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Herding Cats

October 9, 2015 Leave a comment

I am now the mother of two teenagers.  I can scarcely believe it myself.  It all happened so fast and now I’m keenly aware of how little time I have left to parent these people.  And by parent, I mean the daily influences and guidance, because I know the give me money and buy me things part of parenting will never, ever end.  But when I look at these two, I see this:

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Not this:

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Back then, I was new.  I was struggling, I didn’t know what I was doing and I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep.  But I kept the faith.  I knew it would get easier.  When the baby sleeps through the night, it will get easier.  When they can bathe themselves, it will get easier.  When I can leave the house without juice cups and pull ups, it will get easier.  Sooner or later, I will catch on to this mom thing and it will get easier.

Well, all things in perspective.  It is easier in that I don’t have to lean over a bathtub and wash little people’s hair.  If I don’t feel like cooking, they are old enough to feed themselves.  I did catch on to the mom thing, at least a little.  I know what to do about teething.  I can handle nightmares, loose teeth and learning how to read.  The problem is that I don’t need to know any of those things anymore.  Parenting is chasing a moving target.  As soon as I get a handle on a thing, I don’t need that thing anymore.  And bonus points for me for having a two children who have not one thing in common and have required a completely different mommy skill set since the day my sweet girl laid eyes on her fresh baby brother and then refused to so much as look at me, so great was the betrayal.

So, teenagers.  We have passed that stage of me telling them what to do and how to live.  (I do ask that no one ever share that with my daughter, who is well-known for demanding that I stop telling her how to live her life.  The only reasonable response to that is, “That’s literally my job.”)  The way I see it, the foundation has already been laid.  Now it’s my job to guide rather than to issue orders.  Please don’t misunderstand, I will not hesitate to issue orders should it become necessary,  It’s just that at the ages they are now, specifically my daughter, who is a mere two years away from leaving my home and going out into the world by herself, they should be, and need to be, capable of making responsible decisions for themselves.  This requires me to relinquish a certain amount of control.  That is not in my wheelhouse.  This is hard.

My son lacks a certain amount of self motivation.  He will do what is asked of him, and do it well, but he’s not putting anything extra out there.  Example.  He recently finished a research paper and got an outstanding grade on it.  Then, each student was asked to do an oral presentation on that paper.  It could be as simple as reading the paper or as elaborate and creative as they desired.  But, here’s the rub.  It’s not graded.  Little guy (sorry, I know he’s not little anymore, but he has always been, and shall always remain, my little guy) decided to just read the paper.  Because it’s not graded.  I recommended that he put forth a little effort.  He resisted.  I backed off.  After all, there’s no grade.  However, I heartily disapproved and I had a long talk about forming habits and striving for excellence and how an average effort produces an average life.  And he still declined to put forth more effort.  And I backed off.  I’d be lying if I said it didn’t hurt me to do that.  Every fiber of me wanted to force that boy to sit down and get to work.  But I’m not always going to be there to push him that extra step.  He has to be capable of making that decision for himself.  He has to choose to be exceptional.   I walked away from that conversation pretty confident that my feelings on the topic had fallen on deaf ears, but hey, I’m nothing if not persistent.  I can voice my opinions as many times as necessary.

That being the case, I could not have been more shocked and proud the next day when he reported to me that not only had he decided to do a PowerPoint for his presentation, but also while he was at school that day he had taken tests in five subjects, then completed twenty-five extra pages of math work.  Now, THAT is what I call striving for excellence.  He was listening, after all.  And he made a smart and responsible decision.  Most importantly, he did what I wanted him to do and if there’s a greater accomplishment for a mom, I just don’t know what it is.

Look, I’m bossy.  That’s a great quality when the kids are little.  It’s much harder now that I have to parent with restraint and subtlety.  But I might be starting to get a handle on it.  In the next couple years, I might even become an expert at it.  Just in time for them to go to college and need a whole new kind of mom.

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A Word of Advice

October 9, 2015 Leave a comment

I am absolutely horrible at graciously accepting advice.  Okay, perhaps that’s strongly worded.  I will accept it graciously.  I will thank you for it.  I might even, on occasion, tell you that I followed it.

These are all lies and deceptions.  I do not accept advice well.  I follow advice much more poorly.  I just don’t want to appear rude and ungrateful.  There have been occasions in my life when I have received good and valuable advice.  Each and every time, that advice came from someone who had full and intimate knowledge of my situation and had walked in my shoes at some point in their life.  That’s really when the advice is the good stuff.  Everyone else is just talking out of their backside.

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The thing is, I am a very, very reserved person.  I build walls and isolate myself.  The things inside my heart and my mind are buried better than cash in a mayonnaise jar in the backyard.  There is a circle of people who know me, I mean truly know my life and my heart, but that circle could fit inside a hula hoop with room left to hula.  The rest of the well-meaning souls who attempt to offer me help and guidance simply do not know me.  You do not really know me, so therefore, you cannot understand what it is to walk my path.  Therefore, you cannot help me navigate.

