Kids Walking on the Beach

As my little Baby Blog grows up and my readership increases, I expose myself to more support… and more criticism. I think that’s why bloggers start small and build a loyal following — first your friends and relatives love and encourage you (well, most of them), and then your audience expands. When the dissension begins, you’ve had time to thicken your skin and gain a little perspective. It serves you well in times like these.

Today, I received an anonymous private message, and the crux of it was this: “I’m tired of hearing you complain about how hard it is for your kids to move. YOU chose to move them. YOU chose to uproot them. Whatever challenges they’re facing are because of the choices YOU imposed on them.”


Way back in the beginning, a message like this would have sent me running for the closet and begging for anonymity. But today, I realize the person behind this message is just another human being looking for answers and insight and validation. And he or she just hasn’t yet accepted that it’s okay for all of us to choose divergent paths and to seek out different experiences. Perhaps for him or her, keeping kids rooted in one spot is akin to safety and security.

For us, it isn’t.

And both perspectives are okay.

We all make choices in life: breast or bottle, employed or stay-at-home,  public schools or private, Jesus or Buddha, Leno or Letterman, Republican or Democrat, Partridges or Bradys, Chardonnay or Cabernet…

The beauty of choice is that it keeps this world colorful and spirited and diverse. I wouldn’t want it any other way. It always amazes me when people believe in “The” way versus “A” way. I don’t want to live in that world. I want to live in a world where people make heartfelt, genuine decisions because they feel right… not because they’re trying to live up to someone else’s expectations. I dream of a world with a little more love and a little less judgment.

These past two moves have been necessary for our family because they’ve been necessary for us as parents. Our first priority is keeping this family healthy — and that is not dependent upon geography. I would never turn down opportunities for our family’s growth and development because I’m afraid of upsetting my kids’ lives. First and foremost, I would never willingly let my kids believe they are the center of any universe. That doesn’t serve them or the world they inhabit. It is critical to me they learn to adapt, to change, to morph, to maintain flexibility, to see with different vantage points, to view the world through various lenses.

Did their friendships and experiences change when our addresses changed? Sure, they did. But if you’re still living under the assumptions that proximity can keep relationships intact — even as adults — go ahead and grab a glass of wine because I’ve got some stories to share.

When a mother bird shoves her babies out of the nest for the first time, I imagine she doesn’t do it because it’s fun and entertaining. I imagine, instead, that she does it out of necessity. I mean, even birds have their limits. Who wants a beer-guzzling, 32-year-old, grown-up bird living in your nest-basement and eating all your worms? Even birds in their infinite bird-wisdom must know this isn’t a healthy lifestyle choice. But as those babies are flipping and flailing and plummeting toward the cold, unyielding earth on their first journey out of the nest — tiny bird hearts beating wildly out of their feathered chests, heartbreaking baby bird noises being emitted from teeny beaks — I imagine that Mama, too, feels every flip, every somersault, every heart-stopping, vein-bursting, air-inducing rush of adrenaline.

And then. Then those babies discover their wings, and the world, suddenly, is exquisitely, shimmeringly new and full of promise and adventure.

That Mama doesn’t push because she can; she pushes because she must.

Suffering is part of our human experience. We all get to go through it. We all get to arrive on the other side, intact, different, perhaps even better for it. And as functioning human beings, we need to be able to navigate it, to continue on despite it, to maintain households and families and jobs in the face of it. I’d rather my kids dip their toes into this tumultuous sea while they’re here with us, while they still have a safe place to land. That doesn’t mean I’m going to toss them overboard while yelling, “Sink or swim, kiddos!” I can shelter them, but I cannot always hide them from the storms, to pretend they don’t exist, to succumb to the illusion that I can always keep them safe, that their hearts will never be casually tossed aside.

In terms of suburban America (because I more than understand that these are 1st world problems), this has been a tough week for 1/2 my kids. Sam missed making the golf team by one stroke; Mary Claire got cut from the volleyball team. We’re in a new location, and the competition is different. They get to kick their games up a notch. And in the long run, that’s okay. But today? Today, it sucks. Their egos are bruised, their hearts a little tender, and the network of friends they might have had on Day One must wait until Day Two or Week Five or whatever amount of time it may take.

But these kids will persevere. They’ll dust themselves off and carry on. They’ll figure out Plan B. And you know what? Sometimes Plan B kicks Plan A’s ass. Sometimes life throws us a curve ball so we get a shot at the next pitch that’s heading across the plate — the one we’re gonna knock out of the park.

Today, this family will check out the Farmer’s Market. We’ll treat ourselves to homemade cookies and fresh veggies and live music. We’ll enjoy a dinner out together. We’ll play some high-stakes Trivial Pursuit when we get home. I might even win.

And our kids will know — they’ll understand even more intimately — that this little circle of six is safe and sound and secure and soft. It is where disappointment is met with a hug, where tears eventually transform into laughter, where sitting in grief and pain is allowed and accepted and honored (for a time, at least), where tomorrow breaks with new possibility and opportunity. And that whatever the zip code may be, it is home.

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13 Responses

  1. Waiting for that tougher, thicker skin. I know it will come in time. My first critical comment will probably send me into a (temporary) spiral.

    “The way” vs. “A way”, I REALLY like this. In fact, I love it! Teaching our kids that life is NOT a one size fits all game is so important. What a disservice to send them out in the world believing otherwise.

    I believe that your kids…your whole family…is very blessed.

    1. I have to give credit where credit is due, Beth. Although “A way” versus “The way” has become a bit of a tagline for me, it was my dear, sweet hubby who came up with such succinct brilliance. It always took me waaaaay too many words to describe my position. He summed it up perfectly. 🙂

  2. Great post. My mum always used to tell me she was being cruel to be kind – sometimes I misunderstood and got angry, and sometimes onlookers criticized and took my side. But I think it’s all these little challenges that forged my personality…

  3. This is a great post, Katrina. I was all about trying to provide my kids with the same, stable-as-possible home after my divorce, and so hung onto my family home, long after I really could afford it. Maybe that was a good thing. But, in looking back, I’ve often wondered if I didn’t do my boys an injustice in trying to make things too comfortable for them, at my expense (figuratively and literally). In reality, it was only harder for them when I sold the house after 21 years, after it was the only home they ever knew.

    I think what you’ve done is helped pave the way for four strong, independent adults.

    Not that you need anyone’s judgment or approval, but you have my empathy and my blessing.

    1. Thanks, Sherry. I’m fully in support of each family doing what feels right, moment by moment. We can always say, “Coulda, woulda, shoulda,” but that doesn’t mean we didn’t do the best we could with what we were given. Only time will tell if the Willis kids grow up to be four strong, independent adults. Fingers crossed… 😉

  4. You don’t have to justify your choices to anyone but your own family, K. You are a beautiful person, and you’re creating a beautiful life with all of you together. Hugs.

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