Posts Tagged ‘parenting’
Last week IZ whisked me off to Cannon Beach for 2 nights. It was lovely. It’s been ages (since our son was 6?) since we’ve been alone in a hotel room together. We’ve just not had people in our world to leave our child with. The few times we did, when Geo was younger, we would come home to be inundated with tales of how “hard” it was for the caregiver. Stream of consciousness complaint, right as we hit the door. Sigh.
Nothing spoils that getaway zen like coming home to kid angst. Sure, I get it: he was a handful– kinda why his parents needed a little R&R, right? Your two days of dealing with a high energy kid hardly trumps my day to day existence. But, thanks for reminding me.
After the last get away, I looked at IZ and said, “I’m not going away until it’s no longer abuse to leave my kid on his own. And remind me to keep my mouth shut when I find myself in this situation with my own grandchildren!”
So, we traveled with the kid. Everywhere. And that wasn’t a bad thing. We’re a happy trio, we enjoy exploring together. It can be fun and exciting and worthwhile.
What it is not, is romantic. Children have a sixth sense about romance: the minute you start to get frisky or intimate, you’ll find you’re not alone by a long shot. (A related aside, how people co-sleep with toddlers is beyond me!) Little eyes are on you. Little bodies step between you. Little voices want attention. Excuse me, I was talking to your dad!
And it’s all good, because that’s the beauty of parenting. Sex is overrated, right? Half consumed coffee, unfinished conversations, is that glass of wine for me? Exhaustion and missing showers is the norm, the beautiful, glorious, norm.
I wouldn’t trade those days. But I won’t lie, the benefits to having college aged children are starting to dawn on me.
One of those benefits is that it isn’t abuse to leave them on their own! It’s not only NOT abuse, it’s easy. Granted, we were 40 minutes down the road, but I was more concerned over how the dog would fair than how the kid was getting on. (she has dementia and needs her routine!) Other than a few instant messages to check in on how the dog was doing, my child wasn’t on my mind. Instead, this beautiful man and I spent the time reconnecting. Dreaming and laughing and remembering what it was like when it was just us.
For the record, the world did not come to an end. The house wasn’t trashed, our son got himself to and from school without any mishaps, and the dog met us at the door and seemed completely unconcerned that we’d gone missing for 2 days.
And taped to the front door when we arrived was this:
I’m liking what’s on the horizon.
Last night, our son was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa — an honor society for scholarship. We’re utterly proud of him, of course. Part of the ritual is to give each inductee a white rose — the symbol of purity. His is now gracing our home and it makes me smile.
It’s hard not to love a society that uses flowers as a symbol of success and aspiration. PTK’s call to wisdom, aspiration, and purity seems almost old fashioned in this world of text messaging and tabloid media.
Such lofty goals to aspire to: such worthy goals to achieve. Watching my son, oblivious to his parents in the audience, say his pledge and receive his rose surrounded by his peers– reminds me how important it is to have these sorts of aspirations. No matter what it is we do, reaching for something beyond ourselves while in the company of others with the same goals is important.
We need all need community. Finding a community that can sing your song, dream your dream, well–that’s the hard part.
And it’s worth the endeavor.
At this very moment, our 17 year old is sitting his Physics final. This is the end of his second term at college and his spring break begins just as soon as he’s finished: having completed his Calculus final this morning.
Let me tell you, typing that paragraph is weird. We’ve been at this college thing now for six months and it still feels weird. And not just for me.
I took at a break from work yesterday and scooped up my college student for a quick trip to Starbucks. He loves going in the middle of his day, between classes: it’s a mental break. And it’s a chance for us to touch bases in a non-written form. (we’re on Instant Message a lot throughout the day.) At one point in the conversation he said, “I’m almost out the door. When I leave there’s no coming back to my childhood.”
He gets a little weepy at the idea, but then, so do I. It’s weird for all of us. I assured him, despite his skepticism now, that there would come a day soon where it wouldn’t be weird at all. Where he would be excited to visit and just as excited to return to his own life at school. “You can always come home, Geo– but trust me, something changes when you go off to college. You stop wanting to be at home all the time.”
It’s not just about his absence. I think we’re both feeling out how our relationship is changing. He isn’t ready and I’m not ready to stop being his “smother”… but, I’m letting go of the oversight more and more each day. And more and more, he’s solving things for himself and letting me in on the solution.
I think we’re on target. It feels like we’re exactly where we should be. We’re just a little sad that we’re at this point. And it’s my job, my last act of intense mothering, to point the way to a new relationship with my son, who is almost an adult.
He is not convinced that this moment will come. But we all know better, right? Besides, this is healthy. It’s a natural part of growing up. We want our children to leave the nest. Maybe not to go so far away; but we know they must leave, if they’re ever to truly live a life that belongs to them.
That being said, it’s utterly mind blowing for me to consider a life where he visits. It’s not only coming, it’s going to be OK. I recognize that it will feel weird at first to have him gone. And then we will grow used to the idea of our child living his own life. Just as we’ve grown used to seeing him less and less as he has moved into this new role of being a college student. I’m excited to see where his future takes him, even as I brush away tears at the thought.
I’m also beginning to recognize that the grief will eventually subside. That IZ and I, like our son, are beginning a new chapter of lives together. And, dare I admit, I’m looking forward to being alone, with my husband! We had a life together that predates this child of ours: and we’ll have a life together once he’s out of the house.
