Teaching me to mother

Lizard,

205302_503087736842_9842_nThank you for breaking me in back when I turned 22. There was nothing Taylor Swift about it. Your dad and I tied the knot three weeks after I graduated from college and three weeks after my birthday, and I frantically searched for employment while serving as your stepmom. I felt like I was playing house sometimes, the way my sisters and I played Barbies as kids. Ken and Barbie smooch and hug and ride in the Barbie convertible, and then they get married, and they have a baby, and then what?

I learned the then what from you. No matter what obstacles your dad and I faced in our marriage, I always enjoyed being your stepmom. I loved taking you grocery shopping when you were five years old and answering your bazillion questions about produce and spaghetti and magazines. I obtained a great repertoire of bumblebee, elephant, and duck songs because of you. I got a big kick out of playing Tooth Fairy and helping you learn how to do backbends and make macaroni and cheese and use the washing machine and dryer. I remember the summer after second grade when I realized you lacked some important skills, and I decided to make it my mission to teach you to become more self-sufficient. You were so open to learning new things. I remember you telling your mom and Meme and Papaw about every new accomplishment over the phone, beaming with pride from ear to ear.

262960_519156345222_5013781_nYour willingness to learn never waned. We had The Talk in bits and pieces beginning at age five. I was always candid with you, telling you enough to satisfy your curiosity but not enough to bore you to tears. That strategy seemed to work. I also promised to tell you the truth no matter what, and I never wavered on that promise, and I still haven’t, even though we both know there have been some times when it would have been easier and softer if I’d lied. Because of your willingness to learn, and my willingness to be honest, we’ve made a pretty good team.

Fast forward to 2015. You’re finishing up your sophomore year of college, and I teach students the exact same age as you, my Lizard. Of course, I also teach non-traditional students, too.

Talk about having my life flash before my eyes at work every single day.

I see you in so many of my students. Here are a few examples.

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Hannah and Joey 

There’s Hannah, a beautiful spirit who is seriously perpetual sunshine to everyone who knows her. She reminds me of how I feel around you from the first minute you pull into my driveway until the minute you drive away.

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Nathan

There’s Nathan, a jokester on the outside with a serious interior he tries to disguise from his classmates most of the time—sound like anyone you know? This guy even donned a tutu once during a demonstration speech to help a fellow student out. I have proof of this beautiful moment :). I only taught him for one semester, but he was certainly one of the most memorable students I’ve ever taught.

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With LCreighton and Charmstrong

There are Charmstrong and Lcreighton, two little cuties I came to know outside of class before they became my students. They are both just adorbs (are you proud of me for using that term, Liz?) and often send me pictures of Edna Mode of The Incredibles, who they believe I emulate, in the middle of my lectures. They have filled a little bit of the Lizard void in my heart and life by walking with me to class and laughing with me and reminding me that I’m not THAT old.

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Crystal

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Sheila

There’s Crystal, who I have known for decades and had the pleasure to teach last fall. She has faced more than her share of obstacles but has chosen to become better, not bitter.

There’s Sheila, a non-traditional student who loves her family more than anything. She is also a total survivor and fighter. She has earned her spot in my heart and has proven herself to be hard-working and diligent even when it would have been easier to drop out of school. These are qualities I see in you, too, Liz.

11149462_10153220074068826_6559028102695630203_nAnd then there’s Lauren, who lost her lifelong love this semester. She is now raising their baby alone and is persevering against all odds. She’ll graduate in two days with honors. She will not allow others’ choices and tragedies to dictate the direction of her life.

And this, my Lizard, is what I hope for you, too.

With all that you have taught me about being a teacher, Liz, and with all that my students continually teach me about being a mom, I’m not sure why I’m being paid to teach. The least I can do is pour my very best self into my teaching, and offer my very best self to Maggie every day as her mom.

Happy Mother’s Day, Liz, to you and to all my babies.

Overdoing honesty

*Big thanks to Henry Petty for sharing his thoughts in today’s blog post.*

I’m a little too honest.  I believe that “honesty is always the best policy”.  “The truth shall set you free.”

interviewHowever, it’s not always the best policy, nor will it set you free if you overdo it.  I had an epiphany after an experience with a job interview and a follow-up with my interview coach, and I’m grateful for that gift of wisdom.  How can being too honest be such a bad thing?

 

 

Por ejemplo,

 

 

I was asked in a job interview, “Tell us about a time when a co-worker really frustrated you.  How did you react?”

Being the honest Henry I am, I told them about how a co-worker was irritating me by asking me the same question over and over, yet never took the initiative to learn it themselves, as I have.  I gave her an ultimatum:  I’ll give you an answer one last time, and you’d better write it down, because next time I’m not going to give it to you.

 

 

Wrong answer.

 

 

I never got a callback for that job, and a mentor and interview coach told me I could have answered that better, sans the honesty.

 

 

I’m an honest person, and I wouldn’t judge someone else for that, and I wouldn’t expect anybody else to judge me.  While it’s great to have that honesty that I’m a little too comfortable with, I can have that internal honesty and measure the ways I express it with other people.

 

 

A better answer to that question would have been, “I identified my co-worker was frustrating me and, instead of taking a negative approach, I internalized that and used what was frustrating me internally to create a positive response.  I coached my co-worker, gave her some tips and asked her to write down what her questions were to empower her to fix this herself.”

So on and so forth.  While this wasn’t the complete truth of what happened, this is a way to honestly spin a sticky situation to sell myself in a job interview.

 

If your wife or girlfriend asks, “Do I look fat in this dress?”  Tell her, “Your hair looks so good I don’t even know!”  Or “I think that dress is a great color.”  “You could wear anything well.”  “I was blinded by your beauty.”

 

I know what you’re thinking, “Honest Abe got away with his unabashed honesty; what about him?”

 

Honest Abe was the freaking President of the United States; he could get away with it.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RPX2cQP8uoI

Honestly

Honestly, I’ve figured out that when I’m not being honest with myself or with other people, there’s something wrong.

It might not be something huge and glaring, like a hidden affair or a concealed scar from an awful experience, but if I’m hiding it, there’s a reason why.

And it’s probably not for my own good or the good of others.

Recently, when I discovered that someone close to me was hiding something from me, it made me think back to all the times I’ve hidden things from other people. What was my motive? What was I getting out of doing that? Why was the benefit worth the risk and/or harm it caused others?

Every time I’ve hidden something, there’s been a reason. If I’m hiding something from someone I love, it’s normally because a) I’m benefiting from the very thing I’m hiding enough that I’m not willing to disclose it or give it up for fear of losing it, or b) I simply just am not unselfish enough to put others’ feelings and needs in front of my own desires in that moment. Sometimes it’s more complicated than that, but most of the time, it boils down to fear and selfishness.

Let me tell you from experience–hiding the truth has always hurt me. Whether it was ever uncovered or disclosed is irrelevant; I still suffered the consequences of lying to myself, not being an honest, trustworthy person, and feeling coated with a layer of guilt and shame. Thankfully, through forgiveness and learning how to live an open, honest life, I’ve learned how to avoid those terrible consequences by being honest and truthful to begin with.

If I have to hide it, maybe I just shouldn’t do it.