Out of Order

If you had asked me a few hours earlier, I would have thought the flat tire would have been the trickiest part of my day. When I finally decided to acknowledge the “Check Tire Pressure” light flashing on my dashboard, the air pump at the gas station sucked the air out of my tire instead of putting it in.  Maybe, had I paid closer attention, I would have noticed the rubber of the Goodyear sagging into the concrete before the tire actually went flat, or I would have bothered to flip the backwards piece of paper on top of the air pump that read “Out of Order.”  Maybe, if my head weren’t in a thousand different directions this afternoon, I would have noticed something out of order in my daughter’s voice when I called her from the park.

Instead, I was distracted by these guys.


My son has been in his Halloween costume since Friday.  He has played Wii in it, gone grocery shopping in it.  He’s eaten meals in it and read books in it. He stood next to my flat tire in it when I rolled my car up the street to another gas station, desperate to find air.  No one loves being a little boy more than my son.   He lives for the magic of the Tooth Fairy and Halloween and Christmas. I don’t know how many more years we have left of this, but the magic is his as long as he wants it.   Maybe because I believe this is how it should be, at least for my kids, that I was surprised when parents at the park commented about my letting my kid play in his costume.

One of the things that’s nice about being a semi well-adjusted adult is that people can have their opinions and not agree with how you parent and outwardly judge you, and you can learn to not care.  Truthfully, it took me years to grow into this person who doesn’t care.  And it took my having to be on the receiving end of a lot of judgment.  Yet, at some point, you ask yourself why you feel the need to explain your choices to some opinionated person you’ve just met on a park bench and are likely to never see again, and it hits you:  you don’t owe them an explanation.

And then your daughter’s voice brings you back into a different kind of reality, a semi-adolescent reality.  The difference between my son and my oldest daughter is that he’ll wear the Captain America costume to the grocery store and not care if you laugh at him for it.  He’ll most likely believe you’re laughing with him.  He’ll then crack a joke about himself and before long, the two of you will be out in the parking lot playing Beyblades. He’s too busy loving life to waste thirty seconds of his day to take anything personally.

Then, there’s my daughter, who wouldn’t be caught dead in the Captain America costume at the grocery store and would rather undergo a CIA interrogation than walk down the same aisle as her brother in that costume, given the chance that someone might make fun of him for wearing it, ridicule which could indirectly reflect badly on her.

When my daughter cried at dinner this evening, she couldn’t tell me exactly went wrong.   There wasn’t a fight with her friends, per se.  Something was just “off.”

I understand that sense of something being “off” or not quite the way it normally is in a relationship. I understand that energetic shift that occurs when a friend who used to be “all in” takes a huge step back.  I understand that intangible feeling of when a person who used to hold you in a certain regard, no longer does.  And you know this, despite them never saying a word.

It’s easy to second guess.  It’s easy to question every action we’ve made and ask ourselves if we could have changed the outcome, but it’s rare that we can.

Relationships, both platonic and romantic, are elusive in their formulas for success.  It’s timing and chemistry and understanding and acceptance and putting our egos on the shelf long enough to get over being afraid.

It’s knowing that there is always the risk of being rejected.

I have experienced rejection this year every which way you can imagine.  I have been rejected by men, I have been rejected by women, I have had my writing rejected and job applications rejected, I’ve been rejected by the mom posse in more than one arena, and while rejection never feels good in the moment, it really is a gift.  Because once you learn that you won’t die from it, you’re willing to try it all again and to push harder and farther and risk even more, and become more outgoing and more loving and more daring and not be afraid of the outcome.

rock climb

I lie with my daughter on the couch and tell her these things. She may not understand them all right now, but one day I hope she will.  She’s entering that age where peer approval is more important than approval from me.  I need to work with her, not against her. I need to be that safe place she can always come back to when everything else is out of order.  I can’t prevent her hurts, but I can teach her she won’t die from them.  Those cracks are how the light gets in.



Out of Order — 77 Comments

  1. this right here….this post, the woman behind this post and this mama who loves her kids like I love mine; this is why I adore you, Ilene. What a gift your wisdom and your honesty is to your sweet girl. Sending you both lots of wonder woman vibes tonight.
    Lisa recently posted…Tick TockMy Profile

  2. Imagine what the other parents think of me – letting my kid wear costumes to public places year round!! There was actually a car commercial with that theme that I saw today.
    I feel so woefully unprepared for what is inevitably coming to my kids. To me. I take comfort in knowing they’ll probably be more graceful, gracious and strong than I have ever been.
    And I have your wisdom too.
    Tamara recently posted…Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.My Profile

    • You will be prepared when the time comes – and if not – we will trudge through it together. By then we’ll practically be life long friends. It will be nice.

