Get Back in Your Box and Other Such Nonsense

One of the most difficult things for me to deal with as a woman is the social pressure to be less, smaller, quiet. I am none of those things. And while I've always cared about other peoples feelings and social pressure, I've never been those things. I am big. I am loud. I don't like to be behind the scenes. And I have lots of feelings. Unfortunately, because I am intelligent, I am often in conversations or environments where those things about me, particularly my big feelings, are treated as a liability rather than an asset. I cannot tell you how many seasons of my life I spent trying to tame the beast that is me. I tried to be quiet, to be small, to be less. I am, sadly, still given that opportunity from time to time and it is a difficult thing to resist. 
And yet there is this other raging voice that comes in and wants me to burn it all to the ground. It makes me want to throw in the towel and just rage at everyone and everything that might want to correct me, change me, reason with me, disagree with me, etc. This reaction to refusing to get back into the box is normal. It's part of how we deal with a philosophical shift. We react in a big way and lean hard in the other direction. I also believe this "box stuff" is triggered by my church trauma and so being reactionary also touches on an area of grief and loss for me. 
The problem with living in this world with a black and white brain is that I've come to the point in my process where my life is giving me opportunities for a middle ground. I will not get back in the box, that much is absolutely secure. And yet, can I live in community with people who are in those boxes but are not willing to get out, or who do not agree that they are a problem or who claim they love their box? Am I strong enough to resist the temptation to climb back in? Am I discrete enough that I won't jump in to their box and rip it from them? Can I respect their process?
I can't imagine that there are only a few boxes and we're all in them or out of them, but rather that each person has boxes that they stay in, burn down or reason with. So my box might work for someone else but it is bondage to me. Can I be shaped by or vulnerable with someone in my old box? I feel my life knocking on this door and I want to run so badly. I want to burn it all down. I am afraid to face those boxes, even as a stronger, more confident version of myself. I want to stop fighting growth because growth hurts and moderation is for suckers. Becoming more mature and healthier is so, so hard. I'm scared. And yet, drawing a line in the sand, and declaring "I'm done sitting in my stuff!" to the world feels like losing. I know that the more I go down this road of personal development, the more growth, joy, peace and freedom I will find. No one can put me in the box again. But being unable to be around my old boxes is just a new kind of box, isn't it? I will not let my fear dictate my life. I won't. 

When Daddy Takes the Reins

It's such a strange thing to get married. I remember when Tim and I were in our premarital counseling and one of the books we were reading said that behavior before marriage is no indication of behavior after marriage. What, WHAT? That was reassuring! I was a bit of a basket-case throughout our engagement. I knew marriage was forever and that I couldn't and shouldn't try to change my spouse so I was trying to keep my eyes wide open about who this man was and if I could commit to love everything about him, with unconditional acceptance. As you can imagine, Tim was cool as a cucumber. Completely confident. So confident in fact that as he was proposing, he handed me a Bible with his last name engraved on it next to my first name. I was going to be his wife. It sounds kinda douchy when I put it like that, but it didn't come across that way. He was just 100% sure of me, of us, of forever. It was weird and sweet and probably a big part of what gave me the confidence to walk down the aisle that day.
If pre-marital behavior is no indication of post-marital behavior, you can imagine how much of a risk it is to become a parent with your spouse. Getting married is about the two of you, a cementing of a relationship that you've already been building for awhile. Becoming parents is a real and total crapshoot. You really have no idea what kind of parent you'll be, regardless of how much babysitting you've done. There's just no way to really be prepared. It's such a huge transition for both people and changes so much of who you are. And depending on the child you have and the circumstances you're in, you continually get shaped as you parent your child who is in a constant state of transition as well. 
I was confident Tim would be a good dad. He was always great with kids when we were around them. He was a youth minister, so he obviously had great rapport with teens. I was sheltered as a kid and he grew up in a much more diverse neighborhood. So what I lacked in street smarts, he had in spades. I thought we'd be a good team, as I had more experience with young kids and he was so good with older kids. 
He and I have so many shared interests and talents but we have completely different personalities. We've found that if we're out of balance, our kids aren't getting the full advantage that we bring when we share the load of parenting well. If I'm leaning in too hard, our kids don't get pushed. If he's leaning in too hard, our kids don't receive enough coddling. It's a balance and I feel our kids are pretty lucky to have us, if I do say so myself.
One of the things both of our children hated as toddlers (which is where Penny's at right now) is having their hair washed. As the stay-at-home parent, many of our regular parenting responsibilities fall to me, but once Tim is home, it's all-hands-on-deck. It's always been that way. Some of my friends are basically single parents with a husband roommate. Her responsibilities don't shift into co-parenting when daddy gets home. It's almost like it doesn't matter if he's there or not. It's baffling to us and I don't understand how that works. People are always praising Tim for being an engaged father and/or telling me how lucky I am. While those things are true, I always thought it was harmful to the child and the father (or the non-primary parent) when one parent shoulders the full parental responsibility unnecessarily (I say unnecessarily in this case because of course, many single parents don't have a choice in this matter and are awesome warriors for their kids in having to essentially fulfill two peoples' worth of work). So for us, it's not so much that "we're so lucky" (though I know we are) but more of a "this is what is best for our children."
Because of this dynamic, Tim has washed his fair share of screaming toddlers. And as I've illustrated, Penny has some things going on in her development that can make these kinds of things particularly difficult. My strategy is to avoid bathing them as much as possible and then when it's necessary, bathe them in 30 seconds flat and get them the heck out of there. Tim's approach is different. The other night while Penny was howling for me, Tim very patiently bathed her for about 15 minutes. He soothed her. He never lost his cool. He engaged her in play. Any time she would start to get worked up, he'd catch her before she got too far down the emotional path of full tantrum. He tried to give her an experience that wasn't traumatic and re-enforcing her hatred of getting her hair washed. In his mind, if she starts to rack up positive hair-washing experiences, eventually she'll grow out of her fear. Pretty genius, right?
I sat in the hallway where she couldn't see me but where he knew I was present, supporting him in his process and available if needed. While my heart wanted to push him out of the way and pull her out of there, this was one of those moments (there are many) where I need to back the fuck off and let him be a dad. And it is to the full benefit of my child, let me tell you. It was just so incredibly precious to hear them sharing this experience. While I was sweating bullets, he remained present in the storm with her. 
He's the parent that stays the course when things get hard. I want to cut our losses and take it to the professionals or stop altogether and Tim is the one who can tune out the chaos and do what's best for our children in that moment. Sometimes that looks like continually fishing that splinter out while Macy howls in fear. Sometimes that's washing Penny's hair while speaking soothingly to her and taking his time. He's the one who gives Penny many opportunities to take a bite of her dinner, when I would have given up after 3 tries. Granted, sometimes you have to cut your losses and that's where the balance of he and I come in. I'm much more likely to let my children lead. But sometimes they need a parent to lead them. And that's where daddy comes in, showing our kids that scary things can be faced and can be overcome with our help. And I could not be more proud and grateful to have been able to carry this man's children and to share this tremendous responsibility with him.