Friday, December 10, 2010
Welcome Izabella Rose, 7lbs 15oz, 20 inches
Have you ever noticed that from the get-go we are introduced by our size? To this day I know that I weighed 7lbs 13oz. This eventually gives way to age, then year in school, and then to profession ("So what do you do?"). Yet none of these aspects of our lives say anything truly meaningful about who we are.
This past week, on December 7th at 1:13 am, my niece made her debut 3 weeks before her due date. And I had no idea how much she weighed or how long she was for the first 48 hours. Everyone I would share these glad tidings with would ask, "How big is she?" And I know this is just our training. I ask this too. So this is not to beat up on anyone for asking.
As Westerners (and I do believe this does not apply for all cultures), we are constantly trying to categorize and label so that we know how to relate to others. When we ask about the birthweight of a baby, we plug in the data to discern whether the child is healthy and "normal", and also to get a picture in our head of the child. It is also simply a trained response passed down through generations that we ask how mom and baby are doing, and the stats - it's one of the ways we are socialized to connect with each other.
But when I heard myself saying, "I have no idea," to this usual question regarding baby stature, it got me to thinking about how little this really matters in getting to know a new little person. And then too how little these stats matter about any of us.
As parents and community members in the lives of young people, it is up to us to be very conscientious about how we are training our youth to see themselves and each other. We pass along distorted vision from generation to generation, rarely meaning to emotionally harm or damage our kids and each other. But we do. We dress it up in concern for our children's health, or in our desire for them to feel accepted in school, all the while projecting onto them our own fears about these very things and our own experience with these issues in our past.
My grandfather once said something to me that felt like a bruise on my heart for decades until I forgave him about 5 years ago. I was eight at the time, and surely he did not mean it the way I experienced it. He said, "You are going to get fat if you keep eating candy." A very simple statement, but I would later learn that he had issues and fears about obesity. As an eight-year old, I couldn't separate his words to me from how I believed he saw me. I couldn't see his fear for what it was, so I made his concern my reality and soon thereafter went on my first of many diets.
A couple of weeks ago, while watching a slide show that one of my sisters created for our youngest sister for her wedding, something struck me with ferocity. Picture after picture of me at ages seven to nince flashed on the screen, and for the first time I saw myself as I really was at that time - healthy. I had very skinny cousins and a sister who had small and delicate features. But I looked completely normal! I was running about and playing just like any average eight year old I meet on the street.
So how have I carried this story about being the "chubby girl" for so long? Even my sister Amy (the one who put the slide show together) agreed with me when I told her about my revelation. She said, "Yeah, I kept thinking the same thing as I looked through pictures of you at that age!"
In twenty-four hours, I will be on the road headed from CO to Dallas, TX to meet my new niece. As the excitement builds of holding her in my arms and kissing her beautiful cheeks, I am preparing myself to greet her in a new way. My job as her aunt is to be clear about the thoughts I am thinking of her as well as the words I say to her.
As I wrap this up, what comes to mind is a scene from the film, "Away We Go" (released in 2009). This romantic comedy is about a couple who finds out they are pregnant (unexpectedly) and who set out on a journey to find the perfect place to raise their daughter. After a riotous adventure learning how they DON'T want to be as parents (they visit several of their friends who have families), they come to a scene where they are laying on a trampoline. The entire movie Verona (the expectant mother) has turned down Burt's marriage proposals, she does yet again and he asks her why. She says she promises him that she is committed for life and does not feel she needs to marry him for this to be true.
As the scene unfolds, a sort of impromptu vow exchange begins to take place. They take turns asking, "And do you promise..." followed by saying "I do." It is one of the most beautiful love scenes I have ever witnessed in a romantic comedy. One of the expectant father's requests is that they love their little girl no matter what. I tried to find the movie clip, but was unsuccessful and wouldn't want to spoil the movie for anyone.
But the reason I am sharing this with you at all is because he says something so poignant about how he wants them to love their daughter unconditionally, that it glimmers of a new paradigm for how we can love our children. There is a glint of hope in raising our kids in a completely new way, that is focused on what really matters. Somehow this does not include their physical makeup.
I invite you to explore this new paradigm with me. I encourage all of us to catch ourselves when we are making judgments about others based on what our socialized eyes are trying to tell us. I invite us to go beyond, "How big is she?" and "How much did she weigh?"