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The Honor System

A cat and a young boy sharing a moment
Don't let the cute fool you. There's two spicy creatures in this photo.

His voice quivered, “I don’t feel comfortable,” and his little chin puckered around the gathering of tears.

These were not the tears and pleas of not being able to play the Xbox, or from having his feelings hurt the we didn’t have Mountain Dew for dinner, or even that it was chore or bedtime. They weren’t even tears of being afraid.

These were the tears associated with the embroiled emotion of shyness and necessity fighting within one’s nervous system. The end result was the discomfort of honoring one’s self was less risky than the discomfort of doing something that didn’t feel right.

Our Conundrum

If there’s anything that’s challenging in life right now for Kristy and me, it’s the transportation of children to and from school. At preset, Democrats and Republicans get along better than our kids’ school hours and Kristy and my work hours. Our high schooler is 7:30 AM - 2:15 PM. The elementary is 9:05 AM - 3:45 PM. Kristy works four 10s (6:30 - 5:00) and I’m on the typical 9-5 shift.

After six months of searching, I finally met one of our high schooler’s parents and was shocked to find out he’d be able to give them a ride home nearly every day. For months, it felt like we’ve been carrying a heavy basin of water over our head and we were trying to stay dry and muster the energy all at once. It was permission to put that down. While her youngest had a schedule closer to the hours we worked, the challenge was still there. Alternating turns picking him up, enlisting family during emergency situations, and the end wasn’t in sight. 

In mid-January, I posted flyers with tear-off phone number slips, offering $20 per day for extra help. Last week, Bonnie, a kind lady new to the area, responded. She agreed to assist, easing our burden. After meeting her and introducing her to our youngest, who attends the same school as her son, it all seemed settled.

The night before we were going to give it a trial run, our youngest slipped into our room with the help of his older sibling and let us know he didn’t feel comfortable getting a ride. It wasn’t just with Bonnie, it was with anyone he didn’t know.  Normally, there would have been a temptation to encourage him to give it a try for a week and then reassess. The stress relief of having someone help with rides home, even one or two days per week were too tempting to not consider that. Yet the feeling was almost instantaneous: “We’ll figure something else, then.”

Practicing Honor

It nearly brings me to tears to cue my inner child. I remember having situations like this when I was little. “Stop Crying” would be the parental advice, and the convincing that I would have to just deal with it would have been persuaded from all angles until I agreed and went through what would have felt like small tortures.

There’s a temptation to try to raise my kids the same way. Be tough. Life isn’t going to be easy on you. You might as well learn now.

And there’s a whole other side to consider. If we can’t feel safe at home and with the people that we love, who can we feel safe with and where will our safe havens be? Both Kristy’s and my sets of kids have been through a lot with divorce, up-rooting, and adjusting to life right as foundations had been set yet not solidified. If life isn’t going to be easy or always kind, then doesn’t that make safety at home all the more important?

The experience with car pooling has been an amazing reflection of what honoring has meant to me. First of all, seeing a nine-year-old advocate for himself was a very proud and humbling moment.  Knowing that as parents, it’s not only our privilege, but our duty to help that honor wherever and however we can. When I step back, I realize that a huge aspect of my growth since my kids were in elementary is honoring the direction and desires of others without imposing my discomfort or disagreement as a way to modify their feelings or behavior. 

My son Carson has been through a lot with me. My life hasn't been easy, and he's felt the bumps along the way, even from the back seat. My marriage to his mom had its issues, and sharing my mistakes, whether with him or on podcasts, caused pain. Despite my own struggles, Carson has had to endure my ups and downs. His request for space came after his sister moved away last July, making it hard for us to connect. I could have pushed for more contact, but respecting his space felt more important. 

Honoring others takes many forms, like supporting my college daughter's choices no matter how they align with mine, or reframing gender and pronouns with Kristy’s oldest. This has become especially important when I try to honor my wife and her experience in our 1.0 relationship and as we build our 2.0. But perhaps the hardest part is honoring myself and my growth. It's like learning to play a difficult chord on the guitar—it takes practice and patience. 

Family photo in the salt cave
The Pizza-Johnson crew rolls hard!

Perhaps the most important honoring has been with myself. Honoring who I have been and who I am, and who I am growing into has become as challenging as holding three conflicting ideas all at once. This idea sounds kind of impossible cerebrally, and then I remember how badly my fingers rebelled trying to play an F-chord on the guitar until I practiced it and took enough baby steps towards it that it falls into place and almost causes me to forget how hard it once was.

A very relevant part of this honoring discussion is around sex. I’ve been in several client conversations lately surrounding sex and intimacy. On one hand, each client wants to honor their monogamous relationship and the agreements that have been made. They also want to honor their partner’s position in life, including mood, stress, etc. If their partner is not interested in engaging in sexual intimacy, it feels wrong to force the issue. From my view, rightfully so. We’ve discussed the narrative around sex for women that it is expected, which naturally carries resentment. Due to the extremely intimate nature and exchange of energy, it’s almost laughable to compare it to providing other basic “needs” like food, shelter, and water. Yet to men, I can see why this might feel more like a basic need rather than an innate desire. It’s also easy to see why men are frustrated. The innate desire is there. When monogamy is agreed upon, it’s an agreement that there is only one person you will participate in that energy with; and when the only co-creator is an unwilling participant it feels like a conundrum with no solution.

I’ve heard the expression that boundaries are the distance at which I can love you and me at the same time. To put this into terms of honor: Honoring seems to be the ability to love myself where I’m at and where I’m going in my journey, and to be able to love another person where they’re at and where they are going in their journey.

So no matter what bedroom scenario we’re talking about: sexual intimacy, or honoring how a 9-year-old would feel comfortable coming home from school, it feels important to be able to see a person with our highest self and greatest gifts and see if we can meet their highest self and highest desires.  

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