There is a new equilibrium coming. A space and time where our adult child is thriving in a world of his own. It’s just a matter of getting there.
“Miss Wende? Can I sing you a song?”
She is five. It’s right before Sunday School is to begin. Due to a flood on the east side of the building, our classroom is engulfed in mildew– I’m frantically moving us up two flights of stairs for the duration. Who knows when we’ll be back in our classroom? God does. And he’s not clued me in, so I’m bracing for the long haul. Pencils? Check. Markers? Check. Paper? Check!
So, I’m a little distracted when she asks, but I have enough clarity to say, “Yes. Just as soon as I get back. I need to run and tell someone something before class begins. But when I get back you can sing me your song.”
And when I get back, she does just that. Our temporary classroom is an old chapel, so she stands in front of the altar and belts out the first verse and chorus of “Let it Go.” Her soft blond hair is coiled into tiny little buns on either side of her head: looking every bit Elsa, singing her heart out. I can tell she’s been practicing. She knows all the words and she’s nailed that little pause before, “The cold never bothered me anyway.”
“Miss Wende? Can I sing that song in front of everyone?” I’m busy keeping 14 kids ages 5-17 focused, so I’m a little distracted. I’ve grown accustomed to the pandemonium. I thrive in it, like wild things thrive in bogs.
“What do you mean? In front of the adults downstairs?” She vigorously nods her head. My brain quickly reviews the lyrics and then agrees, “Yes. I’ll get you a mic after church. You can sing during coffee time.” And then we’re off and running. Today, we’re “blinging out” our temporary classroom. Home should feel like home, right?
I’m busy with the older kid table: because their posters need more supervision. The most inappropriate things the little kids tend to draw are superheroes. “No, no batman at church.” I’m certain the Dark Knight wouldn’t want to be hanging in a converted chapel now Sunday School classroom anyhow.
A tug on my sweater: “Miss Wende? My sister says me singing that song is embarrassing. Is it embarrassing?”
Siblings! Why, oh, why must they deflate each other? Most of my class is made up of siblings. And I watch it every week: one rises, soaring into the air like colorful balloons: aloft with some accomplishment. And then a sibling grabs a foot: the proverbial Jacob tugging at a heel. Back to the ground you must go. Half of my sermons are on God’s love. The other half, a stealthy attempt to encourage the bonds between brothers and sisters: convinced if that’s the only mark I make, then I’ve lived into my call.
“Sweets, the real question is, are YOU embarrassed to sing that song?” Again with the vigorous shaking of the head. “Then, there’s your answer. Here’s the thing: when you’re a performer, or any kind of artist, there will be critics. There will be people who tell you that your art isn’t good enough or it’s embarrassing. That happens. But if making your art makes you happy, then don’t listen to those other voices. Just be yourself. OK?” She seems content with that.
“She’s singing that song in front of the whole church?” A voice from the older table –another of her siblings.
“Yes. And I expect all of you to sit in the pews and encourage her. Applaud her efforts when she’s done.”
“I thought we only applauded when the performance was a good one?” Says her older sister. Sigh. Clearly, I need to work on the message.
“It will be a good performance.”
And when church ends and the adults are milling with coffee I grab a mic: give it a quick test and hand it to this brave five year old for her moment in the sun.
And I beam through the whole thing, because she is soaring. She’s got a death grip on her mic, but she is fierce and brave and everything we want little girls her age to be. Her father sits in a pew with is cell phone poised to capture the moment. Her peers and siblings are also in the pews. Perhaps the message is getting through after all.
When she reaches the line, “I don’t care what they’re going to say” she shoots me a look and begins to smile. We share this secret: we can be artists and it doesn’t matter what the world thinks. The cold never bothered us anyway.
When she is finished, I retrieve her mic. She’s not sure what to do with it. And I give her the biggest hug. “You were awesome! Good job!” There is applause from the pews and from the adults with their coffee. They had grown quiet, to take in this little wonder with a microphone and a message.
A few minutes later, one last tug, “Miss Wende?” I bend down so that we’re eye to eye, “Did I really do a good job?”
“Yes, sweetheart. You were amazing.”
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 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.
This child. Is not a child any longer. Shh… don’t tell his mother.
This child is driving me crazy. By all accounts, anyone as disorganized as he is should be failing out of college. A point I make. Often. He is excelling, which is annoying. And who does that? Succeeds at Calculus and Physics straight out of the gate? Annoying.
But it all came to a head on Monday morning. 1:30 AM to be exact. After a long weekend, he was “working” on a calculus problem he said was “due” the next day. Um, that he “forgot” about until he “remembered” at 12:45.
I stood in his pitiful room. Looked at all the mounds of clothes and papers and cat hair covered things and my head exploded. Read the rest of this entry »
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.
The Brawny Guy says, “Have an Extra Strong Halloween.”
This is his last year trick-or-treating. He’s only going because one of his best buddies is a bit younger and wants to uphold their long standing tradition. But, you know it’s time to stop* when you’re bumming your dad’s footwear for your costume. Happy Halloween, everyone. Stay Safe. See you soon.
*or when your mother says, “let’s take some photos” and you just give her that teenager angst look. Yeah, time for YOU to stay home and hand out candy. Good thing you’re living out of a hotel right now, buster!