Wednesday, February 4, 2015

February lessons

I'm sick.

It was really only a matter of time since I have been subbing almost daily the past few weeks. That much subbing only means one thing, sick teachers. Sick teachers means sick kids. Sick kids means the classrooms are all thriving petri dishes teeming with all manner of bacteria and viruses. It's like an episode of Magic School Bus where all of the teachers and students become germs and have to do battle against bottles of hand sanitizer (Spoiler alert: The germs win).

Sidenote: How great was Magic School Bus? How awesome was Ms. Frizzle? How unrealistic was it that she had a class of eight kids? Do you know how awesome I would be if I had a class of eight kids? I could surely take my class on some magical adventures full of education and fun, too, with EIGHT kids. 

I digress.

Did I mention I am sick? I feel like I should clarify that again in case this little missive of mine wanders even more than usual. I am quite possibly feverish and hallucinating.

Subbing and the Bacteria Festival I've been cavorting in aside, I'm not surprised February has decided to kick me in the teeth. It's possible I might have ended up here anyway, even without the burning sore throat and aching head. I have a lot to gear up for this month and it's enough to make me tired by 8am even on my best day.

February is always a big month in our little household. Exactly 3 out of 5 birthdays in our family occur this month. Three birthdays in the shortest month of the year, and one of them is mine. That makes February a non-stop party on any given year but this year the birthdays are feeling particularly big. This year we are rolling in some new numbers that I am having a hard time getting my head around.

I almost can't even say it.

Actually, I can't say it.

Let's just say I have one leaving single digits (let me pause to mop off the keyboard from the waterfall of tears), one leaving his teens (I'm glad you can't hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth), and then there's me...officially hitting the middle of my 40's which means after this it's all just one big, not-so-long countdown to 50.

I cannot even.

Obviously my resolve to get out of yoga pants is going to hit some really big snags this month. I'm sure you understand.

These two...my February babies...killin' me.







You get it, right? I mean, you'll understand when I spontaneously start weeping in the produce aisle, right? Please just look away. It's best for both of us.

But in spite of the fact that I'm inclined to be annoyed at February for kicking me when I'm down with this little illness that mimics the Bubonic Plague; I actually think February was trying to teach me something.

Because when our kids get older and we get all sentimental, we start to have memory lapses of what the "little years" were really like. 

Don't get me wrong. I loved the little years. I love little ones, period. That's why I say "yes" every time I'm asked to sub in Kindergarten even though I know I will come home limping and exhausted and won't be able to speak full sentences to my own family, let alone cook them dinner. I just love those little guys. 

But when you reach this point in parenting it is so tempting to look back on those years with nostalgia and start saying grandmotherly things like, "Enjoy it dearie" to poor, sleep-deprived mothers who are trying to run their debit card as fast as possible in the checkout aisle while their toddler is grabbing at candy bars and packs of gum and their newborn is wailing for all she's worth in the Baby Bjorn and you just know that poor mama's milk just letdown as the beads of sweat start pouring down her face in the direction of her clenched teeth.

The little years are not easy. 

And they are especially not easy when Mama is sick. Remember Moms of Older Kids? Remember what it was like to be sick as a dog and still have to nurse a baby or entertain a toddler or cut up grapes or make mac n cheese while praying that he will keep watching Nick Jr. all. day. long? 

Oh, do I remember. 

And I thought of that this morning as my two who are still at home got themselves up, dressed, fed and out the door with almost zero input from me. I thought to myself what a marvel that would be to a young mother; the idea that her children would one day be capable of making their own breakfast, dressing themselves, packing up and getting out the door on time all while she STAYED IN BED.

Being sick is not fun regardless. But it is a heck of a lot more manageable when you only have to take care of yourself. You can take that to the bank and cross-stitch it on a pillow, I'd say.

So, thank you, February. Thank you for reminding me of the many wonderful things that come from having your kids grow up. Truly, the many, many wonderful things. I am going to keep this little lesson close to my heart as we hit each of these milestone birthdays. I will sing their ages loud and proud and, I promise, I will celebrate with a smile.

So....can we nix the whole flu bug thing now? 

Lesson learned. 

Please?

Alrighty then...naptime. 

And I'll be taking this one all by myself. Hallelujah.

P.S. Big, mighty prayers for any moms of little ones who are sick right now. May God send Mary Poppins down from the sky to tend to the children, Alice to cook dinner, and Rosario (Will and Grace) to hang out and watch TV with you. My heart is with you.

