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Awesomeness

Awesomeness

We Have Some News. . .

No, I’m not pregnant.

Whenever a woman reaches a certain reproductive age, this is the only “news” that truly lives up to the announcement of NEWS. Sorry to disappoint.

And, no, Ken and I are not getting divorced.

I always find it odd when people think I might be going there. As though it was only a matter of time before I got tired of his shenanigans and he had his fill of my crazy. No splitsville yet. Though he is on notice for the broken sailboat he brought home from West Virginia three weeks ago Tuesday.

The real news is that we have written a book. Together. Without getting divorced. And without anybody getting pregnant. And largely because of friends/readers/wacky people like YOU, a publishing house bought it, and our book will be available on October 11th, 2016. Bonkers.

Here Be Dragons is about how we – you, all of us, actually – were pretty awesome before we became parents. We sailed oceans. We tried skydiving. And then the kids came along and peed on everything. And they made us sad and tired and angry. And we needed to sneak ice cream when they weren’t looking and hide drinks in the garage just to survive the days with those adorable little monsters who took over our marriage and kind of ruined our lives. And then, just when we thought we were never going to make it – never going to drink an entire cup of coffee uninterruptedly again, never going to drive from point A to point B without 19 arguments and 4 bathroom stops, never going to become the grown-ups we’d always planned to be – we figured out something even better: how to be a family. We found joy and purpose and laughter and adventure. Sure, our days are still hard sometimes. But they also got awesome again. Here Be Dragons is the story of that journey.

And we are really excited (and nervous and shy and terrified, actually) to share it with you.

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“So, HOW CAN I HELP?”

It’s funny you should ask. Luckily, there are a bunch of ways you can help:

  1. Order a copy. Or eight. Buy one for your Mom’s birthday, your Dad’s retirement, your sister’s housewarming party, or for that cousin you don’t even really know who is having a baby shower and you don’t want to go, but you at least want to send her something that isn’t a rattle or a blanket.
  1. Help us spread the word. Tweet, Post, Pin, Snap, or Instagram us. Walk around your neighborhood whacking a frying pan with a wooden spoon and shouting our names. Whether you are high-tech or low-, we welcome the vibes.
  1. Write a review. If you have a blog or a typewriter, if you write for your school newspaper or the Chicago Tribune, we would be honored if you would give us – our work, our stories, our fashion sense – a little shout-out. And, on October 11th, Amazon reviews will be open for business. We would really love it if some of you guys would write us a review. It only takes like 3 minutes and those ratings really help.
  1. Drive around with Here Be Dragons in your car. (To sign up, send us a message with “Junk in Your Trunk” or “Dragons in My Wagon” in the subject line — info@dadvmom.com). We are looking for a few good missionaries. You never know when you might wish you had a copy to share with a friend or stranger. Plus, we would love to get this book on shelves in independent bookstores and libraries.
  • If there is an independent bookstore you frequent, go in and ask them if they will sell our book. If they say yes, hand them a copy.
  • Ask your local library if they will stock it. Sometimes, there is a lady behind the desk who does the ordering. Sometimes, it is a guy in a hat. For our library, there was a form.
  • Ask your book club if they will give it a whirl. There are discussion questions for reading groups already in the back of the book.
  1. Invite us over. We already have book events scheduled in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and Cleveland, and we are scheduling more. We are equally at home in auditoriums or living rooms. We can talk at libraries and bookstores, pancake breakfasts, church luncheons, or supper clubs. We’ll come to your PTA meeting or your military spouses’ tea. We’ll bring books. We’ll make people laugh. We’ll serve pie. (<–Okay, Ken wants a disclaimer here. We only serve pie sometimes. But that’s just because some places have weird rules about pie and other places are way more cookie or brownie friendly, but come and see what dessert appears in your area.) We love to talk to folks about the horror/wonder of raising children.
  1. Send us warm thoughts. Even if you can’t buy the book, tweet, or meet us, we still love knowing you are out there. Post a comment here or on one of our social media sites. Let us know how you are doing. Let us know when DadvMom.com makes you laugh or cry or throw things.

