The 502nd Seagull & Bare Booties!

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Last summer Tanner and I read through my childhood copy of Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach. The classic has become our family’s favorite, tasting it over grilled peaches and cream, watching the movie, and last weekend, redeeming Tanner’s Christmas present- a date to see the play, at the South Coast Repertory. His favorite part? Watching the over-sized insects rope the “imaginary” seagulls to the peach stem, lifting the fruit away from the jaws of veracious sharks below. As the book describes, “And now came the big moment. Quickly, the five hundred and second seagull was caught and harnessed to the peach-stem… And then suddenly…But slowly…Majestically…Like some fabulous golden balloon… With all the seagulls straining at the strings above…The giant peach rose up dripping out of the water and began climbing toward the heavens.” {p.66, James and the Giant Peach}

How can the seagulls lift the peach? They are so small and their wings are so tiny?, Tanner asked. Hmmm. Point made.

You’re right. They are small, but how many did it take to lift the peach away? Remember, 100, 200..400, 500, 501 seagulls, and once the 502nd seagull was roped with Miss Spiders thread, the peach hovered over the ocean and slowly lifted into the sky. It it weren’t for the 502nd seagull, the poor bugs would’ve been eaten by  sharks.

Sometimes things look small, but when you join them together, they make a big difference.

I’m a passionate person. Bryan enjoys teasing me – more like mocking – when I get animated, my cheeks flush as I wildly wave my arms in large gestures.

Oh, someone’s getting her pom poms out!

Very funny, I smirk. {insert cheer move}

I’m realizing one of the topics I get real passionate about is showing up for my boys, protecting them over protecting “what others will think of me if I say something” which I admit, I haven’t always done a good job at.

When the boys were little, I didn’t want to “create waves” with friends over their child-rearing perspective, often ignoring situations where I should have stood up for my sons. One particular instance, was a day at church when Tanner was less than two. A friend whose oldest son was highly energetic and often downright mean, kicked Tanner squarely in the shins. To say I was in shock is an understatement. There’s a darn pendulum with parenting and I’m sad to admit that in those days I wavered on the side of not wanting to be “that overprotective parent” so I said nothing. The mom sent her son to time-out but didn’t ask him to apologize to Tanner or take responsibility for his actions. Tanner stood there crying, no acknowledgment made his way, or opportunity for exchange of apology and forgiveness, no closure at all. On the way home, my oldest asked in a confused voice, Why did he kick me? Why didn’t he say he was sorry? I knew in that moment I’d failed my son. I’m all for letting my kids learn the hard way and not sheltering them in bubble-wrap, but this? This was not it.

There’s a fine line between allowing mama bear to trump every miniscule occurrence, and choosing to not to say anything, which, in fact, is very much saying something. Wisdom displays when we hold our children accountable for their actions and provide words for situations they may not understand.

If we don’t talk with our kids about conflict, feelings, communication, who will?

I’m finding value in protecting them, in seeing injustice and caring more about addressing a potentially awkward conversation with a friend or stranger than ignoring it.

I’ve grown braver. Incidents continue, they always will when children play together, as witnessed when of one of my boys bit a friend’s child. Roles were reversed. It was a chance to show up by addressing the unfortunate choice my lil’ man had made and have him apologize to his buddy. Thankfully my friend was gracious and forgiving. Thus, swings the pendulum.

Our community is one in which we’ve given one another permission to speak into our lives, including our kids too. Doesn’t matter whose kid it is- if someone is hitting, or hurting, or potty-talking, or being mean, we address it in love. I trust my community in the way I parent, in the way they parent. This doesn’t replace my role as parent over my child, but we can’t see all. Our kids aren’t perfect. They make mistakes. There’s freedom in allowing us to have an understanding of talking with each others children about wise and unwise choices, and what warrants discipline. We protect our kids, each others kids, and our friendships in the process.

Protecting our kids includes showing up for them in what’s being done to them, and what’s being put in front of them.

My passion was in full-force yesterday. Like standing-on-the-high-school-cheer-box, waving-those-pom-poms-for-all-to-see passion. The boys and I were spending a rainy afternoon at our favorite bookstore.

Enter bookstore. Squeak, squeak of rain boots. Walk to the back. Make our way to the escalator, where the children’s section awaits upstairs. Scrreeeeech! Brakes. Whoa! What?

There hunched a magazine display, a 4 x 3 shelf lined with covers of standing women, their barely covered booties screaming at every customer Look at me! Look at my buns! Check these out! And look, my boys did.

Mom, Ty laughed. I see nakey booties. {Sidenote: Friends, as if this isn’t a struggle with our youngest anyway. The kid stands on the chair at every meal, waving his buns, singing his made-up song ‘Shake your booty.’ Ty, get down! He clearly does not need more ammunition in the booty-displaying department. Side, side note: I can’t get enough of him :)}

Ha! Awkward Tanner giggle. You can see their bottoms.

It started below my neck- the hot flush. Up it coursed, through my cheeks and I’m convinced my curly fro took on its embarrassed hue.

Really? Really bookstore peeps? Is that necessary to put right there, a beacon of awkward light shining at every person who is approaching the escalator?

Adrenaline pumped. It continued for the hour we read, and I knew. I knew I had to say something. Augh!

Down the escalator to the check-out table. Pass the semi-nakey booties, I practically shoved the boys in the opposite direction.

When things are uncomfortable, we really have two choices- to say something, or ignore it. Not every hill is worth dying on, but I’ve ignored things too often. This is worth speaking up for. My boys, children everywhere, heck- adults in general, are bombarded by these ads on a daily basis. Please don’t go shoving it in our faces when we just came to read some stories.

So I said something. And my face was as red as a tomato. And I could’ve cared less.

The display at the bottom of the elevator, I told the lady, is super inappropriate. Half naked women on the cover of magazines are not what every child, every person, needs to see on their way upstairs. My boys are going to have a hard enough time facing temptations in this world, and I wonder if we don’t need to encourage that my placing it for all the world to see on the way up to where Clifford and fairy-tales live? My ears were ringing at this point. It happens when I’m nervous, and I was overly aware of the people standing behind me in line. I didn’t care. I’m here to protect my kids, to show that I’m willing to have awkward conversations on behalf of what messages they are sent, what images are dancing in front of them. If my words mean they move a stupid display, great!

The lady was sweet and said she’d talk with the manager about it.

On the way out, I wondered how many customers had been in the bookstore that day. 100? 200? Maybe 501? Well, I hope I was the 502nd person that saw that display and said something.

I refuse to believe the lie that our kids don’t notice when we protect their eyes and hearts. God gave us a voice to speak in love and show up for them the best we can. It’s the tiny steps, the small ways of noticing and being aware of how the world is speaking to them, and allowing His truth to speak the loudest. I imagine authentic conversations are like the seagulls in James and the Giant Peach. It’s one more seagull that adds up over time. 501 ropes, then 502, until up, up, up goes the peach into safe skies.

Would you join me in being the 502nd seagull? In being protectors of our children’s hearts and minds? In speaking in love; whether it’s in discipline, or awkward parenting conversations, or about an inappropriate displays. I’m right there alongside you.

After I burn all the magazines at the bookstore 🙂

How do you handle conflict with others? With your kids? Do you tend to shy away from uncomfortable situations or address it? How, like the 502nd seagull, are your small steps making a big difference? 


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