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Category Archives: Relationships

The answer is: snore, yawn, lie, or say bless you.

Why do people…

Recently I dreamed up a group game (not yet piloted), where you come up with an opening phrase together, then each person makes a prediction, or several, of the suggested completions will be offered by the search engine to which it’s offered. Without checking first, my predictions for this one, in these times, are:

  • “…get Coronavirus?”
  • “…fail to observe social distancing in public?”
  • “…think serious inconveniences experienced by them during the pandemic are signs of government incompetence?”

Okay, this last one is not likely, but it’s what I’m wondering. As I peruse narratives in the news and the social media posts of my family and friends, I observe a pattern of thinking that these things we hear happening to other people (and how unfortunate, but inevitable at the population scale, we dispassionately observe), will not and ought not happen to me personally. We can comfortably swap homie images, post humorous pandemic memes and count our blessings as we bide our time.

If we are hit by a negative consequence, by God were not going to calmly accept it, acknowledging that it’s merely unfortunate, but equally inevitable at the population scale; nothing personal. No, by god, it must be someone’s fault. The government not taking quick enough action, or taking action too quickly, thus curbing my personal freedoms, seemingly being the favorite. Or, if blame cannot be assigned, then there’s a call to battle of some kind at least, starting with telling and retelling, and trying to follow the spidery threads of cause and effect, reaching out for solutions that might not be available.

Religious folks have the recourse of thinking that finding themselves in the negative subset of the odds is actually a message from the gods to wake up, count their blessings, not take their divine help for granted, repent and be healed, or acknowledge the power of karma and tighten up the ethical framework. The sects that consider themselves the chosen righteous will be content to consider these events part of an attack by the prince of darkness, a spiritual battle in the heavenly domains, to be overcome by prayer and fasting.

It’s all just human nature, the expressions of adaptive coping mechanisms that have evolved in the human collective psyche and therefore culture.

An attitude of accepting one’s fate is another way of responding. Modern Western culture calls this “victim mentality” and rejects it as dysfunctional, but because it is common and even prevalent in some cultures, it too must have adaptive value, says evolutionary theory. It can even be empowering in a different way, as it can lead to a ceasing of pointless (and/or dangerous) struggle and regaining of personal and social peace as well as a rationing of energies for more important things.

When my own life is more closely impacted (and odds are it will be), I will resort to my own ingrained (DNA plus nurture) ways of thinking and acting. In the past this has included all of the above, and I can see precursors of the same as I mentally extrapolate likely unfortunate scenarios of my future life. I also notice a reluctance to think of these scenarios at all, except as a stimulus to get ready. But one never can really get ready for a beloved elder to get sick and die, for someone we know or ourselves to get so sick it’s hard to breathe and we struggle to keep the house stocked with necessities or ask for help when one is infected. To picture a severe reduction in personal freedom, a descent into poverty and dependence of my children and friends, even myself, a future of limited opportunity in the ways we have had before, of the collapse of industries, housing values, retirement investments, power and resource grabs by wealthy one percenters or foreign entities enabled by the recession, these are not what my mind wants to dwell on, except as I may be able to mitigate the future vulnerability of those I love by taking action now.

For now I am comfortably  detached. My adult children are all around home, including the one who was in another state, two are still able to work, one is supported by Social Security child’s benefits, and I am a state employee and so far assured of a steady income despite the closure of my work place. This puts me in a position to offer some day labor and/or housing to my kids and/or their friends who are recently out of work until special emergency unemployment insurance provisions take effect. My regular necessary contacts are few, my elderly relatives are relatively self sufficient and/or well cared for by others. I live mortgage-free, can leave my retirement investments in their place in the hopes of recovery. I have a spacious yard and places to enjoy the outdoors safe from contamination. I am checking my privilege, and this is only part. I do have to urge the young adults in my life to follow social distancing protocol with any contacts who have other contacts, as the adaptive behavior among the young tens toward remaining as adventurous and free of restraint as possible.

The attitude I want to choose is still hope, mindful use of intelligence and compassionate instincts, of expectation and participation in a new flowering of resilience and creativity that will enable us to look back and say, “All in all, we rocked that time, that pandemic thing. And we can do it again when the next thing comes.” As far as I can say THIS IS THE RIGHT WAY TO THINK AND BE, I can say it about that. It’s right to be hopeful, whether it’s by complaining, sounding the alarm, accepting, battling, joking, grieving, keeping busy, waiting it out, plodding along, ignoring, creating, strategizing, sheltering, plunging in or running away. It takes all kinds to make a world in this already short, potentially beautiful life we live as individual souls and in community.

