goingplaceslivinglife

Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


4 Comments

I Did Okay

About thirty years ago I had an epiphany. My job was not the activity I did that provided income. My job, it hit me, was to raise those little munchkins I had birthed to become healthy and happy adults who could function as contributing members of society.

It wasn’t an easy road, as anyone who has walked it can attest. Having a spouse who had a completely different parenting philosophy was harder, believe it or not, than when I was a single mom.  But trying to parent alone can be a constant struggle against fatigue and a slippage of consistency.

I’m not a deep analytical thinker generally but as a kid, whenever I chafed at the rules and restrictions imposed by my parents that seemed unfair, I thought about why. What was the purpose of the rule?  Was it fair? Could my parents have achieved my compliance more readily if they had presented the need for a certain behavior a different way?  It seemed to me that the answer was yes, life was unfair to me then. easier to build a child

I knew my parents, overall, were okay. I understand better now that they had their own issues and that they did what they thought was the best thing for my sisters and me. And despite some developmental restrictions I had to learn to overcome as an adult (i.e, how to deal with anger in a way where it would not blow up into World War III) they gave me a lot of experiences that many other kids don’t get.

Our family was in no way child centric, but my parents were involved in activities that provided for my exploration and growth. Scouting, encouraging my love of reading, camping and travelling, helping us learn to swim, and PTA were things they did. There were inconsistencies about religious training and practice which I now recognize was a struggle between the way my dad and mom had each been raised. They encouraged my participation in the music education program starting in 4th grade, something I did with my kids and learned quickly to appreciate that my parents had provided that model.

What’s fascinating is that when I discuss memories and issues with my two sisters, their experiences sometimes were considerably different from mine. If that can happen in the same environment, the whole nurture vs nature concept shows up more clearly.genetics-nature-vs-nurture-4-638

Looking back it is easy to see that each of my kid’s personalities was evident right from the beginning.  They were who they are even as infants and toddlers. The way they expressed themselves, their willingness to explore or need to stay close, and their responses to me were challenging and wonderful and scary, all at the same time.  I recognized that this was my biggest responsibility in life and I knew I wanted to give them something better than I had had.

STEPI knew I wanted to parent differently but also knew that unless I made an effort to learn a new way, the guidance I heard in my head and heart would be the way I had been raised. I was fortunate that my older two kids attended an elementary school in  the “poor” neighborhood of a town in Connecticut where education was held in high esteem. (in other words, we paid higher taxes for the school system there than any other place I have lived.) The principal of the elementary school was a consummate grant writer and we had an amazing array of programs, offered free. One was a parenting class called Systematic Training for Effective Parenting.  While child raising practices have moved on, this served as an amazing framework for me to teach my kids about fair communication, accepting responsibility, and understanding that there will be consequences for misbehavior.  One of the best parts, particularly after a year or two of practice, was that we all had fewer angry meltdowns.  Me too.

I know it would be interesting to read their perspective of the experience. Now adults in their 20s and 30s, I suspect I would hear about all the horrible things I did to them. But I also think there would be many more positive issues. (I recognize that statement might be self serving. LOL)

I just came back from a long weekend to celebrate my youngest’s 23rd birthday. The joy I felt was better than any drug. I could easily see that despite a pathway taken that was not the original planned, he is doing fine. He is healthy. He is supporting himself (well, almost). He has good friends who also are finding their way along their own pathways.

One important difference, I think, between my parents and me is that I do not expect my kids to live their life the way I would if I had their opportunities.  This son struggled in school, a surprise to all of us. Yet in today’s economic turmoil, a college education is not proving to be the answer it was to my generation, so understanding there are other ways to earn the money to live is part of my letting go.  After all, earning a living is NOT the same as building a fulfilling life. My hope for this young man is the same as it was when he was born and he is well on his way to being the healthy, happy, functioning adult I tried to aim for with my parenting.

 

 

 

Advertisements


2 Comments

I didn’t see that coming

Parenting is hard. Parenting with a partner is hard. Single parenting is hard. Any way you look at it, if you are doing it “right”, parenting is more than full time and you HAVE to put your own ego, your own desires, your own agenda aside.

It was when my kids were two and four years old that it became clear that my job was not my work as a real estate appraiser. My job, much more powerfully important that getting someone’s mortgage to an approval and closing, was to raise those two little pipsqueaks to be healthy, functioning contributing adults. It became apparent when my marriage was on such shaky grounds that the analysis HAD to consider what the kids would be learning if I stayed with their father.

