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Tonight

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Tonight, Geo was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa. So proud of this kid.

Stargazers

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It’s not the best photo–but I love the look on our son’s face. The weather here has been glorious this week. And we spent most of last evening outside–hanging out on the porch with our telescope. The sky was perfection: the moon, Jupiter, and Mars all clearly visible.

It’s these things I hold on to. I love these two people, so much.

Seventeen: and not a minute more

Ok, so there should probably be a photo with this post. But, the boy has a social life: so he’s not around today to snap a photo. Maybe later this week?

 

Geo came home from Christmas shopping last night, “Oh, mom, you put my birthday tree up!”  And then he got kinda quiet and said, “I’m sad to be turning 17.”

When you push him on that he’ll tell you — with these heartbreaking tears welling up in his eyes — that he feels his childhood slipping away.

“Oh, don’t cry!”  I’m a sympathetic crier and I can feel the waterworks brewing up on their own. Lately, tears are always so close to the surface. But his face scrunches up in that unmistakable twist and we’re both wiping our eyes. It’s misery, this growing up stuff.

He’s worried his relationship with his parents will change. We assure him that it will, for the better. There will be friends and women and a family of his own. Grandbabies, even! In time, his father interjects!

“You’ll get a second chance at childhood, we promise! It’s better the second time.”

“When?”

“When you have children. And then another chance with grandchildren!– Besides,” we tell him, “we’ll happily boss you about for as long as you’ll let us!”

Right now his response is always, “forever.”

That’s a fib he’s telling himself that I’m not correcting at the moment, but I know better. Because he’s never liked anyone bossing him about. Though, he’s romanticized this concept of childhood. For a child who has done nothing but dream of going to college, of being his own man, spending years telling me, “when I’m an adult”. . . well,  he has a huge case of cold feet at the moment.

I’m not sure what it is, if this is the result of being an only child? It’s true, he doesn’t have any pesky younger siblings behind him to gently annoy him into leaving the house. He’s in no rush to drive, no rush to move out, dragging his feet and telling me everything.

Or if he senses my own grief and nostalgia? This lovely, brainy boy who also feels too deeply and can read his mother from a mile away — is he reticent because he’s picking up on my heartache?

I’m trying, friends, to gently hold on to the joy and excitement and the loveliness that is 17. But when he makes that face and falls into my arms, he’s crying for both of us and I can’t help but cry a bit too.

It is going to change. It’s already  changing. That’s how it’s supposed to be. All those sleepless nights of toddlerhood give way to sleepless nights of mothering a teenager. The worries are different, but just as poingnant. Will he ever talk or will he ever walk gives way to where will his feet take him? How far away from home will a new love carry him?

The gradual goodbye requires being present to the pain and living in the moment in spite of it. So, we are just a bit weepy this birthday. The whole lot of us. Remembering who he once was, dreaming about who he is becoming. Promising, that no matter what changes come, we will remain this knotted bonded family. And we are reminding him that, yes, we’ll continue to boss him about forever — just as long as he’ll stand for it. And, not minute more.

A Rose By Any Other Name

After the ridiculousness of last week, I started to password protect this post. But then decided, it’s my truth. As Ann Lamott has so eloquently said, “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” 

 

When our son was born, I filled out the birth certificate paperwork very carefully. His father had taken my maiden name in hyphenate form years before. On our honeymoon, in fact… in what was a romantic gesture (if a bit short-sighted) he opted to add my name to his.

Today, it might seem obvious. But at the time, it caused a stir. I had already angered his family by keeping my maiden name as a middle name. I tried to explain, “I plan to take IZ’s name in my personal life. But in my professional life, I want both. Unhyphenated, but both.”

My father-in-law supported my decision. My mother-in-law was incensed. It would be five years before she would address anything to us in our new combined name. Insisting instead to address everything, “Mr. and Mrs. J.A. Larsen.”

Probably not the best move on her part. Her obstinateness on the subject just sealed my resolve. OMG… I’m as oppositional as my child. Figures.

But I never had any expectation that IZ would follow suit. And I certainly didn’t expect my child to keep my maiden name. So, when it came time to fill out his birth certificate paper work I was careful. I gave him five names. No hyphens. One last name.

And I fully expected our son to drop the OATES portion of our name once he flew the coop. Baby chicks do that, think for themselves. I should know. However, Geo has been feeling the itch for the past several years. And we’ve always said to him, “Sweetie, if you want to be called ‘Stardust Revived’, we’ll call you that. It your name.”

I’ve always told him I would not, could not be upset with any choice he made. Though, I prefer he kept his given first name, the rest was up for grabs.

He has opted, for example, to Americanize his first name for strangers. He still spells his name as it appears on his birth certificate, but the French pronunciation is confusing for most people, so he has stopped insisting that his name be said correctly.  He’s adopted a pseudonym for all his programming online—a name, that tellingly includes Larsen as a last name. And he, quietly, wonders what the future will look like when he is simply, Geo Larsen.

