Archive for the ‘motherhood’ Category

Learning to Let You Go   Leave a comment

One of the hardest things to do is to let your children go.  I have two adult children.  One is on his own, the other still at home, but, probably not for too much longer.  My youngest is much taller than I am and working on getting his driver’s permit.  I’m confident we’ll see his eighteenth birthday in what will feel like just a few weeks, and he’ll be off soon as well, leaving me thinking, what just happened here?

It’s so strange to be at this end of the parenthood continuum.  It was just a few years ago that my oldest was born.  I remember thinking, with not a little panic, “I have eighteen years of this — how will I ever survive?”  How will this tiny baby grow up when I don’t know what I’m doing?  How am I going to make it through this parenting thing?  What have I gotten myself into?

But here I am with an almost 25 year old, a 20 year old and a sixteen year old.  And now I’m having to ask very different questions.  They sound a lot like the original ones, but at the same time they’re quite different.  Try this one:

“I don’t have many more years of this — how will I ever survive this change?”

Or how about, “How will I grow into this new phase when I don’t know how to empty-nest?”

And, “How am I going to make it through this big life transition?”

What have I gotten myself into?

I’ve given my heart away to three very different, very precious, very wonderful people who are no longer small.  The time that I just couldn’t imagine coming is right at hand.  For a long time, they needed me a lot.  Now they are strong, owning their lives.  It’s good, very good.

But I’m finding it hard to let them go.

Posted August 17, 2020 by swanatbagend in motherhood, parenting

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The Path   Leave a comment

Twenty-three years ago today I stepped into the circle of life.  I had a baby son.

Days, weeks, month become years.

Little ones become big ones.

And here’s what I know.

I can’t control outcomes.  I work now and live now, while looking back occasionally to my past, a past in which I did not know how important living now is.  I didn’t know what my part was to play.  I still don’t.  I just do my part–I carry my leaf section as valiantly and faithfully as I can.  I want to learn to be content, and to acknowledge that all my opportunities are just gifts.

I see myself being ushered in twenty-three years ago to the phase of my life that I am now close to ending.  I had no idea how the path was going to unwind before me then.  I can only see it looking back.

Perhaps what I think about my inability to make things turn out the way I think they should is false–but that’s the view from here, approaching the last several years of my career as a homeschooling mom.  I don’t think I am going to find a way to get more control over the daily events of my life and the behaviors of others and the things that happen to me as I get older.  I really doubt that there is a secret of control I just haven’t discovered yet.

I still have no idea where the path unwinding will lead me.  I just know that I’m going to keep going.  I’m going to do the best I can.  I’m going to live right on.  I’m thankful that I am watching my children grow up, and that I’m still walking beside them, for a few more miles, on this part of the journey.

I just can’t believe that the time has passed so quickly.

Posted August 24, 2018 by swanatbagend in motherhood, parenting

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Parallel Lives   Leave a comment

When your children are little, you live in the illusion that you know their lives completely.  You spend all your time together, most often very near, nursing them, changing their diapers and holding them, sleeping next to them.  It follows that as they grow you are still so near that you know their lives very well.  Or at least you think you do.  Within all of us is the tendency to do what research says babies do–assume that what they feel or perceive is what their mothers also feel and perceive.  And maybe some of that is going on.

As your child gets older, he ventures forth into the world for several hours at a time, and more and more as he grows up.

I don’t know when the moment will come for you.  It probably depends on your life choices and your child’s temperament, and on yours as well. Since I homeschooled all three of mine, we spent most of our time together.  I didn’t have six to eight hours a day where the kids were away.  We weren’t doing things together all the time, not by a long shot, but we shared our space and our lives in a way that you just don’t unless you’re together that much.

So, there will come a point at which you realize that there’s a separate life out there, doing its thing.  And while you will rejoice at that reality, and be thankful for your child’s maturity because, yes, that is the goal–there will be a longing to have it both ways.

