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Friday, November 29, 2013

Toddlers come with an instruction manual...why don't teenagers?

When I was pregnant with Zach I read "What to Expect When You're Expecting."  When he was born I read "What to Expect the First Year" and "What to Expect the Toddler Years."  I knew those books backwards and forwards.  They were my bible and I adhered to the advice in nearly every instance.

So now, I have to ask what the hell happened to those sage words of wisdom?  Where the hell did those authors go when I need them the most?  Where are they now that I need a book called "What to Expect The Teenage Years"?

I know the women who wrote those books have to have kids my kids' ages...just look at the clothing on the pregnant woman form the original "What to Expect" books and you KNOW it has to be from when I had my first kid or before.  Maternity clothes were HORRENDOUS back in 1996 and being pregnant was akin to a fashion death sentence.  So I know the bi-atches who wrote those books HAVE to have teenagers (or waaaaay older kids by now.)  These authors need to be answering some SERIOUS questions I have for them 17 years after I first finished reading "What to Expect when you're expecting" for the first time....

When I was parenting babies and toddlers it is the most physically exhausting work I ever did as a mom.  It was actually beyond exhausting.  I can remember falling asleep on the floor of Claire's room one day when I was in the middle of playing with the kids.  All three kids used to love to put make-up on me and I used to use that time to take a little cat-nap.  I was exhausted past the point of exhausted.

Now, it's a different kind of exhausted.  Now, it's constantly wondering whether I'm doing the right thing, saying the right thing, and setting a decent example.  Now, it's contantly second guessing whether I'm doing all of those things well.  I don't have a manual to get me through this one.  Now, I just have to bull through the exhaustion and hope and pray I'm doing ok.

The other night is when it hit home that I really could use a copy of "What To Expect The Teenage Years."  The other night, Zach decided to go to see "Catching Fire."  While I'm all for going to movies, and "Catching Fire" is entirely appropriate, I had a huge problem with the time of the movie.  It started at 9 p.m. on a school night.  Which means he wouldn't have gotten home until almost midnight ~ on a school night.  Zach and Stan were texting about it when I took matters into my own hands.  I took over texting duties and laid out what would happen if he stayed at the movie.  I listed all of the consequences that would occur if he stayed out past curfew.  Zach laid out his side.  He was already there.  He had purchased his ticket.  He was in the theater and in a seat.  I never said, specifically, he had to come home, but I did say he would be grounded for the weekend, he wouldn't be able to drive the truck, and so on.  He did the right thing and came home.  But then doubt took over my brain...Zach is a good kid.  Would it really have been so bad to let him stay at the movie?  Would it really have been a travesty to let him stay out until midnight on a school night?   Did I do the right thing?  Was I too heavy handed?  These are the thoughts that plagued me after I sent my texts and Zach agreed to come home. Where, oh where is my copy of "What to Expect The Teenage Years"??

Maybe there's no "What to Expect..." for teenagers because there are no hard and fast rules.  Maybe teenagers are their own beasts and need to be looked at individually, not as a whole.  Maybe, like life, we just have to take them as they come and try to apply as much common sense as we can to each individual teenager.  Maybe that's how it has to be, but I still wish I had a manual.

Oh, for the love of my children....

Friday, November 22, 2013

Life Isn't for Me

I've been thinking about this for a while now and I can't stop thinking about it.  Ever since I read the blog titled Marriage Isn't for You, I can't get it out of my mind that life isn't for me.

Life is so much more than just me.  Life is huge and complex and sometimes messy, but it's not for me...it's for everyone else whose lives bless mine.  I don't mean that in any self-martyrdom kind of way.  I mean it in the best way possible.

Life is not all about pleasing myself and looking out for number one, it's about putting the wants, needs and desires of those I love at the forefront of my mind.  I shouldn't live life just to make myself happy and when I remember that my life runs much more smoothly.  But like I said, it's not a self-martyrdom kind of thing.  Martyrs get resentful and bitter.  Living life to make someone else's life a little happier and a little easier is a wonderful thing and sometimes it's called parenting.

