I popped open my email yesterday and clicked on the new work schedule for next week. I was very disappointed to see that another weekend has me working 5 hours both Saturday and Sunday.
This was frustrating for a couple of reasons. First, I had specifically asked to not be scheduled for both weekend days on this particular weekend. It’s opening weekend for the Orioles, and my husband will be working, probably all day, on both of those days. Which means finding childcare for my 3 kids for 2 days. While I do have my in-laws right down the street who are more than willing to hang out with my kids…it isn’t my intention to make them my permanent babysitters. They have a life of their own and things they want to do and I don’t think its fair to assume I can dump them at their house any time I need a sitter. I’m sure they will be happy to watch them on one of those days, but I will need to try to find somewhere for them to go on the other. This is a headache that I will have to sort out. Which is why I’d asked for it not to happen.
The other reason why this made me upset was because working on both weekend days really screws up family time. Normally, Bill is off, and he hangs out with the kids, which is great, but I’d like to hang out too. With him, with all of us together. Working 5 hours smack in the middle of both Saturday and Sunday really kills the weekend. I was tearing up thinking about how I was going to spend another weekend away from my family. I like the people I work with but if I had to choose…well, you know who I’m going to choose I hope.
Someone starts fussing with a sibling. Someone is doing something annoying. Whining. Not listening.
And I think “2 days away from all this nonsense where someone else has to deal with it. I’LL TAKE IT.”
All within the same 15 minute span of time I go from being sad about being away from my kids to thinking being away from my kids (and getting paid to do it!) is a bargain.
And that, my friends, is the roller-coaster ride that is being a parent.
“The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.”
― Madeleine L’Engle
Madeleine L’Engle is one of my favorite writers ever, and she often talks about how she is all the other ages she has been, which is why it wasn’t difficult for her to write about being 6 or 16 or 26…because those ages were a part of who she was at the time, she could draw on that part of herself and remember what it was like to be all those other ages and write an authentic story.
I always liked that idea, but it never really struck me like it did this morning, when I got, I guess you could say, a sort of epiphany.
See, most of the people I work with are considerably younger than I am, between 15-20 years or so for most of them. They’re all mostly in their twenties and do well, what many people in their twenties do. Activities which involve lots of cussing, drinking, herb usage, hooking up and staying up late. General irresponsibility and self-centeredness. I really like them. Seriously, they’re a lot of fun and they’re really very nice to me and don’t treat me like some old and out of touch lady. They tell me all their stories and I smile and nod and we laugh and tell inappropriate jokes and I listen to them rant about their boyfriends/girlfriends, cops, bosses and parents. Complain about school and rent and work.
I was noticing though that sometimes my reactions (internally anyway) to all this vary. There are days when I think “Man, wouldn’t it be nice to be 25 and not have to worry about a mortgage and a family and kidney disease” and all the other trappings of my grown up life. When I wish I could live with friends in some crappy-cool apartment and drive a beat up car and stay up all night doing whatever seemed fun and interesting at the moment. There are times when I’m kind of envious of them.
And then there are the days when I want to smack them and say “Grow the heck up!” and “What the HECK are you thinking!?” and other adult-ish sounding things like that.
I kind of assumed that these reactions were mostly based on how I was feeling on a particular day, if I was especially tolerant or frustrated with my life as it is, or if I was feeling impatient and self-righteous.
But this morning it occurred to me that my reactions are probably a result of the fact that my 20, 25 year old self is still in there…she’s still me, in some ways. And some days I miss that girl. I miss being that girl. I miss having her life. But I’m also the 35, 40 year old me. The one that knows how good I have it. Who loves her husband and family and knows just how stupid (and lucky!) I was at times when I was younger. I’m that and everything in between.
Which is a good thing, I think. It gives me a sense of understanding and wisdom. That yeah, I get it. I get why people do the things they do sometimes, why they make dumb and sometimes self-destructive decisions, because I remember what it’s like to be that age. But I also have the wisdom to know better too, to know that those days are behind me, and with good reason. To appreciate my life as it is now, and what I have gained and learned in the last 15 or 20 years. To not have just gotten stuck at 25 and never moved on.
