Haphazard Lifestyle Advice: How to Wedding, Part 1

I’ve said for quite some time, when describing it to people who ask, that this blog space is like a lifestyle blog, except the opposite. You know? Like, when I think lifestyle blog, I think Martha Stewart or Goop or Chrissy Teigen (whom I ❤️ and with whom I am well pleased) . Someplace neat and tidy and pretty and delicious, right? I definitely do not think of a mentally ill mother of five who pooped her closet. Or who plays I Spy with the items found under her couch. Or who shows off the Ancient Horrifying Golem Stubs ™, ℠, ®, © that exist underneath her dental makeover. 

At the same time, I’ve spent the last couple decades living in abject chaos — just utter emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual messiness in degrees that ebb and flow as constantly as the tide — and I’ve learned a thing or two about making magic in its midst. Finding grace in the grime. Seeking joy in uncertainty. Finding the thin places where the divine and sacred meet the mundane and monotonous. And realizing that I don’t have to have a stream of beautifully styled photographs full of light and bright, open spaces to have a LIFE that is beautiful and full of light and allows me room to breathe.

To be sure, I’m not bad-mouthing lifestyle blogs. I LOVE looking at the pretty pictures and visual inspiration and sheer art humans can create in their clothes and hair and makeup and homes and food — especially the food — and I know they’re frequently accused of being fake, but I don’t believe that at all. I think there are people who are called toward loveliness. And people whose life work it is to beckon beauty closer. And I think it says more about us and our jealousy and sometimes rage when we assume there’s deceit involved than it says about them. I love lifestyle blogs, and I can admire them and also admit my bedroom usually looks like this:

And my bathtub is actual a depository for dirty dishes:

And this is my kitchen table when it’s VERY, VERY CLEAN:

It’s sometimes hard for me to remember that I was a professional event planner in a past life. In charge of making beautiful days happen for others. PAID for it, like I was CAPABLE OF IT. I mean, it’s a good thing no one had a crystal ball or they never — not ever — would’ve trusted my judgement to the degree that they’d entrust me with a WHOLE WEDDING. 

I think that’s why the Oregon Coast and International retreats have been so fun for me to host. And why I’m ecstatic that we bought the farm. The events I get to run marry all the joy of beauty and planning grounded in living authentically and vulnerably and messily and in deep community with others. The very best of the Both/And world in my book. Like I’m allowed to bring my full self to the table and offer my mess as a feature and not a bug. Like I’m allowed to exist in dichotomous states simultaneously; order and chaos; beauty and grime; fear and faith; weariness and wonder; grounded and ready to take flight.

Which brings me to the MOST EXCITING NEWS, friends. Because the VERY BEST THING happened.

My oldest kid, my virtual twin, the child who made me a mommy for the very first time has FOUND HER HUMAN, folks. And he found his human in her. And so they’re engaged. TO BE MARRIED.

And, not to pat myself on the back too, too much, but NEVER HAVE I EVER been more glad we welcomed Chandler warmly from Day One. Like he was already family. Like he had already earned our respect. Like he was good and smart and kind. Because I will tell you, as a How to Wedding prequel, the way you welcome your child’s humans — friends and romantic interests alike — helps inform your child regarding how much and how completely they can reveal themselves to you. NEVER HAVE I EVER been more glad, now that we get to keep him forever and ever, that we’re doing this based on a firm foundation of friendship and mutual admiration. 

So the next many months of my life, until next summer, shall be in Wedding Mode at Abby and Chandler’s direction. And because a) they gave me permission, b) I like to share all the Big Things with you, and c) I have a background in wedding planning tempered with 20+ years of murky, marvelous life experience, we’re starting a How to Wedding series today. Tips and tricks. How to plan a wedding on a budget. How to navigate the ups and downs of meeting more needs than just the bride’s and the groom’s. And more.

For today, part one of How to Wedding, in short, is just this: risk trusting your people.

That is a HARD THING, friends. Because, from my perspective as a mama who’s now launched a couple kiddos to adulthood and who has three more to go, trust feels like standing on the edge of a cliff, especially because trusting your children as wise, capable, savvy humans in their own right — even from the time they’re young — means casting aside all of the authoritarian methods of parenting. And nothing — no thing — in my life has felt more risky than ditching the very clear, “how to” parenting books and strategies in favor of trusting my humans and myself to navigate their childhood with the kind of flexibility, grace, and kindness that’s required if we want to create compassionate, critical thinkers instead of rules-based bots. 

For us, this looked like assuming the best of our kids. Trusting their motives were pure. Over and over and over again. It meant deciding on rules together so there was buy-in. It meant answering them when they asked “why,” instead of supplying the much easier “because I said so.” It meant focusing more on privileges and responsibility than on consequences (even though there were still consequences.) And it meant finding ways to constantly praise and reinforce the positive rather than wait for a negative behavior to correct.