P.P.S. This is still killin' me...



Thursday, January 29, 2015

Teach them well

Yesterday was Grandparent's Day at my daughter's school. If you teach in an elementary school you know that any day out of the ordinary is a recipe for craziness. Combine the change in routine with beloved grandparents, aunts, uncles and various other "special friends" coming to visit at the end of the day and you can count on the first four hours of the day being unbridled insanity.

But everyone survived. The program went off beautifully (all credit to our amazingly patient and unflappable music teacher) and the students happily reunited with their precious family members and friends to escort them to their classrooms to show off their best work.

I stood in the hallway and waited for my daughter to finish reading her Oma the short novel she had written. I knew it would take a little while and the classroom was crowded and hovering somewhere right around one thousand degrees so I positioned myself outside the door where it was a mere one hundred degrees. A friend joined me, also waiting for her kids to finish up in their classrooms. As her son raced by, recorder in hand, she shook her head and confessed to me, "I'm the worst Love and Logic mom. He actually forgot his recorder today and I brought it to him." She went on, "I mean...if it had just been an assignment or even his lunch, I wouldn't have come to his rescue. But, it's Grandparent's Day! And he would have had to sit out the performance!" She was obviously struggling over this decision and probably figured the Parenting Police were going to swoop in at any moment and tattoo "Helicopter Mom" on her forehead.

I couldn't help but laugh a little at her distress because she is truly one of the best moms I know and the farthest thing from a Helicopter Parent. Her children are all bright, self-reliant, incredibly sweet and unfailingly polite. The idea that she had violated some indefensible Mom Law and now needed to plead Guilty and send herself off to Mom Jail would mean there was little hope for the rest of us.

But I could see she really felt conflicted over her decision and so I made my own confession, which is that I don't always subscribe to the hardline Love and Logic, "natural consequences" school of parenting. (I'll pause for shocked gasps). I know, I know. The heresy. I get it.  I know it puts me at risk for the Parenting Police knocking on my door, too, but I'll take my chances.

I told her, "I think you absolutely did the right thing. We have to teach our kids consequences and responsibility, but we also have to teach them grace. Where else will they learn about grace and forgiveness and mercy, if not in their family?"

Where else will they learn about grace and forgiveness and mercy, if not in their family?

I mean, here's the thing.

(I love to say that. And it's one of those phrases that is so comical in its meaninglessness. Here's the thing? What thing? And is there only one thing? I digress...)

Seriously, here's the thing. Let's imagine you locked your keys in your car. I know, I know...today's cars make that a lot harder to do but it can be done so let's imagine it. Got it?  Have you conjured up your mental picture? You are stranded in a grocery store parking lot having locked your keys in your car. You know your husband is not far away, is available, and has in his possession a spare set of keys to your car. You call him on the phone and explain your dilemma, and he says this (Cheerfully but sympathetically, I might add, which is another pet peeve of mine of the whole L & L philosophy, the false cheery/sympathy you are advised to adopt.):

Oh, wow, honey. I am so sorry. That is such a bummer. I am so sad for you that this happened. What do you think you are going to do? Would you like to hear some ideas of what other people have done in your situation? I can't wait to find out how you solve this problem. I'm rooting for you!

Can. You. IMAGINE?!?!

Better yet, can you imagine what your response would be?

I am going to advise something completely revolutionary which will mean, again,  I am going to have to be looking over my shoulder for the PP.

I am not an expert on anything. Truth be told, I probably won't even shower today which doesn't really mean anything except to say that I do not think I am the be all and end all of anything. Zilch. In fact, I will be the first to tell you that you should take or leave my advice according to your own inner wisdom.

Disclaimers aside, I'm going to offer some advice.

When your normal, mostly responsible, decently polite, generally even-keeled kid leaves his lunch sitting on the kitchen counter for the first time, or even the second time, or even the third time-but-the-last-time-was-four-months-ago-and-he's-remembered-it-like-sixty-times-since-then....and you are able and willing...take it to him.

When your daughter, who has been struggling and striving and working so hard to master long division comes to you with tears in her eyes because she left her math assignment at school...help her find a solution. Call a friend and see if they can email it to you. Figure out if she could go in early and get it done. LOOK HER IN THE EYES AND TELL HER, "I LOVE YOU. THIS IS NOT THE END OF THE WORLD AND WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER."