  3. OMY… And THERE it is. Yes yes yes yes yes……..

    You just stopped my heart and took my breath away by your words, Ilene. Oh I am near tears reading this.

    Cass wore costumes EVERYWHERE- and Cade wore her tutus until he was three and then all her pink shirts everywhere well WELL past an appropiate age… and boy oh boy did I get some gasps.

    Message taken pushing deep within the bounds of my heart- so full of cracks the light pierces through with multitudes of beams spanning this way and that.

    The BEST sentence EVER: “Those cracks are how the light gets in.”

    Perfect. Brilliant. Timeless. Life. And yes, Light. Oh so much light.
    Chris Carter recently posted…Devotional Diary: Fear. (Time To Cut The Tumor Out)My Profile

  4. Cheers to not caring! I’m right there with you with the whole not caring bit. But let’s not stop there, I’m with you on the rejection deal too. Let’s suffice it to say that with every rejection we’re probably being saved from something that wasn’t going to lift us to the place we really need to be in life. That’s called a favor. Your daughter will appreciate all of what you’ve told her. All of it!
    Andrea recently posted…Building IntimacyMy Profile

    • Yes, my dear. YES. With every rejection we ARE being saved. Because if a situation or friendship is truly meant to be, then it will.

  5. We really are soul sisters. Wow, this post… really spoke to me. I am one of those moms who does it my own way too, and I am often criticized. Most often by my husband and my sisters, which actually really DOES hurt and is not so easy to blow off. But I keep reminding myself that they don’t know because they have never walked in my shoes. And when they do, they can judge.
    It’s so good that you can provide that voice of reason and calmness for your daughter. That time in my life was so difficult, and neither of my parents were there for me. It was very lonely, very sad, and there was even a time when I contemplated killing myself. I don’t think we give enough credit to how much it means to have that “calm place” of love and balance and I am so glad you can give that to your daughter. Love you.
    Alexa recently posted…Mrs. B Goes (Went) to Washington! {Advocacy}My Profile

    • I 100% know the pain of people not being there for you. Especially the people that we expect should stand up for us and stand behind us. I am so glad you found the inner strength to persevere. You are an amazing woman.

  6. Also. Hormones. Those are coming too. Caroline had a full on autistic meltdown yesterday over an approximately ten pound rock that Scott and I refused to steal from the park for her. She has not done this since she was six. I have to believe mother nature had a hand in having to cajole her alone while strangers gaped at the screaming young woman (and yes, she was in a Halloween costume, if it matters; her fifties girl outfit from fifties day last year, not her Kiss Starchild that she plans to wear this year) who kept saying, “But I love minerals so MUCH that was NOT just gravel to me,” and her mother, who was saying, “You’re right. It was Sandstone. You have a LOT of sandstone at home.”
    Jester Queen recently posted…Or TreatMy Profile

  7. Love this, Ilene. It’s so hard to show our kids that what’s happening now isn’t the end of the world. Heck, most of us adults can’t come to this reality. But, yes, those cracks let the light come in. Without the rejections we don’t move forward. I’ve also learned to ignore the naysayers. Perspective is so hard to come by at a young age, but I suspect your daughter will have more than enough as she moves through life. You’re an awesome mom, Ilene.
    another jennifer recently posted…Saying GoodbyeMy Profile

    • It is really hard to think that whatever situation in front of us isn’t the end of the world. As an adult, I think it’s a little easier to come to that perspective but it still can be difficult!

  8. I remember those semi-adolescent years when everything felt off and I couldn’t figure out what was up with my emotions. This must be such a hard time to watch as a parent.

    I hope I have it in me as a parent to brush those judgements from fellow parents aside (and sincerely hope I never become one of the judgy parents). No one knows better what’s best for your own children than you do.
    Bev recently posted…Toil and Trouble: An Interview with Ana CamposMy Profile

    • I hope you can brush those judgments aside too! A lot of it is noise that just gets in the way of us being the parent our child needs versus the parent society tells us we should be. There is a mighty difference between the two!

  9. I wish I’d had a parent like you in those awkward years, someone that not only *told* me those things, but *modeled* those things. The picking up after rejection. The bold, empowered, risk-taking. The willingness to dare, to let children try on costumes like we tried on school clothes every September. Your children are gifted, and so, my friend, are we. Heck, I wish I had a parent like you NOW. 😉
    Justine recently posted…(Skeletons) in my Closet, and Roasted Kale, Sweet Potato, and Toasted Farro Salad with Maple DressingMy Profile

    • Oh, my friend. There are so many things I wish I had understood sooner on this parenting journey – but I’m glad I know them now, and hopefully will learn more as I go. Hugs to you.

