Archive for the ‘motherhood’ Category

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.

 

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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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I Don’t Miss my Kids   1 comment

I am the mother of three children ranging in age from 12 to 20.  Over the years of being their mother, I have graduated from desperately longing for just five minutes where I could rest or read a book, or yes, go to the bathroom without extra bodies assisting me with those functions, to being able to leave the house with the kids in charge.  But I still remember what life was like when I was stuck in the bathroom.  We did not have family members living near us when my children were small, so my husband and I took turns getting out without them.  We did have a wonderful woman from our church who came and babysat for me many times when I had doctor’s appointments.  Grandma Judy used to bring a toy bag with her that always had interesting games and activities in it.  She is still my now 15-year-old daughter’s favorite babysitter ever.

Now that the children are older, more mature, responsible and self-sufficient, I don’t have the same desperation to escape as when they were little.  Thank God!

But there is a sense of relief and refreshment when I am not in charge of their well-being that is just as vital as ever.

I don’t go out with my husband that often, or as often as marriage gurus advise, but we get out a couple of times a year.  I do insist on getting away for our anniversary for two nights.  We’ve done one night, but that doesn’t really cut it. You’re just beginning to unwind and then it’s time to get up and pack your suitcase.  Nope.

And I meet friends for lunch or an ice cream once or twice a month, so that is good as well.   A mother needs to take some time, no matter how brief, every day to do something that she enjoys.  Those breaks are vital, but those gatherings are short.

The value of a Mom’s Night Out pales in comparison to a week at Grandma’s.  The destination is for the kids, I mean.

Now that, my friends, is a gift on a whole other plane.

When you can turn your children entirely over to another qualified human being in whom you have complete trust, and stop thinking about what your children need (Time, Attention, Food, Drink, Therapies, Medications, Special Diets, Better Curriculum, More Clothes, Help with Fill in the Blank), then you have been given a gift that is priceless: the gift of not being responsible.

You know it is not going to last, and you don’t want it to.  There would be no words to describe my loss if they did not come back.

But I’m telling you, this week has been great.  They’re happy; I’m happy.

I have not missed them.

Posted August 4, 2016 by swanatbagend in motherhood

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Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Yell at your Kids   2 comments

I know, this is self-evident, right?  We all know that you should not yell at your kids.  Maybe you are a parent who yells at kids because they are being frustrating or doing something wrong.  Sorry, I’m not actually talking about that kind of yelling.

And sorry, I don’t have a five step method for not yelling.

I’m talking about the kind of yelling that happens for no apparent reason, at least from your child’s point of view.

I used to get really frustrated because we were often late.  Looking back it’s fairly obvious I just needed to plan ahead better.  I would make some adjustments every time I had another baby, such as adding another five minutes to the pre-boarding ritual, but we were still the same amount of time late to events.

Clue one that I needed to hear was the day when we were heading out to co-op and about to be late again.  Guess what happened to the kids on the way out the door?  My oldest son–probably about eight years old at the time–moved so fast to get out of the way of his crabby mom he literally knocked down his little sister, who then fell sideways onto the stairs which were close to the door in our tiny two-bedroom house.  Had carpet, but no, she hit the wood.

So my baby girl has an injury on her face because I am a grump and can’t control my emotions when I’m displeased with circumstances.

I wish I could say that this was an effective wake-up call.  It started the process, yes.  But it was not enough to fully reform me.

Over the years, there have been any number of incidents in which one child, usually the oldest, would attempt to correct or direct the other siblings.  When I would investigate further to find out why he was being so bossy, invariably, the bottom line was he wanted them to do what I wanted, so I would stay happy, so there would be no yelling.

The classic example comes from a camping trip at spring break.  We are in our pop-up on a warm night in Florida with the fan blowing on me (because yes, I’m the big baby who needs the fan more than anyone else in order to be able to sleep).  It’s dark and I’m sleeping, but eventually I begin to register seismic events in the camper.  Slowly, vibrations that I know are not being caused by my husband, because he’s the solid peaceful log next to me, invade my world.  I pretend there are no vibrations a few times and doze back off, but eventually I realize that ignoring whatever it is the kids are doing is not going to work this time.

There is not only movement but conversation at the other end.  I finally ooze upward, turn on a flashlight, and ask what on earth is the matter.

My youngest child who was 7 or so at the time, was not able to sleep because of bug bites from the sand flies.  But, his brother started their explanation by highlighting his attempt to keep the younger child from waking me up.  He knew the consequences could be dire–but wait a minute aren’t moms supposed to take care of kids at night when there’s a problem?  I thought my kids knew this.  However, the fear that the roof of the camper would blow off short circuited getting actual help.

Thankfully I am at least decent in a crisis, even a sleep crisis.  I told the others to relax and gave the youngest my anti-itch protocol of liquid antihistamine, Calagel applied to the bites, and time with mom, a favorite book and the fan.  Within 20 minutes he was calmed down, and I tucked him back in on the kids’ end of the camper.  Yes, I did put the fan on him, and somehow I managed without it.

Fast forward to this summer, five or so years later.  We took my oldest son to his summer job and moved him in to his apartment.  Something he said that day made me realize there was a possibility that the way he handles conflict is based on cross-examining himself to be sure he isn’t doing anything that would piss Mom off.

I realize now, as a mother with almost 21 years of experience, and as a mother who has loved her kids well in many ways, that my typical short circuiting has meant that my kids have developed in the light of my temper.  Sure, I don’t lose it nearly as much as I used to, but what I have already done has had a long-term effect on my children.

