Today is the first day of school for the kids. I'm sitting here alone at my desk with my coffee and a bowl of cereal, with nothing to interrupt me aside from a dog needing let out, for the first time since 2016. The house is eerily quiet. My baby is now in school with her big sister.
My little kindergartner has been scared about starting school since we moved 5 hours away from the school she expected to attend. We've all done our best to alleviate the anxiety with books, personal anecdotes, talking to her about all of the positive things about school, like learning to read and do math (two things she's actually very excited about).
This morning was the most excited she's been since the fear set in. As she went through the morning routine like a pro, she occasionally mentioned her stomach hurting a little bit; a physical sign of her nervousness, no doubt. But she was smiling. She excitedly took her bowl to the sink and brushed her teeth, hardly able to wait to get her LOL Doll backpack on. She was all smiles as I took the traditional back to school pictures and as we walked to the school. Her big sister and I kept her distracted with the things she's looking forward to instead of what she was scared of. She asked if we could drop her off last, so we took my oldest to the cafeteria where she'll wait with her class. As we left, they hugged as my youngest said “I'll miss you!” Then it was her turn. We went into the gym and found where her class will sit every morning. She was all smiles as I took some pictures before turning her peace sign hands into two thumbs down. She was scared again.
I crouched there on the gym floor with her and told her (as well as the seemingly terrified little girl sitting behind her in line) that so many of the kids were scared this morning, because it was new to all of them, but that they would all come together and lift each other up and have a wonderful time. After talking a little bit more, and several hugs and kisses later, I promised her I'd see her this afternoon and left her in the care of her teachers. I caught a glimpse through the crowd before I walked out of the gym and saw she still wasn't crying. A good sign.
I know she's going to thrive in school. As sassy as she can be, she's strong, smart, sweet, and friendly. I have no doubt that the only thing that will get her over her fear is to go through it and realize it's not all that bad. She will adjust and adapt.
And then there's me. Sitting here alone. For the first time since my oldest started kindergarten.
When the youngest child is off to school for the first time, the stay at home mom is often asked, "what are you going to do now?" Will we get a job? Will our homes finally be show-room-ready clean? Will we frolic through the grocery store (or any store, the possibilities are endless) in the low crowds of a weekday morning without at least one kid in tow? Maybe. Who knows?
For the longest time I've simply responded to this question with, "enjoy it." A lot of my stay at home mom life has consisted of me being the only parent home for sometimes weeks on end as my husband worked his tail off supporting us 5 hours away (not the case now that we've moved, thankfully). So, if you ask me, I've definitely earned being able to enjoy some solitude. Once that gets old, though? I have absolutely no idea.
But regardless of what we moms entering this new season literally do with our time, I know one thing we'll do for certain --something that all moms have always done and will continue to do in this ever-changing world of parenting: adjust and adapt.
Well, guys, Taylor Swift has done it again! Another new song from her upcoming album is out today and it's AMAZING! I swear that's relevant information to this post. Just stick with me here.
I had been putting off this blog post until Taylor Swift released the album Lover, as I feel it, with it's butterflies and pastel aesthetic contrasting with the snakes and black and white of Reputation, would be perfect evidence to support my argument, but the title track came out and it has me pumped enough to go ahead and write this!
Before getting to this song specifically, let's get to my point that the trope of the suffering artist has to go.
I recently saw an article that said Sad Taylor Swift is the best, And it has a point. my favorite songs of hers are the heavier ones (just see my post on "The Archer"). And back when details of Taylor's super private relationship slowly started coming out, leaving people speculating if they would get married, I remember seeing comments from people wondering what she would write about if her heart stopped getting broken. So, I feel that point on Sad Taylor leads to a slippery slope that's all too common in the creative world.
This idea of suffering has often gone hand in hand with art. Just look at how we talk about Hemingway, Plath, Van Gogh...This trope of the tortured artist is an old one and it's dangerous for us artists.