  10. How could anyone be upset about a child wearing a costume?? That is ridiculous.
    I really love how you explained your journey into this person who doesn’t care. It’s such a great place to be but was so hard to come by. Luckily you can pass this on to your daughter and try to be her guide. I love where your head is at right now!!…I’m also happy to have boys who are much like your son.
    Allie recently posted…Duathlon National Championship – Conquered!My Profile

    • Not caring what others think is a great place to be. It’s freeing, in many, many ways. And I”m glad you have boys like my son! That kid teaches me how to love life every single day.

  11. I try really hard to be that person who doesn’t care. I’m better at it than I used to be, but I still get pissed at myself for caring when I know I shouldn’t. And just my two cents – it may seem like peer approval will be more important than yours, but I’d bet that deep down your daughter values your opinion and approval above anyone else’s. No teen would ever admit to that, but I firmly believe that it’s true.
    Dana recently posted…More treat than trickMy Profile

    • I love what you say about deep down, my girl valuing my opinion the most – especially from someone who has “been there,” I appreciate that insight!

  12. I can’t even tell you how many places we went with one or both boys in costume (or other random outfits). So much easier and why not?!
    And, your daughter – huge hugs!! I can’t imagine going through the adolescent years with a girl – I’m struggling enough to try and help my oldest son. Like you said, we just keep working with them!!! I always want my sons to know that no matter what happens during the day the are safe and loved in our home!
    Kim recently posted…Taking Time to Appreciate the Beauty of FallMy Profile

    • Exactly Kim! No matter what happens “out there,” and I know that there will be a lot of scrapes and bruises “out there,” I want my kids to know that they are safe and loved and accepted “here.”

  13. Ilene, love this post. Hard. There are so many awesome words of wisdom in here. I especially love this line about relationships: It’s timing and chemistry and understanding and acceptance and putting our egos on the shelf long enough to get over being afraid. So true! It’s also understanding that relationships ebb and flow. Not every moment with someone we love is going to be perfect. But a relationship is about working through those moments and knowing the low moments will resolve and the high moments will make it all worthwhile. Parenting is a lot like this too!
    Nicole @ Work in Sweats Mama recently posted…A 20-Mile Confidence BoostMy Profile

    • Parenting and relationships both – yes and yes – I am 100% with what you’re saying about the ebb and flow and the highs and lows and being willing to work things out. I think when that “ego is on the shelf” it’s much easier to be willing to do this – but easier said than done. Always.

  14. I love this so much! I have three daughters. The lodes is eleven and beginning to tread those adolescent waters as well. She started middle school this year which meant making all new friends. She also has her first ever “boyfriend” and, while I am so happy that she has found acceptance, I am anticipating the heartbreak. I hope I can be her safe place. I hope I can show her that hurts can make you stronger. Then, I hope I can do it for my other daughters as well!
    Lisa @ The Golden Spoons recently posted…Great LengthsMy Profile

    • Eleven…and boyfriends – and potential rejection from that…man, I’d better brace myself. That could be a whole different level of emotions and hurt and intensity. I hope we can both be safe places for our daughters, Lisa as they tread these new waters.

  15. I am nearing that peer-approval-is-the-most-important age with my oldest. I hope I can navigate them with the grace that you describe. I know there is no way to shield them from the hurt feelings, but like you said, at least I can teach them that they can go on from that.
    Kim@Co-Pilot Mom recently posted…TiredMy Profile

    • Exactly! We can teach them that they can go on, even after hurt and rejection and humiliation. It’s never the end of the world. Ever.

  16. That not owing them an explanation thing is so hard to learn for some reason, but I am pretty much there too. And on the other end, I would never judge you for letting your son wear his costume to the grocery store. I would just wink or say something in solidarity, because oh yeah, have I been there! 🙂

    We are entering the peer thing with my oldest but I also KNOW it is very different with girls… xo

    • I am glad you are pretty much there with not owing explanations. There is an abundance of emotional freedom in that for me! And I’m glad you get the costume thing. I’d wink right back at you!

  17. Jersey Girl- forgive me for being slack & not commenting sooner, wanderer right here, but, you know me, I always get in place, eventually… I simply LOVE every single word you wrote down!!! whatever with the costume- he is who he is & he is happy & you are cool with that, awesome!! She’s figuring out life… isn’t it interesting to understand the different dynamics at different points in our youngins lives? oh, Ilene my sweet friend, I absolutely LOVE your soul & heart! XOXO. ~A~
    Amber Day Hicks recently posted…Introducing Bass Misty!!!My Profile

  18. I thought my kids getting older would somehow make life easier??? But the conversations – now we’re talking about things that I am not even sure I have figured out. I love “Because once you learn that you won’t die from it, you’re willing to try it all again and to push harder and farther and risk even more, and become more outgoing and more loving and more daring and not be afraid of the outcome”. It doesn’t kill you, right? Love that. Need to remember that. We will be ok despite the lame judgments people make.
    Leah Davidson recently posted…Quote of the WeekMy Profile

    • Leah, it’s so true – once we fully understand that rejection or the disappointing outcomes won’t kill us, it’s a game changer. I hope my kids can live this starting now. It will open them up to big, gorgeous, messy lives, the kind we all deserve.

