Overnight Parental Metamorphosis

 

My son, my second child, just left the house for his Senior Year of High School finals.  I know this day is a major rite of passage.  So I go to my basement and retrieve a few fragments of his and his sister’s childhood from the big box of grade school papers I have kept all these years.  I am that Mom.  The one who frames art projects and puts every lost tooth in a ziplock bag.  These memories are my treasures.

You don’t get to choose many of the experiences your children will have outside your four walls and nothing prepares you for the disappointments the world will heap upon them – you can only hope that your love will be the cushion your child needs to bounce back and return to the world of unexpected experiences the following day.

As a child, Motherhood and writing were my true callings.  I wrote plays and each afternoon baked goodies in my Easy Bake oven before picking my imaginary kids up on my bicycle riding up and down my long driveway and talking to them.  As an adult, my life has luckily pretty much mirrored what I always dreamed and imagined motherhood would be.  Except the joy I have felt over the beauty of children’s innocence and unfaltering love was deeper than anything I had ever experienced.  And the anguish over not being able to solve a child’s heartache with a bowl of ice cream and a hug more harsh than any adult experience I had ever known.

The most unexpected delight from mothering a girl and a boy has been the gift of being the guardian of the gentle unfolding of their hearts in this world.  Being a parent at our house has often meant inviting the outside world to our table.  The way my children embraced our Little Brother when we were matched as a Family in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program was loving and open-hearted.  They were open and accepting of the experience and shared our abundance of love, food, toys and fun with him without urging by me or their Dad.  And the outside adventures their hearts led our family to were beyond any planned playdate or experience I could have ever mapped out.  When our daughter told us at age 8 she wanted to be a competitive cheerleader, we set off on 2 years of driving hundreds of miles each week and thousands of 8-counts and sassy faces and moves to impress judges at competitions.  She already had grit, determination and focus.  The competitive sport just gave her an outlet, and her overwhelmed Mom was grateful for that.

My husband will faint in disbelief when he reads this, but I am grateful to have lived in the country on 32 acres for part of our kids’ childhood, in particular, the formative part.  They learned how to occupy themselves on long, windy, hot summer days without constant monitoring or activities.  Families enjoyed campfires, storytelling and music in the evenings and our son became a huge fan of the annual music festival that took place 1 mile from our back door.  To this day, his favorite smell is smoke from a campfire and as a young man, our house has become the headquarters for his friends to linger, laugh and talk into the night by a simple campfire.  Our daughter honed her writing skills and our many 8-hour car trips to visit family in St. Louis were a great source of inspiration.  Here she writes about the “Throwing Up Spring Break” of 2006 which was preceded by the “greatest day” of our 6-year-old son’s life at Disney on Ice.

Although today officially marks a transition from parenting children to young adults, and my heart is somewhat tender with wistful memories of those early days, I look forward to the next chapter – one that has already begun with my daughter – of witnessing, supporting, validating and loving the young adults my children become.

These 2 are my treasures and they belong to the world now, not me.  That’s both the most painful and proud reality of parenting:  these children gifted to us are born to fly.  Instead of planning the next week to make sure I am available for sporting events or other activities they love, I am, even as I write this, officially promoted to Witness.  I don’t have to referee their journey anymore.  Another Mom recently said, “You go from parent to consultant overnight.”  It might take me a few boxes of tissue to make the transition.  Each tear will be worth it.

Now I get to see who they invite to our table.

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When Our Time Was Our Time

I’ve been in a “season of remembering” and feeling grateful lately, after a cold, harsh winter and a major health setback.  During this time, I have had countless ideas for blog posts but we are experiencing a time in our family when all computers are nearly dead and also I need to learn much more about technology than I want in order to reach the “next level” of blog writing.  So the ideas and creative impulses come and go and I have done nothing.

Until this morning, looking out at the lovely grass and listening to the birds as Spring begins to unfold, I started remembering how connected our family had the privilege of being to the seasons when my kids were young.  My husband and I intentionally semi-stepped off the grid of urban life and uprooted our young family from the city to a country setting.  At the time, all I can remember is wanting to have a simpler life with fewer distractions and outside intrusions but we didn’t have many specific ideas about what our “country life” would feel like beyond that.  The lessons came for us, many of them surprisingly difficult and unpleasant, yet we know, looking back, it was absolutely the right choice to make for our children.