I erred on the side of being “nice”. I told him we needed to separate. I had no plans at that moment for a divorce but I knew the kids needed a healthier environment for their daily life. I allowed him generous time with the kids and had to talk with them quite a bit when he hurt them because their needs were not compatible with what he wanted to do.

And when he filed for a divorce because he wanted to control the situation, I was okay with that. In fact, I was kind  of worried that if he knew how okay I was he would withdraw the petition, but he didn’t.  He told the kids I divorced him. I refused to talk about it with them (until they were adults) saying it was a grownup decision and both mommy and daddy love them.

I read a lot about kids going through divorce. I participated in programs the elementary school offered and we all had counseling sessions together. I was asked in a session, what my goal was. I stated, simply, that I wanted us to get along well enough that we could sit together at school events so the kids only had to play to one part of the auditorium. He said that was not his goal. He never said what goal he had.

And so, at high school and college graduations, we sat apart. Often his family sat with me. Not because they were taking my side but because they were taking the kids’ side. They got it.

He never did. He married again, as I did. And life moved on. The kids are now adults in their 30s and sometimes we still talk about what might have been. They ended up with a new brother with me and two new brothers with him. They are close to my youngest. The other little ones need them, but the new life their father has built has pushed them away.

I got news today that my ex is in trouble. That choices he has made has once again brought him into a world of hurt and he is most likely scared and unable to figure out how things turned so badly.  He has a pathway in front of him that I never dreamed he would take.

My feelings are confused. I know, intellectually, that there is nothing I did or did not do, nothing I might have done, that would have given him a different pathway. I know, intellectually, that his actions must have continued after my time with him with little thought of the consequences.  I know, intellectually, that no one can make this better for him,

However, I am surprised at how much emotional pain I feel. The “what if I had made him do this or that” syndrome is running through my gut. It is a worthless exercise. I know that.

 

 

 

Lessons

6 Comments

A few years ago I took care of a 10-year-old while the mom worked Fridays through Mondays.  So after school on Fridays and Mondays and during the weekend, the girl would spend time with us. She wanted to do what she did at home, park in front of the television all day. What we did was involve her in all the things we normally did including food shopping and meal preparation, sewing, some light cleaning, and other normal activities including going to church.  We chatted at the dinner table and shared stories about things we had done that day.

We read together and played games and yes, we worked on homework also. She hated that.  She was not used to being accountable for doing her work.

One day the mom was also with us as we went somewhere in the car.  I was driving and I pointed to a road sign, one of those orangey-yellow ones that showed a curve coming up. I asked the girl if she knew why the sign was yellow.

Now this was the kind of question I had been throwing at my children since they were little to get them thinking, so I did not think it was particularly difficult.

Not only did the girl have no idea but neither did the mom. So I stepped them through the logic, asking the colors of the traffic lights and what the green, yellow and red mean. Once we got through the typical giggle that yellow means go faster and agreed it was a caution color, I figured they would get the connection. It didn’t happen so I simply said “yellow signs are warnings. Not hard rules but strong suggestions for safety.  So when you are driving and see a yellow sign, know there is a caution there, something to be careful about.”

Instead of the “oh” acknowledgement I expected, the mom got angry and shouted “Is everything a teaching opportunity for you?”

Yes.

I make enough dumb moves in my life. If I can avoid a repeat bad performance, I will. But there has to be some brain involvement to think about why things went less than smoothly. Otherwise, rinse and repeat will be the life activity, not the life lesson.

As a parent, I have the responsibility to raise my kids to be healthy functioning adults. To help them develop their own skills to be able to do what they need to do and to make decisions as wisely as they can. To love them enough to not always do what is easiest.  To love them despite their own stumbles in their choices. To love them enough to expect they will succeed, knowing I have done what I can to teach them life skills.traffic sign

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A friend of mine moved to Croatia after retirement. Her parents were from there and she had fallen in love with the country whenever she visited family. She knew her small retirement funds would stretch farther in that economy and so made the move.

Much of her experience is joyful. Much of it is similar to the life she would have had she stayed in California. But there are differences.

