I know I’ve mentioned this before but having a foreign exchange student is something every family would benefit from. Even if you do just a short stay rather than an entire school year.
This Thanksgiving our latest foreign exchange student’s downright giddiness to experience this new holiday helped me treat the day as something far more special that I often do. I mean, let’s face it, the day comes around every year, so it’s easy for it to be commonplace in our thoughts. But, the change in focus really elevated the holiday for us all. And listening to her say and show such gratitude for the family gathering and the food helped all of us speak more openly about the things we are grateful for. I always say get outside the comfort zone box we all live in as often as possible. It’s how we find fresh perspectives on life and grow into a better people.
I spent time with young adults over the weekend so I find my thoughts still swirling around dating. You’re gonna have to bear with me.
Before I married my husband, I always dated the same type of guy: outgoing, with flashy outward talents like singing or acting, and he had to be a great dancer. These were the things I enjoyed, so I figured this was the only type of guy who would make me happy.
Yet the man I married is none of those things. It’s no small miracle that I ever gave him a chance—he wasn’t the type of guy I thought I wanted. Once I did, I discovered his quiet company complimented my talkative personality. He treated everyone, including me, with a kind of respect I’d never seen before. I had to have him.
Over the weekend I watched the young adults, as I always do. One particular boy stood out to me. Quiet and hulking, this boy didn’t have flashy good looks. He did however open doors and stand aside to let every girl in our group go first. The few times I heard him speak, he showed he wasn’t a mindless lump. The young women in our group didn’t give him much attention, but I was impressed.
I hope you will be wise when dating. Don’t start out with such a narrow view, like I did. What does it hurt to give someone who you think isn’t your type a chance? You might just find, like I did, the unexpected perfect match.
Bowling was the first date I ever went on with my husband over twenty years ago. I soundly beat him that day and did every time we bowled together for years. Sadly for me, over time that dynamic changed. I haven’t won a game of bowling in so long part of me wants to pull my hair out. This last weekend was no different, but oh I was sooo close. I even spared up the tenth frame giving me an opportunity for one more throw. A strike would have been glorious. It would have sealed my victory, but no. I screwed up and that last ball ended up in the gutter. When I realized he only beat me by two points part of me really thought about throwing a fit, but with all our kids there I didn’t want to be the example of a poor-sport. You’d think that after more than a decade I could beat him again at least once. My husband it’s even really competitive about it, and I think that’s what makes me the craziest. He doesn’t even care! And maybe that’s my problem. I get so worked up inside with each passing frame my technique falls parts but he just sits there smiling. All I know–it’s a darn good thing I really like him.
I recently heard a young woman say men are only needed for one thing, but the rest of it would be better if women did it themselves. If you haven’t guessed yet, she was talking about having and raising children. After more than twenty years of marriage, I tried to offer her a little insight into how wrong that idea was. First of all, kids are hard to raise. And just because you are their mother doesn’t mean they’ll go any easier on you. I’m grateful that I never had to face down a tantrum alone, or more likely these days a teenage mood swing. My husband isn’t just hanging out in the background either, for some of our kids he’s the point man. Let’s face it, not all personalities mesh so well, but in those moments my kids have two of us to contend with. And my husband and I are very different when it comes to approach but our goals are the same, so I have no problem stepping back and letting him do the talking.
It saddens me that fathers are being minimalized in this day and age. I see the important role they play every day. You need and want your children to have a father in their life. I don’t care how strong of a woman you think you are, a good father brings unique qualities into a home that aren’t easily replicated by other means.
Like most young ladies, my daughter struggles to believe any young man will ever like her enough to want to be in a relationship with her. She doesn’t think she’s pretty enough, skinny enough, smart enough, athletic enough–pick a category–it’s all the same to her. I hate her constant negativity on the subject and I’m always pointing out the great qualities she has, but it falls on deaf ears.
Incredibly, she thinks being grumpy with everyone around her is somehow the best way to deal with her insecurities. Ugh, it’s frustrating and stupid, if you ask me. So I’m going to tell you what I’ve told her a thousand times. Maybe it’ll reach someone out there in internet land. And because I’m not your mother, you’ll listen and put it into action.
Stop worrying about whether or not a boy will ever like you. That should be the least of your concerns. Instead, focus on changing yourself into someone you can honestly look in the mirror and like. No, this isn’t about being conceited. In fact, it’s the opposite. If there is something you don’t like about yourself, make a plan to fix it. Then, for heaven’s sake, actually put the plan in motion. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your best self be. Stop looking to external praise as a barometer for your efforts. Nobody matters but you. You are the one who has to live with yourself for the rest of your life.
Now, don’t confuse this advice with some stupid notion that I don’t want my daughter to ever have a man or get married. I love being married, it’s added so many amazing dimensions to my life. But there are only two kinds of marriages–really good ones and really crappy ones. Trust me, it’s the good ones you’re looking for. And those good guys don’t want a fixer upper anymore than a good woman wants a fixer upper. That’s why I keep saying start with yourself. Once you have done all you can to make yourself awesome, the dating pool of awesome guys will naturally expand.
I sent my youngest son off to his first Homecoming Dance. It’s a semi-formal affair around here, so I sent him in a shirt and tie. He wasn’t exactly excited about going, but his big sister made the request that he come. She is a senior this year and wanted to share in this “first” together.
My daughter told him there will be lots of “single Pringles”. I don’t know if that’s original to my daughter but that’s what she calls kids without a date. So he didn’t need to actually get a date himself if he wasn’t ready for that.
My daughter did have a date so they left before to take pictures and have dinner. As I drove my son over to meet my daughter and her date at the high school, I tried to impress on him the importance of these kinds of dances.
“These girls do not get all dress up hoping they will just stand against a wall, so please have the courage to ask those single Pringles to dance. And if one asks you to dance, please don’t ever say no. It takes a lot of courage on their part too, so–“
“I know, I know,” he said. “You’ve told me a thousand times–be kind.”
Well, at least I’m now assured that he’s heard me talking all this time. What I wouldn’t give to be a fly on the wall of that school to see if he actually puts all my years of advice into action. I see great potential in him to be an amazing kid, the kind that can change the atmosphere of a situation. He’s naturally charismatic, which, like everything, can be use for good or bad. My fingers are crossed that he’ll choose to use it for good.
I’ve always said the best way to understand something is to experience it. It took the life-altering experience of having children to finally get a sense of what I put my mother through while growing up. To become a better writer, I had to write. A better cook, friend, teacher, or a thousand different grains of knowledge I’ve acquired over the years have all been strengthened by experience. And quite honestly, I’m discovering that might be the easier route to understanding, but in reality it’s not always possible to gain your knowledge through experience.
Non-physical issues are hard to experience if you aren’t prone to those problems. Let’s face it, I’m not shy. I have zero understanding what it’s like to be shy. I do know what it’s like to be nervous, but I also know how to shove the feeling aside and barrel through where others don’t seem to be able to. I’ve tried sharing how I do it with others on many occasions, but the “telling” seldom seems to translate if they can’t create that feeling of boldness inside themselves. And that emotion is something I can’t give to them.
And it even goes the other direction. I’ve listen to countless people explain to me their struggles with depression, but I have no idea what that really feels like. To be honest, I’m grateful that I’ve never felt in such a funk that I couldn’t climb out, but at the same time my lack of understanding hinders my ability to offer tools that might help. And I doubt saying things like, “Come on. We love you, so just pull yourself out,” would be very helpful. But I hate standing by and doing nothing. I’m a helper kind of personality, but over the years I’ve had to learn to swallow my pride and admit that having a desire to help is no substitution for really being able to help.