Be Authentic by Kim Harris
A life well seen………..a life well touched……….ultimately a life well lived. What do these things mean and how can we work to live as authentic of a life as possible? I do consider these questions often and honestly more often as I get older. Being a spouse, being a parent – these all feed my interest in placing the greatest amount of effort into where authenticity can lead.
I am married to a beautiful woman who has opened my eyes and my heart to the possibilities that come from not just the fairytale love of the big screen, but more importantly to the depth of life one can live by being true to yourself.
We are the parents to a precocious, thoughtful, sensitive, athletic, intelligent, and in many ways very authentic 13 year old boy, and there is no greater job on earth than the ups and downs associated with getting to be one of his moms. We knew from very early on that in a world still struggling with its position on same-sex relationships, marriage equality, and essentially just acceptance of self and others that in order for our son to rise to adulthood confident in himself and in his family we would need to model that as well as to teach it. We have always said that he will be as proud of his family as we show that we are. What does that even mean? It means that we both go to parent/teacher conferences, we both go to his soccer games, basketball games, academic team challenges, band performances, playdates, everything. When there is a Mother’s Day event at his school we don’t send a “mom” representative – we BOTH go, we are BOTH his mothers.
Have we encountered situations where we’ve been looked at sideways, asked which one of us is his real mom, had to endure and ultimately face head on comments of criticism and judgment? Absolutely, but guess what? We still both show up – we are a family, we are his parents, we are human beings committed to one another and to doing the best job we can raising him. When I think about authenticity it’s greater than how I live my life and the choices I make for me, but it’s about the example I set, the relationships I not only have but that I also share the responsibility for deepening, for realizing the journey is ongoing, and for just being present in every way on every day. The best way I know how to define authenticity is through my wish for my son.
Stand tall in this life. It will be hard to do, there will be people who tell you all the reasons you should drop your head, drop your shoulders, and drop your eyes. You have everything you need already and my wish for you is to stand tall, stand proud and stand true.
Stand tall…you know me well as the funny and sarcastic mama but my wish for you is to know that in challenging times I hope you have seen me rise up and stand tall. Mom and I stand tall through the storm of judgment, the grace of friendships, and the changing tides of society as they prepare themselves for acceptance. You are at an advantage being raised to know that we will not change the face of our family when we leave the privacy of our home. When you grow to be a man and look inside your home at the people you love and treasure, hold them close and stand tall with them. We have seen some challenging situations come through our family, but standing tall does not mean fight or flight, it means partnership, it means leadership, it means balance and it means pride in who you are and who you love. Do not let your love or your commitment be defined by anyone else because that is YOUR gift to give, not something to be taken. You are now a young man filled with wonder and at a time in your life when people will want you to think the way they think, feel the way they feel, and do the things they do. Think, feel and do the way you do…continue to stand tall. As your parents we walked a path ahead of you when you were learning to walk, and we now walk beside you as you clear a path for yourself. Mom and I now look forward to walking behind you as you lead down a path of your own. We have never been nor never will be far, in case you need to lean, to rest, or to fall. Know that when you stand tall you are standing strong.
Stand true…it is very easy to find an explanation, an excuse, a half-truth to buy some time or to skirt a discomfort, but give your effort to honesty. You have looked mom and I in the eyes and asked us life-changing questions and you have received truthful answers no matter how uncomfortable, how difficult, how vulnerable or how humbling those conversations are, you have received the truth. Give that truth back to yourself and to others. Look people in the eye and lead with honesty.
Stand proud…you are the leader of your present and your future. Be proud of where you want to go and be proud of your abilities to get there. Draw your map with a pencil and be willing to change directions.
Be humble…the world is a big place filled with many peaks and valleys. You will find yourself in the valleys more than once, but humility and grace will be your path out. Reach out for the hands that can teach you, that can hold yours, and that can walk out of the valley with you. Ask for help, be willing to say “I don’t know” and appreciate the quiet.
Be gritty…determine, so that you can do. Don’t let the choices or actions of others defeat you, but rather draw on your strength to find your grit. Grit does not mean fight but some things require a battle. Be willing to step to it and not away from it, lead through it and not around it, and most importantly take the time to reflect on what it took, so that you know you can always depend on yourself and your grit.
Be hungry…to keep learning. You can’t know everything – this much we do know. You can however always learn.
Take these wishes I have for you, own them for yourself and in the end it will add up to you being authentic.
From the minute I walked into your and mom’s lives, mine was forever changed, and through my mistakes I want you to be better, through your mistakes I want you to grow, and through our family I want you to know you are our greatest accomplishment. See, I got to parenthood a little out of the ordinary but I believe it was so that I could find you. I got to marriage outside of the conventional but I believe it was so that I could find mom.
My commitment to you all those years ago and every day since is to love you, protect you, celebrate you, guide you, teach you, be present with you, and ultimately to watch you step into the man I can’t wait to know. I can’t wait to see you reach, to see you stand tall, to see you embrace, and to see you soar. My son, you are my greatest joy, my finest example of a life well lived and my utmost inspiration. I will forget to say some of these things to you in the days to come but I think them and feel them every time I hear your wonderment about school, watch from the sidelines your development as an athlete, sit in the stands and listen to your instrument join others in the band to make music, and most importantly when I hear of your kindness to your friends, listen to your gratitude when thanking people for the things they do, and hear of your willingness to stand up for those that can’t stand up for themselves yet.
I may not be able to say I gave you brown eyes or brown hair, but I know I can always say I gave you my heart, my best effort, my example of how to do and how not to do at times, and my unbending faith in you, in mom, and in our family. Josh, stand tall, stand true, stand proud, and be authentic!
I love you
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kim Harris lives in her hometown of Lexington, Kentucky and has worked in fundraising for 17 years in both Ohio and Kentucky since graduating from The College of Wooster in 1997. Currently, she works as the Director of Development at the College of Fine Arts at the University of Kentucky. She is married to Stephanie Harris and is the proud mother to a thirteen-year-old boy with whom she shares the same birthday. In 2013 she joined a female powerlifting team, which includes competing in meets twice a year.