My mom has priest friend, Father Bob, who has an expression: “So, is it yes or yes?” When he has a couple of projects that need doing – tree limbs that should be trimmed near the parking lot, a committee that wants staffing after Christmas – he goes before the church congregation and says, “So, is it yes or yes?” Are you going to help me in this way or are you going to help me in that way? The expression makes me laugh, but man, he gets things done.

It can be tricky to ask for help. We don’t want to bother you guys. We know you are busy. But we are literally a mom and pop outfit over here, and we can’t do this without you. Check the list above, check it twice, and let us know if it is YES or YES. Let us know how you can help.

As always, thanks for reading,

Annmarie and Ken

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Awesomeness

Day 3: Detour

Today began with a detour. Ken wanted to see a cave.

Yesterday, it was a meteor crater. Tomorrow, probably some rocks. I tolerate my husband’s little sideshows because they:

  1. get us out of the car
  2. make him happy
  3. give the kids something new to complain about.

Because unlike their father, our children seem only to want to see two things on this trip—Cheetos and Minecraft (ßwhich, for anyone fortunate enough not to know, is a game that will consume your child’s soul from about the age of 7 until, I dunno, maybe forever).

Thus, we plotted a course for Carlsbad Caverns, which sits—my apologies to the locals—deep in the corner pocket of nowhere.

Just after Albuquerque, we got separated. Ken, child-free in the big truck, was able to travel at roughly the speed of sound, whilst I, driving the minivan/clown car pulled off 14 different times for coffee, ice cream, hot dogs, apple juice, and then so various individuals could poop and/or pee. (Yeah, okay. I see now how those stops were probably related.)

And, of course, because I was playing a Math game with Katie while listening to Henry tell me how “that cloud looked like an alligator” and “that cloud looked like a meatball,” I missed the exit. Which would not have been that big a deal, until Ken called to say he was already at the caverns and where was I and could I please try not to be late?

Of course we were late.

Ken phoned every 10 minutes to check on our progress.  We skidded in shoeless and needing to pee (again!?) at 4:51 just in time for the final elevator of the day.

I learned no facts about the Carlsbad Caverns. How deep they were? Who found them? Why they were there? I intend to Wikipedia this info shortly.

But they were spectacular. Hundreds of feet underground, we emerged from the elevators, and turned to see enormous white caverns. Miles bigger than anything I had imagined. And rather than dark and dank, much of it was gently lit to reveal glowing structures. Vaulted cathedral ceilings dripping with piercing stalactites. Naves of calcified crystals and stalagmites. Glassy water ponds, and quiet stone seats for rest and reflection. Strategically placed lights gave the whole place a reverent glow. We spent over an hour wandering the caves, peering into seemingly bottomless pits, finding shapes in the stones. Katie saw the seven dwarves, Santa, and a Christmas tree. Henry found jellyfish and spaghetti, and Lizzie found a small theater populated by the tentacles of a giant squid. Rather than another one of our forced family marches, it felt like a religious pilgrimage. Everywhere I looked, I saw relics – statues of saints, a prayer nave, a series of benches that seemed ready for church. The cavern was even laid out in the shape of a cross.

It is a good thing that while I was down there, I did not know about the bats.

Nearly half a million bats sleep by day in a chamber deep within the Carlsbad Caverns. And most evenings, they emerge all at once to feed.

Of course, Ken needed to see this.

My husband does not know the meaning of enough is enough.

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At 7pm, more than satisfied by our journey through the caverns, and on the cusp of hangry, I allowed myself to be ushered by Ken down to a stone amphitheater to meet Ranger Lacey.

At 7:30, she said it would be any minute now.

At 7:45, she mentioned that if they were coming, they usually would have emerged by now.

At 8, she said that occasionally, due to weather or circumstances beyond our understanding, the bats did not come out at all, and the park had to close, and yeah, that was a bummer, but you could always come back to the middle of nowhere New Mexico another time.

The kids were getting restless. Folks began to leave. Even Ken was ready to call it.