It's dangerous to feel you, as an artist, must suffer to produce anything worthwhile. It's a feeling I've dealt with myself as a writer. My journaling is often tapping into my darker feelings and, while I have no intentions of sharing them publicly, I can't help but feel it's some of my best work. I struggle with this on a physical level, even. When Anna Timperley and I wrote Lost in Grey, sleep deprivation simply fueled my imagination, helping us breakthrough plot issues and hitting our word count for novel status. Now, when I struggle with writer's block (which is almost always), I have to physically tell myself that I'm not going to exhaust myself for the sake of trying to write.
As the great poet Andrea Gibson said in their 2018 Facebook post, which actually inspired me to think about this topic as it's been in my mind since the original post, 'your joy is as deserving of your pen as your grief.' Your happiness doesn't make it impossible for you to make good art! Happiness does not equate to lack of substance.
Now back to "Lover." The song is beautiful, and most importantly for this topic, her happiness is palpable. Listening to her talk about the joys of living life with her love, you can't help but smile. I'm sitting here listening to it (again) as I write this and my heart swells with joy hearing it. The emotion I get from it is like when a girl writes her name with her love interests last name all over a notebook. It's like she's so happily blown away that she can't believe it's actually happening while realizing the simple things they can do like having friends stay over, or not taking down the Christmas lights, because it's THEIRS, all while wildly smiling each time she says the word "lover" (I can't be the only one who hears that smile, right?).
And lyrically, I just love it. She has so many nods to previous songs, which is one of my favorite things about her songwriting. "Take me home" could be a nod to "Style". "Forever and ever," "Sweeter than Fiction." Christmas lights are even in "The Moment I Knew." And with the exception to the reference to "Gorgeous" by calling him as a magnetic force, each reference is a nod to heartbreaks past. It's like using these phrases again are a way to cancel out the pain from before. Taylor never fails us with her lyrics, and her happiness doesn't negate that truth.*
"Lover" isn't her first song written from happiness, though. We all know she can write a fun bubbly bop like 'Shake it Off" or "Me!", but she has deeper songs about happiness, too. Just listen to "Gorgeous," a song that describes the feeling of having a crush better than anything I've heard or read. Listen to "Call it What You Want", where you can feel how in love she is with the description of her "baby." She even gets hot and steamy about her love interest with her song "Dress." She has these beautiful songs of substance that don't stem from heart break, but from feelings of infatuation and love. and they're off her darkest album! It's possible to destroy this trope! And based on the hints leading up to the release of "Lover," I have a feeling she's going to keep proving that point. Just another thing that makes Taylor Swift a good role model.
And if Taylor Swift isn't really your style, you can find all sorts of examples of this out there, too! In fact, going to my favorite, King of Sad Songs, Conor Oberst has an entire album of hopeful songs.
The point is, we all go through dark times, and writing (singing, painting, whatever your medium) is a wonderful way to cope and process through those feelings so please, don't stop making art when you're sad. But don't limit yourself to needing to suffer to make your art. Don't sit in your misery for the sake of creativity. Your light art is as special as your dark art.
*Shout out to Taylor Swift super fan Blake Walker for helping me find references to older songs in "Lover." This blog would've had a lot less substance without him!
It's Back to School season and this year I have one kid going into third grade and the other starting kindergarten. We still have a little over a week until the big day when school actually starts, but we're ready! We have the backpacks and lunchboxes, the supplies from the supply list, new socks and underwear, new shoes, clothes sorted to make sure they aren't short of anything. We've had the talks about listening to the teacher, we've talked about what our five year old will learn when she's in school, all of that. I even have my first day of school blog post started, just waiting for the day's anecdotes to finish it. We're ready to take this year by storm!
Or so I thought...
