Love Notes from Dani: Avery the Brave
When I think of Vi’s Core Values, I think about how they are born from deep observation. These values live because I listen and remain curious about the big, and more importantly, the little humans in front of me. In the midst of a global pandemic, we are all stretching, learning, reflecting, and growing.
If we are not, then we are stuck.
However, I believe there is learning to be gained in the stuck, too.
I have been stuck. I have been stuck as a mama, who does not have the answers to my children’s questions around what they are facing. I have been stuck recently, when my eldest, Avery, shared with me the most acute statement about butterflies or rather, a lack thereof.
I drive my kids to school every morning. It is a coveted time for me and, I am certain, time that they do not appreciate now, that they will look back on later with fondness.
It all started with Avery. He was headed to the first day of 6th grade, and the expectation had been set. You have to be at school before 5 of your siblings, so you will take the bus. Mama can’t drive twice. 3 days in, he missed the bus. I made my morning mug of coffee and begrudgingly drove him. I am certain words of displeasure tumbled out of my mouth before the disappointed silence.
As we drove, we said nothing. In the silent space, the energy changed from upset to calm. And then, he spoke: “Mama, will I get zits?” I giggled a bit on the inside. “Yes, my love, you will. Once, you start going through puberty, zits will be a part of your life,” I explained to him. Avery, disturbed and pensive, replied, “I don’t want to get zits.” Me, almost passive: “Nobody does, son.” Avery, almost whispering, “I’m afraid.” This hit a crack in my heart. My natural reaction would be to tell him all the reasons why he need not fear zits. My natural way was to fill the space with all of my knowledge and advice so that he would have knowledge too and, in turn, wouldn’t be afraid.
This day, his whisper slipped through the cracks of my reason and into the little space in my heart where the teenager in me lives. Thank you, Jesus, for that space, because I became so curious and said one of the most powerful phrases in my mama repertoire, a phrase that, at that point in my life, I rarely used and one that my kids now make fun of for my overuse. “Honey, say more about that.” I let it land and waited. The space cracked wide open and his fears came tumbling out. “I will have zits all over my face and maybe get scarred….and…I’m afraid if I have acne…I am afraid of what people will say and mom, I’m so afraid people will not like me.”
And that was the day the double school drop-offs began. From then on, our car rides were coined “Mom’s Mug,” a moniker that I didn’t love at first because the play on words refers to my big mouth bites and my big mug coffee addiction, but I very quickly learned to cherish it.
This was the last day Avery rode the bus to school.
Bravery, Butterflies, and Hope
Blink your eyes and four years of ‘Mom’s Mug’ have passed, and two more passengers have been added to the ride: Veronica and Viv. During these rides, we talk about it all. Sometimes topics are saved for when it’s just two of us, and I am certain that they save things for when I am not in the room. In those moments, on the way to school, we are safe. This is a safe space to say all the things, and we all know it.
One particular pandemic morning, I asked my three oldests, “What is the state of your hearts today?” I read somewhere that, in the Middle East, the etymology of the words “how are you?” translates to “what is the state of your precious heart in this very breath?” That intention is so powerful to me. Admittedly, I overuse it! When asked the question, Avery, very matter-of-factly and without emotion said, “I don’t get butterflies anymore.” I was curious. “What does that mean son?” He responded, “Well you know mom, butterflies that flutter in your belly when you get nervous if you have a big test or presentation, or on a big game day, or when you see a girl in the hall that you have a crush on… I just don’t get them anymore.”
Forgetting to remain curious and instead clinging to my assumptions, I replied, “Ah, you mean you have more confidence then? You are not as afraid to give a presentation or talk to the girl? You feel more comfortable in these scenarios?” Avery, looking at me very candidly, said, “Well maybe…” Beat. Pause. “No, mom, what I mean is that there are no presentations, test days, or big games. There’s no seeing the girl you like in the hallway or dances to ask her to. There is little to no connection, so there are no butterflies.”
He said this without emotion, like he was stating a fact. His words hit my body and a wave of fear washed over me. My mind started spiraling. Butterflies are a rite of passage for a teen. They are an unharmful marker and promote our children’s coping skills and their emotional and mental growth mechanisms. No Butterflies?! I looked over at my son. He looked back at me and saw the fear in my eyes. He put his hand on mine (I love hand-holding), gave me a rooted smile and his eyes implored me, “Don’t worry, mama. Stay hopeful. I need you to stay hopeful so that my small heart can too.”
In that moment, Avery reminded me that I cannot control the absence of butterflies. What I can do is the courageous, bold, and vulnerable work of staying hopeful.
As we walk through this road never taken together, in the moments where you are fear-filled and feel that you cannot be strong, be like our children and stay brave.
Founder, Vi Beauty