I love the companionship we share and I don’t want it to end.  I’m interested in my son’s thoughts, his work, his days.  After years of sharing that with him, I can’t disconnect without wishing there were a way to be both places at the same time.  I long to travel both the arc of my life and the life of my child.

I don’t want to miss anything.

 

Posted August 6, 2018 by swanatbagend in motherhood

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Freedom   Leave a comment

The first track on Michael W. Smith’s album Freedom gave me a vision once.  In the years after it happened, there were times I wasn’t sure it would come to pass.  But in June, my son did what I saw him doing 17 years earlier.  My son did launch, and it wasn’t his first plane trip.  He took a flight back to his life on the other end of the continent.

It was one of those unforgettable moments–not the flight departure this year, but the time when he was just five years old.  His baby sister was sick that morning and I didn’t want to take her out in order to get him to his morning preschool.  I asked his dad to do the taxi job for me.

My husband was able to do that, and as they left for town I was sitting on the couch near an upstairs window with the baby.  The Subaru Loyale pulled out of the driveway; I glimpsed my boy in the passenger window.  For some reason I already had music playing that a.m. and the first track of Smith’s album was on.  I swear it’s true; the final transition of the piece where the music soars upward into the future was playing at that very moment.

Nobody else had ever taken my son to preschool before.  He’d always been with me.  This was the first time, and he was leaving me.  Just for a few seconds then, I got a glimpse of the future.

It’s come back to me every time I hear that music.  That look into the future, that insane moment in which one leaps forward months and years to something different.  It’s so crazy.

That moment is totally in the past.  But for me, I think it will remain eternally the present.

Posted August 1, 2018 by swanatbagend in motherhood, waiting

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Just Faking It   2 comments

So yesterday was a homeschool day for our family.

Yesterday, that meant that I wrote the day’s work for each student up on the wipe-off board.  I read with both kids, which is a highlight and a fun time of day for me.  I often help with questions or math or whatever gets done in the morning.

Yesterday, we had an art teacher come to the house for an intro session with my high school senior so they could get to know each other and make a plan for what the weekly lessons will look like.

While they were talking my 8th grader and I went upstairs to get some work done.

That afternoon, he and I did a baking experiment together and rapidly found out why leavening is such a tasty thing.  Baking soda by itself is not appetizing, but the cupcakes that didn’t have it weren’t anything I would want to eat.

The senior helped me make fish tacos for dinner, as I’ve decided these two aren’t leaving the house without a modicum of kitchen experience.

The 8th grader learned how to do goulash the night before.

I think that covers it.

So, that sounds like a pretty good solid homeschool day, right?

I did pat myself on the back for it and wanted to brag about it on Facebook.  However, the rest of the story is that yesterday was probably the single most awesome day in my homeschooling career.  I’m coming up on eighteen years of experience, and I can assure you that most days have looked nothing like this.

I have been intending to teach the kids to cook by having them sous chef with me for literally years.

Usually I don’t do experiments.  I assign pages to read in a science book.

Usually we don’t have an art teacher coming to the house!  That is an exciting new development that just worked out this year.

I do read to them every day.  But I’m here to tell you it doesn’t usually look this wonderful.  It’s not pretty.  It’s just doing the next thing each day.

Ask me about the day the then preschooler threw something at me and knocked over the celery stalk/red food coloring experiment which then got all over people’s papers.  Ask me about how I never used to even get up on time so school started whenever I got my crap together.  Ask me about all the mornings I lit a candle in the den to just lighten the place up in January and February because I was so depressed I did not want to do anything.

Or better yet, ask them.  Yes.

Somehow they survived.  They are people rapidly approaching functional adulthood, in spite of me, not because of me.

 

 

 

Posted February 11, 2018 by swanatbagend in homeschooling, humor, motherhood, parenting

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Get Ready for It   Leave a comment

What is the most important skill you will need as a parent?

If you have read books, blogs and articles, or attended classes, I’m sure you’ve been told many things about what it takes to be a parent and how you need to handle various situations with your children.

