I Love Being A Soccer Mom

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Never in a million years would I ever-ever-ever have imagined I’d say this out loud:

I love being a soccer mom.

But, wait. Soccer moms are put-together suburbanites. With perfectly bobbed hair, and outfits that look thoughtful even if technically activewear. With a roast chicken ready for dinner by the time their husbands walk through the doors. With children who are clean and smell like vanilla cookies. With homes that are immaculate and shiny. With mini-vans and yoga classes and music lessons.

Except I don’t know a single mom that is actually like this when I think about it. Maybe one. Or two, at the most. But, hardly any.

I wonder if the era of venerating the likes of June Cleaver and Carol Brady is over? Because these days I see more moms (and dads) out and about with their kids in leggings and sweats, tshirts covered in breakfast and toothpaste, and the most remarkable bedhead. Only a pillow and a restless night of sleep with a toddler across your face could create that kind of coif. When I look around it seems like many of us have for the most part stopped worrying about upholding some illusive ideal surrounding looks and parenthood. Not that you all don’t look good – I mean, you do, you all are really beautiful people – but the image of put-togetherness seems less of a priority. I feel it in the way my eyes flicker up to meet the quick glance of the mothers and fathers at the library or children’s museum like a silent fist-bump: I see you. It’s about solidarity and survival. Anyways, we likely – at least, I, – save the energy and effort that goes into brushing my teeth and hair for the rare occasion we go out in the evenings with friends or the significant other, and dress as if it’s 1999, and we are still in college, our lives and children not even a twinkle in the night full of jello shots and beer pong.

Sigh. I’m so glad those days are over. Jello shots. Gross.

“Mostly good is enough. Mostly good produces healthy kids who know they are valued and either forget the other parts or turn them into funny stories.”
Jen HatmakerFor the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards

Because, honestly, I seriously love being a soccer mom. I am ready to embrace it. You know, the kids are at an age where they are just learning and doing so much. The amount they figure out each day grows exponentially. We can hardly keep up with them. One minute they’re crying that they can’t take the lids off of the markers. The next minute they’re channeling Picasso and Monet with all sorts of mediums, not only markers, but glue and tape and scissors (mostly, supervised).

And so, this is what a soccer mom means to me. It means loving their stage of life right now.Click To Tweet

It means loving watching them run and kick and do the worst jumping jacks ever with Coach Keelan. It means loving watching the kids learn to play the piano, and actually sit longer than five minutes to pound out a couple of stanzas with Ms. Susan. It means loving seeing her absolute delight when she finally figures out how to do the monkey bars by herself and he feeds the dog and lets him out on his own initiative.

Who are these people?!?!?

Being a soccer mom means for me loving learning what it means to have children, and be a child. Because what they’re doing is changing and shaping me, teaching and transforming me on a regular basis. It means seeing differently. It means loving hard. It means learning how to receive and welcome. It means being okay with mistakes and failing gloriously.

It means a little bit more proximity to that elusive, but wonderful kingdom. Click To Tweet

I love it. I love it all. I mean, I am so unbelievably exhausted and I still yell and shout and get totally frustrated at their insanity, but I love it.

I love being a soccer mom. I really do. You all are my witnesses – I said it. I love it. Now I just need a minivan.

Deeper Story: Summers, Lazy Days, and Blessings

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(Me and my brother too long ago. Yes. I’m apparently wearing a tube top. The only one I will ever wear in my life.)

We would wake up early and stay up as late as possible.

Me, my little brother, and kids in our neighborhood. Summer days were full of long hours at the community pool playing an eternal game of Marco Polo then when we got tired it would be back-float competitions and our own version of synchronized swimming. We would burn, then peel, and quickly turn a dark brown with the outline of our swimsuits tattooed in our winter flesh color onto our shoulder and backs.

Sometimes bikes would be our mode of adventure and we would ride to another neighborhood lying to our parents about how many Popsicles or cans of Coke we bought throughout the day. We’d come home covered in sticky messes and the truth would literally be etched on our faces with remnants of the forbidden left behind despite our efforts to clean it up with water from a garden hose. Probably, the major sugar crash gave it away.

It didn’t matter. We didn’t have a care in the world.

***

When it was just me and my brother and we were too little to go out we would spend hours in the backyard searching for grasshoppers to keep as pets in old jam jars. We’d cram handfuls of grass in there as makeshift nests to assuage any guilt of trapping these helpless creatures. Of course, it was the least we should do to be as hospitable as possible while they struggled and jumped against the glass trying to make sense of the shimmering sun through the walls of their prisons.