And in my day-to-day life I live for my kiddos by making their lives just a little easier.  When I remember that, life isn't just better for the kids, it's better for me too.  They're happy.  I'm happy. They help me and I help them.  It's a win-win in our family.

Unfortunately for Stan, he sometimes gets the short end of my stick.  He gets the rest of me, when in reality, he should get the best of me.  But recently, something clicked and I realized how important it is to also live life for Stan.  Because marriage isn't for me.  It's not all about making me happy, it's about making Stan happy too.  When I remember that, life isn't just better for Stan, it's better for me too.  

Last night and into today is a perfect example.  Stan's parents are in the process of moving to Virginia from a very rural area in Maine with no family around them to help if they need it.  They'll be in a nice, little community not far from here, which is a load off of Stan's mind.  But it's a crazy, busy time trying to make sure their house is ready for them as the movers roll in to town today.  Stan has been working like demon, not only at his job but also parenting and husbanding.  Add to the mix running back and forth to his parents' house and a day trip to Boston to drive one of his parents' cars down for them and you've got the schedule Stan has had in the past month.  He added one more task to his to-do list last week when he had a carpenter come to install some crown moulding and a chair rail.  It all made the house look so much nicer, but it needed to be painted.  Enter the time crunch and the race to get everything completed...Stan said "uncle" and decided the painting of the moulding and chair rail would have to wait until after his parents were settled in.  Yesterday, I went over, taped the walls and the ceiling and then Zach and I went back and we painted it all.  We didn't tell Stan a thing.  We let it be a surprise this morning when he went over to let the movers in. I lived a moment of my life yesterday doing something to help make life easier for Stan and today, I got the reward...a sweet phone call of thanks.  I'm still smiling.    

So today I thought, what if I take this one step further?  What if, just for a day, I try living my life to make others I encounter daily just a little happier?  What if, just for one day, I go out of my way to be more polite than normal, give an extra compliment to someone who looks like they need a kind word or pay it forward by doing something unexpected for someone who looks like they could use a kind deed?  And then what if I feel so darn good from this one day I decide to do it for a second day? And then, what if it morphs into a third and a fourth day?  In this month of Thanksgiving, what if I just take it one day at a time and let others know how thankful I am?  And I don't mean, blessed with stuff or possessions, I mean truly blessed with love, laughter and life.

So, today I'm committed to not living life for me.  Today, I'm committed to living life for others...just a few niceties for today.  I think I'm going to have the best day.

Oh, for the love of my children....


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Chronicles of Growing Up

Nearly three years ago I started this little blog.  In January of 2011 I shared my first post.  It wasn't anything earth shattering.  I didn't do anything that hadn't been done by someone else, but for me it was something big.  For me it was the beginning of making sure I keep my kids' stories safe.  I want them to know what life was like for me as I did the most important job of my life.  I want them to know how important their childhoods, teenage years and growing up are to me.  So I began chronicling life raising them.  

Three years ago, much like now, was an exciting time in our lives, full of new experiences.  I had four kids in three different schools.  For the first time ever, I had two high schoolers — a freshman and a senior.  I had a brand new middle schooler and one who remained at our beloved elementary school.  When I say I had four kiddos, it's because we were fortunate to have Jan, our fabulous exchange student, living with us at the time.  He was our senior and brought with him a host of new experiences as I learned and lived the life of a mom with a senior in high school.   Zach was our freshman, and he was looking 15 square in the eyes with his focus on the prize of his learner's permit.  Lucas had just started sixth and we began experiencing the "joys" another middle school boy.  At that point, Claire remained our constant and our elementary schooler.  Part of the reason I began this blog was to chronicle life with Zach and his journey toward a little freedom in the form of the holy grail we call a driver's license.  It's been a year and a half since Zach earned his right to experience a taste of freedom with his first solo drive, and I've kept my blog going, not with the same fervor as I began it, but it's still going strong and I'm enjoying every minute I get to sit down and share my thoughts on life as a parent.  The chronicling of life's events has become almost second nature to me now, and it's time to buckle down and make sure I have this year in the books.

