Earlier this week an incredible soul in our community recommended Brene Brown's newest book, "Braving the Wilderness : The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone." As I embarked on this week ahead I decided I would download the book and give the gym a shot. It had been years since I had belonged to a gym but I needed the structure and to the point of Brene's work: to belong. As my endorphins kicked in on the treadmill her words left me charging forward. I felt like I was in an AA meeting and identifying with every turn the speaker took in their story. And then I wanted to so badly to keep high five-ing her as she passionately read aloud the impact of her parent's disappointment in her and I couldn't "me too", because my parents offered me quite the opposite. And then I recognized what she was doing : empowering me to own my story.
"Not belonging in our family is still one of the most dangerous hurts. That's because it has the power to break our heart, our spirit and our sense of self worth. When those things break, there are only three outcomes:
1) you live in constant pain and seek relief by numbing it and/or inflicting pain on others.
2) you deny your pain & your denial ensures you pass it on those around you and down to your children
3) you find the courage to own the pain & develop a level of empathy & compassion for yourself and for others that allows you to spot hurt in the world in a unique way.
... Our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self acceptance.
I write about how my father's parenting here and I'd dive into that a bit deeper below. Larry Wauchope was an intentional parent who lived by the motto "Don't let the bastards get you down." He was as happy to couch our sports teams as he was to assist with makeup for our theater program - and he took it equally seriously. One year he was a farm for Halloween. This was well before pinterest and he had an entire landscape on his face, completed with a white picket fence from ear to ear.
The difference between how Brene recollects her parents reactions and how Larry parented was that not only was he okay with us being an understudy but he'd be there to coach us along. I had to call my mom to verify, but I am fairly certain I did not make the travel softball team. I guess I was confused because I am positive dad was a coach. My aha moment: Dad was there to show us that it's okay we didn't make the cut. Dust off your pants and continue to be a part of the team. Being bat girl and celebrating victories with the team made me feel just as much a part of & therefore bolstered my self worth.
So I think about the parent that I want to be for my child. In a city that seems to be breeding exclusivity, how do I connect my child to others by love and the human spirit? It's our job as parents to protect our children and be their advocate, right? So then, when we as a family are not accepted or selected, how do we not pass that shame or disappointment onto our children? How do I ensure that my bumpy child is part of an ecosystem where they have true connection and maintain authenticity. It's easier for me to try and correct C's behavior than to celebrate his zaniness at times. But wasn't that the child Larry celebrated in me?
I've often thought I should write a book on Larry & Kathy's parenting theories and what that might look like. With five children, each 18 or 24 months apart in age, they managed to celebrate each of our gifts. Miraculous I would say. That is because, as Brene points out: they gave us tools to sport hurt in the world in a unique way. That, is a gift. So we fast forward to today. I wanted so badly for my children to be accepted into an inclusive school environment for transitional kindergarten and I'm kicking myself for thinking that was a reality. We're at a wonderful school currently but as a working mom who manages his OT schedule: all under one roof gave me the hope that I could actually work again. And then that email Cam: no niceties, just the notice that there's no room at the inn. But Brene and Larry : they would tell me to turn it over and not let the bastards get me down. They'd say that if what I want is for my child to be included, he must include himself. They'd say that to belong in our family is the most important moment of acceptance we can pass on to our child. So with that, I am close my computer and head home to high five my kiddos & charge onwards. We have toes to get sandy & mountains to romp.