It’s Okay To Let Go Of The Kids

I had the privilege of spending yesterday visiting my boys at their places. By the end of the day, I had come to realize a great many things for which I am truly and utterly grateful. And a few things I need to file into the ‘Nailed It’ category.

Both of my sons, now aged 22 and 21, have had a very rough year. Though they travel in very different circles, have very different abilities, and are at very different stages in their life journeys, each was faced with a serious and major turning point in their young lives. Both are still adjusting to their new circumstances without Dad. Becoming men themselves, both have been denied the greatest single influence and support to their success. At a time when they both need Dad more than ever, they are having to learn to rely on themselves and trust that they already know what they need to know. It’s just a matter of putting it all together.

I have watched them both struggle, in their own ways, making mistakes, backtracking, making little steps in the right direction, and falling down again. Always, I have been ready with the safety net. But mostly I’ve had to stand back and let them go. And wait. And hope. And trust.

Over the past few months, each of my sons has met a crossroads. Both were faced with choices that could have had devastating and permanent repercussions. Both were forced to balance emotion with logic. Both have found themselves fighting for their futures. It’s been unbearable to have to watch.

In the past few weeks, both have pushed me out completely. And I have had to trust that we gave them the skills. To believe that they have the heart and the fire to see them through the worst their lives will throw at them. To hope I’ve been able to give them enough.

Going into yesterday, I was unsure. Worried even. When last I spoke to either of them, each was facing a decision, choosing a new path. Both were considering options that hadn’t even breathed their first breath just days ago. I had no idea what to expect. I pulled out of the driveway knowing that, good or bad, things were going to look quite different when I got back.

Twelve hours later, I sat in the van, parked, radio still on, and broke down. Somewhere along the way, we had got things right. Somehow, we have raised two boys – two incredibly different children – into two responsible and independent young men.

I spent my morning yesterday with one son who took charge of his own life, despite my desperate attempts to slow him down fearing he was not quite ready. Yet he was easily able to convince me that I was wrong. He is well. And safe. And happy.

My afternoon took me out to catch up with his brother, who had shut me out as he wrestled with a complete change of direction. As I sat listening to his plan, I couldn’t help but realize that his path had led him to exactly where he needs to be right now. And looking down the road with him is very exciting.

So I sat in the van, feeling the gratitude. And the hope. And marvelling that both of my sons have chosen their own way. Both have chosen independence. Both are confident and compassionate and strong. They are so different. And yet, in all the ways that matter most, they are exactly the same. I couldn’t be more proud to be their mom.

As for all my doubt and worry – I’m entitled. Only hindsight can spout cliches about everything happening for a reason and working out in the end. I don’t care how much faith you have; sometimes things don’t work out. Happy endings are not guaranteed. But I do know how to recognize one when I see it.

And yesterday, though not an ending but two incredible new beginnings, will be filed in the ‘Things I Can’t Express Enough Gratitude For’ drawer. Part earned. Part lucky. And all appreciated.

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Give Your Kids The Gift Of Age

After bingeing through Season 3 of House of Cards yesterday, I decided to give Netflix a bit of a break and started digging through the DVD stash. I found a copy of “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” that I didn’t know we had; Paul must have grabbed it at some point. I told the kids I’d never seen it, but let’s give it a try. It’s about old people.bestexoticmarigold

They stayed.

The only thing better than the movie itself was the fact that all three of them – my oldest son and two youngest daughters – not only sat through the whole thing, but seemed to genuinely enjoy the story. They recognized two of the actors from Downton Abbey, one from Pirates of the Caribbean, and one from a James Bond flick. Their reviews were all quite positive and thoughtful, with a unanimous thumbs up for the film.

Did I mention the movie is specifically about old people? It’s about old people – getting old. And all the crap that comes with it. It’s about broken hips and dead spouses and boring retirements and lost loves and death and fear of, well, life, and aging, and death. It’s about culture shock and homophobia. And misguided family and lost retirement funds. But it’s funny and hopeful and a grand adventure. It’s about loveable characters and one or two not quite so. It’s about overcoming fear and learning to live a full life. It’s about learning to blog in your final chapter.

And the kids watched.

No bored sighs. No extended bathroom breaks, popcorn runs, or naps. Teenagers. Old people. Remarkable.

