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Tag Archives: growing up

The man inside the boy

I don’t know what happened with my youngest son, but it’s good. I have been urging, reminding, cajoling, conniving, and ganging up on his to either do more physical activity of the ordinary kind such as biking to school, running, or swimming at the local pool, or join a school or club sport or team, to please, please choose something, and I’d support him. But he only dabbled, while his newly developed height with doubled number of muscle cells puddled in a chair as he played computer games for hours a day. I got into it with him the other day–he could see from my intensity how heartfelt my concern was, how serious a thing I felt it was to neglect one’s health that way, how he would be giving up the good feeling of strength, balance, and sense of accomplishment, even while his brain was tricked into thinking that the levels or perks of his gaming were some kind of real achievement. It was a hijack of his innate evolved dopamine reaction that didn’t pay the same dividend as REAL challenges, REAL risk, REAL conflict, trouble, and overcoming, I said. And no, I said, when he told me he needed me to “make him” exercise, I just couldn’t, with a full work schedule and disciplines of my own to fit in. I said he had to make himself, or sign up for something where he would be made to do the work. I acknowledged the reality of the temptation to yield one’s time and attention to those clamoring for it–the games, or movies, or social media for some. I told him it was too much–I had been willing to make athletics mandatory, but there was supposed to be an eventual owning of it, and it was past time.

He wasn’t planning to swim again this year–said he’d had too many ear infections. Last year, with lots of encouragement from his parents and his siblings, he chose to swim on the high school team, after years of unenthusiastically participating in summer league and improving each year, though never enough in his own mind to pay more than grudging acknowledgment to his gradual drop in race times. He felt nowhere near as good a swimmer as his brother and sister before him, though she assured him that his times were about the same as hers when she started. His brother had started much younger and so had immediately made varsity in his freshman year, going on to be count Swimmer of the Year and then almost make college nationals (in Canada). We assured him it didn’t matter, that it was about fitness and fellowship, and that we loved watching him swim, along with his grandparents. Also, he was becoming a bit of a specialist in backstroke, unlike his Freestyle/Fly siblings. So much for an easy choice –excellent coach, good group of boys, great fitness, and fun to watch for us. But it seemed to be over. His sisters had invited him to go for climbing and to the gym, but nothing was happening.

Then today, he burst out of his garage bedroom and said, one, that he was really glad his drum teacher had got him listening to jazz it was so amazing (he never listened to music before this, despite several years of piano lessons and now a few months of drumming), and two, that he wanted me to sign him up for swimming.

So I guess the exhortation with tears got to him where the gentle reminders and reasoning didn’t. He’s a heart guy, like his dad. He’s owning it, too–he doesn’t do things just to be compliant, but he does have a desire to do what’s right. He’s manning up, I think. I’m so proud of him Dare I hope that he’ll also heed my pleas to say no to first person shooter games, to protect his imagination, or to do real live work with his hands, like helping me build a new compost bin, or splitting some firewood, instead of virtual digital building and tearing down?

 

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Wine is to make the heart merry, and wind is a breath of fresh air

On the spur of the moment, cutting off the possibility of setting up too-high expectations of myself as a hostess, I invited our closest friends over for supper yesterday. Offered her a glass of wine as she arrived, having left her husband at home watching over the apple pie that had ten more minutes to bake. She looked surprised and said, “Are we at that stage now?” and gladly accepted a blue Hebron glass of Chardonnay, while I decided to work on using up a previously opened bottle of Riesling, and poured a modest amount into my rooster glass. I was thinking I might have to add some honey mead to make it palatable, but it was sweet and mild enough even for me. We felt quite free spirited, even when her husband came along with the pie and some non-dairy frozen pie topping, as my husband led him into a discussion of first century theology and pulled out a volume of Philo.

I’ve written before about how special this friend of mine is–so gentle and kind, so self effacing and giving, so patient. She derives her strength and deep reserves of love from a deep faith in her Lord, a life of prayer and meditation and walking in relationship… which I have not found to have become much a part of my own life at this stage of life. Not in that way or to that degree. I’m in a kind of dormancy there, or holding pattern. During our home schooling days together we were more in tune that way, but even now she continues to share her riches with me in my dry space. The men—completely different personalities—completely! always enjoy getting together too, talking amiably about politics, religion, and family life. In a way the personalities are kiddie corner, with I and my friend’s husband having similar senses of humor, verbal reticence, green thumbs, and placing our trust in knowledge and reason, while my husband and my friend are more heart-oriented. Though with him it is with intensity and a habit of speak first think later, and hers is a meeker version. Passion and compassion?

