it. I think it is great that he is able to know the talents of his brothers and sisters. It shows what a great mom you are at helping them to develop those outward talents and nurturing the others as well!