Because we are a family. And in families we help each other.

I'm not talking about entitlement. If you see your kid slipping into a pattern of irresponsibility and an attitude of 'what can the world do for me' then by all means, nip that nonsense in the bud, swiftly and efficiently.

But the idea that if you don't let your kids suffer small consequences now means they will automatically be facing BIG consequences later is silly. Taking your 2nd grader their lunch, or their recorder, or their math assignment a couple of times over the course of a school year does not mean they are on a direct route to prison.

Consequences are a reality. We all come to face to face with them all the time. Yes, kids need to feel the weight of them now and then. But I think we are playing with fire if we don't realize how many consequences kids face on a daily basis that we don't even see. The missed recesses for assignments that weren't finished, or talking in class. The friend who won't play with him now because he didn't play fair yesterday. The coach who made them all run extra laps for goofing off. The class who all got assigned extra homework because of the actions of a few. And any parent who takes their job seriously (which most parents do), knows there are plenty of consequences that happen at home, too.

Don't be afraid to teach them grace.

And when they offer you that sheepish, "thank you", or a hug, or even just a grateful smile, tell them,

We are a family. This is what we do. 

We love.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Dream Medium

Am I the only one getting a little overwhelmed by all of the inspirational New Years posts, quotes, goal lists and otherwise Rah-Rah messages?

ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!

MAKE THIS YOUR BEST YEAR YET!

LIFE IS NOT A DRESS REHEARSAL! (I particularly love the ones that throw in a dig about my mortality. That's uplifting.)

DREAM BIG!!!!

I am all for living with intention and purpose. I fully support anyone striving for and reaching their goals. I absolutely believe it is always best to set your mind on all that is good, excellent, lovely and wonderful (Philippians 4:8). I would much rather see people go into the New Year with energy and enthusiasm than with dread and dismay.

But...

What if I don't want to dream big?

What if I really just kinda want to dream medium? Or even small? Or even teeny tiny?

Is that so terrible?

First, let's just get out of the way that ANYTHING is not possible. No matter how badly I might want to (and I so badly do NOT want to) I cannot get up out of this chair and go run a marathon. I cannot. No amount of wishing or determination can make it so. I have not trained, prepared or planned to keep these legs moving at an above-walking pace for anywhere close to 26.2 miles. It will not happen. At least not today (or ever, just so we are clear).

I am not going to go to sleep tonight and wake up tomorrow and find that Jack's room has been painted. (Yeah, I'm going to keep beating that dead horse until someone shows up here demanding to paint his bedroom just so I will stop talking about it. Sherwin Williams "Mindful Gray" looks nice. Just in case you were wondering.)

We are not children. We all know that in reality ANYTHING is not possible without adequate planning, preparation, skill, talent, opportunity and good luck. Certainly faith plays a critical role in the realization of any dream, but God gave us each unique gifts for a reason. He doesn't expect a duck to go out and try and be a wolf (thank goodness, because the duck would be eaten immediately). We gotta do the best with what we've been given. We have to be the best gosh darn duck we can be.

I admire the people today and throughout history who have dreamed really big dreams. People who shake up and transform the world. Truly, thank God for the big dreamers.

But I keep hoping that God didn't mean for every single one of us to shake up the world. I mean, if you have too many world shakers wouldn't we all start feeling like we are a bunch of kernels of corn in a bag of Jiffy Pop? Everybody exploding and bouncing into one another with no rhyme or reason until we are just a big pile of ideas and plans and programs with nobody left to simply cook dinner, or teach a Sunday school class, or meet a hurting friend for coffee?

Life is in the small stuff, too.

In fact, I would say most of life is in the small stuff.

I dream that this year my children will continue to succeed and be happy in school.

I dream that the children I teach at church will know that I love them and, more importantly, that God loves them.

I dream that my husband will reap a bountiful harvest from all the seeds of diligence, steadfastness and devotion he has sown.

I dream that we will all laugh a lot this year.

I dream the Seahawks will win the Super Bowl. (C'mon...I had to put that in there!)

I dream that both myself and others will be blessed by my One Word.

I dream that Ben will let me get another dog (what is wrong with me?!)

I dream that through my words and actions I will help to make my corner of the world kinder, safer and more abundantly joyful for everyone.

Those are my medium dreams.

I have this idea that maybe if enough of us dream and pursue and attain a whole bunch of medium dreams, those medium dreams will join together to create one big mega-dream! Don't you think?