 

 

 

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Review of Marriage Story by Noah Baumbach

Got my number of drafts down under forty, by trashing and/or revising and posting. Mostly trashing. Again I am not taking the discipline of writing daily seriously enough, I acknowledge for reasons I do not fins acceptable.

Last night I made myself watch a movie, so that I could get out of the going to bed too early & getting up too early routine. I clicked on one that looked like a pleasant enough story, but turned out to be badly acted and corny. While searching for another I saw the auto-play trailer of another that started with the the same distracted-by-circumstances-while driving-and-swerving-to-avoid-a-honking-semi-ending-up-in-the ditch opening scene. The woman in the first film got a forehead bruise, the man in the second got more seriously banged up, so apparently that’s psychologically equivalent, scars and limps being, apparently, too alarming or less attractive in the weaker sex. What I then happened upon turned out to be the subject of this post, though I didn’t start intending to write a review.

I found “Marriage Story,” which I selected on the strength of the two lead actors, Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver (saw him in Paterson, story of a poet bus driver and his wife), and the opening writing. It’s a sad, deep story that starts and ends with expressions of affection and honor for each other, but also starts and ends with a breakup that neither rally wants. The split is over what I think is a common problem—the inability to nurture the individuality of both partners while they are in an intimate partnership, even where there is love and good intentions. What could bring an even higher and more fulfilling level of that individuality instead results in one, often a woman, discovering that they have never grown into her full personality and gifts, and yet feeling guilty in their efforts to make changes, especially when the spouse cannot or will not make the necessary sacrifices, is completely blind to this opportunity to love more deeply and maturely.

The writer explored this de-selfing for love theme in a nuanced way, with no cheap allocation of fault or trite conclusion. Even the lawyers, engaged reluctantly but seemingly by necessity, do not appear to be the villains. Though their fees cost the couple their young son’s college savings, put the mother/mother-in-law (who loves both spouses) in debt and eats away at the husband’s theater grant and the wife’s new acting pilot salary, only seem to be doing their jobs so that the financial and psychological pain that must, apparently, result, is equally shared. Which it is in the end.

But the wife and husband, though bereft of each other and left with the complexities of shared custody of their young son, are left with the beginnings of something perhaps worth all the pain: she has a career that celebrates and nurtures her talent in her own right, and he with a chastening, a recognition of an aspect of his personality—the film didn’t portray is in a black-and-white manner as a flaw—that blocked his and his wife’s happiness and allow him to grow in a whole new way. And here I am seeing it that way, having experienced something similar in my own child rearing years and after. It could be seen as a chastening of the wife, as she has chosen to pursue her own goals rather than sacrifice them for the preservation of the marriage and family.

 

 

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Moving toward creativity, one snow day at a time

That was an entire garlic clove I just ate, and it could have been too much, but it’s baked down to a musky, comforting zing. A sip of cool water, a bite of cheesy crust, and I keep on typing, going back to correct thumb-fingered type-o’s every third word. The zing is still there on the left side of my tongue. And the slight headache I had when I woke up, too warm from piling on blankets to get through the subfreezing nights that came after the snow fell. The temperature rose last night and soon there would be dripping and slush for ice and muffled silence.

School will be on again tomorrow, I am sure. One day before a long weekend and following three snow cancellations, it will be an adjustment. Fortunately, Fridays are building cool stuff for fun and learning, this time from spaghetti and marshmallows, so nothing too heady and theoretical to deal with.

The bay was bluegreen, with rich, barely translucent waves rolling slantwise toward the shore and splashing up the concrete steps down to the tiny cove by the trail. I took a short video to post online. A king tide, a passerby told me. Snow, a shrubby windswept pine, wild rose bush tipped with dried rosehips, and the marvelous bluegreen sea, which changes color depending on the angle at which I gaze out over it. Marvelous.

Mt usual coffee shop is close. Yes, the cost benefit would not balance on a day like this, when passersby need all wheel drive or yak trax to make it there. I am disappointed, as I am a summer, snow day, and weekend regular now. Only one of the baristas greets me with friendly recognition that is more than professional customer service, but that is enough. I’m the type of person who prefers to have preserve a degree of anonymity, though never invisibility.

