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Rubiks Cube

 

rubiks

There are times going through life that something occurs and you know that you will not be able to return to what was ever again; you move cross country or leave an important relationship and can feel the glacial shift deep within your self. It’s like a Rubik’s cube and a new row of matching colors has just been lined up; a feeling of satisfaction comes over you because you are a big step closer to the goal.

In our family, a whole side of the cube turned over and got matched this past weekend: our youngest child graduated from high school. I distinctly remember the morning of the first day of kindergarten for our oldest, I wrote a letter to the three little people in our house, explaining the fact that life would be changing from here on out, we would be on the schedule of the school system, with an influx of papers and projects and tests. Our focus moved to the daily muddling through with a very distant goal.

Somehow those three little kids stretched out and became taller and smarter, they started to think for themselves and visualizing their own goals and our house is becoming bigger and quieter by the day. The chaos has changed to small bursts and been replaced with long stints of near silence. In the most practical sense, I have worked myself right out of a job.

When our first two children graduated and started moving towards their next steps I had a deep sadness and already started to dread how it would feel to have the last one move on, but so far I feel nothing but excitement for the future. Their future. Because this isn’t about me. For years they were an extension of me, hanging off of me and looking to me to see how to react to life, but now they have stronger legs than mine and they know how to respond, even if an occasional call to Mom or Dad needs to be made.

 The part that is about me? The Rubiks Cube that keeps getting closer to being completed?  It is a life filled with memories and experiences that have helped to make me who I am, and I can’t wait to see what color of the cube we work on next.

 

I’m a Fan

soccer

Our son was playing in his last soccer game of the season, which meant the last sports tournament of his high school career. We have watched this kid run, catch, throw and kick from the sidelines for at least ten solid years, and this was the final time. It occurred to me that when our kids are performing in the school years, we have permission to cheer and gloat, to whistle and yell and support them in any way possible. Then, this dies down dramatically as they age.

There are those few who continue playing a sport in college and beyond, but the vast majority settle in to quieter pursuits and the onlookers stop cheering. Think about how rarely you genuinely cheer someone on from the sidelines after they leave high school. For me, this needs to change. I want to keep encouraging and clapping loudly, standing in awe when they do something crazy great and high five the others who witnessed it with me. I want to continue to be my kid’s biggest fan, even as he hangs up his cleats and turns in his gear.

Here’s to the Moms and Dads who sit on the sidelines and watch their child’s every move for a season. May that season be a lifetime.

 

What Do Adult Children Need?

theend

What do they want from me? Sometimes our youngest will gush about how cool someone’s mom is, or how much money somebody’s parents spend on a friend’s wardrobe and I can start to feel anxious about the way I am viewed by our daughter and her friends. If I’m not really careful, I can feel like a failure because we don’t go on fabulous cruises with our kids or know all the latest jargon. This past week my daughter was very amused at my complete inability to take a selfie and at the fact that my phone is always at less than 10% charged. Always.

What do my adult children need from me at this point in life? Obviously, they are very capable in most arenas; they can get themselves from place to place, cook their own meals and hold down jobs while attending school. They have relationships with each other and with other people without needing me to referee, and each can stand up for themselves without needing my approval or permission.

So as I am quickly working my way out of a job, what is my role at this point? It has taken me some time to answer the question, but I think I have it now. My job is to remain consistent. Whenever possible, I need to be accessible to my children, available to answer the many questions that are asked about establishing credit, how health insurance works and if a check is written today, do I still have money in my account? I need to be consistent in my values, so when my young adults are questioning their own, they know they can rely on their parents to be true to what we have taught them. I need to be consistently open to new ideas and perspectives, so our children know they can voice theirs to me and not be shut down or judged harshly. My children need me to be their biggest cheerleader, ready to throw a big party in their honor. And I need to consistently love my brood, whether they disappoint, frustrate or thrill me, they need to be able to rely on the fact that their mother is crazy about them, no matter what.

I may not be everything that my children would like, but I can say that I work hard to continue to be what they need. In my opinion, it’s cool to be consistent.

 

Do You See Me?

seemeIn tenth grade our daughter decided to become a rugby player. Our sweet, creative, incredibly dramatic daughter who is not terribly athletic wanted to play a violent game that we knew little about. We had some reservations, but went to the team meeting and entertained the idea. Somehow she convinced us that rugby was her sport, and she began practicing, learning how to be tough and strategic within a team.

Several weeks went by and our girl was an actual rugby player, on the field in a real game! As her parents, we stood on the sidelines at each game and cheered and cringed while watching young women work very hard to move an odd-shaped ball down the field. Once, we witnessed our sweet whimsical daughter make a tackle that would make any football player proud, leaving the opponent down on the ground for a few minutes.

When the game was over, our warrior ran towards us and literally jumped into her Dad’s arms while screaming, “Did you see me?” I can still hear the crack in her voice as she asked the question, it was so important to her at that moment. We both told her about it from our perspectives, proving that we had seen every second of her gamesmanship.

We all want to be seen. Over the years our children have asked this same question, but often in different ways; sometimes they act out, are hilarious, are sullen, are too big and loud for the room to contain them, or move around the edges of that same room, daring us to notice.