DSCN0713I think I shall have a little chat with Nana today at Sunday dinner. Last night was her doing. Watching my kids I realize what a gift I have given them by nurturing my relationship with my Mom. Nana comes to dinner every Sunday. She comes to football games and plays and swim meets. She stays over for days at Christmas. She comes to the cottage. She even squished herself into an RV with us last summer and spent a month in a tin can with me and 5 twenty-teens as we trekked across Canada. She puts her four cents into every conversation, whether it’s welcome or not. And never thinks twice about giving a kid a good talking to when she thinks he or she has it coming. She sticks up for me. And she tells me when she thinks I’m wrong. And after all is said and done, my kids see her as an integral part of our family. We’ll be starting renovations on the house this summer to move her in with us. It will be crowded and probably more than a little challenging. But the idea of having to double up bedrooms, store extra stuff, weather yet another major renovation, and all the crap that comes with it, went over with the kids like chocolate on ice cream. No problem, Mom. What do you need us to do? Because Nana needs this.

Wow.

I think she’ll like to hear of the impact she has on my kids. And that, annoying as her requests for inconvenient help can get at times, she has taught my children a healthy respect for and understanding of the elderly. (Please don’t tell her I just called her that…) I want her to know that, as much as she has meant to me as my mom when I was a kid, my life is richer now for having her as Nana. Not sure how – or even if – I could ever thank her for that.

I get that many kids never get the chance to get to know their grandparents; my own have lost their dad. I understand the loss. But kids still need grandparents.

If not their own, then perhaps a borrowed set.old man and child

You see, it’s super easy to get to know old people. You just have to find them – we usually keep a bunch of abandoned extras locked up in batches. Spend some time listening to what usually turns out to be some of the best stories ever! Volunteer to take some of them grocery shopping or to just sit and talk – better yet, listen. Make a friend. Introduce them to your kids. And then bribe them with a good home-cooked meal. Ta-da! Adopted grandparents! Next thing you know you’re buying gifts, inviting them to graduations, and sneaking salt shakers into the nursing home.

In the end, teaching our kids how to treat the elderly is an investment that will eventually make us the primary beneficiary! And if we have to make a few old people happy along the way, well, so be it.

When In Doubt, The Kid Is Up To No Good

So for those of you who find yourselves shaking your heads at the magnitude of your children’s imaginations for mischief, let me assure you that you are not alone. Nor are the adventures limited to the wee ones.

I finally, after having found a relative time marker to the problem, took a really good look at a ‘blemish’ that has been festering on the nose of one of my daughters. (While I am not into shaming any particular child online, I also worry that T and M will squirm at the insinuation that one of them could do something this, um, ill-advised.) Anyway, this blemish has been a part of our family for at least a week that I can measure – probably more like 2-3 weeks. (Hey, this is not the only major issue on my plate right now – don’t judge.) Not only does it not seem to be healing, but seems to be getting bigger. My sense of humour and the rampant stream of swallowed smart-ass comments have now taken a back seat to concern for her health.

pinnochioWith bright light and good reading glasses on, I ventured near enough to see that the issue of note is indeed quite a hole and somewhat infected. Liquid concealer has not been kind. I do a quick search of the entire face to try to get a handle on the overall problem. Nothing out of the ordinary for a young teenaged visage. But, wait, when the heck did you double pierce your ears? While I’m here, let’s talk about that – they don’t look too good.

I am distracted by what turns out to be a self-inflicted attempt at personal decor that didn’t work out too well. Mmm hmm. That should teach you. Get some rubbing alcohol on those ears and clean them up.

And get a hot cloth on that thing on your nose and see if you can steam it up a little.

I chuckle as I make myself a tea. Reminds me of the day she shaved off an eyebrow. Silly girl.

Then the realization strikes.

Wait a minute.

Hey, kid. Come here.

Now I want you to think carefully before answering – and don’t even think about lying to me.

Is there any chance that thing on your nose is cause by a failed attempt at a piercing?

I swear I could see the thought-bubbles bursting around her head as her brain worked feverishly, ‘Terminator’ style, to sort through the possible responses to my question.

Yeah.

Bite lip. Harder. Pain. Blood. Do. Not. Laugh.

(Follow long lecture re: dirty needles, infections, self-mutilation, permission vs. forgiveness, and threats of some very nasty medical procedures.)

So then, daughter. While I’ve been trying to hold my witty tongue from all of the unkind comments whirling through my mind these past few weeks, the gloves are now off. And you, Nanny McPhee, are about to experience some uncomfortable consequences.

It’s days like this that even up the score board a bit. Mwaa haa haa!!