Ella was perched on the edge of our real estate agent’s lap, and I was doing an internal high-kick at how nice it felt to have something as sterile as property buying become a personal, family affair. The real estate agent looked up at me, mid-signing, and said, “You know, you and Joel make the most beautiful couple.”
I stared back.
“Such a sweet little family.”
Who, us? I thought.
I quickly fumbled out an oh-thanks-yes-he-is-such-a-good-dad something or so, but what I really wanted to say was, Um lady? Thanks, but I’m just wondering if you’ve hung out in our lounge room this week?
Two minutes before arriving at her office, I had wiped away fresh tears and tried my best to smooth my hair.
It had not been out greatest week. Raw, ugly, messy conversations were shared. Ones we had never before faced. Ones which took days to untangle. It’s easy, in conflict, to waltz around being angry, giving silent treatments and shutting each other out. We do this as a first line of defense — to protect ourselves. And for good, human reason. Vulnerability is never something which feels good. Not in the beginning anyway. In the beginning it feels like a whole lot of weak. It feels awkward and clumsy, like we are undermining our own backbones. We need to fight for our pain. We need to jump up and down and scream HEY! YOU’VE HURT ME! HOW DARE YOU HURT ME! We need to stand up for ourselves. And so we barge forth with our strength and our megaphones, guns blazing and helmets on. Our little emotional white blood cells suddenly rush out, huddle together and attack all the things which are threatening our survival, and on the surface this looks a lot like anger. It looks a lot like outrage and blame and finger-pointing and separation. On the inside though, what we really need is something to clot the blood. We need to stop the bleeding. And it sounds a lot like this: I don’t feel safe. I don’t feel loved. I don’t feel special. Please protect me. Please love me. Please make me feel special.
On the inside, it looks a whole lot like vulnerability.
It’s only when those words are uttered that we begin to move anywhere at all. And that? That can take days to say, and ironically, a whole mountain of strength.
Margaret Laurence once said this brilliant thing. In some families, please is described as the magic word. In our house, however, it was sorry.
I love it so much because to me, it means we are granted permission to be anything but perfect. It grants us permission to bring to our relationship anything but perfection. It grants us permission to let our children see us as anything but perfect. And you know what? That’s not what they need. Perfection is not something my kids need me to teach them. Resilience, yes. Accountability, certainly. How to best raid a Target discount bin, most definitely. Above all, my children need a mum and a dad to teach them how to thrive. To model for them that it’s completely possible to fall behind and limp to catch up. To break apart and re-stick. To make mistakes and still believe they are worthy of taking up the space they occupy — to try again. And that these things are not only possible, but advisable.
You see the thing is, if we were perfect, we’d never have to take anyone’s hand to steady ourselves, and that would be a tragedy. If we were perfect, we’d never know what it’s like to travel this path crawling. Path running is fine, and we will have times in life when we’ll soar on by, but crawling? Crawling is much better. Crawlers travel with their eyes close to the ground – so they never miss an inch of the beautiful, rocky path. Crawlers travel slower, so they can take in much, much more. Crawlers get less glory but learn the most about the path’s terrain.
Crawlers learn to ask How can I be better for you? How can I make you feel loved? What can I do to make you feel safe? Crawlers learn to say sorry, and above all, they learn why it is, more than anything else, the most magic word of all.
Some sweet moments from our weekend because, well, I’m a pictures girl. And because in between all the crawling, we stopped to love on each other too.
Sharing apples in bed.
Sunday breakfast at Gran and Grumps’ house. A sweet little moment captured.
Coffee dates at our new favourite coffee shop.
Raising our Christmas flags a little higher. Watching them whip in the wind.
Cue holiday colouring-in books.
Daddies building ‘rocking-bikes’ for their babies. Which is really just another excuse for Joel to use his drop-saw.
Also, she now calls out “Jo-el!”, “Jo-el!” when she’s looking for him and it cracks me up every time.
Fresh market flowers. Garlic flowers, these are. Who would’ve thought they’d be so pretty?
Some friends are coming for dinner and Joel is swamped with Ella’s afternoon mood so I’m off. Happy Clean Slate day, friends. See you back here soon.