  19. There is so much about this post and these words that resonate especially this –> “It’s easy to second guess. It’s easy to question every action we’ve made and ask ourselves if we could have changed the outcome, but it’s rare that we can.” So true and something that I think I’m finally getting the hang of along with letting go of the need to explain myself all the time. I love how you describe your son because it’s so similar to my boys. The zest for life and everything in it and the costumes! But mostly, I wish that I had a mother like you growing up and made that safe place for me more often. Your kids are so lucky to have you. xo
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted…Plantar Fasciitis CuredMy Profile

    • Thank you my friend. It is so very rare that we could have changed the outcome. I’m finally getting this this – and learning to let things go. The load is much lighter that way. Right?

  20. Seriously – when will people stop judging??? Such a great message and lesson to teach our kids though – and it sounds like you are doing that early. Still, rejection and judgement stings. I’ve had my fair share this year as well. Hoping 2014 will be a better year!
    Kerry recently posted…10 Trappings of Modern MotherhoodMy Profile

    • People will stop judging when they become secure within themselves. What a different and beautiful world this will be when that happens!

    • You got that right, Kim. It hurts to see them hurt, but these little hurts prepare them for the bigger ones that ultimately come when you live a full life.

  21. What an amazing post! Raising a teen must be daunting, it is a shame they can’t maintain that innocence your son has through the teen years. Your daughter is lucky to have a mother like you, who doesn’t care about what the random stranger on the park bench thinks and knows the gifts that come with rejection (and sometimes failure). Rejection is a funny thing, because at the time it can really burn, but usually in hindsight if you can grow from it you can be relieved that it happened!
    Jess recently posted…Update on Raid Automatic Blogger Project and Giveaway!My Profile

    • Rejection is always a gift. I’ve become more and more convinced of that. I truly believe it helps us stay on course for what we are ultimately meant to do.

  22. I’m trying to be that person who doesn’t care but its not easy – its going to take time. But I love how you let your son just be and enjoy himself. I wish more parents did that. The innocence is so limited nowadays that anything to maintain it should be welcomed with open arms! As for your daughter, she’s lucky to have your support and your guidance…((HUGS))
    Krystal recently posted…The Worst Feeling EverMy Profile

    • Krystal, you are so right in that the innocence is limited. I think we owe it to our kids to allow them to have that as long as they want it!

  23. I am having trouble even describing how much this one resonates with me. Gosh, I remember being a young teen and being so suffocatingly insecure and depressed. But we grow and we heal, thankfully. That girl emerges every now and then, but I’m so much better now about rejection and judgement.

    “Because once you learn that you won’t die from it, you’re willing to try it all again and to push harder and farther and risk even more, and become more outgoing and more loving and more daring and not be afraid of the outcome.” This. This is what I want for my life.
    Stevie recently posted…Welcome SITStahs!My Profile

    • Stevie, if that’s what you want for your life, then that’s what you shall have. It all starts with a simple intention. Hugs to you sister!

  24. I’m so sorry that your daughter is not having the best time with her friends. I understand how she feels. At 43 I still feel that way sometimes. Acceptance from others is hard. Especially at that age when you feel that you need to be accepted by certain people that may or may not have your best interest at heart.

    Yesterday I went to the store with day old makeup, a greasy face, and no sunglasses. I felt like your son in his Captain America suit. It’s good when we have those days!
    Carla recently posted…Real Into Reads No. 32: Are You Extraordinary?My Profile

    • Carla, those are the best days ever. I love walking through Walmart in my yoga pants and feeling on top of the world! Let’s hear it for those days!

  25. I am so glad I found this post, however late I am to the party. I needed to read this…right now. Today. I think I am losing a friendship and it stinks, I feel bad and I don’t like it. Your words ring true and I’ve read them a couple of times. This is hard as a child and it’s hard as an adult.
    Stephanie recently posted…Figuring Out My WhyMy Profile

    • It is harder as an adult if you ask me – because I think when I’ve lost friendships in adulthood, I’ve always thought to myself – why can’t we all just be adults about this and work this out? But sometimes it’s not that easy. I am so sorry that you are in this difficult situation. Sending you lots of love.

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