And my brother and I would run and run up the hill to the back of our yard to the fence and then back down. Laps over and over again chasing butterflies and birds and clouds trying to forget that there was a fence around us – to protect us – while the rest of the world spun on.

***

I was up late with Baby Oz one night last week. He was unusually fussy and inconsolable even at my breast. Though maybe common for most babies – certainly with the twins – it felt strange with him since because he loves to sleep. When his wailing turned into two, and then three hours of crying we decided to take him into the ER.

We got there and filled out paperwork almost immediately. As soon as we went in to see the nurse he was…Quiet. Observant. And even cheerful. He was not the screaming baby of 20-minutes-ago. Andy and I looked at each other in exasperation. We would have to wait another two hours before getting discharged at 630 am and come to sleep for a couple hours while my parents watched the twins before heading back home.

I didn’t fall asleep right away. I watched him sleeping next to me. I tried to push out of my mind the what-if pictures of him in the hospital all the time with tubes snaking in and out of his little body. We are fortunate. Blessed, I guess, would be one word. All I want to do in that moment for all three of the babies is to build huge fences around them. To shut out diseases and guns and drugs and eating disorders and bullies. Even if it means shutting out the butterflies and birds and clouds.

***

Blessed. Blessings. Favor. Joel Osteen has made me hate both those words with his favor-mindedness and bull-shit prosperity gospel. Because it dilutes those tragedies that need to be told in its full-body-ness. I need more.

I can’t shake the George Zimmerman infraction. And all the other stories surfacing in Chicago and NY with not only teenage boys but children and women on whom the sewage of injustice is being poured out on. It makes me seize up with anger. Where and when will that arc bend towards justice? It isn’t just about my babies and wondering what they will face on the future but my neighbor’s babies, those who are black and brown (though almost invisible here in Bloomington I know they exist). And I think of the absurdity. The absurdity of my children with all their blessings and privilege. They are so privileged. No fears, no hunger, no loss, no cold. I’m wracked with guilt some days. And I’m so deeply grateful on most. Still. It’s not enough to build fences for and around them. I need to tear them down. I need to be a part of building something. Something more.

Redemption comes in strange place, small spaces
Calling out the best of who we are

And I want to add to the beauty
To tell a better story
I want to shine with the light
That’s burning up inside…-Sara Groves


Originally posted at Deeper Story.

It’s Crowded: Locking Myself In My Room

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These days – these summer days are crowded. The children are at home ALL THE TIME. They are busy. Busy with their markers, busy with their chasing and pretending, busy with their persistent demands and orders for help-me-get-the-lid-off-the-yellow and I-want-apple-juice and I’m-hungry and Mommy-Ozzie-hit-me or Mommy-Ozzie-yelled-at-me. The laptop is on or the phone is open to a Google Doc but I’m only able to tap out a few words at a time. Podcasts and radio shows are playing in the background all day long in the kitchen and in the TV room is Little Einsteins or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when I’m really desperate for a lone moment. Ceiling fans are whirring and the poor dog, Ellis, is ever click-clacking (nails in need of a trim) across the floors following me around or the children if they’re carrying a bagel or crackers. Blocks and Legos. Crumbs. Everything is sticky, for some reason. The kitchen is halfway clean and halfway always getting-ready-for-the-next-meal.

Mom-look-at-my-picture.

Mom-look-at-my-picture.

Mom-look-at-my-picture.

Mom-look-at-my-picture.

Mom-look-at-my-picture.

Mom-look-at-my-picture.

And then a skirmish erupts deep in the heart of that ever transient quiet. A particular marker. Someone grows weary of the TV show and has the nerve to turn it off. Anna doesn’t want to play ninjas. Where are my gorillas? asks Desmond. I’m huuuuuuuuunnnnggrrrrrry, whines Anna for the 8000th time this morning.

I quietly go into my room and lock the door. They follow me up there and pound on the door: “Moooommmm, are you in there? What are you doing? Mommmmmmmmm, are you in there?”

***

There’s not enough space.

Physically, even in our 2300 square foot house. Mentally, emotionally, spiritually – every thought – I’m leaning on the kitchen counter frantically typing as if these are last my words and every fleeting and glimmering image in my mind is completely obliterated by every squeal and cry that suddenly appears at my hip.