Last night, after the kids were in bed, I thought I would enjoy my Friday evening with a hot relaxing bath and maybe brainstorm on some writing. The kids should be asleep, as I've desperately been trying to get them on regular schedule in preparation for school (it has not been going well.) And it was nice, until my five year old barged in to the room (yeah, our new bathroom door doesn't lock. Only the toilet room locks. Probably the one thing about this new house I'm not a fan of) with only a shirt on as she complains about her bathroom woes. After a lot of back and forth, and a lot of toilet paper, she was content and off to bed, right? Nope. A few moments later, she walks back in with her underwear in her hand, soaking wet. WHY? “I tried to rinse them off.” Yeah, you can't do that, kid. I get her new underwear and let her know that when she goes to school, she can't spend nearly an hour just going to the bathroom, and she especially can't walk around with no underwear on.
Her green eyes went wide as she asked if that was true. And that's when it hit me. Had I in any way prepared her to function as an actual human being outside of the home?
I swear my oldest kid wasn't like this. I know, every kid is different, but it was like she was born for school. Like her younger sister, she couldn't read or write beyond a few letters, but she had no issues jumping right in and figuring it all out (and really thriving). When she was in kindergarten, I think we had to have one talk where I let her know that if she is asked to wait for a bathroom break, she is allowed to ask again before it becomes an emergency. Other than that, I believe she went into the new world of daily school like an actual human being.
But what about my younger kid?! She is a force to be reckoned with. Long, relaxing bathroom trips aside, this kid is wild. She's brave enough to ask her dad “You wanna fight?” with fists ready once he's told her to stop her attitude before she gets grounded. She regularly walks around slapping everyone's butts (including her own). She never sleeps. Like ever. I almost had her on a normal schedule last school year, but that was all down the drain once we moved. She is my loving, hilarious, beautiful strong-willed child.
I know what you all are probably thinking: it's totally normal. She'll be fine. And I don't doubt that. I believe she'll thrive in school just as her sister has. And as far as how she'll actually be when she's there, I have to remind myself that she went to the childcare at our church back in Fort Worth for years with no issue, including as a 4/5 year old in their preschool-like setting. But I also know I can't be the only mom wondering what more she could have done before her kid was ready for kindergarten.
Let me know the hilarious things you never thought to teach your kids until it was time for kindergarten!
We all have our fair share of “you can't make this shit up” stories, and when you find someone with as many as you, you may find yourself drawn to them. But it's worth noting that sometimes that shit can be made up, or at least twisted in favor of the narrator. When every single life story you hear from someone ends the same way with someone else turning out to be a villain, leaving them hurt and betrayed, take that as a red flag , not a sympathetic notion.
Beware those who are constantly victims. Be aware of who you surround yourself anyways, but if you find yourself accidentally enthralled with an Always-Victim, learn to be okay with the outcome of being yet another villain of their repertoire.
You can be the best friend to them. You can be nice, honest (even when it's not what they want to hear), helpful, and have the best time together. But once you inevitably fall off of the pedestal they lifted you on by simply standing up for yourself and setting necessary boundaries, you'll instantly become “one of them,” the others who are so horrible to the Always-Victim. Because that's the thing—in their narrative, they cannot be wrong. I don't think it's necessarily intentional, though maybe it is, but it hurts regardless. It'll hurt when you hear the things being said about you, knowing you can't defend yourself because while they play like you left, it's actually they who did. It'll hurt and leave you feeling disappointed to know that all of your mutual friends fall for their version. It'll make you want to scream the truth out, to clear the air so you can move on once and for all. But it's of no use. They can't hear you. If they heard you, really truly heard you, that would hold them accountable. That would be admitting that all parties are flawed, because we're only human. And that would make them not the victim in the story.