But at 8:07, the bats flew.

I expected to hear the swooshing and whooshing, screeching and maybe the scraping of claws (confession: most of what I know about bats is from cartoons). Instead, 400,000 animals formed tornado after bat tornado, dipped and circled soundlessly, before lifting to the sky in flight. I sat with hundreds of people in utter stillness. 500+ folks silent as a church. Cell phones strictly forbidden. Watches set not to beep. So we just sat there, strangers in the twilight, mystified and united by bats.

Well played, husband.  A pretty great day.

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Despite my hope to capture reverence and beauty, all of my photos of the caverns look like the mouths of aliens.  You can see way better images here.

Also, even though WE could not photograph the event, others have.  Do a quick Google search of “photos of bat flight Carlsbad Caverns” to see what I’m talking about.  Pretty rad.

Photo credit for the banner image on this page: Carlsbad Caverns National Park. © Chris Walters Photography

Awesomeness

Cross-Country Day 2: Your Singing Is Hurting My Band-Aid

 

We had some trouble getting out of the motel this morning. Our plan had been to awaken early, pack up quickly, and head to the Grand Canyon swiftly before the heat of the day and the arrival of the weekend tourist buses.

But leaving LA yesterday took a physical and emotional toll, thus we were all bonkers tired this morning, plus the kids wanted pancakes, and then Henry cut his foot during one of his epic leaps from one advertised-as-a-queen-but-totally-a-double motel bed to the other while Dad was trying to nap, so it was nearly noon when we finally made it down to the parking lot—which was empty, except for two vehicles, both ours.

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As we set out for the Canyon, I was reminded of why I had skipped it on my three other cross-country road trips. It is not exactly on the way to anywhere, except, I guess, to itself. The kids argued about the iPad, and Henry complained the music was making his Band-Aid hurt, and Ken and I wondered aloud about whether the gal at the front desk had been exaggerating when she told us about the 30-45-minute long line just to get into the park. With Henry’s bum foot and this crazy heat, there would be no hiking, and what was the point of visiting the Grand Canyon if we were only going to look at it?  I had half a mind to just turn us around again to keep driving.

But then we saw the helicopter.

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Yes, it was expensive.

Yes, it was (initially) terrifying.

But then, it was just awesome.

The pilot played the theme songs to Chariots of Fire, Star Wars, and 2001: A Space Odyssey as we headed toward the Canyon, but then when he reached it, he cut off the music and let nature speak for itself.

Hovering above the Grand Canyon made it look simultaneously big and small, made us feel both all-powerful and insignificant. And after I overcame my fear of all of us plummeting to the ground in a fiery crash, I enjoyed the ultra-modern journey backwards in time.

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We got back to the car and the kids resumed their arguments about whose turn it was for the iPad and who would pick the next movie. But I hardly listened. I floated above them, my mind full of rusty red rocks, and I piloted our minivan east.

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Awesomeness, Birthday-mania

Take-Your-Daughter-to-Work Week

Once again, the job I love had me on the road last week. It was a quick trip, a day transiting through Istanbul and three more in Germany for a half-dozen meetings over beers and bratwurst. It’s the kind of jaunt I would have loved before kids, when I did not have to worry about them missing me, and me missing them. Plus, my departure was set for a couple days after Katie’s birthday, which is never ideal.

My brother, who lives in Germany, said, “Why don’t you bring her?” I poked around online, found cut-rate airfare, and made plans to meet up with my brother’s whole family in Munich. On Katie’s birthday, my present to her was an envelope with plane tickets, her passport, and 100 Euros (thanks Grandma). Two days and 10 time zones later, we were feet-dry in Deutschland. Between my work meetings, we saw castles and museums and ate pretzels until we were stuffed.

Most of all, we talked, about the kinds of things that only come out when you spend hours and hours with someone you love. We staggered through our jetlag together, and spent one too many midnights watching bad movies on German Netflix. Towards the end we began plotting our next adventure. Thailand?  South Africa?  Vladivostok?  As a father, it’s easy to bemoan the fact that my little girl is growing up. Too often, it happens while I am gone. But there is an upside. She’s becoming an awesome wingman.