When I return today, I’ll tackle the next layer of my creative pile. Yesterday I washed all the fabric scraps and sections, musty from long storage, and they are looking hopeful in their fresh, folded stacks. Then I fixed three pairs of jeans, hemmed a pair of dress pants, restored the elastic waistband on a pair of sweats, resized a pillowcase and mended a glove.

More clearing away for creativity. Ideas are floating around my head, but I still need to warm up with more mundane, tactile tasks, so today it will be finishing my daughter’s equestrian-themed quilt. A gift I started eight years ago and which now has bittersweet associations, as her riding came to a halt over financial and logistical burnout on my part and a desire to have a less focused and goal-oriented lifestyle on hers. The elimination of this activity from the budget has been a relief, but the extra free time has had its negative repercussions–my daughter is no longer the blue ribbon 4-H leader and mentor but is muddling through a rather messy stage of individuation that involves vocally asserting her desire to have nothing to do with a mom who never did anything for her ever, as well as becoming know to law enforcement. If I give her the quilt these days, it could end up anywhere.

After that, I have an idea for a few fun gifts for my sweetheart–useful things with some character, and something from our story so far together that will bring a smile. I’m also exploring the possibility of making a lot of strong cotton grocery totes, some plain and some with words and/or images, for gifts and possible to add to my stock to sell one day . A Bernie for President one, perhaps, and maybe one with a half-baked Trump quote. Another with a favorite poem.

For a break from sitting at the sewing machine, I might pick up some rolls of insulation and install them under the floor in the crawl space, or maybe figure out how to set up my garage space as a shop creative space now that my daughter has moved out. I have a kind of idea that if I set it up nice, I can invite her over to do some woodworking of her own. She always was handy with the tools, and creative.

 

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Becoming with

My daughter and I have observed that many people, on discovering their Enneagram type, sink into it like a warm bath, as if they finally know that the way they experience the world and express themselves in it is valid. I’m Okay, You’re Okay. Or, maybe it’s in knowing that they are, in a way, part of a set of people that would understand them, to which they in a sense belong. These people are out there somewhere waiting to be discovered, in their own extended family, book club, work place, regular coffee shop, in nonrandom places all over the world throughout history.

Because one of the problems with diversity, as essential for the survival and well being of community as it is,– neurodiversity overlaid by diverse patterns of nurture and experience, is that we all, in some sense, are living in a different “language,” and are unique, like snowflakes. That can be lonely. Most of us, except for sociopaths, make constant and minute efforts to adjust our communications to meet others part way, leaning into norms of acceptable discourse as best we understand them. In the process, we create understanding that would not otherwise have existed, sometimes surprising ourselves in the process. This takes practice–something that comes home to me every time I am too little connected with others and those social skills slide, feel more outside than usual. Just like what happens to the body without regular exercise, we can get weaker, less flexible, and more limited in our energy for social interaction, and gravitate toward easier relationships. I am on the introvert side, so I don’t want lots of close interaction in general, but a combination of infrequently deep interactions (which can include a good book), and friendly but less personal connections (greetings along a walking trail, coffee shop banter, joking in staff meetings) keep me in enough practice most of the time.

We also, in the process of these social interactions, become more like one another in some ways. This socialization of priorities and traditions allows us to get along within our communities on the one hand, and go to battle with other communities with a clear conscience and/or righteous indignation, on the other. All social species have evolved instinctive behaviors to socialize the young and continually socialize one another, pushing for a certain degree of conformity for the good of the community. But genetic and epigenetic diversity comprise a fail-safe system to counter the extremes that may result.

Social scientists try to step outside of this system in order to describe it more “objectively,” and maybe to figure out why they often don’t feel like they easily fit into the system they describe. A perfect fit would mean the system would be invisible to oneself, like water to a fish. Water of a perfect salinity, temperature, pressure, I mean. Fishes do notice water when any of these changes and cause a challenge to their equilibrium, so that they can make behavioral and physiological adjustments, aiming for homeostasis.

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2019 in Relationships

 

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Clearing away for creativity

My sweetheart is down in his shop making Christmas presents for his kids as I sit writing on his pink velour couch in the front room, overlooking a beautiful valley, foothills, mountains view listening to Radio Paradise.The band sander buzzes periodically through the floor boards as I sip coffee from the mug with the rabbit orgy motif.