I submit that what you need most is forgiveness.

Why?

Because you will not be a great parent.

I know.  If you haven’t already had children you think you will be.  You’ve looked around you, seen it done wrong, had it done wrong to you, and you know what to do.

And it isn’t really that difficult; people have been doing it for generations.

And you know that you will do parenting just as well as you’ve done everything else–school, work, competitions, hobbies.

 

But if you think this, you will be wrong.

 

You will make the same mistakes with your children, over and over.

You will be impatient and lose your temper at least once, or perhaps many times.

You will handle situations in the same way that your parents did, even though you know in advance that you do not plan to handle situations the same way your parents did.

You will be unable to implement all of the skills you learn in the parenting class.

You will not teach your child some of the things he needs to know because you will be unaware of what they are or that he needs to be taught them.

 

You will damage your children.

So, their forgiveness will need to be asked.

 

Posted August 30, 2017 by swanatbagend in motherhood, parenting

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A Farewell to Birkenstocks   Leave a comment

This week, I had to say goodbye to my Birkenstock sandals.

It was not easy.

I’ve had this pair for nine years, or a bit more.  They were manky and flea-bitten, sunken, tread worn off most of the bottom, some stains, very dark, and when at spring break the top of the inside leather sole basically disconnected from the base of the right sandal, I ended up duct taping them together repeatedly to get through the week.

After we got back home, I kept duct-taping them because with re-entry, I didn’t have time to look for new sandals.  So several more weeks elapsed before I finally was able to get a visual on a new pair of Birkenstocks.

Then once those arrived, I took my time breaking them in–always a good idea, because a new pair always feels so stiff and can make your feet a bit sore.

Then the old ones sat by the back door with another pair of deceased shoes waiting to go to the clothing recycle.  I kept putting it off.

But these Birks were about as used and disgusting as a pair of sandals could get.  Definitely got the money’s worth out of them.

Why couldn’t I let them go?

Those sandals had been around so long, they had come to represent my life.  They’re like my Crunchy Mom uniform.

The sandals were something I wore every day in the house, summer or winter, rain or shine.  I put on tennis shoes to go out if I’m going anywhere, except on the hottest days of summer.  But at home I don’t like tennies because my feet get sweaty.  So–these Birks and I had been together pretty much every day for nine years.

They represent my hard work as a homeschooling mom who does most of her own cooking.

And they start with a really good memory–our first trip to the beach.  How do I know that’s when?  I had just met friends of our friends and we were having dinner together at the picnic table.  There were so many of us, there was too much on the table, the boards were uneven, Sri’s beer fell over and some got in my Birkenstocks under the table.  At first I was annoyed, but then I pulled it together and started singing, “I got beer in my Birkenstocks–it feels mighty fine….”

Hard to recycle a memory.

But hey, that’s why I still have the memory.

 

Posted June 28, 2017 by swanatbagend in identity, motherhood

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It Happened Again   Leave a comment

I had a sort of déjà vu moment this afternoon.  I dropped my two younger children off for their drama Christmas party.  Not routine: a different venue than the class, downtown, and a bit weird to just be dumping them at the door.

Of course it was all fine.

I realized as I drove away that I was remembering a day four years ago when the two of them went to a movie at a local theater on their own.  For a variety of reasons, this wasn’t something typical, but they wanted to see this movie in the theater instead of waiting for Netflix, and I didn’t, so they went.  The youngest was eight years old then.  The middle was twelve.

My oldest was volunteering.

So then, as the homeschool parent of three chidren, I was by myself.  It was rare for all three of them to be gone to different places at the same time.  It was just odd to be alone.

That was a moment when the door opened into the future.

Today, I was reminded vividly of that first moment when I saw what was coming.

 

Posted December 15, 2016 by swanatbagend in motherhood

Not Mine   Leave a comment

I was passing through the student union at my local university where I was planning on attending a presentation in one of the research buildings, when I saw the TV screen in the lobby.  The print headline on the bottom of the screen said something like “One Killed, Ten Injured in Ohio State Incident.”

