Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Parenting Grown Ups

By: Susan 

My third child just left for college.  Now I have three children that are technically, and for all practical purposes, adults.  And in my experience, parenting adult children does not get any easier.  I find myself looking for as much guidance as when I had newborn babies and didn’t know what to do with them.  I lay awake at night and think about their lives, their happiness and their choices.  This is way worse than been kept awake by toddlers who wanted to watch Toy Story in the middle night of the night.  One book I read was called Walking on Eggshells, and I have to say that is a very apt description of parenting adults.  The main advice from that book was: “Shut you mouth and keep the door open.”  It is easier said than done, especially the shutting your mouth part.  As much as I try,  I can’t seem to be able to restrain myself from wanting to know that they are safe and happy at all times.  So I call and text often, asking:   “where are you?” “Did you make it home alright?” and “Are you ok?”  (My son wrote a song about that one, warning me not to ask if he was ok.)  Technology has been a great help.  I have all four of them on the Find My Friend App (with their permission, of course) and now can tell whether they have made it home all right.  When they travel, Kayak is my friend.  I can track their flights and even help them find their gates better than the airline personnel.  Last December, both my older son and daughter were traveling separately to other countries.  There were delayed flights and lost luggage and I was using my iPad, my phone and my computer to track everything.  My brother made fun of me and my “command center”.  I try not to say things that they probably already know and have thought about.  But often doubt creeps in:  What if they don’t know they shouldn’t leave the dryer running when they leave the house, or that they need to click that button to pay their tuition with financial aid before the deadline. 

What helps keep me in line is that I am myself the adult child of my mother.  I know that she is trying her hardest to adjust to being the mother of two adult children.  She has been trying for over 30 years!  Which makes me think that maybe it is the way it is.  I know that when my mother calls me to recommend a solution to a problem, a remedy for an illness or a warning to prevent a catastrophe, she is doing it out of love and concern and not because she thinks I am incompetent.  I hope my children know that too. 

The other piece of adult parenting advice I heard was at the recent parent orientation I attended at the University of Texas.  Dr. David Laude, the Dean of Student Affairs, after sharing his own personal story, told us to “be there when it matters.”  I know for sure that my mother was there when it mattered most to me, which was after the birth of every one of my four children.  I lived out of the country and each time I was about to deliver a baby, she would come and stay at least a month with us and do what no one else could.

I have always respected my children’s intelligence and wisdom, even when they were small children.  So I don’t worry about them because I think they can’t take care of themselves; I worry because there is so much uncertainty in this world.  I hope that I can be there for them when it matters.  There is no question that the door will always be open for them.  I cannot, however, make any promises about keeping my mouth shut.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

What if... by Andrea

1. we encounter people who rub us the wrong way (think- something said, facial expressions, or choices made etc.), we think 'This person is up against life just as I am, let me give grace rather than a piece of my mind.'

2. ...each of us accepts responsibility for our actions- great and small.  Rather than blame-shifting, justifying or simply ignoring, we look our poor choices square in the eyes, grab them by the horn, own them, learn from and change them.

3. ...rather than getting even we get involved.  What if we stop negative, toxic thinking and speech before it has time to give birth to negative toxic action?  What if we get curious?

4. ... rather than giving up on people, we persevere with them. We accepted a few more challenges rather than shying away from getting in the thick of one another's messy lives.

5. ...we stood up for what we believe in and engage in real conversations with one another about those beliefs.  Today, it seems that everyone phrases everything to be as non- confrontational as possible for fear that there may be push-back.  What if we pushed back respectfully if you think differently?  I mean, is it really offensive to share your beliefs about the best way to boil an egg?

6. ...we hug people.  I live in the South.  Hugging is normal.  I am not usually super affectionate, but I love an impromptu hug especially from people I do not expect it from. It's not uncommon here to get hugs at work, even from one's boss.  I have new co-workers this year. I got a good morning hug from one last week which really helped me to feel even more connected to her.  Another colleague said 'I love you.' as I walked away from a conversation.  That made me pause and reply in kind.  It didn't feel weird or out of place at all.  It felt like connection and family and community. What would our communities be like if we honored the connection we share with one another some times rather than being so self-conscious and politically correct?

7. ...we laugh at ourselves... at our struggles, at our shortcomings and our successes.  One of my dear friends here at Writing Four Lives often reminds me to put no stock in praise or criticism. Take them both in stride.   I can take myself way too seriously at times. I take other people way too seriously most of the time. My 92 year old grandmother is an expert at laughing.  I am convinced it has added years to her life and life to her years.  She is such a joy to be around and has the best perspective on life of anyone I know. I want to be like her before I grow up.

8. ... we live without regrets.  How would your story be different if you knew that in the end you would be victorious?  What if we live like that even without knowing how it will end?

9. ...the things we think about regularly but never share would change someone else's thoughts, beliefs, trajectory in life?  What if we added our vulnerable, thoughtful voices to the conversations around us?  What might be different?

10. ...we all, everyone of us, invested ourselves in someone else, especially a young person?  What if we decided to be a champion in the life of an underdog?  Hmmm, I wonder how the energy in our communities would change?

These are just a few of my random thoughts, collected as I sit quietly listening in on the conversations going on inside my head as I search my own heart or observe interactions between human beings.  As I worked on another piece of writing earlier this week, I remembered that I have always been a daydreamer.  "What ifs" are usually the thoughts of children.

What if we grown ups spent a little more time wondering what if ... then make a move?