Monday, May 14, 2012

vicissitude – a fluctuation of state or condition; AKA “ups & downs”

To celebrate Mother’s Day, we went to one of our family’s favorite places – a local park complete with majestic waterfalls. It was a gorgeous day to be outside – smelling the sweet spring air, hearing the rushing water and the passing birds, alternatively feeling the cold sandstone and a warm park bench.

Steps up the hill (with some of our favorite kids)
Five years ago, I walked the 81 steps down to the river shoreline, climbed 70 steps up the overlooking hill, down the steps/hill, and back up to the car hoping to encourage the baby who shared my body to move toward independence. Less than 24 hours later, he obliged.

Much like that the steps I took that day, parenthood has been a journey filled with both ups and downs. I’ve embraced moments when I can’t imagine life without these wonderful beings, and the curiosity and excitement that they bring to seemingly mundane tasks (we watched a spider render a web-captured centipede comatose for at least 10 minutes yesterday :)). I’ve weathered moments when I’m SO scared of the possibility of scarring them that I question how any benevolent power could’ve entrusted ME, a person who has trouble remembering if the dog’s been fed, with their survival and livelihood (fortunately, my kids have no problem reminding me if they’re hungry).

Some of my proudest parental moments (the “ups”) appear when least expected. For example, when over breakfast, Caiden spontaneously reminds me that “if Barbie were alive, she couldn’t actually stand up because her feet are too small and her chest is too big. She couldn’t be real.” Or after a family Christmas celebration, Kepler is so content and happy that he gleefully announces that “Santa doesn’t need to come, Mom. We’ve already got enough.” Situations like these remind me of the privilege we get, imparting our values on these young, spongey beings.

Climbing up in the Badlands
Subsequently, I’ve also recognized that sometimes – despite best intentions – I fail to convey the very values that I desperately want to model and share. How can I convey the importance of being present and enjoying the moment, when we’re rushing from one activity to the next? (“Get your shoes on; we NEED to GO!”) How successfully have I shared the need to demonstrate compassion for one another when my oldest is overheard telling his little brother that his feelings don’t matter (“C’mon, Kep. Stop worrying about that. Get your shoes on; we NEED to GO!”).

Despite these and many other parental “lows,” perhaps it’s useful to see these as a different form of teachable moment – one that doesn’t rely on a forced conversation about topics such as the unfair standards that media place on appearance (see above citation about Barbie… :)). Instead, these are moments to show our children the merit of being sincerely apologetic. We demonstrate that we make mistakes and go through processes to recover from them. We celebrate successes, and each other. We recognize hurt, and the importance of requesting forgiveness. Actively experiencing both highs and lows allows them to understand that change is the only consistency in life. Progressing through changes together provides a foundation to build their self-assurance so that they can navigate life’s vicissitudes with confidence.


  1. LOVE. I see myself so much in this. Especially in the instantaneous guilt every time I find myself saying for the 10th time "it's time to GO. NOW. Fuss later, shoes now."

  2. I love the climbing up and down metaphor. I'll try to remember the beauty of this as I climb up and down the stairs carrying loads of laundry, responding to crying children, and rescuing my blind dog who daily tries to follow me upstairs and ends up stranded on the same step halfway to the top.