I don’t know how much counseling they will need to get past their fear of making others angry, but I don’t want them to have needed any.

I wanted my kids to live their lives based on what they believed they are meant to do and be, not based on what they hope will keep the peace.

I wanted my kids to live their lives from a foundation of trust and hope, not out of anxiety.

I share my faults with you because I want you to know that hindsight is a truly powerful teacher.

Maybe, you can benefit from mine.

 

 

Posted August 1, 2016 by swanatbagend in motherhood

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The Baby Bird Bond   Leave a comment

Saying goodbye to your high school graduate is difficult for anyone.  I found that out three years ago.

But I wonder if it may be more difficult to release a child into adulthood when you homeschool.

There is no way to take a scientific angle on this, because who can compare the grief and joy different mothers feel?  It doesn’t matter how your child was educated: home, public, private, Montessori, special ed, traditional school, un-schooling, child-led-learning, Catholic, alternative.  You’re going to miss him terribly.  It cannot be avoided.

At the same time, the transition, it seems, must be different when the child has been educated at home.

For one thing, you’ve spent so much time with him.

For another, the process of fledging probably takes place earlier and over a longer period of time if you’re not the primary educator.  I don’t know this, of course, since I never had a child in a school.  I would think that earlier opportunities for the bond to be stretched, and stretched more often, would be common with public school.  If he were getting on a bus every day, it would have been different.

As it was, there were piano lessons and co-op, where he both learned and taught.  Later on in high school there were entomology camp, a summer college class, and volunteering.  But none of these took him away from his siblings and his parents for 8 or more hours a day.

So, we had years of time together.  We watched Monty Python together, listened to classical music on the way to piano.  We sat around in the living room talking.  We went camping for two weeks at a time in a pop-up camper, after the early local experiments with tent camping generated some great stories that I wouldn’t want to actually repeat.

And the same is now true with the younger siblings.  We have a lot of time together.  Sure, it is full and it goes by quickly.  There are activities, therapies and appointments.  But it’s being spent more or less together, which is something you don’t get to experience if the kids are going to school somewhere else.

So it follows that when your bird flies the nest for college or work or the Peace Corps, you’re going to feel it.  The gap.  The missing piece of your life.

Your friend and companion.

Posted June 6, 2016 by swanatbagend in homeschooling, motherhood

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Bittersweet   Leave a comment

My twenty year old son called me last week to tell me he needed to change our plans for the date he would need to be picked up from college.  It wasn’t that his final schedule had changed and he could leave earlier.  It actually was that something else had come up, and he needed to stay longer in his university town.

Honestly, when he calls these days, if I don’t get to the phone, I don’t always recognize the voice coming out of the answering machine, especially if it’s at a distance and I’m doing something in the kitchen.

All I know at first is that a man is leaving a voice message.

I call back.  “What’s up?”

“I need to change the day you come pick me up.  Dr. Cassetti just told me about a kids’ entomology camp they have here each summer.  The training is Thursday.”

Our plan had been for Wednesday, which is when the dorm closes anyway.  (That is, it was our second plan, the original had been to leave right after his last final on Tuesday, but we ditched that as too crazy.)  So, he says he wants to find somewhere to stay, move his dorm stuff out, and get to this training.

“How about I come get you after the training on Thursday?”

“Well, that would mean we’d be traveling during dinner time, and that always makes you grumpy.”

I laugh.  “True, but as long as I can stop for a hamburger, I’ll be all right.–But is there some other reason you’d rather I not come on Thursday?”

“There are some things I haven’t been able to get to that I need to wrap up at the lab.”

He’s working with a professor there who is doing termite research.  End of semester is always very busy, and he was taking organic chemistry this semester, on top of other commitments, so I’m not surprised there are loose ends.

What does surprise me is the sweet: he has so much going on that’s good that he needs to stay there longer

and the bitter: he’ll be home later than I expected.

He is going back this summer to continue his work with the termite research.  I think he has already accumulated maybe six credit hours working with the termites?  He has a sublet apartment, and a part-time paid job.  Now, he’s adding in the summer camp for kids.  You should see him telling children about the wonders of insects.  He lights up.  Like a firefly, if I may be pardoned the expression.

It felt odd that his reason to stay longer wasn’t really because he was concerned about my not getting dinner Thursday evening (although that was certainly a concern), but that it was because he had further work he needed to do.

I don’t actually know who moved him out of the dorm.  Or if the camp is paid work.  If he got some of my last emails, or, really a dozen other factoids about what he’s doing right this minute.

This plan, this life, this summer internship, is a good thing.  A really, really good thing.

But at the same time, I know that he travels on in his life toward his future–where by definition I cannot follow.

Posted May 21, 2016 by swanatbagend in motherhood, parenting

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On the Nest   Leave a comment

Last Friday was such a happy day for me.  My usual normal is two children at home, still homeschooling, and one at college.  So after eighteen years of what I would call quantity quality time, we’re not all together most of the time.  The oldest has been gone for two and a half years, with exceptions for breaks and summer, so you’d think I’d be used to it by now, and I would have to say, yes, I am used to the new normal.

However, there’s a lot to be said for having all the chicks at home.

And March 11 I got my oldest chick back into the nest.  I felt so very happy that night.

We even got funny pictures and a video of me, literally sitting on my chicks, clucking over them, while they all peeped.

Now I know just a bit of what it’s like to be a chicken.

Posted March 22, 2016 by swanatbagend in motherhood

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