The oldest son of this couple and our oldest son became friends over a box of Bionicle action figure parts in a dance studio waiting room, then their daughter bonded with my two–she is between them in age. Their next boy became best friends with my youngest, they being within a week in age. Their youngest boy then looped into that friendship as he moved from toddlerhood to boyhood, so now that the oldest are off to college, there are two sets of three friends.

My youngest son cleared the table after dinner so we could play telepictionary, and since it’s the best game ever and not at all dependent on artistic or verbal skill, and with no winning and losing, we all joined in, except the teens, who had other things to attend to. Some of us needed those laughs very much–who doesn’t? But I laughed only so hard that my eyes watered, and did not cry. Truly, I don’t feel that welling up of sadness much any more, which is hopeful, I guess. But I feel more myself with some of my roots reaching down to a place melancholy—feels more real, and for some reason I can recognize beauty and feel joy and gratitude better from that place. Like, I need, need, need to watch that hummingbird do its whole routine, including sitting on the fence and chirping. And I need to respond, just a few words directed to that tiny being. And there’s more need for humor and laughter and music where a sorrow ebbs and flows, and things can only get better, right?

There were a lot of dirty dishes afterward. Two of them were the barely touched glasses of wine I’d poured for my friend and me. We have so much catching up to do on the drinking of wine by perimenopausal women front. Maybe a night at my friend L’s house–she even has friends our age who like to skinny dip in the lake! Those little signs of, what? the crystalization of the non-dependent identity of a free agent that is in a marriage partnership not out of habit, or for the children’s sake, but as the fulfillment of a promise. But, by God, there weren’t any promises not to go on hootenanies or shenanigans with the gals now and again! Talk of an all women dance party with disco ball, a trip out to one of the islands for a pedestrian adventure and overnight, tickets to a big name performance in Vancouver. Interspersed by a paddle around the bay, a walk to the coffee shop in the wild weather, making applesauce together from the windfalls from the neighbors’ trees.

I think I can help find a channel for that sense of fun in my friend. Now that I have more confidence there, and maybe more importantly, my husband—not wanting to hurt or worry him in any way—has confidence in me. Her husband is another story. When she gets high spirited in his presence, he quickly shuts her down–my girls have commented on it several times, and it drives them nuts. Still, I’m able to tease and joke with him in a way his wife cannot, even though she has a wonderful sense of humor. Plus he seems to think that I have her, and his, best interests at heart, so she and I have been able to do a few things together apart from other family members, with his blessing. No, don’t judge him (as I say also to my daughters)–he’s not a control freak in some awful way. He just has an exaggerated sense of his own headship and undervalues his wife’s unique identity and worth in her own right. His positive attributes make up for it, I think. Still iron sharpens iron, so why not?

The leftover apple pie and peach upside down cake was shared out and packed up, the boys were sent out to the car, and as the wind whipped the fir boughs, we said good night, and thank you for the lovely visit. I loaded the dishwasher for the final time that day, tossing down the leftover wine.

 

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2015 in Places & Experiences, Relationships

 

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Savoring a conversation with a child grown up

Savoring a conversation with a child grown up

My father was in his pajamas and robe already, and I had followed him to the foot of the stairs, where he paused again, one hand on the rail. Despite his need for a good night’s sleep before an early morning start, he let me go on, listened, gave me further food for thought, met me mind to mind. Over all of me teen years, we had a father-daughter intellectual fellowship that fed me, facilitated my growth, challenged my thinking, helped me practice communication. We talked about the ways of people–at school, at home, at work, of art, books, ideas, many things.

These last two evenings, I have been enjoying a meeting of minds with my son that recalls those talks with my father. He appeared as I was tidying the kitchen after his siblings had toddled off to their rooms for the night; he had emerged from writing an essay, and spoke of the pressure of time, the way it shuts down creative avenues, certain kinds of meaningful experiences. He recollected experienced of deep being in responding to art, books, nature or some other experience, being pulled out of time, sometimes for hours. There was a tone of mourning in his telling, and yet a stance of determination not to let himself be overcome and become a production machine, a mere do-er, rather than a be-ing.

I encouraged my son to be aware of that unique balance in himself, to preserve it, even if it meant changing the pace, intensity, and rhythm of his studies, adjusting commitments, sometimes taking a break, exploring other interests. I suggested that as he got used to the research and writing processes of advanced study, he would become more efficient and could find more space to be, to reflect, and to process life with his friends. I shared experiences I’d had with burnout, lack of balance, over-specialization, and my ways of dealing with that.