As parents, it’s our job to see our children when they excel and when they fail, but also in the everyday muddling of life. As believers, it’s our responsibility to see those that God has placed in our lives at work, while running errands and within our spheres of influence. While talking with these people, let the question rise up, Do you see me? Then do everything you can to prove that you do.

Still Learning

lovelifeRecently my guy was telling me about an interaction with a colleague where the other person was incredibly rude, swearing at him, making accusations and issuing ultimatums. The guy is known as a hothead throughout the organization, but this was beyond his normal antics. I found myself getting agitated as he described the discussion that had been going on for days at that point. I was not able to offer any kind of resolution, in fact, I reminded my guy of several times in the past when the co-worker had done similar things and tried to get my husband to see that this was not going to get better. I resolved in my mind that the next time this jerk came to our home, I would make it very clear how I felt about him.

A few days later my guy walked in our door while laughing and joking with someone on the phone. When he hung up I realized he was talking to the same guy that had said terrible things to him days before. I was incredulous. I couldn’t believe that my husband could just let him get away with that! Apparently they had talked it through after the man had cooled off and everything was all right. But it wasn’t all right with me! I wasn’t ready to forgive and forget.

Have you ever done this? It’s called a secondary hurt – the pain you feel when someone you love is unjustifiably hurt. You conjure up enough emotion for the both of you and want to do damage to that person who hurt your loved one. As strongly as I feel this sometimes for my guy, who can certainly take care of himself, the feeling is exponentially greater when it happens to my children. This is exactly the reason that we counsel young couples not to go to their parents or siblings when they argue within their marriage; those who love you most cannot hear your side of the story and reasonably conclude that you both were at fault, and need to work it out together. Family members react just like I did with my guy, reminding you of all the times your spouse has done something similar and worse, and probably predict doom and gloom for your whole situation.

Not helpful. But understandable.

When you are in the midst of an argument with your spouse, who do you talk to? Your parents, who know your faults but are loyal no matter what? Your high school best friend, who predicted this would never work years ago? Your co-worker, who perhaps has never even met your beloved? We should all have someone in our lives who champions our marriage, who can listen and withhold judgment and turn you back towards home to work it out. I have personally both failed and succeeded at this very thing over the years, and when I fail I have to admit and seek forgiveness. If you have children who are married, the best thing you can do for your adult children (beyond praying) is encourage them to have a mentor couple in their lives, someone who wants them to work it out as much as they do, and will help them do just that. It’s normal to empathize with those we love but sometimes we need to extricate ourselves from a situation in order to help the very people we love most.

Fight Fair

argument

When you are in an argument with your spouse, do you tend to move towards or away from your significant other? I was always the one ready to fight, and used my readiness as an advantage over my guy, who needed time to take stock. Given time, he could think things through and get down to the main point instead of staying up in the realms of emotion with me. It was so much better for our relationship to go this route because calmer heads prevail, but I really liked to win, so I would push him to talk.right.now. If I forced him to talk before he was ready, I was likely to get a very angry response, and little would be settled.

For most couples, there is one person who wants to communicate, always ready to talk and cannot imagine walking away and waiting a while. The other person may need time and space to determine what they truly feel and to determine the words they will choose to share. In my experience, it seems that women are often the party that wants to talk it out here and now and men need processing time. We have seen the same thing with our children; they often need time to think about their feelings instead of erupting with emotion, and yet it can be so difficult to allow them that space. The trick is knowing when to let up and let him walk away, and when to return to her to finish the talk.

The best thing to do is to talk about how you will handle conflict when you are in a good place. Go for a walk and discuss the roles the two of you usually take; being careful to note that neither way is best, just different. Then agree that when it comes to it, you will allow some room to breathe, but go ahead and determine how much – a half hour? A day? Making a plan when things are good sets you up for success later on.

There will be conflict, but having a game plan as to how you are going to honor each others needs insures that both parties can be heard and the argument won’t last longer than it has to. Have you noticed this trend in your relationship? How have you worked toward reconciliation with these differences?

Get on the Floor

floor

When my kids were little, I felt like I lived on the floor of our living room. Looking back at video footage of Christmas mornings and birthday celebrations seem to confirm my memory because the entire time I seem to be at their level, assisting in present opening and sharing excitement over every little thing. I felt like a human Jungle Gym, with babies climbing and hanging off of me all day.

But when I watch footage of regular days, the quick capture of dressing up and dancing and playing with cars, I see that I am often on the periphery, cooking or cleaning and walking through the chaos, responding but not really a part of the fun. Why is that?

I can remember my guy pulling the big video camera out of it’s bag (yes, really) and starting to record whatever our little treasures were into, and I would react with a need to clean up the environment. We can’t let ourselves believe we lived in this mess, can we? The pressure to appear that we have it all together is so strong, even in our home movies. And what if a friend came over? How awful to be caught with this morning’s dishes not done, or to appear that I don’t have this parenting thing nailed?

I often have young moms ask me what I wish I had done better when my children were the ages of theirs. Many things, but high on the list would be: I wish I had spent more time on the floor with my babies. You can’t do laundry or cook dinner or run errands from down there, but you can read books and fire up imaginations and give unlimited hugs, kisses and affirmation.  Have you ever noticed that you’re better at this at someone else’s house? It’s because you don’t have tasks to do there.

I want to encourage young parents to get on the floor (and the grass) and stay there longer than you intend to. Everyday. That other stuff? It can wait.

 

 

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