Awesomeness

Dear Girl Scouts: Yes, I Will Buy Your Cookies. However…

Resolutions, shmesolutions. It’s Girl Scout Cookie time.

Who doesn’t love those Samoas with their chocolate and caramel chewiness? You have not lived until you’ve dunked Trefoils in your cocoa or chased a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a Tagalong or two. Downton Abbey and a sleeve of Thin Mints? That is a pretty great evening. And if you are craving comfort food, you can always crumble some Do-si-dos in a bowl of milk and call it cereal.

I will admit it: when it comes to Girl Scout Cookies, I am an easy mark. I am happy to plunk down $6 – yeah, six bucks – for a box of fourteen gluten-free Toffee-tastics.

But even I have my limit. The self-proclaimed neighborhood Girl Scout Cookie crazy lady has her line. And it is this: I will not buy cookies from your mom. That’s right. I will purchase cookies out of wagons towed by girls in sashes or beanies. I will buy boxes off of folding tables from kids shivering outside of Rite Aid. I will snack on treats sold to me by entrepreneurial little sisters at my daughter’s basketball game.

But if I am purchasing Thin Mints out of a minivan, someone’s kid better be the one saying please and thank you and counting out my change.

Which is irritating for the moms, I know. Because as magical as cookie February is for the rest of us, it is super-annoying for moms. Moms have to tally those cookies, and sort the boxes, and accompany their kids to those sleeting Saturday morning troop sales. I get why they advertise, when they take to Facebook to help boost sales on their daughter’s digital cookie platform. But at least have your kid write some thank-you notes when your Twitter friends buy a box or two of Rah-Rah Raisins.

Because as much as I am a GSC aficionado, I also realize that the cookies themselves are ridiculous. They are one of the last societally approved forms of sugar-addiction. We all know to cut back on pasta, potatoes, and Juju Fruits. These days, a grown woman can hardly order a hamburger without a side of matcha and Brazil nuts. But nobody gives me the evil eye when I toss back a lemony handful of Savannah Smiles. It’s for a good cause.

What that cause is, I confess, I am not entirely sure. I never was a girl scout myself. As a kid, I thought piano lessons were cooler. My oldest daughter only made it through a single season as a Daisy Scout. She marched in a couple parades, earned her roller skating patch, and learned to make trail mix during a mock campout held one Saturday morning on the local softball field. We bailed when we discovered there was little, if any, scouting involved.

But when it comes to cookie sales, I am told the girls are not just scouts, but emissaries. These transactions promote self-confidence, worldliness, and a healthy spirit of competition. Moms: you already possess these traits. But some of your girls, they could use the practice. They should speak clearly to grown-ups and look them in the eyes. If they want to win the cookie sales piggy bank or the key chain or the journal and pen, they will probably need to answer questions about nut allergies and dairy. They might even summon some courage and knock on a few doors. Though I am never able to help with this part, it is good for them to be told no thank-you from time to time, so they can practice dealing with life’s small disappointments. But Mom, if you just flog fifty boxes after Pilates class, the whole child self-actualization model crumbles like, well… a cookie.

So kiddos, if you set up your table outside the taco stand or drag your duffle bag over to the swim meet on Tuesday afternoon, you can put me down for a box of Samoas and one box of Tagalongs. And if Mom is with you, have her read a magazine, catch up on Candy Crush, or just chit-chat with me. Because I will buy over-priced, chemical-laden, nonsensically delicious cookies from you. But I won’t buy them from your mom.

This DadvMom.com piece appeared today at the New York Observer.

 

 

 

 

 

Awesomeness

Merry January

In the middle of cooking dinner tonight, the whole family went outside to play soccer and softball in the twilight. When we finished, Lizzie asked if we could say the Pledge of Allegiance to our flag. We all gathered on the side porch and put our hands on our hearts. We pledged.

