Saturday, June 2, 2012

A Simple Gesture

I attended a conference down south this past weekend. The plan was to share a room with some friends the first night and then have a night on my own. Instead, I had to forgo the first half of the plan in order to take Hannah to urgent care. 

When she told me two days prior that her throat felt weird I dismissed it as nothing more than sore muscles from her newly acquired roller skating skills (and falls). When my almost nine year-old curled up and took a nap the day I was supposed to leave I had a hunch that plans were about to change. The final clue came by way of me actually looking inside her mouth - only to find it covered with bright red spots. At that point I awarded myself the lame-mother-of-the-week award and changed course.

Prior to my girls' arrival I simply had no idea just how much two small little lives would change my own. I welcome this change in so many ways. Still, on days like last Thursday I find myself flabbergasted - feeling as though I might suffocate somewhere between the three-hour wait at urgent care and the rapid strep test results.  

I did finally make it down south - shoving guilt aside and graciously accepting Phil's offer to don the parental scrubs for the weekend (Hailey's mouth filled with spots the next morning).

The conference itself was great. I gleaned new and refreshingly candid insights from Susan Wise Bauer, respectfully disagreed with much of what John Rosemond had to say and grew increasingly comfortable with the notion that it is somehow completely normal to walk around convention centers (and even adjoining restaurants and coffee shops) with a rolling suitcase (those of you outside the world of homeschooling will just have to trust me on this one).  

But at the end of the day the most profound piece of advise I walked away with was an incredibly simple one - smile. Yes, you read this right. It turns out that many of us parents (you know...the well-intended, fully-engaged, book-reading, organic-cooking type of parents) are walking around with frowns on our faces!

Yes, this parenting business is serious stuff. And no, we're not intentionally walking around scowling. But when Susan Wise Bauer dared to disclose that her mother looked furious most of the time during her growing up years, it caused me to pause. 

By all accounts, Susan's mother is a wise and loving woman. She was also a mother who felt the weight of parenting and educating and nurturing her children every single dayIn her case (and I would imagine for many of us) this pressure, this ever-changing selfless status with all of its twists and turns too often translates into a frown.  And our kids take note.  

Just in case there was any question as to whether or not I needed to turn my  frown upside down, I had a coffee shop encounter this past week that sealed the deal. It was one of those days. I had one hour to get revisions off to my editor. I entered The Good Cup in hopes of locating a seat near an outlet. As I set up my second-rate option (trusting my battery would hold out) I was approached by one of the shop's regulars. He moved in uncomfortably close and proceeded to tell me through his sparkling grin that he had never seen me smile. 

Unbeknownst to him, his timing was impeccable. Yes it was also random, a bit creepy and lacking regard for personal space but I'm choosing to see past these things in light of the bigger lesson at hand. I'm not a miserable soul - really, I'm not. I am happily married and have two great kids whom I genuinely enjoy being around most of the time.

Still, what I'm coming to understand is that within the intensity and unpredictability of this season I have to remind myself of several things. Expressions are not neutral. Our children (and random coffee shop regulars) are watching us. And in the end, the consistency of a mother's smile brings comfort and reassurance in ways that few things do.  



  1. Such a simple yet important reminder - thanks Cari!

  2. I love your smile! Thanks for the reminder. (I was skyping with my sis the other day and noticed how much I frown). Love and smiles to you. C

  3. It's funny, Cari, that I actually think about this smiling thing often....and especially lately. June can be a crazy month for us, so I have to remind myself to keep a sense of humor and to not take life and myself so seriously. This by no means comes naturally. I believe it wasn't until, I too, was told by people that I appeared angry when I became more aware of the need to smile. Also, it is impossible to be angry or upset when you genuinely smile. Amy Palmer

    1. So true about the impossibility of being angry or upset while genuinely smiling. Thanks Amy.

  4. Nice photo (and great smile in it too). You must have had that taken with some super fun people...

    Love the post. Love the concept. I definitely smile less with my children than with others, and I love your point.

    Can't wait to hear more about the conference. I was sad to miss.

    1. Ah yes I was indeed in the company of very fun and remarkably witty individuals that day.

      The conference was great. I did see Rea and was of course appreciative of all that she had to say.

  5. GREAT thought. Glad you brought it up! At least, I think I'm glad you brought it up. . .