Whitney Houston, Handstands, and Hope

November 8, 2016

Being a mom isn’t easy.

This seems like one of the greatest understatements ever spoken, but it’s no less true.

Some days are easier than others, full of hugs, dance parties, giggles, puzzles completed, piles of books read, and nature explored.

Other days are harder and I am just trying to make it through and keep us all alive without emotionally scarring my children.

On those days, one of the questions I find myself asking is “why is it that people have kids?”

I don’t ask this question because I think I made a mistake. Or 2 mistakes, for that matter. I don’t ask the question because I regret becoming a mom. I am grateful for my amazing, brave, silly, kids every single sticky handed, tear-streaked, snot-nosed, bipolar day. Even on the hardest days, I am glad to be their mom.

I ask the question, “Why did I have kids,” to remind myself of the reason.

The biggest reason for me, and I think many people, is that I am hopeful for the future.

I look at my kids and I see the incredible possibilities ahead for them as they grow up. I see the world I want them to live in and I’m hopeful for that world. I see the amazing things they could do and I’m hopeful for their potential experiences. I see the change they could help create and I’m hopeful for their passion and their ideas.

I have the highest hopes for my 2 kids, but hope is not enough.

Hope needs a catalyst.

In order to make our hopeful visions of the future more likely, we try to teach our kids how to create a better world than the one we live in now.

Hope alone is not enough. We need action.

Without actions, hope is an ephemeral thing that lives in our hearts and our minds but doesn’t exist in real life.

This is much harder.

It’s also true of everything we do.

You can’t wish your way into a handstand. You have to practice it over and over and over and over again. You need to fall out of it more times than you get up into it. You need to struggle and fail and learn from your mistakes and try again.

Because then when you finally do “get it”, you have a deeper appreciation for your success. You also have the tools and the skills to do it again and again and again on your own. As a bonus, you also now know how to TEACH it to other people who want to learn how to handstand.

Even when you’ve had success, you’ll still have days that suck. You’ll struggle like you’ve never done a handstand before. You’ll get frustrated. You’ll rage. You’ll have trouble understanding why on this day it’s just not working.

You might fight with yourself. You might stomp around on your mat. You might swear off handstands.

You’ll probably even feel despair.

Despair can be a great motivator, too.

The trick is to let despair in and to see despair for what it is, the emotion that lives in the shadow of hope. If you can keep showing up on your mat, even on the shittiest days, despair doesn’t win.

Because when you show up, you are reminding yourself that you are hopeful. You believe that you can do better. You believe that you can make a difference.

(I might now be talking about more than handstands. More than even parenting. This might be everything.)

I think human beings are inherently hopeful. We believe that the future is bright. Whether your future is full of handstands or happy, healthy kids, the idea is the same.

Hope is not enough. We need action.

I reminded myself of this yesterday, after a particularly rough morning with my daughter. We were late for school and I made the mistake of helping her put her shoes on and in her anger, she hit me, hard. I was so exhausted from packing up our house and waking up at least twice a night for 6 months to nurse her brother and never having a break from either of my kids, that I nearly hit her back. I was so angry at her. So tired of doing this on my own. I was so over the threenager drama.  I was so tired of being pushed to the brink of rage by my defiant child. I was so emotionally exhausted from being the only adult in charge. I felt despair. That reaction was something that felt like the worst choice. A choice that didn’t represent me or the love I have for my kids. It showcased my despair.

I started to cry. I asked myself why I had kids in the first place. I cried some more. I asked myself the question again. Hope started to creep back in. But I had no time for action other than getting her in the car and driving her to school.

After school, when I picked her up, I made a different choice. We needed to get home quickly, but instead of forcing her to get in the car immediately, I chased her around on the grass in the warm November sunlight. I tried to think of what I wanted to teach her. I tried to act in a way that would make her smile and feel loved and less stressed. It was a small action that made the day and my heart more hopeful for us, as mother and daughter. Also for her, someday, as a mother or an aunt or a friend.

I remind myself of this on this day when we are hopefully about to elect our first female president. The world right now is full of anger, dissonance, hostility, and despair. The future doesn’t always feel so bright.

As Whitney Houston once sang, “I believe the children are the future. Teach them well and let them lead the way. “

I voted early, with both my kids in tow. Milly asked what the word “Vote” meant and I explained it to her. This morning when we talked about how she and her grandma were going to go vote together, she said, “voting means choosing what you want.” Which was pretty much what I’d told her a week before.

As we head into this final day of a long, stressful election, this is what keeps coming back to me. I believe my children are the future. I don’t just want to hope their future will be bright. I want to show them how to create it.

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