My MOPS group chose Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown as our book club book this year. And amazingly, I have already finished it! (Book club meeting is not until May. YAY me! ) Most of you have probably heard of Brene Brown–her books are popular right now, and she writes with a very easy conversational style while still saying all kinds of important, life-changing, and thought-provoking things! On her website, she has a few discussion guides to go with the book, so in preparation for my MOPS discussion, I thought I would tackle a few of those questions here. So here we go…

As humans, we all want to feel like we belong, but we shouldn’t change our true selves to fit in, and that is hard. One place where we NEED to feel like we belong as our true selves is our families, but often, people don’t. So here’s a question on her guide: Not belonging in our families is still one of the most dangerous hurts. It has the power to break our heart, our spirit, and our sense of self-worth. Are we talking to one another about what it means to build a belonging family verses a “fitting-in” family?

 I can’t wait to talk to MOPS about this because I think this is crucial and difficult for parents. As parents, we want to see our children succeed. We want them to follow rules and do well in school. We also tend to sign them up for activities and events that we did as kids or that all the other kids are doing in their class. But are we listening to each one of our children? Are we taking into consideration individual likes and dislikes?

This is hard. I’m guilty of it myself. When Katie told me she wanted to do cheerleading, I was like: Ugh, really? But what about basketball? She told me no, so I signed her up for cheerleading in kindergarten. Once she was going to games and saw that some of her friends were also playing basketball, she decided she wanted to do that, too. So in first grade, I signed her up for both. Now, I’m so glad that I did not try to squash that part of her who wants to be a cheerleader because she gets SO MUCH JOY out of it. She smiles, she dances, she laughs, and it’s not easy. Remembering the moves and the dances and getting all those coordinated at age 7 takes a lot of practice!

I’m sure there are other ways I can work on building a belonging family–it’s a fine line between “here are the rules of society you must follow to be a good citizen” and “here is your individuality–be a free spirit if you want.” Any tips or stories you have to share on how you build a belonging family would be great!

Here is another thing she asks:

Are we modeling belonging to and believing in ourselves? Are our children seeing us take unpopular stands and are we talking honestly about how hard and scary that can be?

We currently live in a world where opinions are shared online more than ever before. You don’t have to share your stance on hot button issues on Facebook or Twitter if it doesn’t make you comfortable. But if someone comes in to your home and starts talking about gun control, do you kindly and compassionately share your own opinion or do you nod along with the person, even if you disagree completely? This is difficult, and it is something that divides families and breaks friendships all the time. But it’s important to model that even if you disagree with someone, the relationship does not have to end. You can kindly share what you feel or you can even say: Would you mind if we talked about something else for a while until we can settle down and discuss this calmly? After the person leaves your home, and I feel like this is the key, we can talk as a family about what happened and what worked and didn’t work in the situation.

What I love about Brene’s book, Braving the Wilderness, is that she tackles this very subject. We don’t have to get into a screaming match every time we disagree with someone. We don’t have to purge our Facebook friends because they are Republicans and we are Democrats. We can have real conversations with people to try and understand their viewpoint and kindly share ours, without relationships ending or hurting each other’s feelings. This is so important, especially in today’s world.

If you are looking for a book that will make you think about what it means to belong as  your true self, then this is a great book to pick up, full of real-life examples.

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