Maybe this isn’t a particularly earth-shattering revelation but I found it to be pretty interesting and it gave me a new perspective on myself, and the people around me, and how I look at them. I’m glad I’m all those different “me’s”. I think it makes your life a lot richer if you can draw on who you are and who you were and really see a much bigger picture.
“I am still every age that I have been. Because I was once a child, I am always a child. Because I was once a searching adolescent, given to moods and ecstasies, these are still part of me, and always will be… This does not mean that I ought to be trapped or enclosed in any of these ages…the delayed adolescent, the childish adult, but that they are in me to be drawn on; to forget is a form of suicide… Far too many people misunderstand what *putting away childish things* means, and think that forgetting what it is like to think and feel and touch and smell and taste and see and hear like a three-year-old or a thirteen-year-old or a twenty-three-year-old means being grownup. When I’m with these people I, like the kids, feel that if this is what it means to be a grown-up, then I don’t ever want to be one. Instead of which, if I can retain a child’s awareness and joy, and *be* fifty-one, then I will really learn what it means to be grownup.”
― Madeleine L’Engle
I’ve written some on here about friendships. They are something I think about a lot. I think I am fairly terrible at fostering them. I’m not too bad at making friends…I’ve already made a couple of new ones since we’ve moved actually. I’m just not so great at keeping them.
Well. That’s not entirely true.
But some of the most significant friendships in my life have gone by the wayside. It leaves me feeling pretty cut off from some of the most formative years of my life.
Some of it has to do with the fact that, since college, I have moved a lot. And moving tends to be rather detrimental to friendships. No matter how much you try, it is difficult to keep a friendship alive across many miles. It is just kind of a natural occurrence. Absence does make the heart grow fonder, but it also makes the heart search for someone to hang out with on a Friday night to go to a movie. Or Tuesday morning for coffee. I’m pretty good at writing letters, real letters, but…most people aren’t. And letters and phone calls are pale substitutes for face to face contact with a friend.
But I can’t just blame it on constant moving and distance. No, there have definitely been some times when a particular situation, an over-archng circumstance, serves to burn those bridges faster than time and distance alone. While long distance tends to smolder along the lines that tether you to your friends, some actions are like a major conflagration that just sweeps everything up in its path, leaving you isolated on your patch of righteous self-absorption. There’s usually fault on both sides of the chasm, but in issues of friendship it seems we often paint ourselves with a rosier brush because it just makes us feel better. We break up with someone, we have a falling out, a disagreement, a failure to communicate, a radically different view of the same event.
I write this because it seems like-yet again-I have done this to myself. I’ll not go into the details because I just don’t care to and it really doesn’t matter. Moving has something to do with it, but circumstances have led to an all out severing of ties with people who were once intimate friends. I think its entirely one-sided (my own doing, that is) but that fact actually confirms some of my own suspicions. I’m 100% certain that I am not entirely in the right on this one…but I’m also 100% certain that I’m not entirely at fault either.
I just don’t know why this keeps happening to me. I feel like its some sort of weird cycle with me, like there’s something in me that is destined to cause my friendships to implode. I honestly think it was only a matter of time in this case, but I wonder if its me. If I’m just incapable of holding on to a friendship because of…hmm. No idea what would be the cause of that. I just feel like I have a trail of broken relationships behind me. Not all of my friendships mind you…but ones from pretty significant times in my life, and it almost makes me doubt that some of those things actually even occurred. Like there’s no one to bear witness to who and what I was at a given time. To bear witness to me, to be some sort of landmark. I don’t know, maybe this happens to everyone.
I don’t know what my point is here. I’m not sure I’m sad necessarily. I’m not lonely. I guess I just notice the holes, the gaps. And its not like new friends entirely fill in those gaps, they’re still there, you know? And I was noticing one today and just felt like putting this all down somewhere. So. There ya have it. The end.