I remember Sheryl Sandberg’s words to lean in – that now-unforgettable phrase like an earworm – a mantra and song I repeat to myself but not when it comes to my professional life because well, that’s mostly nonexistent – and I wonder if I need to lean in here.

Lean in to motherhood. Lean in to interruptions, demands, and negotiating who gets what Rescue Bot when and for how long. Lean into this season. Lean into their lives.Click To Tweet

And then I think: I really hate that phrase.

***

You know, Jesus didn’t really lean in much. That’s what I think when I read the stories and see how often he went away by himself to pray or got in a boat to spend a day on the lake or took nights off to just have dinner with friends.

Something about this turning away – turning inward – turning into solitude makes me see more and more how we were created for it but that everything around us compels us to lean in – lean into the needs and petitions of the external – ie. everyone else. Because if we don’t then we are being selfish. We are being irresponsible. We are being negligent. We are being unfaithful.

Of course, so much has already been written about how we’ve turned the vocation of raising children into a kind of religious idolatry and how we need to be quiet to really care for our mental health, and that being productive all the time is impossible, and that a simple tidying up does wonders.

So, what am I trying to sort out here? There’s something about how all this stuff – literally and symbolically – gets conflated with faithfulness. What does it really mean to be faithful?

What would it mean if being faithful in this season of life – whether parenthood or singlehood or childhood or clergyhood or stay-at-home-momhood – meant being free? Being free of the guilt of not performing or providing every second of every day? Being free of the pressure to constantly be available and attending to every cry and whine immediately? (I’m a big proponent of the French pause – not only for sleeping/sleep-training but for everything – “let them work it out for a few minutes” is another motto of mine.) Being free of the continuous insanity of ninja turtles, transformer robots, and where-is-the-blue-marker inquiries?

I keep going back to this language of faithfulness – what it looks likes, what it means – because it’s not just about our marriage or about our faith in God, which is often the way we use this term, but maybe it’s about being full of God’s faith. Maybe even God’s faith in us? God’s belief in us. God’s faith in our process and journeys. God’s faith in our desires and love. And how that moment of stoppage is not just a chance to get away or to clear our heads or to write or to process:

It's a chance to breathe in the freedom of God's faithfulness to us and God's faith in us. Click To Tweet

Because sometimes I ultimately need to remember – to feel the reality – that God has faith in me. I suck at this parenting-job at least 80% of the day and I think often, God, how am I supposed to do anything much less change the world if I can’t even figure out how to make a decent fort??? That all those voices and standards and expectations that crowd my vision of myself, my ability, my capacity, my life – those take away from the faith of God.

Κύριε πιστεύω

Lord, I believe. Help me in my unbelief. Help me to know your faith. 

Sometimes it takes locking myself in my room to hear these words, more than a pause, more than rest, but a moment to step into that space where I can give myself a chance to remember what it means to be faithful.


Inspired in part by Olive Chan’s post at SheLoves:

Mark Buchanan, in his refreshing book, The Rest of God, writes, “[Sabbath] is sheer gift. It is a stop-work order in the midst of work that’s never complete, never polished. Sabbath is not the break we’re allotted at the tail end of completing all our tasks and chores, the fulfillment of all our obligations. It’s the rest we take smack-dab in the middle of them, without apology, without guilt, and for no better reason than God told us we could.”

On Passing, Queerness and Raising These Kids

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They came downstairs growling and hissing, gliding on all fours.

Desmond’s arm bent out a little and he stumbled forward tripping down the rest of the stairs on his face. “WAHHHHHHHH, MOMMMMMMYY I FELL DOWN AND HIT MY FACE!” he cried.

This morning they decided they would be jaguars since “jaguars have spots” (do they have spots???) and no wonder it was so quiet for 15 minutes, it was because they were coloring their faces and appendages with thankfully, washable markers. Red for Desmond. Blue, green, purple for Anna. Both looking more like alien creatures than anything we would see on the Planet Earth series.

Ozzie got in on it and the three of them passed the rest of the morning playing jaguars – lunging at each other and running away, rolling and wrestling, swiping and clawing like blind kittens just born into this world. Walking on hands and feet proved to be much more difficult than they anticipated, I think, as they lumber around with measured steps. “Mommy, do jaguars have stripes? Do leopards have stripes?” Desmond asks, as he parses out the differences in cats.