I do.

I think that's how we medium dreamers make our own mark on the world. We each tend to our little corners of the world and pretty soon you add 'em all up and we circle the globe. One corner at a time.

Dream medium. I believe in you.




Tuesday, December 30, 2014

That word

A few days ago I realized that the hands of Father Time were ticking along and that soon we would be closing the books on 2014. I don't know what tipped me off first, the fact that New Years always arrives a week after Christmas, or my multiple calendars all faithfully counting down the last days of December, but at some point I finally clued in that 2015 is just around the corner. I'm quick that way. 

For me, the arrival of a new year means the arrival of a new Word. As in, a One Word resolution. Or, a Word of the Year, if you will. Call it what you like but for the past two years this has been my approach to heralding in the New Year in lieu of a more traditional list of resolutions. 

Essentially, the goal is to choose a word that will help you to grow or change or improve in a certain area and make that your focus. It's more about big picture thinking than a list of narrowly defined goals you are likely to abandon by Jan 10th anyway. I also choose a scripture verse that complements my one word and commit that to memory as well. My verses from the past two years continue to be of enormous benefit to me and I repeat them to myself often. 

You can read more about my previous words and verses here but suffice to say the past two years have had a similar flavor. While different in some respects, both 2013 and 2014 carried an intention to combat my somewhat complacent nature and encourage more productivity. And I have to say, I was encouraged by the improvement I saw in 2014. I'm still a work in progress, and Jack's room still isn't painted (ahem), but there has definitely been growth. 

(And I have come to the firm conclusion that until Jack can keep his room clean for more than five minutes when he's home, I think he deserves a room with spring green walls.) 

For 2015, I knew I wanted to go in a new direction. As much as I continue to wish I had a more task-oriented, Energizer Bunny personality, at some point I also have to acknowledge that just isn't who I was created to be. I get all the important things in my life done. My family is well cared for, my home is relatively neat and tidy (ignore Jack's room), I exercise regularly, I am a reliable and conscientious employee, and I make time for family and friends. I continue to strive for growth but certainly there are other areas I could devote my energy to. 

So, a couple of days ago I opened up my mind and heart and started asking myself some pertinent questions. There is no magic formula to arriving at your One Word, but these are the sort of questions I ask myself: What do I like about myself? Where do I struggle? What makes me feel happy? When do I feel lost? At the end of 2015 what would I like to be able to say was different this year? How do I want to be and feel different? What do I want more of in my life?

Many words popped into my head in the course of answering these questions. They were all useful, interesting words but there was one in particular that kept elbowing all of the other perfectly good words out of the way. And, in response, I kept shoving it back down. 

It wasn't that I didn't like the word, I just didn't know what I would do with that word. It didn't make sense to me. Or, deep down it did but it wasn't a word I wanted to have to spend much time with. Certainly not a whole year. 

So, I kept thinking and made lists of other words. Better words. Words that made sense. 

But it was still there. Quietly knocking on the door of my heart. That word. 

I decided to ask Superdad what he thought. Part of me felt silly asking for help in arriving at my One Word but who knows me better than the man who shares my life every single day, year in and year out? Plus, I knew he wouldn't just make something up to placate me. He would only give me an answer if he had one to give. He's annoyingly honest like that. 

I told him what I needed. I stammered out a bunch of rambling thoughts about my answers to my questions. How I want to feel more comfortable in my own skin. That I want to feel less burdened by the feelings and reactions of others. I want to own my feelings but let other people have theirs without feeling responsible for them. I want to feel less guilty all the time, as though anything that ever goes wrong in the world is somehow my fault. I want to stop thinking, and analyzing, and pondering, and worrying so dang much and just BE. 

I want to be free. 

Superdad nodded along to my painfully long stream of consciousness and when I finished he looked at me steadily for several looong seconds. Then he turned back to his iPad and said, "Okay. I'll think about it."

I went upstairs with Annie and we both got in our pjs. We settled in on my big bed so she could watch a show and I could read. She burrowed into my side and I opened my book. I didn't expect to get a verdict from Superdad quickly (if he would have one at all). I fully expected him to take a day or two to mull things over and then let me know whether inspiration struck. I figured by the time I heard back from him I would have figured it out on my own. I would have found my One Word. A word that made sense. A good, solid, sensible word. Certainly not that word. 

But then I heard my text chime on my phone. Superdad.