Always-Victims become a negative energy cyclone, threatening to pull in anyone who dares come near. Stay. Away. I know, it's hard to recognize it, but just keep your eyes and ears open for those red flags and believe them. And if you fall for it, know that it's okay. It happens to us all, especially those like me who are people-pleasers who tend to see the good in others to a fault. But when that world crashes down, and the dust starts to settle, look around you and see who's there:
The Invaluable Friend. These are the friends who are truly there for you, always. They know the truth because they know you for who you really are, not what anyone else says about you. You can empathize with each other over the Always-Victims you've both encountered in life, and allow each other to vent out the frustration of everyone seeming fooled by it. They gently correct you when you're making a mistake, and welcome the same from you. But they also let you indulge your more dramatic side privately with them so you don't make a fool of yourself in public. These are the friends you never have issues with, even through your differences. You'll grow together, even when your life stories are oh so different. These are the true friends you should surround yourself with. These are your very best friends.
What it all boils down to is this: guard your heart, don't give Always-Victims your energy, and cherish your Invaluable Friends.
Two of my Invaluable Friends, Anna and Blake, who have been here with me through the start of a new chapter in life as my dust settles. They surely aren't my only Invaluable Friends, but they've been incredibly important.
You often hear the phrase “the right choice isn't always the easy choice.” It's usually in regards to some moral obstacle in front of you, but I've come to determine that it applies to more than just that. It can apply to your physical life choices just as much as your moral ones. And that's something I've learned in the last (almost) month with our latest move. The last few weeks have SUCKED. And I don't say that for sympathy, but to prove my point.
In the last 10 years, I've gone through several moves. My husband was in the Marines for about half of that time, so moving is no new adventure for The Behee family. I grew up in Kentucky, but since, I've moved to California, back to Kentucky, to California AGAIN, to Colorado, to Texas, and finally, to our current location. And that's not counting each home change, either. Through all of those moves, though, who would've ever guessed that the hardest move so far would be from one city in Texas to another? Granted, the move was over 300 miles away, which is extremely far and sometimes states away to a non-Texan, but still! It's been so incredibly hard!
With every new house comes projects to turn it into a home. We had a good solid week of just preparing our back yard, which was a blank slate of dirt, for grass. I literally thought my body would give out on me in the physical labor I had to go through, including spending 12 hours laying new sod (Seriously, kudos to each and every one of you who do physical work for your jobs every single day. It's not for the weak.) I had never felt so sore and exhausted, even in childbirth—yes, childbirth was awful pain, even with an epidural, but at least I got a sweet cuddly baby after each instead of just a bunch of cuts, bruises, and awful sunburn all over. Add in general unpacking, organizing, hanging blinds, installing a Reverse Osmosis water filter with new kitchen faucet, etc, and it was just a ton of physical things that felt unending. On top of that, our kids really took it hard. What little bit of routine we had over summer break was completely shattered. Projects lasted hours, which had us eating dinner far past their bedtimes and then sleep wouldn't come easy. The first few nights, they slept wedged in our bed, leaving me on the couch by the early hours of morning. By the end of last week, I was starting to wonder if we had screwed up. We thought this move was for the best, but was it really? Our kids are fighting worse than ever, including with us; we're physically exhausted; every project we take on adds in 10 extra steps when something that shouldn't have gone wrong has....Was it really the right choice?
But as I sit here on my couch, hearing my kids playing nicely in their room and my husband playing his video games in the office, I know it was still the right choice. It absolutely wasn't easy, but it was worth it. Today is our oldest daughter's birthday, and we were able to celebrate it, not because of my husband's work schedule coincidentally working out or celebrating early or late, but on TIME. Because now we're all together, every day. We'll get to celebrate my birthday tomorrow, together. Holidays, his birthday, our other daughter's birthday, all of it. Because we made this very hard decision to move.
Yes, the projects may not be done (I had to paused in writing this to turn off the sprinklers for that new sod), but I know we made the right choice.
So ,if you're faced with a life-changing decision and you aren't sure what the right thing to do is, it just may not be the easier sounding one. But it's still the right one.
Hello! I'm Lindsey. I'm a writer with a ton of random thoughts bouncing around in my head. So I share them here in hopes that they reach others with these thoughts.