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.

It’s All About Power Tools and Vibrators, Ladies

I was a fan of the show Sex and the City. It wasn’t so much that it was entertaining – they were some of the most outspoken women I had ever heard, openly discussing everything from orgasms to vibrators – more that I was always impressed with four women who were struggling with the parity of their feminine independence against the constant threat of personal relationships. I always found the concept to be quite fascinating.

Can any woman be both independent and in a relationship? Or are we doomed to either/or, man or vibrator?

I know I never mastered the balance during the twenty-three years I spent with my late husband. While we both worked, I at least had a financial contribution that equaled my sense of entitlement. But when I quit my job to be a stay-at-home-mom, I quickly fell victim to my own sense of inadequacy. Being dependent on my husband was a pill I never managed to keep down.

Over the years, I envisioned a future with him that included more retired, married time, and a whole lot less mom-time. I saw a return to equality between us as he became less tied to his job, and I became less tied to the kids. I was looking forward to that… But in the meantime, I was always trying to find ways to express myself, my creativity, my intellect, my sense of adventure, my opinion, in ways that distanced me from the issue of dependence. Wonderful man and supporting husband that he was, he was on board without question with every idea I had, from renovating to writing, inventing to contributing.

In the end, I am able to enjoy a sense of independence and strength gifted to me by my mom – usually against my father’s wishes – and encouraged by my husband. In the year since my husband passed, that confidence in self has been the only thing holding me upright as I try to put my, and my children’s lives back together.

One of the things I’ve been able to focus on – and keep distracted by – these past twelve months is home renovations. I managed to finish every project we had planned when we moved here two years ago, plus a few more that floated to the top of the list. Most I did myself – remodeling bedrooms, building cabinets, repairs, that sort of thing. I’m pretty handy that way. I also know my limitations and hired out for two major repairs. Proud as I have been at my accomplishments, posting pics online, no one else seemed too impressed, as, apparently, I was just living up to expectations.

So you can imagine my surprise the other day as I happened to sit with the kids for a minute while they were watching Ellen. She had Martha Stewart Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Julia Roberts on with her, and of course, Martha was showing everyone how to make a neat Christmas wreath made of slices of small tree trunk. Without a thought, Martha shoved a hunk of wood into her miter saw and ripped a slice off for her craft. The audience exploded into applause. I was sure I had missed a little something, curious as to the imbalance of the applause-to-performance ratio.

Ellen, Martha, Julia and Julia

Watch the ladies turn on the power!

Martha then talked Ellen through the process of using the saw, and an obviously nervous Ellen managed to cut another piece of wood, to the absolute awe, disbelief, and astonishment of the entire audience, including Julia herself. The enthusiasm of congratulations, coupled with the expression of pure glee on Ellen’s face hit me with some force.

These women were surprised that women were able to use a power tool!!!

W. T. F. ???

Apparently, this is not a common thing.

I’ve given this a great deal of thought in the days since. I use power tools. I have a garage/workshop full of them: routers, saws, drills, sanders. Many of them, more than one, because not every job needs the same tool. I make much of my own furniture – if I can’t find exactly what I want or need, I design and build it. Except for electrical problems – as I said, I know my limitations – I do most of my own repair work around the house. I think, I may have been taking this for granted.

I know I have polite friends who express their approval and admiration of my work. But you never really know if they’re really impressed or just humouring. I also know that I have caught my new neighbours watching me from behind curtains, and taking extended walks past my house while I’m in the garage with my SkilSaw ripping up some sweet-smelling maple plywood. I figured they were concerned my music could be heard over the scream of the saw blade. I don’t know anyone – female – who uses power tools the way I do, but I assumed it was a time restraint or lack of space thing. After all, all of my daughters – sons, too! – know how to use at least a drill. My 13-year-old can cut flooring with a jigsaw. And my 110-poumd 17-year-old looks downright sexy cutting baseboard on my 110-pound compound miter saw!

But until I saw the audience reaction on Ellen, I didn’t realize that women and power tools live on two different planets!

Ladies, we need to talk. It’s 2013. Get a drill. Just go buy a Black and Decker, 18V drill/driver. (I just picked up a new one at Lowe’s yesterday for $40.) Grab a variety pack of drill bits, screwdriver bits, and #8 x 1″ screws. And a scrap piece of 2×4. Go home, read the instructions that come with the drill. Punch thirty random holes into the wood. Drive thirty screws in, some straight into the wood, some into the holes you just drilled. Pack up the drill, throw the wood away, and wait until the next picture needs hanging, door hinge needs repair, or new towel rack needs installing. Because you now have the skill you need to tackle such a project. Seriously.

(My only warning is this: once you know how to drill a hole, how hard can it be to cut a piece of wood? And then how hard can it be to put a few pieces together? Next thing you know, you’re picking up a router to finish the edges on that new shelving unit you made to fit that corner perfectly.)

I always like Canadian DIY’er Mag Ruffman’s take on the whole female renovator issue: “Hey, if a man can do it, how hard can it be?”

And believe me Girls, there are few things sexier and more alluring to a man than a woman who knows her way around a powerful tool.

True independence comes from ability and confidence. You don’t need to perfect these skills, but you do need to have them. There’s not a man alive who doesn’t love being needed by a woman who doesn’t need a man. And a man who is in awe of his woman, is far better than one who is dominant.

Once you’ve mastered the workshop, then start to work on the bedroom. That’s where you’ll need your next set of power tools. Carrie Bradshaw and the girls were right on that score. Share those with the hubby, too. You’ll thank me for all this advice one day.

But trust me. Get a drill.