Back inside, the girls helped get dinner on the table, where Henry promptly requested that we sing, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” for grace. We agreed. Lizzie wanted us to do it with hand motions from last year’s holiday concert. We said, “sure thing.” Katie offered to accompany us on the piano. (She does not know this song.) We sang and danced “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” to the tune of “Jingle Bells” on a Monday afternoon in January.

We are either doing something right or a lot of things wrong.

Probably both.

But I embrace their crazy. Because children are exuberant and wonderful, nonsensical and merry. They fill us with honor and magic, sport and delight. If only we will listen. If only we let them.

On evenings like this, I pledge my allegiance to my kids.

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Awesomeness

Another Exciting Family Ocean Adventure

It was rumored there were whales in the bay today.

My husband and I decided to paddle out and see if it was true.

We brought the children with us.

That may have been a mistake.

Like most of our excursions of late, 66% of our kids professed disdain for and disinterest in the initial plan. Lizzie said she would only come if she could bring her new sketch pad. And markers. And snacks. When we explained that we were kayaking, she called us stupid and hid in her room. When we invited Katie along, she suggested going for fish tacos instead. When we said we’d really like to stick with the whale thing and that maybe we could grab food after, she told us we were ruining her life and flopped down on the living room floor. Only 3-year-old Henry agreed to come whale watching. He grabbed his five favorite stuffed animals and hopped in the car. It was only later that we learned he thought we were going to a movie theater.

We very nearly left them all at home. Hiring a sitter would have been easier. But, dammit, we were offering them a maritime adventure and they were acting like we’d said, “take out the trash.” Despite everything I have learned lately from the awesome book I’m reading about listening to my kids, I refused to take NO for an answer. It took us nearly two hours of cajoling, bribery, anger, and arguments, but in the end, we got all three children into those boats.dadvmom.com_ataleofatail_katiepaddling

This was not actually our first oceanbound endeavor to see sea life. Several years ago, we boarded a whale-watching zodiac off the coast of Victoria, British Columbia. After what seemed like fourteen hours of searching, our captain idled the motor long enough to show us a children’s picture book of what the whales might have looked like had we seen any at all. We returned to shore without sighting so much as a pelican.

A few weeks ago, Ken took the kids on a dolphin boat that failed to find any dolphins, and a lobster dive that resulted in near hypothermia, zero crustaceans, and dinner at a Chinese restaurant. But today felt different. Today, the whales were out there. And we were going to find them.

When we rented the kayaks, the gal assured us that it was only a “quick 2- to 3-mile paddle” out to where the animals had last been sighted. The water was described as “glassy” when we called to reserve the boats, but by the time we had had all of the arguments we needed to have, about markers, movies, and tacos, and actually found ourselves and our grumpy progeny seated in the kayaks, visibility had begun to diminish and the wind was blowing steadily onshore.

Still, we shoved off. Our paddles were identical, but Katie and I argued over who got the better one, and Lizzie yelled at Dad because the sea lion colony was too smelly. But we kept going. We rounded the breakwater toward the open ocean and found ourselves looking at 15-mile-an-hour winds and 2- to 3-foot swells. For true sea kayakers, these were still pretty good conditions. But for folks like us, who ate hushpuppies for breakfast, and had several passengers as moody ballast, the conditions were quite challenging. After the eleventh wave broke into the bow of his boat, Ken suggested we turn back. Considering the conditions, our ability levels, and the family temperament, reason was on his side. The children had probably been right about this “dumb stupid trip to see dumb stupid fish.”

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“Let’s keep going,” I said. I wasn’t ready to fold. At least we would get a workout in.

And workout we did.

We pointed our banana yellow kayaks toward a sailboat leaning along on the horizon, and paddled as though we might be able to catch up.

That’s when Ken saw a spout of vertical spray several hundred yards in the distance. None of the rest of us had seen it. He told me later about the cartoonlike gush of blowhole spray. He signaled to me and we picked up our pace.

We paddled swiftly for another hundred yards and that’s when Katie saw the tale. She shrieked and pointed, “I see it! I see it!” Ken’s boat cut in front of ours, and soon all of them were pointing and screaming about the whales.

