How to Parent a Budding Adult

Last Friday I posted something about my most recent frustration with my oldest.  Jake  skipped his mandatory advanced placement biology exam. When he got home, he met my wrath, which resulted in my giving him the silent treatment for the rest of the weekend.
But, as the eternal optimist, I do believe these moments allow relationships to become 10x stronger than they were before.
By Sunday, we finally sat down to talk, and the conversation was straightforward and simple.  We were both visibly upset—at ourselves and at each other. I lamented that I felt I had babied him his entire life, which resulted in his not being able to do for himself at anything – not even sitting for a damn exam.  He admitted he hated my pushing him constantly to do things he didn’t/doesn’t want to do.
I told him welcome to real life; we sometimes do things we don’t want to, because it helps us later. Overcoming difficult – or challenging experiences is the fuel for more trying times, and the strength to persevere.   And the trying times are always going to be there.
But that’s the boring stuff.
What came next was the icing on the cake—the crowning jewel on my ever developing relationship with a child that is really no longer a child anymore—but just about an adult.
At the end of our discussion he said: I’m really sorry I disappointed you.
And I blurted: I’m glad you did.
I paused for moment before finishing, because I wasn’t sure if that was the right thing to say at first.
I’m glad you did. Because believe it or not, it is your job at this point in your life to disappoint me. Just like it’s my job to let you down, or watch you struggle. That is life. I have to push you, you have to push back. This is how the world works.
It all seemed so simple, and suddenly what happened Friday felt not only unavoidable but absolutely necessary. I’m always discovering and rediscovering different parts of parenting with him—likely because he’s my oldest. I had him when I was so young, at 22 years old—when the rest of my friends were still going to frat parties and scoring internships. We were both inexperienced and I’ve always cringed at the fact that I am learning how to parent using Jake as an example. I’ve made all the mistakes on him. So, the first kid should be disposable? I’m not so sure, because I wouldn’t ask for a do-over on any of these experiences, tough as they are.
So-Called Mom
So then, it’s fair to say we’ve been learning along side each other for almost two decades. Which means the Biology blunder on Friday was a part of his growing up. And that it’s possible that the sting I felt was really just my own growing pains in letting go.
Still Learning,
So-Called Mom

So-Called Letting Go

Some things are easy to write and talk about and others, not so much. 
At the top of this list is the glaring fact that my kids are getting older. And not just this, but it is the first time in almost 20 years that I haven’t had a baby in the house. That’s a sentiment that raises even my eyebrows. In addition, referring to 5 year old Leopold as a baby lately has become an embarrassing habit that I recently have forced myself to break. I don’t even think I allowed him to transition to toddler-hood. He was always the baby, and now he’s a kid. A big kid—a kindergartener for crying out loud.
so-called mom
So–no babies for this mom, plus most of my kids that are now taller than me, mixed in with the fact that time definitely doesn’t seem to be slowing down at all and you have one hot matriarchal mess.
To help me cope with my new discovery, I’m laying out my obvious fears in the scrutinizing daylight:
1.  All I have known is being a mom who is deeply connected (dependent even?) to her kids. In a world where everything can be up in the air, being a mom was the one grounding thing I could be sure of. They don’t really need me as much these days—now what? Well, now I’m not so sure of anything.
2.  For the last ten years, Pippin and I have raised a blended family together. We have never known each other without our kids in the mix. When the last of the blend is off to live their own life, what will happen to ours?
3.  The idea of not being this all-systems-go mom that I have grown accustomed to, has me suddenly feeling like I don’t know my name. Sure I’m not quite 40 yet and I’m not one of those people who believes that 40 is old, but it does make me wonder: what exactly will I do when they are all gone?
4.  Did I even do a good job? 
So-Called Mom
I had my first kid, Jake, when I was 22 and I have always sworn that he was the thing that kept me on track, kept me out of trouble, kept me working harder than ever. I always say/think/feel that I was nothing before I had kids….so does that translate as the same after they fly the coop? Will I become nothing again? Bored? A trouble maker? These are real concerns of mine that anyone could flag as being fodder for a potential crisis. But I don’t want a crisis—midlife or otherwise. I want a transition point. I want to slow down time and create a gradual turn into this next stage. I want to savor this age, as awkward as it is for myself, the kids and the whole family in general. And then I want to accept that change, as scary as it is.
so-called mom
So what do I do to keep myself from doing anything drastic, like having another baby to fill this sudden void? I think I’m supposed to accept the discomfort of the void, and fill it with something else. Like self care for instance. Something I’m good at, but only after everything else is done—like most moms, I’m guessing. I consider myself a low maintenance person. It’s not that I put myself last, it’s just that I—outside of binge shopping for a self medicated distraction—I don’t always see to it that my needs are met until it’s just about too late.
So-Called Mom
Interestingly enough, that’s exactly the point—the problem— really. I have kids, seven of them: which means my needs are met through them. And now I’m realizing that isn’t sustainable.
so-called mom
So the new goal here is to slow it down, mom-wise. To make a steady transition to being a mom with kids that have grown their own wings. And to address the lack of having a baby– on my yoga mat. And come to a place where I can be OK without taking care of anyone but myself, and Pippin of course.
Switching Gears,
So-Called Mom

Your Own Advice is the Hardest to Take: Get Out of the Way Part II

 

It has taken me an ETERNITY to discover (and re-discover) that I am my kids’ biggest obstacle. We all know this is everything a mom does not want to be, yet we keep at it in the worst ways possible.

In this particular instance, I learned that getting five year old Leopold OUT of our bed and into his OWN, was easy after I learned that I was keeping him from feeling comfortable in his own bed. Apparently I was standing in the way of a decent nights sleep for ALL involved.

So, much like me pushing Leopold into friendships to the point of exhaustion, I learned that all I had to do was back off. Simple right? Not exactly, but I’m trying.

From here on out, I hope I can stick to this new version of “hands-off” me. It will take some heavy awareness and self-policing to keep myself from meddling like I have been for the past 17 years. Better late than never, right?

Wish Me Luck,
So-Called Mom