Loving Our Kids Takes Courage and Vulnerability

Emelda De Coteau
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Emelda De Coteau

Mother, wife, sister, friend, writer / blogger / creative organizer, budding photographer... These are just a few of the many hats I juggle each day. I believe creativity is oxygen for the soul. I created Live In Color blog to celebrate the beauty in every moment, from faith to inspiration and motherhood.And it is soon becoming Pray with Our Feet blog which will focus on the intersection of faith and activism. Follow the inspiration on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/praywithourfeetblog/
Emelda De Coteau
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Photo Credit: Kaboom Pics

“We cannot opt out of uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure that’s woven through our daily experiences. Life is vulnerable… These are the challenges of being alive, of being in a relationship, of being connected.” – Brene Brown

When our babies come to us after hours of excruciating pain, we immediately pronounce them as perfect – those symmetrical faces, joyous smiles and spontaneous squeals of delight bring boundless joy. Then, little by little, as the pint-sized stage, peppered with milestones, fades, we notice imperfections; once cute gestures are annoying, and we long for simpler days. I know I do, especially when Nai is consumed by a tantrum, and my patience is frayed.

All I want in that moment, Mamas, is perfection – instant calm and compliance. So unrealistic, and yet I crave the easier, predictable path. You know, like in a nanosecond, she will simply “get” how to control her emotions. Ludicrous, right?

But in this era of social media, where nearly everyone’s smiling at us through filtered photos, it’s hard to face anything remotely perceived as imperfection in ourselves, let alone our children. The reality, though, is our kids are mirrors, through their struggles and imperfections we see ourselves.

This is the vulnerability and courage of authentic love, it calls us to accept the range of humanity – the beauty of light and hope, and the struggle of impatience, anger, aggression, and selfishness. Each challenge we face, as parents, changes us and our children in profound ways. Gradually, I am learning to surrender to gentleness, and stop harsh self-criticism. Minute by minute. Hour by hour. Day by day.

The other morning, while reading through my daily devotional, How Deep A Mother’s Love…. A Mother’s Journey, I stumbled across a scripture passage (Isiah 43:18-19) which so deeply connects to this season of my life: “Do not remember past events, pay no attention to things of old. Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the dessert.”

Love, I am learning, is not a place of rest and complacency, but of trust and conscious bravery.  And, you know what, it grows not during times of ease or comfort, but struggle – those moments when your child is melting down in the mall, and somehow, you find the empathy to talk through it, or with a little one who faces daily physical, emotional or learning challenges.

When loving in these ways, you come to understand the core of love – no illusions, expectations, or prerequisites (e.g. if you present this way, I will love you).

You simply see with your heart.

We Say We Like Creativity, But We Really Don’t (Guest Blog Series)

Emelda De Coteau
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Emelda De Coteau

Mother, wife, sister, friend, writer / blogger / creative organizer, budding photographer... These are just a few of the many hats I juggle each day. I believe creativity is oxygen for the soul. I created Live In Color blog to celebrate the beauty in every moment, from faith to inspiration and motherhood.And it is soon becoming Pray with Our Feet blog which will focus on the intersection of faith and activism. Follow the inspiration on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/praywithourfeetblog/
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A few weeks ago, my good friend and fellow blogger Michelle Whitney wrote eloquently about creativity and how, sadly, our culture shuns it at every turn.  Her post was a response to Jessica Olien’s piece on Slate, Inside the Box.

Michelle is all about resistance and rebellion, and not blending into society’s narrow definition of who she should become.  She says without apology: “I choose to live creatively.  It is at the essence of who I am as a person in this world.”

When not writing at Surviving a Creative Life , Michelle creates everything from dazzling tiny ornate hats to yummy applesauce. We are pleased she is our first guest blogger for 2014!

creativity melting
Photo Credit: Michelle Whitney

Is your creativity melting away in this 9 to 5 world?

Jessica Olein has written an interesting article on Slate about how people say they value creativity, but they really want everyone to jump in line and dutifully follow the status quo, even if it is to the detriment to those who talked the talk about valuing creativity in the first place.  I hate to say it, but as someone who lives in the 9 to 5 world, she’s right.  I see it almost every day.

Though her company initially hired her for her problem-solving skills, she is regularly unable to fix actual problems because nobody will listen to her ideas. “I even say, ‘I’ll do the work. Just give me the go ahead and I’ll do it myself,’ ” she says. “But they won’t, and so the system stays less efficient.”

Ideas for how to manage projects, streamline workflow, and integrate technological advancements are nearly always met with metaphorical brick walls in the workplace.  If the ideas are presented from the bottom to the management then they are almost certain to fail or to be dismissed outright without even a friendly ear.  After awhile, people become apathetic and stop suggesting creative solutions to problems.  The resistance to creative change, even in the positive, is astounding!