“No, tigers, have stripes, dear.”

“Oh,” as he thinks this over and is clearly debating whether he should get markers to make some revisions on his body but sees my disapproving look preempting those thoughts:

“Uh, ok I want to be a tiger laaaaaaater.”

***

A sweet little boy named Sebastian came to camp in an Elsa dress and Elsa and Anna crocs. Anna asked why he was wearing a dress. “Boys don’t wear dresses,” she said, more as a question.

“Boys and girls can wear whatever makes them feel happy,” I responded. “Plus, doesn’t he look so pretty? I think the blue looks nice on him.” She nodded and smiled.

When I pick up the kids at the end of the day, Anna tells me every detail of the day. That they painted and made doughnut holes, and she pulled someone in a wagon and they pulled her, too, and she, Sebastian, Ozzie, and Desmond pretended they were lions, but then Ivan kicked Desmond in the face, and kicked her in the face, and Sebastian told Ivan that he shouldn’t do that because it’s not nice.

“He’s a good boy,” she concluded.

***

The twins hate plays.

Every time the school put on a play while the rest of the group crooned at the tops of their lungs, yelled and stomped around on stage gesticulating wildly, Anna would stand in a corner and pensively stare out into the audience. Desmond would stretch his body out on the stage behind all the kids and look as though he were preparing to nap. We would try to stand near the stage with them to reassure them or hide in the audience so they wouldn’t insist on sitting on us or their teachers would hold their hands to try to get them to participate with the others.

They refused. Later we would ask the twins after the end-of-the-year play why they didn’t sing the songs or say their lines, and they would shrug as if to say, “What songs? What play?”

And I would feel this weird pressure inside, Why do the other kids sing and play and act like kids and not ours? What am I doing wrong?

***

That question haunts me all day long. What am I doing wrong? 

I worry sometimes that people look at me and wonder the same thing. I worry I will be caught and people will know that I am a terrible parent, or that I’m not doing enough, or that I’m doing it wrong – how am I passing for a parent? Because let’s get it straight, I have no idea what the hell I’m doing most of the time. And it’s not just in being a mother but being a pastor, writer, teacher, leader, and even more basic, a Korean, an American, a woman. I wonder if that’s why the controversies around the identities of Caitlyn Jenner, Rachel Dolezal and even the absurdity questioning Andrea Smith strikes an odd chord for me. They are extreme cases in which the question of one’s identity is fabricated and then legitimized by what’s socially normative and ultimately, judged by the masses and social media. These are women who were “seeking to pass” and/or “passing” for a particular identity (as a woman, as a Black woman, as a Native woman) and when “the jig was up” for Rachel and Andrea “passing” became deceit and offense. But up until they were caught they were lauded for their work, their voices, and their advocacy for marginalized peoples. What is this? Is it enough to simply call it [insert color]face? 

An article in Salon from 2003 says:

So what to make of this passing fad? Here’s the simplest explanation: It goes hand-in-hand with new-and-improved notions about race and identity. Passing “upends all our tidy little methods of recognizing and categorizing human beings,” writes Kroeger, and “makes us wonder what exactly makes an identity authentic, or if and how authenticity matters.”

Bingo: In the context of race, “authenticity” and “identity” have truly begun to unravel.

Authenticity and identity are not tied up together in the same way. And I continue to wrestle with what we mean by it, why exactly it matters, and how we are to judge it in another person. What does it mean to take on an identity? To find meaning in it and meaningful work in and through it? I look at the kids in their rainbow-colored stripes and spots, and boys in their princess dresses, and I think they are playing and they are happy. Back in the day when I wrestled with my own questions of identity, racial and gender – I dressed like a boy and acted like a boy, and sometimes was even mistaken for one. Until two years ago I carried a shame that I wasn’t following the script of femininity and womanhood even after bearing and carrying children, and then I encountered writings on queerness, and was inspired by friendships with Gender Studies students, and I realized, I’m queer. I felt like I had received a new name even though I still read cisgendered and heterosexual. But, I don’t feel constrained by it in the way I look at myself, and most importantly, by the way I look at others.

Because queerness is the recognition that we are all passing for something.Click To Tweet

That by being virtue of human we are constantly playing with our identities, and therefore pressing up against the boundaries of what is gender, race, and ultimately, human. Sometimes we perform it and sometimes not, sometimes we see it and can read it, and sometimes not, but that doesn’t make it any less real or authentic. There’s a wonderful possibility in the spirituality of queerness and how it can liberate us to be and see more. Somehow I found freedom in this in everything – from the way I understand myself, my relationships, and even my parenting because if there is one thing I love about parenting, it is that 90% of it is playing – in that playing, we explore, we challenge, we love.