This morning I started remembering all the unstructured, wild fun we had together when we lived in the country.  We’d take adventurous walks on our land and the kids would get filthy dirty without worrying about being clean or “ready” for the next obligation on our busy calendar because there wasn’t much of a calendar to worry about at all.  Just time, nature, freedom, each other, the weather, the critters, and the expectations of enjoying one carefree day after the next.  So I guess what I am saying is country life gave our family a framework we were craving that didn’t exist in a city:  some land, some time, some freedom – to enjoy life with youngsters unbothered by schedules and timetables and expectations.  That’s exactly, as it turns out, what we all had.  Let me tell you in one word what that life felt like:  glorious.  It took returning to the city and hearing from parents we must contact the “nanny” to coordinate “play date” schedules for me to appreciate how golden our lives in the country had been.  It was isolating at times and occasionally boredom set in.  But all you had to do was wait for the next spectacular sunset or sunrise to unfold and rest beneath the quiet (unless it was tornado season) heavens to remember what we had was very special.

I recently heard my daughter describe in great detail what the sky looked and felt like out in the country minutes before a big storm.  That memory is part of her and it will stay with her for life.  Unless you have spent a considerable amount of time on the prairie and its open skies, you’ll never understand what she meant when she told her friend about that sudden quiet, green-turning-to-black sky that happens right before a big storm.  We took shelter during those times in our basement and in each other.  We weren’t worried about which activities might be cancelled because of the inconvenience of the weather.  The weather was part of our lived experience.

As a Mother, your kids reach college age and you might start looking back to reassure yourself you gave them what they needed.  I am fortunate that I didn’t have to worry about much beyond fun and safe experiences on our land when they were little.  And I can already see those early years have shaped the young adults they have become.  After all, it takes a lot of mud puddles and unstructured play to build a competent adult.  Thank goodness we had plenty.

 

 

The Dog Days of Missing Boo

In 18 days, she’s coming back home for the summer!!!  It is a triumph to have survived the most dreaded event of my life.  I could not help but project onto my daughter my personal feelings about being away from home for the first time, so I caused myself infinitely more suffering this year than she ever came close to experiencing.  It’s what I do.

During her time away, my daughter has fully embraced her new experiences.  She’s in a great sorority, she participated in variety shows and charity events, she travelled to other college campuses, she has made wonderful friends, and she has her own separate identity that is hers and hers alone.  Her Dad and I are extremely humbled and proud.  And somehow, through all of it, my heart got BIGGER, not smaller, and we got closer, not more distant.

When my college Freshman daughter was in kindergarten, we BOTH hated it so much I had a countdown calendar in the kitchen that we eagerly scratched off the days leading up to the long-awaited summer break.  I think I hated kindergarten more, come to think of it, because my Isa spent the following summer writing letters to her teacher who was helping her husband heal from cancer.  That’s my girl, she stays connected to the people she cares about.  I should have known the “break” for college would not be an actual break, as my heart feared.

This is my message to all the Moms who are now in my shoes, anticipating (perhaps dreading) their child’s first year of college and what lies ahead:

  • Whatever groundwork has been laid before college holds the parent/child bond together;
  • In spite of whatever fears you may have from your past, your child is eager to move into the future and will do so regardless of how you feel, and it will be okay;
  • Your child needs to experience the world without you and vice versa – families change in many ways over time, but love makes more than enough room for the new stuff and people that will come into your life;
  • Instead of thinking as the transition to college as a personal loss, remind yourself each day that it is a victory – you created and raised a child who wants to engage in this crazy world with the tools you helped nurture;
  • If you are married or have a partner, be extremely proud that you did this together –  and if you are still together, even more so, for staying married and releasing a young adult into the world are both enormous accomplishments.

Yes, my heart aches because the time with my daughter as a budding adult is gone.  I am learning to put those feelings aside to wholeheartedly enjoy the friendship and journey we are on together.  She’s not going to leave me behind, she has proven that.  I can keep counting days until I see her again if I want to, but this year has shown me that our bond of togetherness is stronger than physical presence.  She lives in my heart.

