Posts Tagged ‘parenting’
“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!
Day One: My peonies bloomed today. Summer is off to a vibrant start!
For those of you who were praying with us today, THANK YOU. It’s never easy for anyone to discover a mass or lump, but I think it’s especially scary when you’re 14. IZ and I are so grateful for your prayers—more than we can express. ~~Wende
Observing today: Mothering seems to be a “two steps forward, one step back” proposition. It’s important to keep that in mind, I think, especially as you parent into the teen years. Sometimes, your child isn’t ready to be as independent as they claim. And in our case, I feel like it’s time for a remedial course on time management.
It’s too easy to say, it’s a phase or “welcome to teenagers.” It’s also too restrictive to expect adult behaviour, when so many adults don’t seem to get it either! I’m certainly not the paragon of organization. So, we’re taking a step back together. Because parenting is also a collaborative endeavor. We don’t teach lessons to blank slates; our children have moods and personalities and wills and minds of their own! We learn, or don’t learn, together. Give and take, whether we like it or not!
And so we’re learning that actions do have consequences. Which means he’s grounded. Which means I’m grounded. And we start over. Begin again. Me, more present. Him, less free. Eventually, he’ll get it. And then I’ll have to learn the only solo lesson that parenthood has to offer. . . the lesson of letting go.
Until then, we’re in this together, kid.
Note: I read an amazing post on mothering this morning: if you don’t read Dropped Stitches, you really should!