The Meaning of Children: Am I A Good Mom?

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The following is another post from a series on stories from people in all walks of life and their observations of children and what they make us. Click here for more on the series and a list of the contributors. This post was written by a wonderful blogger and writer, incredibly talented singer and courageous pastor, Melissa Greene. 

Am I a good mom?

I can feel those words roll over my tongue and I quickly swallow the idea back down with a little taste of shame and fear in the answer. It’s a thought that swirls around in my mind over and over on some days and then hides away for a while. What is a good mom? has become an even more appropriate question for me to dwell on. Or even better yet what is a good parent? A good parent loves well but is that the only answer? If so what does that look like and does it have exact parameters in which one has to fit in to? Because I often feel that I am spilling over and out of that box. Oh. Sometimes it just feels good to sigh and to watch, to pay attention to what is right in front of me.

Today what is right in front of me is my girl. My 5 – very soon to be 6 – year old. I am helping her make invitations for the neighborhood kids to come to her birthday dinner. Because this is not the big birthday party for her long time friends at the skating rink later in the week and because these are fairly new friends (we are new to the neighborhood.) So I write an asterisk at the bottom of the invite that she quickly tries to read. “No pre… No pra… What does that say Mama?” “No presents needed” – she smiles because she gets it but she quickly adds “But cawds needed. They can still bring me cawds.” Yes baby they can still bring you cards. Oh. This girl is sometimes too much. This is the same girl that just finished arguing with me because she didn’t want to wear the outfit I picked out for her. “Why do I have to be so stylish mama? Why do you always want me to match?” – This is our consistent fight of the day, among many others, when I am home. Ben, her daddy, says I can easily solve that by letting her wear whatever she wants. Agreed, but I would like to teach her how to match and how to express herself with her clothes. It’s something I’ve always loved and I want to pass it on to her. Oh sigh. Yet this is a good day. But others are hard. I work full time at a church which has flexible but long and inconsistent hours. Mama is a pastor and also, on the side, travels to sing and speak in prisons as well. I love what I do. It is an honor and a privilege. But my crazy schedule urges me to ask myself that question, “Am I a good mom?” She, the girl, she reminds me that I am.

Then there is also my boy. He’s turning 9 this summer. He doesn’t like to give kisses. It’s an interesting thing. He hasn’t done so since he was 3. But he will let me kiss him on the cheek, or head, or neck… anywhere but his cute little lips. He still wants my affection although he remains a little guarded. He’s been very much a daddy’s boy as of late. I’ve wondered if it’s due to my extremely busy schedule this year. Is it because Daddy has been the one to take him to school and help with homework? I’ve asked that nagging question – “Am I a good mom?” Then I got his Mother’s day card, the one from school where it’s fill in the blank and they answer themselves. Yes, he joked that I don’t clean very well and wrote that I am a good cook *when* I cook. Ha. But then when it asked what does she do best? He wrote – comfort me. She’s the one who comforts me whenever I am hurt or sad. She is the one I want to be with. Oh sigh. And then I melted. When I put myself back together I answered my own question with yes, yes I am a good mom. My parenting may look different than yours. It may seem unique. But my kids are unique and their needs are unique.

And so are yours.

And so are you.

So when the questions come, laugh at the answers or cry but know at the end of the day you are probably doing the best you can and that, my friends, is more than enough for your kids. At least for now, for me. It doesn’t mean I don’t strive to be better but it does mean I let myself off that hook of shame. So now I’ll go back to comforting and teaching, to kissing necks and dressing kids and most of all to deeply loving them both.


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Melissa Greene is a pastor at GracePointe Church (www.gracepointe.net) where she leads under the direction of the Senior Pastor Stan Mitchell. She has been on full time staff for the past 6 years where she weekly leads music, curates the services, and now preaches once a month. Melissa also serves as the Hope Curator for the prison outreach, Timothy’s Gift. www.timothysgift.com In her earlier life, for almost 7 years, she was a member of the Grammy nominated and American Music Award winning Christian group, Avalon. Melissa is Mama to two children, Hutch and Haven, and journeys in life along side one wonderful man, Ben.