This summer, she has promised to take some walks with me and our dog, Pudgey.  Over the winter, Pudgey and I got sort of lazy and may have put on a few pounds wallowing in self-pity.  Thank goodness the Commander is on her way back home to whip us into shape!

 

I Think I know What Joy Is

I got to spend 3 whole days with my daughter who left for college this past August.  Let it be known, Momma is still not adjusted to this transition.  Daughter, however, is fully settled and thriving.  Experiencing her life, all the wonderful parts she chose so lovingly to share with me this weekend, has blessed me immeasureably.  I see now the future she embraces instead of the fear, worry and sadness I have held for so long.
The weather was perfect, and our weekend began with my sweet dancer performing in her University’s “Greek Sing,” a talent show of sorts geared toward entertaining the hundreds (if not thousands) of Moms visiting their college students.  Seeing the entire ensemble gave me concrete proof that college students are “different” than high school students in many ways.

Young adults moving about the world in their own skin, playing by their own rules and trying new experiences with their peer groups exhibit an energy and effervescence that is contagious.

It felt wonderful to step away from the tired, grumpy, complain-y adult world of “ain’t it awful” to breathing the spring air of fresh life, young energy and optimism for the future.  That energy was palpable.  I soaked it in.  I feel new.

We enjoyed lunch with her new friends and Moms at the Sorority house then a lovely evening meal that she and her friends had carefully plotted – and everything was perfect.  I was captivated by watching my daughter and seeing both parts of myself as a young adult and a whole new beautiful person – the unique woman she is evolving to become.  She’s on her way.  She’s where she needs to be.  All my heaviness, worrying, tears – have just been for a Momma who didn’t yet understand her new place in her girl’s heart and life.

She proved to me this weekend I am still very much in her heart.  Fairly newly sober, I need “spaces” in each day now to process my thoughts and feelings and renew my energy.  Intuitively she understands this.  We did everything at my pace and she gently led me through the weekend without pressuring me to do more than I could.  Staying centered is important to me now, and I had no idea how very much my daughter respects and understands this.

Instead of continuing the evening with the group after the dinner, she told her friends we’d probably go back to our hotel and watch a movie.  I was delighted.  Off the hook yet also blessed to feel so “understood.”  Ironically, one of our favorite movies happened to be on tv – “The Blind Side.”  As we wound down the weekend, the words of Michael Orr to his Coach and later his Momma perfectly reflect my Daughter’s gentle love and presence:  “I’ve got your back,” he said.  So does she, and this Momma is beyond proud and happy.

 

Paychecks and Blueberries for Sal

 

“She will call less and less,” my husband casually remarked last night about our College Freshman whose nightly calls warm my heart.  I bit his head off.  “DON’T SAY THAT!,” I yelled back.  Silence.  What was that about, I began thinking.  Everything is off kilter these days because it’s all new:  our first child recently left the nest for college and at 51, I am in a new job, earning more than I have in eight difficult years.  I call them “difficult” because I have never fully embraced my value as a stay-at-home-mother, even though this is what I always wanted to do.

The sacrifices you make when you decide to earn less in exchange for being more present feel mostly unnoticed and under appreciated most of the time.

But that’s the kind of Momma I wanted to be!  ALWAYS available, no matter what.  So when my biggest paycheck of eight years hit the bank account last night, I found myself weighing the value of the money versus the value of being physically present for the household.  Here’s how it feels to me:  in the short term, putting a hefty-ish paycheck in the household account feels better than making sure there is a roast in the oven but in the long term, knowing we raised a young woman who wants to touch base with us often is the greatest payoff possible.  

We are all conditioned to thinking of our investments – financial, emotional, intellectual – in terms of returns.  That’s why I count the number of days I maintain long-term sobriety, because as the days add up, I figure the greater the “return.”  But not if I’m not emotionally sober.  To maintain emotional sobriety, you better be invested in pouring every type of energy and asset you have into living a life worth living.  After all, what’s the point of removing something as pleasurable as drinking red wine if I’m not going to enjoy the benefit of sobriety and that enjoyment isn’t going to spill over into other people’s lives and well-being?  Huh?  In other words, it’s just as important to replenish and nourish your emotional, spiritual and physical coffers as it is to earn money and spend it wisely.  Now I get to do both:  earn money to help support our family and reap the benefits of staying emotionally invested and close to my children as they were growing up.