Our encouragement and inspiration of one another in being creative is a good thing, among many, about this relationship. We breakfasted on yesterday’s restaurant omelettes and strong coffee, discussing the possibilities of the day. How to display the cool shaped dwarf cherry tree we cut down last week because it was crowding other plants and sending up shoots yards away—upside down suspended from a tree, or bolted to a pole upright? Covered with what color of lights? Green to go with the Green Globe of Happiness lamp in the front yard? Lit up with a laser to look like a flying saucer? Fixed or spinning in the wind?

After a trip upstairs I come down with a new song idea, with the refrain “it ain’t no fair that nobody likes my facial hair,” and how to make a sort of back and forth between a guy and a woman celebrating and bemoaning the productivity of the facial follicles, including the ones that send stiff little curls right into the nostrils if not kept in check, he reports. To make it clear that those ones are outside my experience. Then we talk about developing a simple device to absorb the sound of a coffee grinder and look good on the counter. After he finishes making a series of bottle-opening kitchen mallets of laminated maple and walnut, and I finish off a quilt that’s been in progress for over a decade.

Some of this part of life is more ordinary, just clearing away debris, some individually and some together. Making way for the creativity and productivity by getting rid of stuff that had value at one time, but, unboxed and visited in a new time, not always still a compatible old friend. Relationships ended or changed, no longer needing physical storage space. Dump and donation runs, Craigslist postings, requests for pickup or for permission to disposed of. All part of life’s rhythm, and best done ASAP rather than passed on to the next generation to complicate their lives. As we consider the value others will discover in this or that blanket, chair, bag of craft materials or backpack, it’s good to know all is not lost.

 

 

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“We’re still working on the requirements”

“We’re still working on the requirements”

This is what my sweetheart said in relation to his work as an artist/ engineer, but it makes a good metaphor. Metaphor being sometimes the only way we can angle in to touch on a truth like seeing a faintly twinkling star better in peripheral vision. Relationship requirements: we are still working on these in our private hearts, and obliquely in our conversations, while we enjoy our time together one day at a time.

I am in the habit of writing to figure out what I think, feel, or even to change what I think or feel. A combination of story telling, logical analysis, poetry, and dream reflections helps me decide on next steps, examine my way of being and my road to growth and future developments I can face, embrace, or bring about.

How do I write about him, about us? He deserves his privacy, but also deserves to know that I’m a writer, and see if he’s comfortable with sometimes being a subject. This public forum (such as it is, without SEO) isn’t my journal, so rest assured I won’t be revealing any secrets, but I want to share some of the aspects that might strike a common cord, raise useful questions, provide hope or encouragement, tell a happy story, for a few readers.

I think I wrote a few months ago about re-awakening to the joys of life, how the phrase “I love my life,” with or without dating success, kept coming as I started building my life alone. That love of life just as is, without a strong leaning into anyone else’s or dependence on anyone else, I want to preserve. It seems to be a common thing, among women at least, to allow too much a loss of self in the process with joining lives with another. Although connecting in any profound way with another person is transformational and should be, and especially when we take years to create a family and raise children, I feel that in this part of my life I want to build an interesting life that is more grounded and centered in my own identity as it has been developed so far. I don’t want to be needed in the same way as I was as mother and homemaker.

But being alone with myself, with marginally special people only on the fringes and remaining dispensable to them is not what I want. I see that as a somewhat cowardly existence, and not fulfilling in the sense of what it means to be fully human. I don’t want to be that widow who says, okay I did relationships and sometimes they were pretty hard, so I’ll keep the writer’s group, work friendships, phone calls holidays with my grown children and a social media presence, but from now on all I want is my tidy house or apartment, Pilates class, my routine and my loyal, simple-minded, housebroken, hypoallergenic Labradoodle.

So, I’m in love, and, yes, willing to build a new one-of-a-kind relationship that sends ripples into the whole rest of my life. If he lives in  another city, maybe on or both of us will change jobs and move to be together. Our kids and previous in-laws will be affected. Our friendships are and will continue to be affected. Our routines and how we pursue leisure, personal goals, and create will be affected.

How will it be? How do we want it to be? Will it be? We are still working on the requirements.

 
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Posted by on November 10, 2019 in Relationships

 

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Classroom norms: Keep them simple, global, flexible.