We spoke of certain people we knew, how some were masked and came across as fake or pompous, which were able to be more genuine and really connect from their true selves. The problem of the youth leader template (upbeat, positive, fun, always ready to be “stoked,” “pumped,” “excited”), why he never was interested in youth groups, despite wanting to meet people, learn, discuss spiritual things, have fun. I encouraged him to have patience with pretenders–they were trying to please, to be accepted, and would let their guard down and unmask themselves when it was safe. And we all pretend, or hide, at times.

He hearkened back to summer days–open, flexible days, working at the pool, lots of rest, many chances to make new acquaintances and hang out with friends, some before they headed off to college. He thanked me for allowing him that flexibility to be with them, late sometimes, or overnight. I assured him that I trusted him to make good choices about friends, that I knew there they were generally quality, and even if some among them ere marijuana smokers or pretty mixed up in some way, I felt he knew how to be a friend without getting caught up in any foolishness that might be part of his friendship circle. Smiling, he asked me if I was thinking of anyone in particular. No, just an example, I answered. I didn’t ask about whom he was smiling.

Then he thanked me for the conversation, and said he should be getting to bed–swim meet tomorrow and all. We again became aware of time, and yet it was not burdensome. Time may be a tyrant at times, but it is also an artist, for in its flow, look what the creator may mold out of the dust: a man.

 

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“It’s a shame they have to move away from home just when they’re starting to become such good company.”

“It’s a shame they have to move away from home just when they’re starting to become such good company.”

My sister-in-law, mother of four now in careers or college, said this a few years ago, and I’ve been thinking of it lately as my oldest child starts figuring out study and career choices. Although I’m excited for him and his big launch, I wish he could stick around here, because we’re becoming friends. I am proud of him (most of the time), enjoy talking with him about serious and intellectual topics, about the ways of humans, and trying to make him laugh. I love witnessing the special moments he shares with siblings: listening to his little brother, seven years his junior, talk excitedly about science fiction worlds they know together, playing Legos with him when the homework and athletics load is light enough; encouraging or instructing his sister on swimming or discussing relationship and school experiences; thanking his younger sister for a treat she has made for him.

Shepherding him through this process involves a lot of self-restraint. If he can’t listen to his heart and make some good choices by now, I guess I missed my chance or have no wisdom to impart anyway. All I want is to make sure he listens and learns all he can, makes well thought-out decisions, and remembers to ask God for wisdom. Meanwhile I’m strewing information about that I pick up from books and other means–the benefits of a start at community college, the importance of a grounding in liberal arts, the great things to be gained by studying languages and cultures abroad, the options of job shadowing and internships, ways to get an education without paying much or any tuition. In years past we have discussed the importance of training for work that will use his gifts, support a family, and benefit the world in some way, of maintaining integrity and being a blessing rather than part of anything useless or worse. Our several years on government assistance while work was scarce and we were broke from our sabbatical years overseas gave him an appreciation for the usefulness of money, so I’m sure he will be practical enough on that score.

There were times when I stressed about his and my other kids’ future. Did they lose something important by our decision to live overseas for several years without any formal schooling in English and a distracted homeschool mom? So-and-so already has her kid the same age part way through community college and the PSAT! Will they be able to get scholarships?Oh-oh, no Washington state history in 7th grade–have to have that to graduate high school!

I’m much more chill now, and really, chill is more my nature. I lost touch with that driving, overachieving parent and listen more to my neighbor, none of whose post-high school children have officially “graduated” and for whom that never posed a problem in higher education and career. I’m letting go, watching my kids ask good questions, think intelligently about their futures. My ego must stay out of it. The book The New Global Student by Maya Frost reinforced that well for me this week. She talks about parental fego, which equals fear + ego, leading us to pressure our kids to go the same route as everyone else, keep up the scores, grades, athletics and so on, causing us to fear the idea of time away from academics on some other path, an unconventional approach, non-accredited, independent paths of learning. Already my son is interested in living somewhere in the Middle East so he can learn Arabic (he learned Hebrew when we lived in Israel for several years, and they are not very different) and studying programming and other cyber-technology. I hope he’ll continue some of the things he used to enjoy–making stuff, drawing, music, memorizing poetry. Currently I have up on the wall near the fireplace Tolkien’s “I sit beside the fire and think,” and I think he’s allowing it to sink in.

 

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