There was only this:




And there it was. That word. 

I stared at it and felt this odd mix of shock and relief. Shock that he had so quickly arrived at the exact word I'd been avoiding, and relief that maybe it wasn't so crazy after all. Superdad is many things but among his varied gifts and qualities he is most decidedly sane, sometimes maddeningly so. And yet, somehow, in whatever way it came to him, he was nudged by the same word that had been pestering me for days, refusing to go away. 

I wish I could say that was all it took, but even after what most people would consider a pretty crazy, clear sign, I still fought it. I decided it was best to seek counsel from two more people, what with three being such an ancient spiritual number and all. So I texted two dear friends who know me well and I knew wouldn't call the loony bin when I gave them the condensed version of my story. But even as I typed the words, even knowing they would never judge me, I still felt hesitant to tell them the word that kept popping up. That word. 

Their responses?

Wow. That's awesome. That's a good one. Yes. I get exactly what that means. 

Really? You do? Alrighty then...

And it was at about that point that I swear I felt the Spirit smack me on the forehead and say, "Look. I can't really make this any more clear without doing something that will completely freak you out like writing the word in steam on your mirror so could you just trust me on this one?!"

Yes. Gotcha.

So that's it then....my word for 2015 is Loved.

Gulp.

I still don't know exactly what I'm going to do with that word for an entire year, but I have a feeling it will come to me in ways I least expect. 

Maybe, for now, I will just try to take the focus off of always trying to do better and be better and instead live out of the knowledge that I am loved. Right now. Today. Just as I am. Unfinished painting projects and all.

Loved.


That's my 2015 One Word. Whether I like it or not. :)

My 2015 verse.
I like to create a graphic of my Verse of the Year for
the wallpaper on my phone, hence the strange shape.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Come darkness, Come light

I think it's safe to say that my biggest weakness is my sweet tooth.

Actually, it's probably even safer to say that my biggest weaknesses are pride, impatience, slothfulness, selfishness....but let's just start with my sweet tooth. That's a bit more manageable. Baby steps.

Oh my, do I love sweets.

In the interest of good health, moderation and all things holy, I do manage to keep my sweet tooth in check most of the time. I am very aware of the dangers of sugar and the importance of eating real, whole foods. And that is what I do eat, most of the time. My meals do not consist of old fashioned donuts topped off with a sprinkle of M & M's. (But...yum, right?) I'm not Buddy the Elf pouring maple syrup on spaghetti. But truth be told, when I finish off my healthy meal of mostly high fiber, vitamin-rich, minimally processed, heavy-to-the-vegetables foods...I kinda want a little something sweet.

Maybe just a small handful of Christmas colored mint M & M's?

So, you can see why the holidays pose a particular challenge for someone like myself. When we enter into the season where every meeting, gathering, classroom function, or social event comes with a plate of Christmas cookies laid out front and center, it's time to pull out all the stops for sweet tooth dysfunction management.

It's not that I'm not capable of forgoing sweets. I once gave up sugar for a full two months. I like to refer to that period of my life as The Dark Ages.

I mean, really. What is life without a little sweetness?

So, given that any full ban on sweets is ultimately doomed to failure, my strategy for the past month or so has been to eliminate sweets on weekdays, only allowing myself a moderate amount of sweet treats on weekends. The only exception to this restriction are bonafide holidays that fall on a weekday. I mean, like, Thanksgiving and Christmas, not National Potato Chip Day (although who needs sweets if you can celebrate with potato chips?)

I realize that for some people my personal Operation-Cut-The-Sweets plan is probably an eating regimen that is second nature for you. I don't want to hear it. I'll warn you that every time someone primly say, 'I don't really care for sweets...' I am pretty sure an angel loses its wings. So, just keep it to yourselves you salad-loving-health-nuts.

I was walking the dog yesterday (distracting myself from Annie's candy bar she had left half-eaten on the counter), listening to Christmas music, when a song came on that literally had me almost skipping down the sidewalk. I was overcome with such merriness that it was almost silly. The only thing that kept it from being more-than-almost silly was that I did not actually skip down the sidewalk (my children are thanking their lucky stars right now).  But I wouldn't be exaggerating if I said that one little Christmas song turned my day, and my mood, right on its heels. I went from melancholy to joyful in about twenty seconds flat.

And it occurred to me that one of the reasons I embrace the Christmas season so enthusiastically is because it is my little something sweet.

