Monthly Archives: March 2013

A Brené Brown Line-Up

It isn’t news that I am a huge Brené Brown fan. I have mentioned the influence her books and talks have had on me in previous posts. I regularly talk about her work with friends. Today, one of those friends let me know she’d never heard of Dr. Brown until me and wanted to know more about her. I told her I’d make it easier on her, and whoever else here is interested, to see this amazing woman in action. Now you can test drive her content before you read one of her books. Without even having to google.

Blossom cluster

Dr. Brown’s jump to notoriety came after her TEDx Houston talk on vulnerability became incredibly popular. A few years later she presented at the (big) TED conference on shame. You can see both on her website or here. (Watch them in the order they were presented.)

Dr. Brown recently spoke with Oprah on Super Soul Sunday, which happens to be free online. Yay! I watched both episodes this week and continue to ruminate on many of her words. I will probably watch them again. Even though I’ve read her books, something about hearing her words and listening to Oprah process it all that made it hit me harder.

Her first episode is here. The second is here. (Apparently they ended up having her stay longer to do a second because she was just that good!)

Emerging Magnolia blossom

After you watched these, or have read her books or blog posts, I’d love to know what you’re contemplating. I’ll start:

1) I am really concerned about shame in schools. Kids do not need to be singled out by teachers to “learn their lesson.” I believe this deep in my core. There are much better and more effective ways for kids to learn. I can understand how and why it happens. As a parent, I have traveled that road a few times. Thankfully, it is upsetting to me when I do and I usually take time to reflect. Why would I made the choice to shame my child, instead of really understand and come alongside him? Often, it’s my own fear that triggers that desire in me. I imagine it might be the same for teachers. They could be afraid of losing control of their classroom, of a kid not achieving the necessary scores for that teacher to be considered “successful” (which is a different and very important problem!), of parents not being pleased with how behavior was handled, etc… I understand there are reasons, but there are alternative solutions and our kids deserve better. They deserve respect. They deserve nurturing.

I’m thinking of gifting Daring Greatly to my son’s elementary school so more teachers will have opportunity to read it. But that’s just one school and a few teachers. This needs to be a national conversation. Parents are a pretty amazing force for change, so I’m praying this becomes a movement. I hope that as education regarding the problem increases, tolerance for shaming disciplinary tactics will decrease.

2) I am growing more aware about what vulnerability armor I wear and when I put it on. This has been a pretty difficult process for me but I’m seeing progress in how I respond to challenging situations. I’m improving in my ability to take feedback constructively, not personally. I’m quicker to identify when I’m making choices because I’m anxious or fearful. These are good and important steps for me.

3) Gratitude. The biggest “aha” moment I had after soaking in the Oprah shows was that I need to be more active in practicing gratitude. I want to know deep joy. I want my children to experience joy. I find it incredibly powerful, and empowering, that this is a choice, not a personality trait. We choose joy by building in habits of gratitude. Not just the big things, the little details. Writing them down, speaking them, thinking them, pondering them. Breathing gratitude.

Seattle spring blossoms

This week I am thankful for the beautiful cherry blossoms decorating our streets, for the yellows of the daffodils and the pinks and purples of the hyacinths. All bring relief to winter’s gray. I am thankful for a string of great books after a winter of many disappointments. I am thankful that my boys are digging in the dirt, making mud pies all around our yard. I am thankful that peas will get planted this weekend. I am thankful that my brother’s ship is at port and I’ll get to share a meal or two with him. I am thankful for raw oysters. The really briny ones. (Seriously. When my brother comes to town this is almost always my second thought.) I am thankful.

Pink Mansions for Boys

The only thing my boys wanted this Christmas was a dollhouse. They were nearing six and three but that was it. Not video games, not action figures, not Legos, not remote control vehicles, not even candy canes. Every time someone asked them what they wanted from Santa, they loudly proclaimed, “A dollhouse!” They had played extensively with a big pink one at the home of friends who hosted us for Thanksgiving. A few appliances made noises. I think a doorbell rang. It left an impression.

What to get them for Christmas was clearly a no brainer. Despite how much effort I’ve put forth to try to not have gender stereotypes influence parenting, as well as how we actively try to lessen stigma, I couldn’t get over the pink dollhouse hurdle. I looked on craigslist for weeks, totally drawn to the wooden ones with modern designs that felt like they’d stand the test of time better. I assumed pink wouldn’t survive peer pressure. I knew Charlie really wanted the same kind he had played with, though.

Pink paradise

Christmas came and there was no dollhouse. I couldn’t find one on craigslist and we didn’t want to buy one new. We opted instead for your typical dollhouse stand-ins: Legos. They can be made into as many types of houses as you can imagine, right? Embarrassingly, because we’re horrible procrastinators when it comes to presents, the Legos we ordered didn’t arrive in time despite saying they’d show Christmas Eve. I realize that’s cutting it close, but that’s our style. (I hate most forms of shopping. I would rather pick someone else’s nose than visit a mall these days.) On December 24th I kept checking our front porch. By 10pm, we accepted their fate. We had very few gifts but we decided to just see how the morning went. Historically, our boys didn’t have high expectations around holidays (I think no exposure to advertisements really helps this), so I wasn’t too worried about them being sad in the midst of it all.

One of the gifts they did receive from a friend was a Paddington Christmas book. We first read it a few days after Christmas. In it, Paddington comments how special it was that Santa knew exactly what he wanted and gave him his favorite orange marmalade. Charlie teared up, “Why didn’t Santa do that for me?”

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My stomach sank. His first Christmas heartache. He hadn’t shown any disappointment that day, but clearly had felt it. I don’t think the Legos actually arriving in time would’ve prevented this sadness, either. He wanted a pink mansion.

My first inclination was to order one and put a note on it from Santa that said, “Sorry it was late! It fell out over Antarctica and I just found it!” But, Harry and I decided we didn’t want to lie. We’ve actually never told them we believe in Santa. We haven’t told them he isn’t real, either, but we haven’t perpetuated Santa much. We let it be a story and acknowledge their comments about him like a story. We don’t leave his name on gifts, we don’t get annual pictures with him, etc… Besides, shouldn’t we get the credit? I like it when parents have Santa give kids socks and they give the fun stuff. Maybe Santa should stick to socks or underwear. I think my childhood Santa always gave me hose. Yes, that kind. Leg stockings. I guess my mom and I think alike on these matters.

Anyways, a few days later we told Charlie that we could buy one with a vague explanation about what had happened on our end. (We had returned the Legos without them knowing because all was fine Christmas morning.) We looked online at the options in our price range. We looked on craigslist. And what did he pick? The biggest pink mansion in town. With a mom, dad and twin babies.

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Unlike the dollhouse of my youth, this one has superheros jump through windows, converts into a train station, experiences serious earthquakes, gets hit by meteors or other projectiles and usually has people battling each other in it. The zombies are a particularly interesting addition. RIght now, there are ribbons hanging out the windows for repelling. I don’t even try to make sure that the babies stay out of harm’s way. They’ve been run over by a dumptruck too many times to count.