Also, I am an extremely cautious person.  I do not make decisions quickly or lightly.  I just do not do spontaneous.  So when I have a situation, (and isn’t there always a situation?)  I have thought it through long and carefully.  I have done the research.  I have prayed on it.  I have weighed the pros and cons.  I have consulted mediums and card readers.  Well, not quite, but close.  The point is that I have approached this situation from every possible angle.  Perhaps it’s egotistical and closed-minded of me, but I have trouble believing that your quick advice is going to trump my long and careful consideration.  Odd are, I have already thought of that.  Not because I’m so clever, but because I’ve been turning every angle of this situation over in my mind for a month before anyone else even knew there was a situation.

Lastly, I do not take direction well.  This is, perhaps, putting it mildly.  My particular brand of this affliction is so severe that the most effective way to make sure I will never watch one minute of a movie is to tell me how great it is and how much I will love it.  Well, you can’t tell me what to do, so there.  I realize that this is neither an attractive nor beneficial trait, but as I often tell my children, it’s important for each of us to recognize and embrace our shortcomings.  So, you cannot tell me what to do. Nyah nyah.

So, please.  If I’m talking about a situation, understand that I’m just talking.  Depending on the situation of the day and our relationship, I might be venting, thinking out loud or just simply sharing a piece my life.  I invite you to commiserate, laugh, share similar experiences and vent back.  But in the end, I’m just talking.  I’m not asking for anything.  I don’t need anything.  I’ve got this.  I’ve always got this, even when my life looks like a bubbling, hot mess.  I’m going to figure it out and I’m going to do it by following the only things that I trust.  My heart and my gut.

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RBF Gone Wild

October 9, 2015 Leave a comment

So there’s this huge internet phenomenon known as Resting Bitch Face, or, as it’s more commonly known, RBF.  (I apologize if the language offends.  I don’t make the news.)  I actually read an article about it the other day that referred to it as a Generation Y phenom.  Oh, no no no.  I’ve been dealing with this issue since grade school, my friends.  And I am of a generation that falls earlier in the alphabet than Y.  For years I just called it my default face.  For years I listened to well-meaning folks ordering me to smile.  I mean, come on.  Have you people never seen any old timey pictures?  And you think this is a new development?

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Anyway, I had intended to speak on the many awkward moments and irritations of a person afflicted with RBF, but just the other day, an incident caused me to shift my focus.  You see, I had occasion to be filled with a fury unmatched.  A great and furious anger filled me to the extent that I’m pretty certain that my eyeballs bulged out enough to create a headache that has lasted for days.  The kind of anger that left me unable to sleep hours after the incident had been resolved.  The thing that caused this rage was truly one for the books, but that’s another story for another day.  The thing that you must know about it is that it happened in a public and professional place and I was required by good manners and a Christian heart to hold my temper and remain calm and civil.

I swallowed my true feelings and I kept all my words inside my head, so as to not be arrested, committed or tackled and pepper-sprayed on the spot.  I communicated in a tone that I felt was, if not nice, certainly acceptable.  I adopted an “agree to disagree” point of view and stormed out removed myself from the situation as quickly as societal norms would allow.  By that point I was really just trying to get out of there before words and incomprehensible noises started spilling out of my face.  In the distant part of my brain that was fighting to make me behave, I realized that I was not being quite polite, I was being okay.  I figured I had some displeasure showing, but I thought I had hidden the surge of crazy rage pretty well.

Well, as it happened, my daughter was present for the show.  Even if I had not let loose a furious tirade the moment the door closed behind me, she knew the deal.  I assumed that it was just a case of a child being sensitive to her mother’s moods, but in recounting the scene, she told me different.  “As soon as she said blahblahblah, something happened with your face.”

Ah, my face.  That face of mine, which, on the best of times may look mildly content.  At rest, I look pretty pissed.  And apparently, when I am quite angry, my face hulks out, completely without my knowledge.  So while I was doing my level best to maintain my composure, my face was doing its own thing.  Friends, my resting bitch face morphed into active bitch face, and if my daughter can be believed, it is quite a sight to behold.

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Here’s the thing about RBF sufferers.  Not only do we have to work very, very hard at not looking mad all the time, but when we are actually mad, we must develop a truly spectacular angry face.  So, you know, people understand the difference.  Sadly, a side effect of RBF is that we can’t always control our expressions that well.  If we could, we wouldn’t look so angry all the time, follow?  So when the occasion calls for a striking expression, that expression tends to appear, as if by magic.  And then that chick you always thought look kind of bitchy?  She just got downright scary.  This explains a great many things, not the least of which is my consistent failure to win friends and influence people.

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