These days, I think alot about special times with my children when they were young, especially bedtime story reading.  My daughter and I had many favorite books, among them, a 1950’s Caldecott Award winner, “Blueberries for Sal.”

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Little Sal was so much like my Isa:  precocious, daring, full of life and love for new experiences.  Together we would read the story about the Momma Bear and her Cub on the same mountain – but the other side and out of view – as the Momma Human and little Sal – picking blueberries to sustain their bodies through the winter.

My paycheck from the new job felt like a pail of blueberries from the book.  Very gratifying and fun but also a worthwhile investment for lean, cold days in the future.  It felt good and associating it with something so precious from my daughter’s childhood gives me peace of mind that our sacrifices have been worth it.  Especially when she texted back, “Yes I do” this morning when I asked her if she remembered reading “Blueberries for Sal” with me.

“Why can’t a paycheck just be a paycheck and not turned into a dumb pail of blueberries, you weirdo?,” you may be asking yourself.  Because I am committed to living a life worth living.  This is what it means to understand a woman in midlife experiencing an emptying nest and working to maintain sobriety:  a cherished moment of understanding in a three-word text from your beautiful daughter away at college puts everything in perspective.  And all is well with my world.

The Antidote to Hate

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I am pretty sure I have written about this before, but the display of racial hatred in Charlottesville, Virginia this past 24 hours bears repeating.  We all try to raise happy kids, right?  And kids that will be kind to other kids, blah blah blah….  I think it is important to remember that BIG things start out as LITTLE things, both good and bad.  Liberals, Feminists, whatever you want to call them, often get labeled for calling out acts of hatred 24/7, for acting as self-proclaimed watchdogs of ugliness.  In my mind, this is a perfectly acceptable tradeoff – social condemnation in exchange for those constant, nitpicking little nudges of the moral conscience.  With my children, I think I strove to teach them they did not have to draw attention to themselves or do anything to bring any kind of condemnation or isolation upon themselves.  Instead, I tried to show them quiet, powerful ways of refusing to allow others to normalize hate.

My kids did their fair share of bickering when they were young.  I tried to tune it out in my head until it became mean spirited.  As soon as the bickering took a turn towards hatefulness, I would step in and announce the “penance”:  each one had to do something kind for the other before bedtime.  That was it.  I did not “follow up” or punish by making them regret losing a favorite toy or pastime.  I merely tapped into their moral conscience so they would think about the other for a moment and perform an act of kindness out of human decency.  The end.

In this way, I hoped my children would learn to stop and think about others long enough to consider what they could do to alleviate pain and suffering.

Mario was always the first one to enthusiastically embrace words of kindness, acts of forgiveness and deeds of pure goodwill.  It was so heartwarming to watch, really!  Isa was more contemplative and less demonstrative of her willingness to change, yet she always eventually offered kindness in perfect measure to whatever the situation demanded.

In today’s culture of absolute intolerance, fear and hatred are running amuck.  It is very difficult to perceive something as a small act of kindness as an antidote to the enormity of negative forces in our world.  Still, with one small little lesson in mind from childhood, I hope my children will continue to practice kindness in the face of evil, knowing that their small efforts contribute to the healing balm of hope this world so desperately needs.

 

Honey, Don’t Leave L.A.

My one and only daughter, my beautiful Isabella, has recently turned 18 years old.  I want to have profound things to say to her but every time I try, just a huge gush of emotion rushes forth.  One thing I do keep thinking about is the time I let her Dad travel halfway across the country with her at six months of age to visit his cousin in Los Angeles.  They were gone for four days, an eternity to this new Momma.  We had no social media in 1999 so I could feel like I was a part of the adventure, only occasional phone calls to hear the cooing sound of her voice.

Through that little separation, I learned many things about my love for Isa and the kind of Mother I hoped to be for her.  I wanted her childhood to be:

  • Full of adventures she could call her own, without me helicopter parenting in the background;
  • Grounded in a strong sense of family and self, so she would trust herself to make big decisions knowing that the love of her family would always support her;
  • Joyful enough so she would look forward to spreading her wings as an adult and sorrowful enough for her to understand that tears shed are a beautiful part of life’s journey and a reminder to be true to oneself and surrender love completely while the opportunity is given;
  • Magical in her own unique way, a time of exploring everything the senses could reach within the safety of a loving home;
  • Solidly anchored in self-love and a sense of personal competence and the ability to reject shame.