Whenever we go visit my in-laws in the Texas hill country, we look for shooting stars. Away from the lights of the city, they are actually a pretty frequent occurrence. But I almost never see them. The crick in my neck gets to be too much. I crouch down to tie somebody’s shoe. I zip to the bathroom. Inevitably, I look away at the very moment the golden star streaks through the sky.

I felt the same way today. There were shrieks of delight from Ken’s boat as he and the little ones got closer and closer to the feeding grounds. Katie exclaimed repeatedly from the front of our boat, “Mom, did you see that?” “Did you see that?” Each time, of course, my answer was “No.” I am the only one in our family who wears glasses. I struggle to see things that are far away. My dollar store sunglasses merely compound this nearsightedness. Thus, I did not see the whale breach. I did not see it slap its tale or poke its nose above the surface. I did not see the water blowing vertically twenty feet into the air. Ken yelled that the whales were swimming away from us. I squinted my eyes against the sun glare, scanned the empty horizon, and kept paddling us out to sea.

I consoled myself. Wasn’t it more important, the most important thing, actually, for me to get my children out there? Wasn’t that a mom’s job? To be a vehicle of strength and opportunity, to chauffeur kids right up to wonderful moments, even if that meant never actually seeing the wonders myself? Even though my kids had been jerkasauruses, I knew they were going to remember this day for the rest of their lives. The day their mom and dad paddled them into the open ocean to see whales feeding. I would not ruin the memory by pouting about how I had not actually seen anything.

And then a tale stood straight up in the water in front of me. It was still fifty yards in front of our boat. But finally close enough for me to see. And hear. The low thump of an enormous animal stunning its prey. It was remarkable. Nothing like the picture of the whale in the children’s book. Majestic. Awe-inspiring. And a teensy bit scary. For nearly ten minutes, we watched these animals – there were three of them – thrashing, diving, and feeding. And then they disappeared as quickly as they had come.

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So very often, as parents, our schemes do not pay off. It rained on our camping trip. The hike to the waterfall was a bust. But, finally, here was an adventure that exceeded all of our expectations.

“If I had stayed home, we probably never would have seen them,” said Katie.

I considered arguing with her. Or turning her words into some sort of lesson. Instead, I just nodded my head.

We scanned the horizon, but we never saw the whales again.

It was hard to believe we had actually seen them at all.  In fact, when we looked at home later for photos and videos of the encounter, none of us had caught anything on tape. We had been too excited at first, and then, simply too far away.

Luckily, families are one another’s witnesses. We hold each other’s memories in our hearts.

“You are right, sweetheart,” I said to Katie. “Thanks so much for coming along.”

We turned our boats around, and with the sun setting behind us, paddled back to shore.

 

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(This is what it felt like to be near the whale tale.  Except it was not raining.  It was a different kind of whale.  And also we were much farther away.  This tail is from an upcoming Ron Howard movie, In the Heart of the Sea, which appears to be the opposite of our experience.  But which I will probably see anyway because, you know, whales.  And popcorn.)

 

Awesomeness

Bravery Takes Practice

I took my 10-year-old daughter to the Hollywood sign last week.  On clear days, we can see it from our house, and we’ve always talked about hiking up.  There is an easy route, heavy with tourist traffic, paved and well marked.  There is also a difficult one.  Two miles of rocky terrain and a thousand-foot elevation change.  That was the path we took.  At one point, the rocky trail traversed a ridge with a 300-foot drop on one side.  I made sure to keep Katie close to me for that part.

We’ve gotten better at these sorts of adventures.  I have become more patient.  Katie seldom cries anymore.   And though she is bold by nature, bravery still takes practice.  So, every few weeks, we plan an outing, and we test ourselves.  This time, it was the tough trail to the Hollywood sign. On other occasions, we have hiked the Grand Canyon, canoed white-water rapids, and snorkeled with leopard sharks (that one could have gone better).DadvMom.com_WhyWePracticeBeingBrave_SeaLions

Watching a movie, or playing video games together, would be easier.  And safer too.  Unless, that is, one weighs the risks of a childhood without adventure, of entering adulthood without having learned to navigate real challenges.  Sure, bad things might happen.  But such is the case with most things worth doing.  It’s the case with life itself. For my kids, the best way to learn the difference between risks worth taking, and ones better left alone, is to practice.