It’s my fourth year teaching math and science at my parent partnership (school for homeshoolers). This year, happily, I have cycled back to teaching biology, after a year of chemistry and one of physics. Out go those files into temp storage, in comes my much bigger stock of biology books, props, and readings. Once again this year I teach Algebra 1 and Geometry and this year’s Algebra 2 is a regular course rather than just supporting home study. Friday classes are fun but much simpler, as I only have one class to prep, repeated twice each for groups of 3rd to fifth graders and 8th to eighth graders. This was another gift from my principal, who wants to reduce unnecessary stress for her team of very hard working teachers.She also spread my high school classes across Monday through Thursday rather than having them all on two days with the others being tutoring only.

Of course I start each year with a conversation about norms and expectations. One must lay the groundwork for a good community learning environment. Arising from the evolution of my teaching practice and seeing what is life-giving for student learning, my advice is: keep it simple and frame most of what you “require” students to do in terms of choices they make internally. Secondly, try to get most of the important stuff stored in their mental cupboards rather than on neat laminated posters on the wall..

Here’s what that looks life for me. Keep in mind that I teach mainly high school, but these things work well down to the level of my third graders.

I have classroom rules, values rather, framed in terms of two short phrases, posted in rainbow colors on the wall, “Be kind” and “Do your best.” Lately I’ve been thinking of rephrasing the second one to “Do quality work.” A previous iteration was “Work hard,” but the word “hard” doesn’t really bring out the ideal of work being a desired and enjoyable challenge.

At the beginning of the year, I briefly point out these rules, explaining that if they are wondering whether something is okay to do or say, they should consider the two values and see what fits, and if not sure, I and the rest of the community will help out.

I’ve heard it advised that teachers democratically work out a list or rules for each class, making a list and posting it. The idea is the students will come up with what the teacher wants anyway because we all gravitate to natural law. This has seemed sensible to me in the past, but now I don’t even bother fleshing it all out at the beginning; I just ask that they work it out as we go, except for the non-negotiable management- and safety- related requirements such as signing out to leave the classroom, which is a school rule we have found necessary. I told them it’s in case of emergencies, but mostly it’s to track possible bathroom vaping patterns.

The advantage of this streamlined approach centered around a few global values is that it eliminates the clear, impersonal  boundaries that certain students are naturally inclined to spend precious energy and creativity challenging. Instead they use their intelligence (more in future n believing in your students’ intelligence) to create personal boundaries that flex as needed to maintain values about which there is generally no debate.Then if you need to have further conversation due to students’ naughty or dumb choices (we all know that intelligence doesn’t keep us from being naughty or dumb), it can consist simply of clarifying how best to act more consistently with the two big rules/values.

On the other hand, the disadvantage (some might call it a disadvantage, though personally I call it an adventure) is that interpretations can vary and working things out might require a teacher to let go of a few things. For example, in that initial conversation about what is okay to say to another student might acknowledge that teasing can be okay among friends who build their relationship that way, but not okay with others.

But doesn’t this confuse students if they do not have a clear idea of what is expected of them? Yes. But, I say, give them some practice in that, for heaven’s sake–in life, they’ll need it.

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2019 in Education, Relationships

 

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Getting ready for the first date in the second half of life: a study in unrealistic expectations

I wanted to give it all, almost–my personal email, my blog URL, a good view of my shapely enough figure. The written exchanges were so… right, so warm and yet appropriate, intelligent with no posturing, appreciative with no flattery. In his reticence, I read alluring self-restraint. In his simple sentences I read deep thought and care about using words in the most frugal and powerful way. An unleashed ability to be passionate. In his serious expression and seeming reluctance to smile in the few photos he posted, I read authenticity–who can criticize someone who has not trained themselves to grin at a camera, who can only manage an “Ah shucks, okay I’ll try half smile? I appreciated his regular, but not too frequent, replies, and how he referenced the content of my messages intelligently and sometimes connected them with his own thoughts and experiences. In his references to heartbreak I read tenderness, a willing to be vulnerable, even be hurt, and I admired his courage to try again. I placed his personal rule of not letting online dating interfere with his lifestyle at the forefront of my mind. And it start to gather dust.

I thrilled at his allusion to having considered mooring his boat in my area, of having applied for positions here in the past. I drew him out. I encouraged him to meet. Yes, I agreed; this was hard, but one had to give it a chance. Yes, one could have one’s expectations disappointed, find that one person felt differently than the other, not sense the necessary chemistry. But what else was there to do? audentis Fortuna iuvat and all that.