Most people agree that what distinguishes those who become famously creative is their resilience. While creativity at times is very rewarding, it is not about happiness. Staw says a successful creative person is someone “who can survive conformity pressures and be impervious to social pressure.”

To survive a creative life we can’t let that apathy consume us.  I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard, “We’ve been doing it like this for XYZ, which is why we should keep doing it like this going forward.”  This is not a reason for doing something if there is a way to improve upon it–especially in our technological world of lightning-fast changes.

“Everybody hates it when something’s really great,” says essayist and art critic Dave Hickey.

I ran into this myself in a creative writing class back in 1990.  I had written a first-person short story from the point of view of a character who dies (not that my story was really great or anything, but who am I kidding, it was pretty awesome for a high-school kid).  The character continued to narrate the story from beyond the veil of death.  My creative writing teacher insisted that I couldn’t do this.

“You can’t have a narrator that’s dead.”
“Why not?” I asked.
“You just can’t.”

In 1999 the movie American Beauty was released, and guess what–that’s right, the narrator of the story was dead.  That movie won 5 Oscars and according to IMDB had 74 total award nominations and 94 wins.

Why again couldn’t I write a short story in which the narrator is dead?  It’s exactly what Olein is talking about in this article.  The story was something new at the time–it was definitely out-of-the-box. My creative writing teacher had quite a bit of jealousy rattling around inside her when it came to my burgeoning writing talent (there were many other issues that made this abundantly clear, but that’s a post for another day…).  And just because she had never seen someone write a story with a narrator who dies, she rejected it as an impossibility.

Unfortunately, the place where our first creative ideas go to die is the place that should be most open to them—school. Studies show that teachers overwhelmingly discriminate against creative students, favoring their satisfier classmates who more readily follow directions and do what they’re told.

And even if our teachers do support us in our creative pursuits and encourage new ideas and innovation in our thinking, what is our current obsession with testing doing to the creative among us?

Even if children are lucky enough to have a teacher receptive to their ideas, standardized testing and other programs like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top (a program whose very designation is opposed to nonlinear creative thinking) make sure children’s minds are not on the “wrong” path, even though adults’ accomplishments are linked far more strongly to their creativity than their IQ.

I’ve had long conversations with a teacher-of-the-year friend of mine about No Child Left Behind and how it leaves no room for creativity in its curriculum demands. We also talked about direct instruction (mostly experimented with on low-income children, of course) being the same way.  We’re teaching our kids only to follow directions and stay within the lines.  Teaching a test is not teaching problem-solving, which is something that life requires of all of us.  Problem-solving often involves finding creative solutions to complex issues.  You can’t learn this by picking A, B, or C on a multiple-choice test.

To live creatively is a choice. You must make a commitment to your own mind and the possibility that you will not be accepted. You have to let go of satisfying people, often even yourself.

I choose to live creatively.  It is at the essence of who I am as a person in this world.  I’ve never really fit–I’m the proverbial square peg and I refuse to carve corners to try to wrongly wriggle into a round hole.  I choose to be myself and, accepted or not, here I am.  Now if I could just let go of satisfying myself…

As writer Anais Nin once said, “Perfection is static, and I am in full progress…”

Michelle Whitney creating art. Photo courtesy of the author.
Michelle Whitney creating art. Photo courtesy of the author.

Michelle was born a creative genius (really, I swear!). Okay, maybe not a genius, but definitely creative. She works a stressful 9-5 that is creative-adjacent, but lacks in actual creativity. In order to survive this situation while still being able to pay her bills, she seeks to find the creative in situations all around her.  It’s a survival tactic, because surviving a creative life is not always easy and often it makes you question yourself down to the very fibers of your being.

Michelle is a trained writer and photographer and an autodidact in just about anything else she can get her hands on.

 

 

Why I’m Crying and Not Apologizing (Guest Blog Post – Michelle Dowell)

Emelda De Coteau
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Emelda De Coteau

Mother, wife, sister, friend, writer / blogger / creative organizer, budding photographer... These are just a few of the many hats I juggle each day. I believe creativity is oxygen for the soul. I created Live In Color blog to celebrate the beauty in every moment, from faith to inspiration and motherhood.And it is soon becoming Pray with Our Feet blog which will focus on the intersection of faith and activism. Follow the inspiration on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/praywithourfeetblog/
Emelda De Coteau
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Photo courtesy of author, Michelle Dowell
Photo courtesy of author, Michelle Dowell

So I was watching a television show today, and it awakened the thinking bug in me. Now my juices are flowing, and I have to bring up something that has been bothering me for a while now.

There were two ladies on the TV show who were talking about the difficulties of juggling new motherhood, “Wife-Life” (as I so fondly deem marital bliss) and their careers. Then one of them, the new Mom, broke down in tears because she felt that she wasn’t enjoying being a new Mom, because all of her responsibilities were keeping her from being able to slow down, and take a baby breather, slowly adjusting to her new role. But here’s the thing that bothered me, and we all do it, too. She apologized for crying. She apologized a couple of times actually, while she explained away her tears to her friend.