Over the years, my Isa’s comings and goings have been very bittersweet.  When she returned home from her Los Angeles adventure, I played with her on the sofa all afternoon and cherished my good fortune to be the temporary guardian of her being.  She hugged me and said “Mama!” when she first saw me after that separation, so I knew then that we would be lifelong friends.  Today, I am awestruck by the beauty, strength and tenderness of her character and humbled to be her Mother.

James Taylor recorded a song in 1979 called “Honey, Don’t Leave L.A.”.  It is his friend’s story about a French woman he fell in love with who ultimately left.  Her spirit was indomitable.  Just like my Isa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Things I got Right (and 7 I didn’t) in Motherhood

My Dad used to say with a great deal of disdain, “Anybody can procreate.”  The underlying meaning, of course, was that very few could raise children correctly.  All I really ever wanted to be was a Mother.  More than an archeologist, disc jockey, journalist, lawyer, nursing home administrator, speech therapist, French teacher, occupational therapist, florist or anything else – I have always “just” yearned to be a Mom – a really good one.

I always knew one absolute truth about Motherhood:  If I was going to model my maternal style on my own Mother’s legacy, I had big shoes to fill.   She managed to keep a clean house and serve three delicious squares every single day for 7 children (we won’t talk about emotional upheaval in between!).

Instead of absolute “perfection,” I have always aimed for a more realistic goal in my Mothering:  meeting my child where she or he was and lifting the goodness where I saw it.

In other words, I have been more of a “let love and joy lead”kind of Mom (similar to my vision of the Divine – never harsh or judgmental, always searching for the Light).

Now in their teens, I see my 2 teenagers’ experience of my Motherhood a little more objectively, and the 3 strengths and 7 flaws are glaringly obvious.  Here are the 7 things “good Moms” excel at that I really bombed:

  • Time Management Although we lived right across the street from the Library, my kids were always late to Story Time.
  • Potty Training  Instead of motivational charts, I employed begging and pleading, which never worked. My daughter begged me to make her a chore chart when she was about 6 and, out of frustration, she ended up making her own!
  • Volunteering  I was my daughter’s Daisy Troop leader and those poor little girls never earned badges, it was just too much; I volunteered in my son’s kindergarten class and total mayhem ensued and I had to be rescued by the School Social Worker.
  • Animals and Kids I thought the kids should have a puppy after my husband’s faithful and well trained Labrador passed away; Tango, the Boxer, made our lives wilder and more unpredictable than ever – if we weren’t searching for her with slices of cheese to encourage a timely and safe return home, I was scolding her for ruining a new rug or bringing home cow skulls.
  • Singing No, not ever did my kids enjoy singing with Mommy.  Instead, they covered their ears and pleaded, “No!!!!!!,” but when Daddy started singing, they quickly became calm and content.
  • Nursing When my kids were sick, they wanted their Dad, the calm and steady soul.
  • Cooking One time, a culinary flop was so embarrassing, my 10-year-old daughter got up from the table and started making omelets for our guests.  When I burned the bat-shaped cookies my son wanted to take to school for Halloween, he hugged me and said “Mom, I don’t know anybody who could have done better.”

In spite of these 7 maternal failings, I think my kids learned alot from their experiences!  Fortunately, I managed to get 3 things right, and I think that is going to be enough to seal their future adult lives as positive and productive:

  • Compassion   I am literally beaming with pride even today. When I visit their High School, I am almost always approached by a special needs student who proudly introduces him or herself as my son or daughter’s “FRIEND.”  Somehow, I got this right!  To be kind to the vulnerable and marginalized is not always second nature, and I guess, through living with me, my kids learned to practice (without knowing it) compassion.  THIS and only THIS was my main goal as a Mom, and this job is complete.  Thank you, God!
  • Acceptance/Inclusion There were times my kids were invited to do “yucky” things but instead of avoiding them, both my son and daughter would usually go and then come home and innocently share something amazing with me.  Like the time my son was the only child who attended an unpopular boy’s birthday party and he came home and said, “Mom, did you know you can be 7 years old and STILL in kindergarten?!”.  Or many times I observed my daughter sweetly ask a newcomer something about themselves, with genuine interest and warmth.
  • Celebrate I may have missed a few “learning opportunities” in the positive discipline arena while my children were growing up, but what they did experience alot of was celebrations of all kinds:  the dog’s birthday; the first day the Christmas lights were on in our local park; the joint 5th and 50th birthday party of my husband and our son with the bouncy house; picnics and craft parties with Big Brothers Big Sisters; going to the movies with their cousins; giving Grandma and Grandpa gifts they bought at a truck stop on Interstate 70; taking the first rose that bloomed in our garden to a teacher; sitting on the front porch with our friend with Down Syndrome and eating a Sonic corn dog.  Building moments to celebrate love, life and joy have been regular parts of my 2 kids’ upbringing, and I already see my daughter cultivating that kind of funloving, life-embracing attitude with her friends.  

One thing I know for sure, when we did things at our house, we did them with GUSTO, and for that, I am proud.  I hope my 7 shortcomings are forgiven and that my teenagers continue to move forward in life with open hearts and loving attitudes!  We can’t all be champion chart makers…..

 

 

 

 

 

New Chances

It’s the First Day of School…..again.  Moms and Dads all over the world proudly and wistfully send their hearts out the door as their children take on a new year of challenges.  I am all too familiar with the emotions this day brings.  Big expectations and hopefulness, with a sprinkle of tears over the loss of another year of youth.

The start of a new school year is like a new chance – an opportunity to discover, redefine and experience life.  Our kids probably don’t see it this way, but we parents know how rarely in life we get new chances – and how easy it can be to squander such a beautiful gift. THAT’S why it is bittersweet for us.  We don’t want our kids to really know about the frightening and painful parts that new chances bring.  Sentimentality overtakes our senses and before we know it, we are overlaying the new chance with memories, stories, pictures and gratitude our children were once innocent.  That’s how the first day of school feels for me, anyway.

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Mario’s “Turkey Hand” from pre-school.

The backpacks stuffed with homemade craft projects coming in the door are in my past now.  I have them all, they are overflowing in plastic tubs but many of them I have framed.  The innocence and tenderness expressed through the art my children have  bestowed upon us is one of the best experiences of parenthood. Now, instead of art projects, I look into their eyes for those signs of love and expressions of how they are relating to the world.  This morning, I saw a freshness in my son’s eyes I have not seen in many years.  Hopefully some of the storms of his early adolescence have passed.  In my daughter’s eyes, I saw a beautiful, spirited young woman on the brink of leaving the nest – her “senior year” eyes.  She loves her journey, and I think we are both on the same page:  enjoy every minute.

So this brings me to my final point this morning:  I have also been given a second chance, and today is a wonderful day to celebrate and “mark” it.  14 months ago, I began my recovery from addiction.  I have been given a second chance to savor the present moment free from the numb world of alcohol.  Living in the real world, fully present, each day committing to accepting my journey without altering it in any way – is a beautiful second chance.  I am ready for Sophomore and Senior year of High School and incredibly humbled by the gift of this second chance.  Even the difficult days are grounded in goodness because they are real and offer second chances to grow into the future.

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

e.e. cummings

 

 

 

 

 

Notes from the Mom Whose Kids Always “Had Her Number”

Today, I am home with my teenagers who have been throwing up.  This causes me to fondly reflect upon previous such “special family times,” one which especially stands out in my memory from Spring 2007, the day my kids had to stay home and take care of their parents because they were both throwing up!  My Isa, 7 years old at the time, divided her time that day between devotedly bringing her Dad and me our favorite popsicles then dancing outside in front of the house.  This beautiful memory has led me to reflect upon the entire history of our family and my approach to parenting.  I love being a Mom.  In fact, it is all I have ever wanted to be.  I used to ride my bicycle up and down my driveway as a little girl playing “carpool.”  What I wouldn’t give to have a recording of those imaginary conversations!