This year.  This year is going to be bigger and harder than years past.  Zach will graduate in June of 2014 and will fly from my little nest into the big, wide world of college when the new school year begins in August.  It's a year of bittersweetness.  I love having all of my little ducklings here with me.  But that's not how life works.  We raise them to let them go.  In the 17 years I've had the pleasure of being a mom, I realize now life moves fast.  Most of the time it moves at warp speed with me just barely hanging on.  That will be this year. 

But this year I have not just one looking at freedom.  This year I have two are looking at their own version of freedom.  Tomorrow Lucas will be 15.  He is now our freshman in high school.  He is the one zeroing his focus in on the prize of his own learner's permit, God help us all.  This year, I have two major life's events toward growing up to chronicle.  

15 years ago today, I was 10 days shy of turning 30.  My fifth wedding anniversary was 22 days away and I was hugely pregnant with Lucas, anxiously awaiting his arrival.  15 years ago today, I didn't have a hope in hell of chronicling life with two little ones, living in a foreign country, nearing a milestone birthday and a small milestone anniversary.  Today, I'm 10 days away from 45 ~ yes, I said it.  I'm almost 45.  No longer am I 25 and however many months (it's actually 240 months).  I've accepted it.  I can say I'm 45.  Stan and I will celebrate 20 years of marriage in 22 days.  And tomorrow we'll celebrate the birth of my favorite 15 year old blond boy.  15 years has flown by and I can only hope to capture what I couldn't so many years ago.

So I will begin...  

Zach is off with his peeps, doing what he loves ~ hanging out with his fabulous group of young men and women.  As of yesterday, he's finished his first, and maybe only, college application (if he gets his early acceptance to his college of choice he won't apply anywhere else).  He is certain of his choice in schools.  I hope they can sense his certainty.  So, now his waiting begins and he'll wait with his peeps.

Lucas.  Any of you who have followed this blog from the beginning know about Lucas.  You know about his character, his charm, his sweetness and his goofiness.  Some who are just beginning to follow me and my blog are just learning about him so I'll share with you what I wrote to an old friend who has recently come back into my circle of friends.    

The other day I posted on Facebook about Lucas and his less than stellar hockey season.  My sweet friend responded with a private message and some words of wisdom about how to handle his "lackluster season," as she called it.  These were her words of wisdom (trimmed and edited to keep her information private, not all are comfortable sharing what I share)...

"....Now to pass on some advice (some teasing, some true): .... 2. Lucas and the lackluster ice hockey team: remind him that by playing superior teams, their team will improve too. Don't you find that to be true with tennis opponents? There is also a wonderful skill to being able to survive loss gracefully that carries people through many of life's challenges. Finally, if you never lose, then you don't enjoy winning. .... 3. Cheer like a madwoman for Lucas and his teammates. They are not losers. They are noble sportsmen."

In all of her advice, she is dead on. But what she didn't know is that Lucas embodies her advice every day. This is what I shared with her, and with Lucas as well, last night... 

"As for Lucas...he will succeed like no other....Lucas has known every adversity. He couldn't hear due to chronic ear infections. He couldn't see. He was diagnosed with off-the-charts, severe ADHD. He's lived life in his big brother's shadow. He's been cut from hockey teams more often than we can shake a stick at. And somehow he's always managed to live life with a smile on his face and his heart on his sleeve. He's an incredible kiddo and I couldn't be more proud of how he has accepted every challenge life has thrown at him. The last time he was cut from his hockey team he asked me to go to the first game so he could put his helmet on, sit on the bench and open the doors for his former teammates as they prepared for their shifts on the ice. He sat on the bench with the coach who cut him and he cheered for his former team with unrivaled enthusiasm. I had to leave him there. He is far more brave, giving and loyal than I will ever be. As for cheering for Lucas, Claire says she can hear me, and only me, outside of the walls of the rink. She says my voice is much louder than most! These kiddos of mine will always have my loudest voice cheering them on!! "

I will continue on ~ chronicling life here in our house, because the Chronicles of Growing Up are for the love of my children....