One thing I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older is that life is a lot less black and white than many people would have you believe. I know that 15 years ago I was way more sure what was “right” and “wrong” than I am today. I don’t think it’s because I’ve strayed away from truth…I think its just life and living it that have opened my eyes to the fact that there are way more shades of gray in there than you may notice from afar. When you really look deep into a particular issue, pay very close attention to the individuals involved, you can’t help but see that what may have seemed crisp and clean and black and white from a distance is really a kind of mess of shades of gray. And I don’t mean the Fifty kind:)
While this is disconcerting enough as an adult, it makes parenting really tricky. I don’t want to confuse my kids with my own uncertainty and vagueness about particular topics. I don’t want my issues, my questions, to become their issues and questions. (They’ll have more than enough of their own without taking on mine!) But I don’t want them to grow up to be blind to the gray, to be legalistic and dogmatic–towards themselves or others.
This is especially tricky as I have a child about to enter middle school. I haven’t had the “talk” with her yet…mostly because I’m trying to prolong her innocence about grown-up things as long as possible. But it has to be soon-I don’t want her entering middle school completely naive about sex and associated topics, I don’t want her hearing stuff just from other kids, or being taken advantage of in her ignorance. I hope that as we enter this new phase of her life we can have thought-provoking, good conversations–not just about sex but any of the sticky topics that are bound to come up as she becomes more aware of the world around her. I want her to feel like she can talk to her dad and I and get honest answers, not a brush-off or put off til another time that never materializes.
My problem is…how do I address things with her when I’m not always sure of my own answers to things? How do I set boundaries and help her set boundaries for herself without making her inflexible and rigid and unable to forgive herself when she inevitably trips up? How do I teach her grace without being overly permissive and morally ambiguous?
Let’s jump right into a very sticky topic–abortion. I want to tell her that if she ends up pregnant as a teen, her father and I would hope she would carry the baby and either give it up for adoption or raise it as her own (with our help, of course). BUT. I also want her to know that if she chose abortion…that we wouldn’t shut her out. We wouldn’t abandon her. We would disagree with her decision but love her anyway and we believe that God would love her anyway. How to convey this without sounding wishy washy??
What about say, drinking. Or illegal drugs? Obviously we will teach her that she should stay away from drugs, and that she shouldn’t drink until she’s of age. BUT. I don’t want her to be afraid to call us if she finds herself drunk and in need of a ride. Or if she’s tried pot or whatever I want her to be able to tell us without fear of us flying off the handle.
Any of these things…I want her to know where we stand, what our opinions are (which, I must say sometimes I’m even confused about what those opinions may be…) but I also don’t want her to be afraid of retribution, of somehow losing our love because she did what everyone does–makes a wrong choice sometimes. I don’t want her (or any of my kids) to think they’re “ruined” or beyond hope because they chose a path or made a decision that might not be what we had wanted for them.
I know in the past, people hoped that by “putting the fear of God” into their kids they would get them to behave. Anyone with half a brain knows that doesn’t really work. And how is cutting off your kid, “disowning” them, pretending they don’t exist showing them love? Think about some of the things people were fired up about in years past–“I’ll never speak to you again if you marry that black guy!”–how ridiculous they sound now! And is it worth losing that relationship with your child because they chose differently than you would have?? Would you really stop loving your child if they became an atheist or a Christian or came out to you as gay or had premarital sex or became a Democrat or a Republican…
Maryland’s former governor wrote this crazy editorial in the paper recently warning parents about sending their kids off to the liberal hotbeds known as “college”, lamenting the thought that those kids might come back with ideas in their heads that were different from their parents. Is that really so bad? Is it really cause for alarm that your kid might grow up to think differently from you?
I guess its easier to say yes to those things. I guess this is just one more way in which viewing the world as black and white makes life a lot less complicated. But I’ve lost that vision. I’ve lost my “black and white glasses” somewhere along this road. All I see is gray, gray, and more gray. Sure, some of it is closer to black. Some of it is pretty white. But there’s a hell of a lot more that is gray and blurry and scratchy in the middle, like a pixellated photo of someone. Honestly it is a lot more interesting when you see life that way, but it does make things like parenting a bit more of a minefield. How to raise a moral kid who isn’t judgmental. How to raise a kid who is full of grace for himself and others, and yet not morally ambiguous.
I guess I just have to take it one issue at a time right? And trust that the foundation I’ve laid for my kids will help them to make their own good choices. Choices with love at the heart of them–not just for others but for themselves too. Love and kindness and grace and mercy. And to be able to forgive and move on and grow when they don’t.