He suggested a dockside dive in a half way town, said he had a boat project to work on, nothing too ambitious. I was jittery, excited, excitable. I refrained from frothing over to my kids, who supported me in my online dating venture, but for whom this was too new, and they’d rather not have the play-by-play. But my oldest daughter was patient with my need to bubble over a little, and said she’d help me pick out my outfit. She cautioned against red, and said that a plaid shirt, even a cute one worn with a skirt, looked like dressing down.

I had been checking online several times a day, feeling that rush of dopamine, knowing it was foolish to allow myself to get worked up, but at the same time savoring this long-dormant feeling. And why not? My friend Pink Poet texted, “Do you feel sixteen again?” She let me tell all, said it was welcome alternative drama to the tension of her current marriage situation. I told her that for some reason I was more drawn to this guy that to either of the others with whom I’d arranged meetups–the tall, bearded Hispanic romance writer, or the curly gray-haired designer-sculptor who made me laugh, let loose my wry sense of humor, and ended every message with “Whoo-hoo!”

The day of the early dinner date dawned. I puttered around all morning, avoided digging in the garden to keep my fingernails clean, repainted my toenails, put the laundry through and worried that my sweater wouldn’t be dry in time. I skipped my morning exercise so as to have more energy later, especially since I hadn’t slept well the night before. I picked berries to pull out for a surprise dessert. Distractedly scrolled through the matches of the day online, sent some “currently following some other leads, which is enough for now, but thanks for reaching out, and good luck with your search” messages. I wondered whether I should have purchased a shorter membership after all.

The time to head south drew near. I dressed, tidied my hair, chose a slightly form-fitting black sleeveless top and striped rose colored linen pants one might throw on after a day in the sun. I thought of my daughter’s claim that pants with a pattern made anyone’s butt look good.

My mind continued to spin–images, feelings, imaginings seemingly unstoppable. I cautioned myself, tried to maintain some kind of realism. It was expectations that disappointed, after all, not reality. Though I felt attractive enough, I remembered that my efforts to get a good selfie at times made me think of Silvia Plath’s “hideous fish.” I reminded myself to smile fully, not nervously covering my teeth, an old habit I picked up as a teen when I was insecure about them. I decided on my first few words: “It’s the real person, finally” or something, a hand clasp, like a friend rather than a colleague. I imagined the locking of eyes, the wordless reaching out of hands, a kind of recognition. I packed a travel toothbrush and clean underwear, because who knew? gushed my hormones.

As I pulled out of my driveway, I saw a jar of sweet peas on the roadside stand my son and I had set up. Suddenly my eyes filled with tears. It felt like the beginning of the breaking of my bond with my longtime husband, now gone almost a year.

 

 

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Parenting by extension: siblings carry the baton for each other

My grown kids out for Frisbee and coffee, by daughter #1

My oldest kids are old enough to start giving me advice about parenting my youngest son, and to some degree my youngest daughter, though she’s already eighteen and has considered herself an adult for many years and not subject to parenting efforts.

They give pretty good, advice, too. My husband and I seeded some of it, but now it’s filtered through how they experienced it, highlighting any of the wisdom it has borne out in their lives.

For example, my oldest daughter is the most similar in personality to my youngest, is good friends with him, and can offer a new voice, and help me be patient while her younger brother takes his sweet time to learn life’s lessons. She also comes alongside him, mentoring him in her oddball humor way. She’s taken him shopping for clothes, encouraged him on dating (that it’s fine not to in high school–many sensible people don’t), listens, fascinated, to his bubbling over of what he’s learning about history and politics, and helps keep up his spirit when life is stressful. She also backs me up on the issues of nutrition, fitness, and computer games-life balance.

My oldest son confirms the wisdom of just putting in the word consistently but gently and then letting his brother ruminate on its  possible application in his life, until ready. This was illustrated in the surprise turnabout my youngest made on how he’s spend his sophomore and senior education dollars. He was firmly committed to remaining in his high school, with his friends, to go the traditional route. I said that’s fine, but required him to at least attend the information session for Running Start to be sure he was well informed in his decision. He came out with the packet, said it had confirmed him in his decision not to enroll, and I was satisfied.