But as of late, I have sensed a hesitation from him. His desire to walk away from my past is palpable. He no longer considers my family of birth his family.  He’s had enough (who can blame him?). However, he feels conflicted. “Giving up ‘Oates’ feels like I’m disrespecting you!”

Have I told you how much I love that kid? Like his father, he is compelled by his love for me. And with that comes a huge responsibility to not abuse their loyalty!

So, I’ve sat with it. Our son’s desire to embrace the family that loves him, the heritage he understands, the people who have loved him without criticism or judgment.  Those same people have not always afforded me the same grace. But they have, without doubt, embraced my child. And through the years, attempted to embrace me as well.

No easy task, as I’ve been labeled difficult since birth!

The more I sat with the idea, the more I realized that for Geo to move forward it would require that I move forward as well. So, last year I floated the idea to IZ, “He wants to be a Larsen. Which, he IS. I think he needs us to be Larsens, too. Just Larsens.”

I was prepared for this moment. I’ve long anticipated the change, if only because hyphenated names are common and what do you do when you fall in love and marry another hyphenate? FOUR names strung together? I don’t think so. Even three gets complicated. YES, he could marry some girl willing to take his name. But, Geo is his father’s child. You know he’d be trying to find a way to include his beloved, like his father did before him! So, dropping the “Oates” part of his name is inevitable.

What I could not have predicted is my desire to do the same. I could not have imagined that at 41, I would not only be considering a name change for my child, but I would be considering it for ME as well. It’s amazing where our children lead us.

 

 

 

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Corners of our home: a watch and a half woven lanyard in the bathroom window. . . I’m always finding creative detritus left by this child.

Breaking My Heart

Valentine Trifecta: candy, stuffed animals, a homemade card.

Stop Breaking My Heart Kid:

The 15 Year Old: “So, Valentine’s Day is soon?”

Me: “Tomorrow.”

15: “Oh. I don’t really have anyone to be my  Valentine.  (long pause, sigh, sigh, sigh) I guess there’s always you. (long pause) I mean, there’s a mom’s love, right?

Me: “I will always be your Valentine!”

Seriously, 15 is breaking my heart. On the one hand, I completely understand those sighs. Because at 15 who doesn’t want a Valentine. A real little romance to moon over, a hand to hold, a person to call on the phone, “no, you hang up, no you hang up.” But as his mother, I’m relieved. Sad, but relieved. He’s 15. I’d like him to learn to finish his laundry and keep his clothes (not to mention those blasted legos) off the floor before he endeavors to win the heart of another girl.

And he has high standards. Which is also good. And he’s homeschooled, which really narrows the pool. I’m safe and I know it. There are no girls on the horizon in the near future. But, honestly, on a day like today, I wish there was. I’d gladly give up my Valentine status to see him smile. A real, “holy cow she LIKES me” smile. . . not the wistfulness I get when I hand him his candy in the morning.  Long pause. sigh. sigh. sigh.

I know some of you are not keen on this day. Or even if you are, life has brought you to a point where you’re looking about for a Valentine and the only face showing up for the role is your mom. And you might be commiserating with your 15 year old self and wondering, “Why don’t I have a Valentine?”

It’s OK. It really is. Because your mom loves you. . . and so do I. And we  both believe there is someone special waiting for you. Because we’re mothers and we know. Until then, we’ll happily stand in the breach and let you break our  hearts. We will always be your Valentine.

But really, pick up your clothes already.

You Make Me Smile

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I recently bought new fabric for Mireio and shuttled it down to the studio the minute it arrived. I feel like I have to keep on top of the incoming supplies, otherwise the store has a tendency to take over the house. So, on my way downstairs, I holler up to IZ in his office, “I’m going down to the studio. If you want to see this fabric, you’ll have to come to me.”

A few minutes later, my boy is standing in the doorway.

Me: “Whatcha doing?”

Boy Wonder: “I’ll look at your fabric if you want me to.”

Apparently he thought I was being a bit neglected, so he came for a visit and oohed and ahed… Which made me smile. I’m pretty sure he couldn’t care less about fabric. But clearly, he cares a whole lot about his mom.

~~What made you smile today?

Bribery

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They taste so much better than my photograph suggests!

Yesterday I mentioned bribery as a parenting tool. I’m sticking by that word. In the past, I would have used the word incentive. But, really, if it involves sugar of any kind it’s a bribe. Pure and simple.

I’ve always been one of those mothers who wouldn’t buy you a chocolate bar in the check-out line no matter how you howled and cried and lamented  ”you not a nice mommy!” And while I firmly believe in incentivizing—-my kid has always been a junior banker. If there’s not money in it for him, he can’t be bought. So, my incentives usually sound like, “If you don’t clean up that room, I’m going to take away your computer and  your candy privileges.” You see the subtle difference, right? In one, I’m bribing you to be good. In the other, I’m reminding you of your responsibilites and the consequences for not meeting them. Or, that’s the case when I’m not desperate.