I quickly sent off two texts to my son, as any parent would who saw that screen.

Well, maybe parents with more sense would have just called.

Regardless, I didn’t get an immediate response.

I  knew that the odds were against my son being the one fatality on a campus that big.  But, I excused myself to the restroom, where my mind repeated, “Please God, not my son, Please God, not my son, Please God, not my son.”  I knew this was a lame prayer–what about the other parents whose children had been affected by this incident, whatever it was?

Well, I imagine that God as a Father has a great deal of compassion on those who utter those words.  He knows what that’s like.

However, the next thing that happened was a shift in my mind to the good news, which was “God, I know he is safe in your hands, no matter what has happened.”

I can’t keep him safe, which every parent who sends a child off into adulthood knows.  We still want to, but we learn that we can’t.

And when you know that he isn’t in your hands now, you also realize that he never was fully in your hands to begin with.

He wasn’t mine when he was a wish and a prayer twenty-three years ago.

He wasn’t mine when he was a squirmy, active baby who rolled all over his crib in his sleep.

He wasn’t mine when he was lost for half an hour in our neighborhood when he was two years old, despite the fact that he was my responsibility, one which I completely failed that fall afternoon.

He wasn’t mine when I held him when he was sick, when I cleaned up his vomit, nor when I baked his birthday cake or told him to do chores, nor when I bought him clothes, taught him geometry, and supervised his college application process.

He was never mine.  He was always his, and God’s.

 

Posted December 1, 2016 by swanatbagend in motherhood

Twenty-One   Leave a comment

Today was very much like the day before my son was born.  It was a fortuitous pleasant day in August–cool enough that you could go for a walk in the afternoon to try to get labor moving along without seriously regretting it.

Today, like that labor day in the past, was beautiful, with a stirring cerulean sky brushed with cirrus clouds.

Tomorrow, like his birth-day, will be hot and humid again.

I’m thinking tonight about that damp-looking, cone-headed infant boy, who got so excited when he saw my chest for the first time.  No, I did not expect that reaction from a two-hour old baby, but that just shows how little I knew about how alert babies are and how inside that 8-pound-something body was a very distinct personality.

Before that moment when we met, he had just been kicks, and squirms, and my imagination–that’s all.

But now, for 21 years, I have had the joy of learning him–learning to care for him, learning to know him well, learning to love him, and learning from him.

He was not a red-headed girl with lots of hair.  Thank heaven for that.  He was a boy with lots of dark hair, and very long fingers, which his maternal grandmother observed when she arrived three days later with his grand-dad to meet him for the first time.  “Look at his fingers!” she exclaimed.  “He’s going to be a piano player!”  She was right about that–and other things as well.

I think he was three or four when she gave me a copy of the book Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Kurcinka.  That book, and the example and guidance of his co-op preschool teacher, opened the doors for me to learn how to walk alongside him as his mother.  He demanded my attention and respect the whole journey through.  Right from the beginning, he lifted his head and looked around intently, before we even left the hospital.  He has never stopped looking around him intently, although thankfully his neck is strong enough that he does that on his own now.

He does a lot of things on his own now.

When your child heads out the door to the dorm at 18, there are many unknowns ahead.  At that point, I’d say while your child is legally an adult (and FERPA is there to assist you in remembering that fact), there’s more of a sense that he can and will hop back into the nest on a regular basis.  You know the future is there, but it’s protected somehow, as if there’s a golden fence around it.

21 is completely different.

We moved him into an apartment this summer for a job.  We moved him back home end of July–but just for nineteen days.  Last week, I moved him into an apartment again, this time for his senior year.  It was nothing like the first time he left home for college nor was it like the second and third times.  Now he had the plan, he set the agenda, and waved me off when we were done.  No hand-holding necessary, nor should it be.

I don’t know how to describe how different 21 feels.

I know he is not coming back.

 

Posted August 24, 2016 by swanatbagend in motherhood, transitions

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