It’s hard to believe there are only a few more guest posts in our 2015-midst! You get to hear from a fun friend of mine, Bronwyn. She is someone who writes from her most authentic self, and I sure love that about her. Enjoy!
It’s 8:11am, and there’s fussing by the front door:
“Where are your shoes?”
“I can’t find my library book.”
“Why didn’t you unpack your lunch bag yesterday?”
“Hurry up! I don’t want to get another tardy note!”
In the flurry, zips are zipped, snacks are packed, and finally, my husband and older kids tumble out the door. I stand with my youngest—both still in our pajamas and slippers—and call out to them: “Bye! Love you! Conquer the world!” My three year old echoes in a voice that echoes down the street: “Conquer! The! World!!!” and his Daddy rolls down the window as he backs out the driveway and shouts back, “bye! Conquer your little world, too!”
Tail lights disappear down the street, and we click the front door closed.
This is how it happens every day.
We weren’t always world-conquerors, you know.
It started in the deep mid-winter of my husband’s graduate degree, when the data wasn’t coming together and the end was nowhere in sight. We were too far in to quit, but not even close to seeing how we would make it through.
He was discouraged, withdrawn, and under tremendous pressure. His co-workers were mostly single, international students who spent 60-80 hours a week in the lab. He felt the pressure to digest academic journals, to churn out research papers, to show up at the seminars he’d committed to just as they did… but meanwhile, he led a weekly bible study, and attended church, and had a wife who expected him to come home for dinner, and who got decidedly pissy with him if he opened his laptop within thirty minutes of finishing his meal.
Despite our tiny apartment running its heat continually, the temperature inside was frosty. I felt like I couldn’t compete with his computer for his attention, and he felt that no matter how hard he tried, he was disappointing everyone.
We were at an impasse. We were slipping.
A friend was talking about parenting, and her slow realization that, rather than always focusing on her children’s bad behavior, she needed to try and “catch them doing something right” and encourage them in that moment. “Cheering for them gets much better results than complaining,” she observed, and I went home chewing over her words.
Was this not the way God dealt with us: always encouraging us to move towards kindness and goodness by assuring us of His grace and love, rather than coming down on us like a ton of bricks at the slightest infraction? As I looked back on those that had inspired me most at school, was it not those who believed in my potential who caused me to try harder and reach further?
The power of those who love us and cheer us on is fuel for the rainy days, I thought, and perhaps what my husband needs from me is not a critic, or even a life coach, but a cheerleader.
It was a foggy morning in that frosty season that he threw his messenger bag over his shoulder and sighed, just briefly, as he made his way to the front door. Another day in the lab loomed before him.
I was in my bathrobe and stepped into the hallway. “Bye,” I said, “I love you. Conquer the world today.” His eyes were question marks of disbelief. As if! They seemed to object. I stammered: “not that you have to conquer the whole world. But conquer your little corner of it. That’s the most any of us can do. Conquer that part.”
It was more awkward than you imagine, but I tried it the next day, and the next. By the summer, it had become part of our marital liturgy: something I didn’t even realize we were saying but which—like the thousands of I love yous which the emotionally healthy say and then promptly forget—it wove itself into our rhythms.
There was a day when we stood in a cramped office in the College of Graduate Studies. He had just turned in the final page of signatures signaling the completing of his dissertation. I was seven months pregnant with our second child and he held our two year old. “Congratulations, Dr Lea!” the secretary said, “you are officially the holder of a PhD.” Our daughter rang the ceremonial bell, and everyone in the sprawling office stood at the sound and clapped. I laughed and snapped a blurry photo.
Look at you, honey. You conquered the world.
Bronwyn Lea is a South African born writer, speaker, and stay-at-home mama to three Californian littles, conquering the world one load of laundry and one sentence at a time. Her vices include laughing at her own jokes and eating too much home-made ice-cream. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and various other fun places around the web. Cara again: well, wasn’t that fun to read? Indeed, let’s be each other’s biggest fans as we set about conquer the world. How did Bronwyn’s words touch you? Leave her an encouraging comment today!