That would make me a wise parent if my child wasn’t so oppositional. He can try the patience of a saint, and his mother is far from being one. Despite my well-intentioned parenting philosophy. Lately,(since he turned 13!!) no amount of incentivizing (threatening, hounding, preaching, lecturing: Oh yeah, those are all in my arsenal too!) can entice him to focus appropriately on his schoolwork.

This brings me to my end. He’s a smart kid, but so dang lazy. And while most people figure out by the time they’re his age that unsavory tasks are best done quickly, this child slowly pulls off the band-aid of schoolwork. He’s waiting me out. Watching to see if I explode. If he can just push me over the edge, then the focus shifts to conflict resolution, not doing his schoolwork. I swear, he’s a born lawyer!

So, yesterday, I beat him at his game and resorted to bribery. “If you get all your schoolwork done by 3. And that means your German, Math, History, and Programming, then we can bake. If you don’t, no baking for you!”

I’d hang my head in shame, except it worked. We made these incredible bars Kerri put up on her blog. We used dried cherries and almonds and subbed Smart Balance for margarine. Two words: Ah. Mazing.

We had a nice, conflict free day. He got his schoolwork done in a timely fashion. We spent some time together baking and talking. All of which is incentive enough for me to use bribery again very, very soon.

Brand New

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So, it’s a brand new year in these parts.

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity. ~~Albert Einstein

It’s probably because I’m the mother of just one, but in many respects, my new years start in December. I mark time by the birth of this child. Only 6.5 lbs at birth, he was large and robust for a 5 week premature boy. He’s been a fighter since the beginning—I have the stretch marks to prove it. “He shouldn’t . . . ” has been a part of our vocabulary from the beginning. But he has. He’s thrived despite being premature. He’s communicated despite not really talking until 3. He’s endured, despite being different from the rest of his peers. And he continues to push me and challenge me and inspire me.

At no time, in all the battles and disappointments, have I ever wanted anything but him. And I have known from the moment he came on the scene that he was my calling. I’m not perfect. I’ve had my moments where I’ve wondered if I was the right mother for the task. I’ve had moments where I’ve wanted to abdicate parenting all-together. This child thinks he can parent himself, let him.

But for all his head-strong ways (he proudly redefines stubborn, my friends. He considers it his life goal to be contrary. I have no idea where he gets that.) he remains one of the most inspiring people I know. He questions everything. And I refuse to see that as a bad thing.

Ok, unless he’s questioning my parenting at 11 pm. Then I draw that line—but in general, I’ve made a choice to see the good in this child. To not buy into the labels outsiders have tried to stick on him–questioning the wisdom in seeing his gifts  as “deficits.”  To focus on his progress, not constantly point to his struggling. Surely, there is a way to see the remarkableness  in another human being and  support it? Even if we don’t really understand it and it drives  a bit gray before our time. Surely we can see past homogenized ideals (sweet little kindergartners,  compliant, sitting nicely at their desks) and embrace the different (Yes, baby, your green eyes mean you have superpowers)? Maybe we can even teach this child who questions everything, and everyone, to question the Universe. Maybe, we can teach him to channel all that disobedience and “to hell with authority” attitude in the right direction? Maybe, we can parent him with love not judgement, joy  not shame, support not derision.

Who would parent a child with judgement, shame, and derision? More than you would imagine.

Choosing to see the good does not make me a fabulous parent. Quite the contrary! My child once said to me, “Mom, every kid deserves parents who believe in them.” He’s right, every child does. But every child doesn’t get it. Trust me on this.

No, believing and supporting doesn’t set me up for the Mother of the Year award. From where I stand it sets me at the starting point of good parenting. It’s everything that comes after that will determine if we succeeded at the task. And only time will tell. My child, who still feels so brand new to me, will grow up and judge my actions—and he will be able to tell you if I was a good mom.

I hope he’ll say yes. Not because I was perfect. I’m not. But because I continue to talk with this questioning child of mine. I own up when I fail. I apologize when I’m in the wrong.  I continue to test the boundaries and release more and more of his life to him. Letting them go is the hardest part. And I hope that he will be able to look back and see how I’ve been letting him go from the moment he was brand new. Not because I didn’t love him. But because I knew, that this premature fighter wasn’t going to be mine forever. And if I was lucky, I would parent him to see beauty. To seek joy. To do justice. To know love. To  dream and inspire others to dream. To choose to see the good. And to never, ever stop questioning.

Keeping Traditions

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Me: Do you still want a birthday tree now that you are a teenager? Or have you out-grown the tradition?

Boy Wonder: Mom! You’re never too old for a birthday tree! In fact, I’m going to make sure my kids have birthday trees.

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