After our hike, Katie showed pictures to her friends.  A few were wide-eyed at the sight of the cliff.  She said, “Adventures are worth the mishaps.”  It’s clearly a borrowed phrase, and I am not sure Katie entirely grasps what it means.  But I like that her brain is starting to work that way.  She is beginning to understand the kinds of rewards that such endeavors can bring.  In time, she will appreciate the depth of character they can build.  And although our weekend exploits are mostly about the physical, they do feed another kind of bravery.

Only some of the challenges Katie is sure to face in life will require brawn.  The greatest tests will be moral ones.  I want her to be prepared, bold not only in the face of physical dangers, but brave in the way she treats others.  As proud as I am when she scales a cliff or surfs a big wave, nothing compares to what I feel when she draws on bravery to be kind.  As a ten-year-old, that may be as simple as inviting the new kid to sit with her at lunch – which she has done.  As a grown-up, standing up for others will involve far greater risks.

I can hope against hope that Katie will never be tested that way, never find herself staring down a mob or defending innocent lives in a warzone.  If I had my way, her greatest moral challenges would involve writing op-eds for the local paper or getting the school library to stock good books (you know, the ones with dangerous ideas). But I know my kid.  She is moved by the suffering of others, and will help those in need wherever that may lead.

That is why we practice being brave.  Some day, Katie will have to draw from the well we have filled together.  In that moment, she will learn how deep it goes.  And maybe, if I have done my job right, she will remember my hand on her shoulder, guiding her past the cliffs towards the big white sign over the next ridge.

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A version of this story appeared on Fatherly.com on Nov. 2, 2015.

Awesomeness

Girls Will Be Girls

There is no boy . . . that is cute enough or interesting enough to stop you from getting your education. If I had worried about who liked me and who thought I was cute when I was your age, I wouldn’t be married to the President of the United States.    

— Michelle Obama

I love these words from our First Lady. I believe they argue in favor of locking my daughter in her room next year instead of sending her to a co-ed middle school. And I like thinking about the boys that young Michelle LaVaughn Robinson sent packing so she could work on her own self, and pursue her dreams. But primarily I love these words because they hit so close to home.

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I have always worried entirely too much about who liked me and who thought I was cute. From kindergarten until about ten minutes ago, these have been overarching themes in my ridiculous life. When I was five, I wondered why this boy named Steve chased Tracy and Tammy during recess more than he chased me. At eleven, I let this other boy, Todd, cut in line in front of me every week on pizza day. In seventh grade, I remember walking hallways that were not on the way to my Honors Science class just to catch a glimpse of my crush outside wood shop. And I can’t even begin to quantify how many hours of my high school career were devoted to which boy would accompany me to which dance and what dress I would wear. At the time, it all seemed so fantastically important. I would have defended my behavior as totally normal. I mean so what if I snuck out of the Smithsonian field trip to buy sunglasses from a street vendor with my almost boyfriend?  Didn’t everybody?

But looking back, I see the consequences so clearly. I see myself playing dumb, flirting, turning my Biology test paper face down on my desk so no one would see how well I had done. I believed that being brainy made me less interesting to the boys. And truthfully, it probably did. But I wish someone had told me that did not matter at all. I wish someone had told me not to call boys pretending not to know what the Math assignment was, and not to waste my hours dedicating Milli Vanilli songs to them on the radio. Probably lots of people told me to leave the boys alone – my mom, my grandma, my best friend. But I feel like if I had heard those words from a woman like Michelle Obama, maybe, just maybe, I might have listened.

Let’s do right by our girls. They can have their occasional crush, but let’s embolden them to dream bigger, and not let  foolish lads distract them from their golden paths. The boys can chase them later if they like, but for now, let’s just get them strong, and wise, and beautiful, and see how fast our girls can run.

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