The next day he announced that he had decided to do Running Start after all. Whatever was holding him back–certainly not any fears about academic readiness, but probably including discomfort at losing contact with his friends–had been processed, and surmounted. His siblings, having experienced Running Start for themselves with positive results, slapped him on the back and affirmed his decision.

He also told me he had decided to rejoin the high school swim team. I showed muted enthusiasm at this, knowing that he had quit a month into the previous season. Probably due to what was going on with his dad’s cancer–that was the first fall after his body succumbed, and this boy had enough to deal with. My son wisely adjusted his course load too, as well as turning down a study abroad and internship opportunity that year. But his confidence has returned, which is very heartening. He sure will miss seeing his dad in the stands–as busy as he was with work, he hardly ever missed a meet. I’ll pretty sure all five of us will be cheering all the harder.

We’re also doing some patient waiting on my younger daughter’s growth. Her sister is her greatest friend, though the younger is less that committed when her age-mates come to call. She prefers to block out advice, then learn lessons the hard way. I just pray that she will remain essentially unharmed as she walks that rough road. For example, she recently had a collision (she says she was not at fault) without auto insurance–without having even activated her title registration after I filled out all the paperwork months ago to sign the car over to her. I’d given her several weeks of warning, told her what could happen without insurance, and then, with trepidation, cut her off my policy, partially honoring her stated wish that I get out of her life, and knowing she had the funds to take care of it if she managed right.

I appreciate the fact that neither older sibling is preaching at her. Her sister vents to me sometimes, especially when hurt in the roller coaster of being a friend to this young woman who burns so through life. The brothers shake their heads, but essentially there is just love and acceptance, reaching out, and patience to see the amazing life this woman will built with her strong spirit, good mind and, beneath it all, tender heart. There was that frequent “Keep your heart soft” mantra embedded in our parenting of all of them, often repeated by their dad, as he worked on his own heart. And, what my husband and I passed on from my own dad, to work on your own issues first.

I’m so glad to have the help. I said to my youngest, about cleaning up after him but with more iunderneath, “I’m just tired of doing this, J____.” Not really fair, and I am still committed to the most important parts of parenting, for the rest of my life, as needed. But it’s a relief to have part of the holy burden shared by these young, energetic travelers.

 

 

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And she doesn’t type!

I went to a writer’s conference on the weekend, half filled a notebook with useful tips, inspiring and otherwise helpful thoughts and perspectives and resources. Now I’ve started simple typing up everything that could become an essay, part of an essay, quotes, reflections, memories, poetry starts and dreams. All in one rough document, resisting almost all impulses to edit. It feels great–like a skim of my work, eanbling me to see what themes are most important to me, what questions arise again and again, how my thoughts and writing have developed. Already I’m getting a sense of direction, but for now I’m going to keep just being a typist (although I might actually hire someone for some of it, since I don’t type properly or very quickly.

For the last several months I’ve had mostly scorn and criticism for my writing attempts and kept stalling, getting annoyed, “shoulding on myself” even more for writing so little. Asking myself why, I figured that it was because I’d been more in contact with writers, of higher quality and greater accomplishment. As much as that was great for learning and aspiration, for my self esteem as a writer, not so much.

At the conference, I didn’t attend the “Silencing the Inner Critic” session, but I took the title as a reminder to do just that, to just let the words flow again. Like I learned when I was working hard to develop my drawing ability, I have to treat everything I start as just practice, just for me, to express, understand, see what I think. Still, as I copy out my starts, I am getting a sense that there’s some substance in some of my work even at this stage, that certain readers could value this stuff, when refined and possibly almost unrecognizable the offspring of all that early drafting process.

In other news, I joined a dating website. We’ll see how that goes. Fun so far; I’m in a conversation that arose about books and writing, for example. I clearly set out my low key approach, not being out to find a serious match, not feeling needy, just hoping for some enjoyable outings with new acquaintances based on shared interests and valued qualities.

I’m surprised at my level of confidence in my “ignore” versus “like” decisions. I simply decide based on a short blurb plus a few pictures. This surely will lead to some false negatives as well as some false positives, but there really is something in visually discerned potential chemistry, as well as in reading between the lines of the personal essay. I find myself sometimes giving grace, sometimes jumping to conclusions. So what if someone does the same based on my profile? That’s life, and I don’t believe in “the one” or want to put any pressure on myself to either find the one or be the one. It’s fun to court the possibilities, though.

 

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2019 in Relationships, Writing

 

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