Since my daughter is just a year away from graduating from High School, her Senior year of “lasts” looms largely in my mind.  Anticipating each last.  Hoping I will savor and enjoy them to their maximum.  One of the images that I have discovered in my meditation practice this past year (as a recovering alcoholic with 10 months of sobriety) is a moving stream:  if I feel emotionally depleted, I imagine myself dipping a beautiful vessel into a cool, clear stream and nourishing myself with Nature’s goodness.  This type of imagery not only helps me sustain myself without relying on numbing substances, it is also a great way for me to re-frame the present moment.  Instead of dreading new beginnings or fearing endings, I think of life and love as a continuous stream, a continuum that has no beginning or end.  There for me to enjoy, participate in and freely use to sustain those around me (especially my teenagers).  I am going to try to continue thinking about my daughter’s Senior year as a beautiful transition that is part of the stream.

Yet, my thoughts did manage to navigate toward a gnawing, very human question:  if I had it to do over, would I change anything about the way I parented my young children?  I have only five “regrets,” (a word I try to use sparingly, since it is dangerously close to resentment, which a recovering alcoholic cannot afford).  Surprisingly, nothing on my “List of Five” has anything to do with taking away bad things – rather, it is more about wishing I had done MORE of the good things:

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  1.  I wish I had not been so anxious to put my children into all-day kindergarten.  After working with 6-year-olds these past four months, I know for sure how tired they are after a full day of school.  I was a stay-at-home Mom and could have easily managed having a busy 6-year-old at home with me all day.  But I decided to convince myself it would be “good for their social skills” to put the kids in all-day kindergarten.  Ten years later, with so many working families, there are probably few choices other than full-day kindergarten. I wish I had savored my 6-year-olds a bit more.  But what’s done is done.
  2. I wish I had insisted on learning a musical instrument.  We did our best as parents to expose our kids to live music of all sorts whenever possible.  Our kids love music.  But mastering a musical instrument is one of those life skills that is best undertaken in childhood, like learning another language.  It was hard enough for me to get my kids to sports practices and school, so learning a musical instrument did not make it into our “MUST accomplish” top tier of parenting goals.  I do regret this.
  3. Spirituality practice – we went to church here and there and my children were “dedicated” into a church family before we moved 200 miles away – but I wish I had done more to teach them that celebrating and worshiping God with others is a beautiful part of a healthy inner life.  My kids know that within them dwells a Source of love and goodness, and I believe they know how to tap into that and also live a life devoted to making the world better, not worse.  It was so important to me not to force an “ideology” upon them, I may neglected to help guide and nourish the part of spirituality that includes others.  My children are natural Seekers and very resourceful individuals, so I feel good about their ability to move in that direction later in life, if they choose.
  4. More family meals.  We average 1 sit-down family meal together per week.  Better than nothing!  I would get the job done more often now if my teenagers would participate – as I hear, many do!  (I know it is part of many families’ teenagers regular responsibilities to help prepare and serve meals, which is so nice – I haven’t tried that).  Like many moms in recovery, asking for help (or any kind of delegating), is not a natural part of my personality.  I am thankful to still have time with both children at home to approach family meals more like something the entire family should help create.
  5. MOST importantly, in the earlier days, I wish I had cared less about other Moms’ opinions!  I remember hearing the phrase, “She’s got your number!” way too often and feeling hurt or irritated (or rejected by the “elite moms” who were doing it all perfectly).  To this, I can only go back to a very lovely memory I have when, as a new Mom, I was holding my baby girl on one of her first airplane rides and the older woman sitting next to me very gently and kindly remarked, “Ah!  What a beautiful, content baby!  She has EVERYTHING she needs, Mom!”.  We need to do more to encourage and support one another as parents.  For me, that starts with being open and honest with one another.  Being willing to admit that we aren’t perfect parents and we aren’t raising perfect children.  As a Mom of teenagers, I do get more of this from my social interactions with other parents – much more so than in the early, competitive “toddler war” days.

So far, this journey of parenting two individuals with different temperaments, needs, likes, dislikes and aptitudes has been so beautiful.  Looking back, I would like to have been able to relax more and enjoy the small moments.  Looking forward, I am grateful to be living a healthy, clean and sober life, so the future with these incredible people God shared with me will be as vibrant as I feel.11218179_10206971262472700_5085219549381530292_n