For those of the Christian faith, we are really in the season of Advent. The Christmas season does not truly begin until Christmas Eve. And Advent is traditionally a time of reflection and repentance, not unlike the season of Lent. It's an introspective time in which we travel through the stories of our faith, reminding ourselves of why the Christmas story is indeed good news and something to be celebrated.

I'm good at that part. In truth, my heart and mind are all too often inclined more to the heavier stuff of life. Things weigh on my heart easily. I am too willing to carry burdens that aren't mine to hold. I lean into Advent with all the pondering and praying and repenting and sometimes get so far into the darkness that I forget that the light is coming. And, in fact, that the Light is here.

I think that is why I encourage an atmosphere of festivity and jolliness in my home by decorating early, playing Christmas tunes 24/7, and moving that blasted Elf around the house every night to the delight of one nine year old girl. It is because I need to be reminded of the light that is coming, the Light that is here- even as I acknowledge the darkness that is also the truth and reality of this life.

Being honest about the darkness awakens us to be compassionate with ourselves and others. But remembering the light, keeps us hopeful. And hope is the source of joy.

Wherever your heart is this Advent season, I hope Christmas will be your little something sweet.

"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life." John 8:12

P.S. And if you see me on a weekend, be sure to offer me a cookie...or candy...or brownie...I'm not picky. Just watch out for your fingers.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Common losses

Years ago, I was attending the bridal shower of a young woman who had grown up in our church. It was hard to believe that this funny, smart girl who babysat our boys when she was a teenager was old enough to be getting married. I was honored to be included in the event but I also carried into it my own feelings of awkwardness because at that time I had been away from our church home for a few years.

I needn't have worried. The people who had drawn us to that small church family (and would ultimately draw us back again) were still the same. They offered nothing but warmth and happiness in seeing me after so much time apart. They wanted nothing more than to know that I was well, what my family had been up to and to thank me for joining them in this special day. They were grace personified.

One of things that had set us adrift during that time was the loss of our infant twins. Many people find comfort in familiar places in the aftermath of loss but for me my comfort was in solitude. Going back to what had been was all too often a reminder to me of what would never be. So, there were people at this gathering whom I had not spoken to in the time since our loss.

I found myself seated next to one of our elderly matriarchs of the church. A stately, dignified woman not given to showy displays of emotion. She was typical of her generation. She had known and weathered hard things in her life but never wavered in her faithfulness to family, church and community. I admired her but even more so, I liked her.

We talked, catching up on our families and laughing over shared memories in the church choir. Still, in the small talk I felt something deeper, something much heavier than our light, breezy words. She seemed to want to share something. I sensed a story that needed to be told. The words started to bubble up, then she hesitated and I wondered if she would lose her nerve. Eventually, she pressed forward in short, hurried sentences. She told me of her grandson who had been born into this world medically fragile and clinging to life. He died within a few months of his birth. He had been able to go home. He was nursed by his mother, and loved deeply by his family. His was a blessedly full and yet painfully short little life.

I sat close and leaned in wanting to convey my profound sorrow and sympathy without causing undue attention from the rest of the party. I knew this woman would not want to feel as though she had disrupted a festive, happy occasion.

She stiffened then, sniffed and tried to shift back to the moment at hand with some brusque words about how "these things happen" and then looked right at me saying apologetically, "well, you know." She fell silent, stared at her hands in her lap and mumbled, "It happens to so many people."

I sat quietly for a moment. Wondering what words I could offer to this woman who had seen so much more of life than I had. This woman who had known so much more loss in her lifetime than I had.

But I also knew I didn't believe her dismissive words for a minute. I knew she had told me this story for a reason. I knew she carried it with her everyday and that it was a relief to be able to say his name out loud. To tell at least one person that he had been here. That he mattered. That she missed him.

I put my hand on her knee and said gently, "Yes, it does. These things do happen. But that doesn't make it any less sad and it doesn't mean we don't miss those babies."

She didn't look up or meet my eyes. She just squeezed my hand, nodded quickly and said in a whisper, "That's true. That is very, very true."

And then we both turned back to the celebration of life and love in front of us.


We are each of us angels with only one wing. 
And we can only fly embracing each other.
~Luciano De Creschenzo

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

What comes next

What a difference a year makes.