It meant that when two of them were fighting, we’d separate them, talk to them individually, and, instead of scolding them for arguing, we’d start with a statement like, “You’re trying really hard right now, aren’t you? Tell me how you’re feeling and what you want to accomplish.” Now, YES, the Very First Statement from them was often “Well, he…” or “Well, she…” followed by an Itemized List of the Ways Their Sibling Wronged Them, and YES, my Very First Statement was usually “YOU ARE DRIVING ME ALL THE WAY CRAZY WITH THIS BICKERING,” but, eventually, with a nearly unfathomable amount of talking and trying to give benefit of the doubt and especially trusting our people, they have, mostly, learned to trust themselves and trust their people — their sibs AND their parents — too. And I will tell you from this vantage point with an adult child all the way in love with her person, standing on a foundation of mutual trust gives you a LOT of room for building a sustainable relationship with your kids in the future.

You WANT to arrive at this destination, folks. The view from here is STUNNING.

Listen. There will be times during their childhood or adolescence— frequently or infrequently depending on the temperaments of you and your child — when you will want to SHAKE SENSE INTO THEM. When you will question where they have EVER listened to ANY words you say. When they sneak out of their bedroom window in the middle of the night to hang out with their friends in the park down the street and you catch them only because they’re very, very terrible at sneaking out and leave on the lights in their room and the screen off the window, and you will wonder if THIS IS IT, the BEGINNING OF THEIR DOWNWARD SPIRAL into a LIFE OF DRUGS AND SEX AND CRIME and ultimately end up in PRISON where they will wear orange jumpsuits and trade sexual favors for packs of cigarettes a la Orange Is the New Black.

There will be times during their childhood or adolescence when you will BEG God to give you PATIENCE even though you KNOW BETTER THAN TO PRAY THAT PRAYER LEST GOD GIVE YOU UNLIMITED OPPORTUNITIES TO PRACTICE, because if you hear any more whining about how they have to do “EVERYTHING — ALL the chores, ALL the time — and no one else ever does ANYTHING” while you’re driving them to dance rehearsal after picking them up from school in between trips to the grocery store, the pharmacy, and taking your other 27 children to doctors’ appointments, the orthodontist, and soccer practice… because if you hear ANY more whining and if God doesn’t give you patience, STAT — like INSTANT PATIENCE — you are going to pull over, leave the car running, get out, and walk all the way to Mexico.

There will be moments you will think about a relationship with your child built on trust and making rules together, and you will SCOFF because HA! THIS CHILD HAS THE BRAIN POWER OF A SNAIL and the impulse control of the masturbating monkey at the zoo who throws poo on his cage mates. And there will be times you will have to pull the authoritarian parenting card because that’s the only way to keep them, you know, ALIVE.

But circle back to trust, friends. And to telling them until it becomes super annoying how worthy of that trust they are. Give them amounts of freedom that aren’t completely reckless but that make your heart stutter a little. Remind them every time they have a privilege — biking to the store, walking the dog alone, staying up late — that it’s because they deserve it. They earned it. They’re worthy of it. And you know you can trust they’ll use their privileges wisely. THIS IS AN EFFECTIVE FORM OF BRAINWASHING. It totally works . Eventually.

There’s nothing to date I’ve found more powerful in parenting than being able to say, “You know I trust you. You know I give you a whole lot of freedom and privileges. But every now and then I’m going to have to pull the parenting card and say no… or say not yet… or say we have to pull back on this privilege and try again later.” Y’all, they actually listen. And acquiesce. Sometimes while grumbling, but still with the listening. 

It’s a game changer, I tell you.

And it’s a gift to yourself, too. Because when your child is no longer a child, and you’ve spent the time and energy learning to trust her, knowing for Certain Sure she makes good decisions (other than the sneaking-out blips when she didn’t make good decisions because she’s human and fallible and has to learn from failure just like the rest of us) and picks good people to bring into her life, you will reap the rewards of that trust.

And entering this season of life with joy and a light heart?

Priceless.

With love (and excitement! ),

 

 

 

P.S. More soon!

 

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
10 comments
  1. I needed to read every word of this tonight. Because parenting is hard. Thank you!

    Also, congratulations to your daughter and her fiancé!

  2. Two things: you have beautiful hair, and your kitchen floor looks very clean. (Wishing you all much happiness…)

  3. I am in the midst of wedding madness at the moment. My middle daughter is marrying her human in 3 weeks. So much excitement!

  4. Aww, they’re so cute! How fun for your family.

  5. Yay!! such exciting news!! Congratulations all of you!! <3

  6. i needed this reminder… we have 17, 14, and 9 and it’s so hard but you are so right.

  7. Congratulations!! And what great parenting advice! I don’t always get it right, but somehow I did figure out the part about treating significant others as if they are going to be here forever. And because my son’s current SO looks likely to be here forever, and he is a musician, and they both have years of grad school left, I am looking forward to the rest of the budget wedding tips!

  8. Congrats!! And thanks for the parenting advice. Trying to do more positive reinforcement rather than consequence-based stuff but it can be so hard. I needed to see this.

  9. It’s so fun!!! My son is in the getting married phase, too!! 11 more months!! I love her more than I can say!! Him, too. But, I’ve had him for longer. I’ve only had her for a couple of years.

    I hope we both have a total blast in this wedding deal!!

    CCM

  10. How exciting!!!! <3

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