As I felt my own tears welling up in my eyes (because c’mon, you know we moms have been there), in mid-sniffle, I realized something. Why was this beautiful, accomplished new Mamma apologizing for crying?

She has EVERY right to cry, she just had a baby, for crying out loud! She’s worrying about: breastfeeding on time, sleep schedules, pumping milk, getting back to her career after her maternity hiatus, appearing sexy to her hubby again, finding time to do “the do” with her hubby, and then getting her home in order, laundry done, pets groomed, etc. As a matter of fact, if she wasn’t crying, I would be worried. So why apologize for showing emotions, especially to another woman?

Getting deeper into my thoughts at this point, I realized that, as a woman who cries at the drop of a hat (no, seriously, I do) and as a mom, wife, pet owner and entrepreneur, I know what its like to feel overwhelmed. It’s not just a Mom thing, though. I tend to think that all women get harried at the prospect of their hectic lives and the insurmountable tasks that loom before them, needing to be done a.s.a.p., simultaneously, and perfectly.

But since I AM a mother, I’m going to focus on us mammas right now. Why is it, that as a woman, I am expected not to utilize all of the perks that come with that title? After all, the whole women’s lib movement was birthed out of the fact that women were seen as the ‘weaker’ sex. It was proposed that we were the gentler, sweeter half of the human race, and therefore should be treated accordingly.

Now I’m not condoning all pre-women’s liberation-attitudes, albeit not wholly. I agree with some gals who think that in asserting our independence, we’ve also slid under the rug our femininity, which grants us the privilege of the “little things.”

What are the little things, you ask? Well, crying at the drop of a hat for one. Being emotional, high-strung beauties, was our role in the past, and while I don’t condone flitting around like a chicken with it’s head cut off, and acting nonsensical, I do think that we should have the right to display our emotions at will. We don’t have to replace the “I am woman, hear me roar” saying, but maybe we can make an addendum and add “or cry.”

Other niceties that are now pegged “old school” for a man to afford a female are holding the door open for us, holding our hands, picking up the check at dinner, taking off their hats around us, letting us walk on the inside of the sidewalk when walking down the street with us. When a guy does all of those things women go insane, and label them a great guy, when this is the treatment that men should be granting us anyway because we are ladies.

Being a lady, one should be able to express emotion at random, don’t ya think?

And being a woman, we certainly shouldn’t be apologizing for displaying those great qualities that make us the femi-feminists we were born to be. In other words, I have the choice and the right to be a lady, and show off any form of my femininity at all times.

And yes, as moms that right comes with the territory. Cry if necessary;be late if you need to because your little one pooped in their outfit right before you were leaving the house for a play-date. Laugh out loud at nothing because your life is so crazy that if you don’t laugh for a minute right now, you’ll be laughing for years in an asylum.

Get angry at your kiddo in public and threaten them with NO TV in front of the entire supermarket. I am a phone call or email away if you need someone to back you up to complete strangers in the potato chips aisle.

Ladies, let’s stop trying to match up with everyone’s idea of the perfect mom or woman and just be yourselves. Because guess, what? It’s who God meant us to be.

The next time you feel like breaking down, and sobbing in your SUV because your laundry room looks like a mini landfill, your pets have chewed or peed on your sofa, your little one is screaming for chicken nuggets in the backseat while your hubby asks you on the phone to buy a car thingy that you have no idea what it is or where to purchase it, do it.

Cry, sob, scream, laugh like Daffy duck, turn the music up, dance, turn on the DVD player; let your kiddos zone out to cartoons. Just be a woman! Who cares who is looking? Blame it on your cycle, your birth control, or menopause (yes, even if you are 20 years old).

So no more apologizing for being a female, gals. Embrace your irrationality and hormones. Flaunt your feelings as you would an economical (but HOT) outfit or a new pair of heels. Tell your hubby where he can go if he looks at you wrong (just kidding, maybe). Strut your stuff, because when you’re a woman, you have options.

We are women, hear us roar, or cry. No apologies needed.

About Michelle:
I’m Michelle, owner of Ruffles Ribbons N’ Bows Boutique on Etsy and mom to a 5-year-old boy & 4 crazy cats. My hubby and BFF of almost 7 years is my biggest supporter, encouraging me to keep at my craft.

I am currently writing a period-play set in 1939, two novels, and a children’s book series. We reside in Frisco, TX. I’m inspired by Harvey the White Rabbit & Elwood P. Dowd to always remain myself.

This post was originally published on E-Zine where Michelle shares some of her writing.
Article Source: http://ezinearticles.com/?Im-Sorry,-Im-A-Woman:-The-Crying-Game&id=7010341

Here are some awesome sites that further expound on some of the post:
http://www.womenshealthmag.com/health/good-to-cry
http://blog.kyria.com/giftedforleadership/2007/11/what_our_femininity_means.html