Last year at this time, I was making lists, circling important dates on the calendar, stressing over meal plans (how many times a day will he need to eat?!) while also purchasing bedding and towels and toiletries and text books and boatloads of pens and pencils (because he couldn't go buy more?) and paper and everything I could possibly think of that my baby bird might need as he flew from the nest to go land all of two miles away from home where I could have easily brought him anything that we might have forgotten. There is a good chance he would have been able to ascend Mt. Everest with all of the provisions I sent him off with.

We were prepared.

Yesterday, Jack and I had the following conversation when we crossed paths in the kitchen:

Me: Are you still here? 

Jack: It seems like it. 

Me: Do you actually know when you are supposed to be at school? Because I haven't looked at the school calendar.

Jack: Yeah, I'm pretty sure.

Me: Like, do you know your actual move-in date?

Jack: Yeah, the 26th. 

Me: Oh, okay good. So....do you need anything? Stuff for your room? Does anything from last year need to be replaced? Should we go shopping for... anything?

Jack: Nah... I'm good.

Can you tell we are headed for a highly warm, fuzzy and tearful goodbye?

Since this whole writing exercise started as a way for me to process how best to prepare my children (and really, let's face it, me) for their inevitable departure from our loving home, I feel like it is only fair to warn those of you who are just now launching your firstborn, or anticipating launching your firstborn in the near future, that the first flight out of the nest is only the beginning.

Because, you see, in most cases, they may fly away for a little while...but they aren't really gone gone yet. For most of us mama and papa birds, these are still just test flights for our baby birds. They are spreading their wings, going farther and staying away longer than they ever have before but...for most of us...at semi-regular intervals...our baby birds come flying back.

Vacations. Holidays. Maybe weekends. Summer. Right about the time you finally start getting used to the change in dynamics that comes with having one less member of the household that giant, messy, food-eating, leaves-his-Starbucks-cups-everywhere man-child will come strolling back in again.

And in some ways it's the same as it always was, which is great and fun and happyand in some ways it is totally different now.

See, this baby bird is not the same baby bird you booted out of the nest a year ago. This baby bird has been living life more or less on his own terms for the past nine+ months. This baby bird hasn't heard the word "curfew" in what feels like a lifetime, or had to "check-in", or been asked to leave a note as to where he might be going and when he might be back. This baby bird has been flying solo, People, and there's no clipping his wings now.

A year ago Jack and his friends wanted to take a road trip to California. We said, 'no.' It was too far. They had never done anything like that before. We told our son that he needed to start smaller, build trust, and then we will see. So, they didn't go. The trip was limited to the Washington/Oregon coast and all was well.

This summer....


He flew.

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It isn't that having them come home isn't wonderful. It is. We miss Jack when he's gone and we all love the energy and stories and laughter he brings when he returns. We love his presence. But we have also grown more and more accustomed to his absence. We have established a "new normal" when he is gone. So when he comes bursting back in (And I swear trumpets sound when he comes through the door. Seriously, the fanfare of that kid...) everyone has to find their bearings again. And none more so than the parents who are having to learn how to live with a child who still has one foot in childhood while the other foot is inching closer and closer to adulthood.

We discovered that the first summer home is when you negotiate new boundaries. You have discussions about the kinds of things you do simply out of courtesy to the people who care about you, not because you have to. You figure out where to give some latitude and where to draw new lines. And, hopefully, everyone can do this peacefully knowing we are all on the same side.

You end up having text conversations like this:


And you learn not to wait up anymore because we are not all 19 and actually do require normal amounts of sleep.

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None of this is bad. It really isn't. 

It's just another transition.

And like the first initial launch, it can be both thrilling and sad.

But this is what all of those years of mothering and parenting and loving and scolding and training and hoping and worrying and wishing have been about. They have been about raising a child, your child, to become an adult. Eventually. Step by step.

Mine is not there yet, and that's okay. There is still time. In fact, I'm glad we still have some time.

But this summer I have seen glimpses of the adult he is becoming and while I fear he is destined to live in squalor surrounded by his empty glasses and soda cans, I am also very proud of the man he is becoming (for other reasons unrelated to his housekeeping skills). 

So, this is my message of encouragement to all of the moms and dads watching their baby birds take their first flight out of the nest this fall. I see you as you wipe the tears from your eyes and wonder how the house suddenly got so quiet. I feel your anxiety. I hear your hopes and dreams even as they are mixed with worry and concern. I am with you completely.

I know it's hard.

But try to remember, they will fly back again.

And that will be even harder. :-)