She often says that the Adriatic nation’s male dominant culture is where the US was about 50 years ago. Little boys seem to be raised that they are the correct ones, and she often sees adult women deferring to their 10-year-old sons.  She sees young women who feel they are unable to do what they want because of the roles society has given them.  What amazes her is that women are the ones who perpetuate this situation. They often are very angry and domineering to other women, trying to maneuver for a small bit of power in their restricted world.

When I hear this current contrast I remember the way I felt growing up wishing I was a boy not because of gender confusion but because I recognized, even as a 5-year-old, that boys could chose to do whatever they wanted but girls had to comply with more rules. I knew that was not fair, not equal. I wanted to be able to chose my own pathway.

And when I hear woman friends talk about statements their boys make that put women down and laugh because they think it is funny, I see we have not come so very far after all.equality-of-sexes-8-728~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Facebook has a lot of nonsense and a few bits of wisdom, I have seen a theme more and more recently, mostly posted by adults in the 50-70 age bracket. Generally it is a list of all the things we did as kids that kids today can’t/don’t do. We rode bikes without helmets.  Sat in cars without seat belts.  Got spanked. Had chores. Were respectful to our teachers.  Went to church.

The punchline: we turned out all right.

The concept: Kids today are not well behaved and as nice or respectful as we were.

What is missing is the understanding that we are the current kids’ parents. We raised them to be the way they are.

So either we didn’t like the rules we had as kids and changed our parenting methods in reaction or we just abdicated our responsibility without any thought.  We wanted to do what we wanted to do without any thought to the consequences down the road.responsible parenting

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Also on Facebook I get into some conversations with people who are strongly anti-abortion but do not want any sex education in the schools. They feel that this is the family’s responsibility and yes,  I agree, information about the maturation of the body is part of what parents should be discussing with their kids.

Age appropriate discussions should start when the kids are toddlers about touching and move on to making responsible decisions about all things through childhood. Before age 10 the understanding that their body will be going through a normal change needs to be started. Before age 12 kids need to learn that their body may get some feelings they never have had before and there are responsibilities to take on, things to know, so they don’t have unwanted consequences. They need to know about pregnancy and disease.

But many parents don’t have these discussions. Many feel it is “not the right time yet”. Many deny their own sexual feelings as a part of the human body’s system. Not discussed, it is secret and forbidden. Normal feelings are understood to be dirty and should be hidden.

And so, unless we empower the schools to step in, we have a problem. We have 12-year-olds who are sexually experimenting. We have 14-years-olds having babies. We have 18-year-olds with sexually transmitted diseases that will affect them the rest of their lives.

Abortion is a horrible choice. No question about it. But without education and availability of birth control, it is going to be a part of this culture with all its ethical and biological issues.sex ed~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Consequences. Life happens. You can’t control all of it. But with a brain attached, you can think through your options and develop strategies to avoid unpleasant repercussions. Learn your lessons early to avoid rinse and repeat.Rules of life

 

 

 

This gallery contains 5 photos


Leave a comment

Success Is Not a Straight Line

Years ago, when I was young and considerably more foolish than I am now, I asked a man what his goal in life was.  He told me he wanted to be rich. He could not define what amount of money would make him feel rich nor could he tell me any plan he had to achieve that vague concept. I asked him how he expected to get there and he actually felt it would just happen. The stars would align or something. Maybe his good looks.   So, 30 years later, he still is not “rich” and he is very angry with the way his life has turned out. planning future

Most people never have a plan. They may have a vague idea…someday I want to drive a nice car. They have no concept of actually how to achieve that; how to save money or how to even get a job if they don’t have one.

warning-challenges-ahead-231x299Some people do have plans. And they research them carefully.  And they implement them cautiously. And something happens unexpected which requires them to reassess the situation.

consequences1When each of us makes a decision…..or when we fail to make a decision…..we set forward on a pathway that will have consequences.  Some will be pleasant and some may be unpleasant.

The only way to move back to the pathway of the original goal is to admit responsibility and make a new plan.  Nothing, no hoped for Fairy Godmother, will magically fix the situation.

By the way, that character at the beginning….he asked me what my life goal was and I responded I wanted to be happy. He thought my goal was also unachievable.  I respectfully disagree.  Being happy is not a continuous state of elation. For me, it is an attitude about the challenges ahead of me, the people surrounding me, and the analysis of my pathway that brought me to this here and now. Only with all components can I look forward to the adventure each new dawn brings.