Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Pour Your Heart Out: More Than Meets the Eye

This seemed like a good week to begin "pouring my heart out" with Shell over at Things I Can't Say.  So Here goes:

It turns out that, as humbling experiences go, there isn't much to rival sitting in room full of teenagers paying their respects to a dear friend lost far too soon.  The 14-20 set has it all over the adults when it comes to their ability to lay open their raw emotions and ease each other through the hard stuff.  To be perfectly honest, it was strange to sit there this morning among my two older kids and their friends, watching them say goodbye to their friend Hank for the last time.  The church was packed to the doors with teenage kids.  I think what strikes me the most is that if you had asked me a week ago about my son's friends, I might not have had much to say.  They are a hard-scrabble bunch--skaters and bmx riders.  They are not (most of them) necessarily the smartest  or from the best families.  Many of them have an open disdain for authority and attract trouble like pups attract fleas.   But then, the last six days have shown me something different about them-- something far deeper.

The Rec Crew at Children's Hospital
Teenagers know implicitly how to grieve.  They have an inborn knowledge of what it means to experience and express sadness and loss in a way that most adults have lost over time.  When their friend was hurt they dropped everything and went to the hospital by the van-load to see him and give support to his parents.  While adults cry silently they sob the same sort of tears they allowed themselves as children.  They print their love and loss on hats and t-shirts to let the world know always who they are missing.  While adults will struggle to stop grieving, to get over their sadness and return to their every day lives, these kids will wear their hearts on their sleeves for as long as they need to.  They will chide each other to wear helmets, "for Hank," and they will seek out his parents in ways large and small to try to support them as they grieve for their only son.  They are remarkable for doing what teenagers are known for--throwing themselves heart and soul into their lives and their friends and holding nothing back.  They are everything that we, as their parents, have somehow forgotten to be.

The Rec Crew in their element.
These kids have big plans for the next few weeks already.  Memorial t-shirts and bracelets have already been designed and ordered in Hank's memory to raise money to help his family pay for his hospital and funeral costs.  Some of them are working on a decal design for memorial safety helmets that Bell Helmets has agreed to find a way to help them make.  Just a week ago, my son's friends used to make me nervous.  I worried more than anything about the trouble he might find with them and the scruffy exterior they presented to the world at large.  It turns out that there is less to worry about than I had feared.  They WILL find trouble from time to time, but they will also throw themselves into the thick of things to take care of each other and their families.  My kids are lucky to have friends like Hank, like all of the others...and I know now that I am lucky to know them all.
Henry "Hank" Woodhall 1996-2012

Monday, September 24, 2012

Never Certain if I am Doing the Right Thing Anymore

When my kids were small it was easier in some ways.  I carried all of the responsibility for their well being, but I also carried the power to make most, though not all, of their hurts better.  When the problems were skinned knees and bullies, unkind words and an unwillingness of others to share or do things their way, I knew the answers, or at least enough of them to be able to ease their hurt feelings and patch their scrapes and bruises.  A snuggle and a bedtime story went a long way back then to making the world right for them again.  Now all of a sudden, at 14 and 18 none of it works.  The parenting decisions I have to make with these almost grown babies of mine are choices between what might work and what might not work.  There are no absolutes, no concrete thing I can say or do to help them right their own worlds anymore.  More often than not I have to decide between telling them some truth that I know will hurt and the hurt they will experience if they delude those truths and make choices without an ability to see clearly the situation.  So often now I find myself lying awake in bed in the small hours of the morning wondering how to ever find the balance between honesty and kindness, between what IS good for them and what only FEELS good to them.   I hate that I can see when those two aren't necessarily the same thing.

I have talked a lot about my son the last few posts, and while that is in the back of my mind while I write this, what I am really talking about is my 18 year old daughter.  She flipped her lid at me last week over  my requirement that she clean up after herself while living here at home and decided to move in with her boyfriend and his parents.  She decided this all in the matter of a few hours.  I have struggled for some days now with a mixed bag of emotions about what has been going on.  I am constantly torn between being frightened for her as I know she is not even close to being able to support herself financially or emotionally, and being angry at her for thinking that it is okay to just move on to someone else's parents because your own want you to be responsible for your decisions and mistakes and their consequences.  I know that she is confused and afraid.  I know that she doesn't want to disappoint me and at the same time she is frightened that her relationship with her boyfriend won't last if they don't live in the same place.  I also know that there is nothing, including my own peace of mind that I wouldn't give up in a second to erase all these fears and problems from her heart.  But there isn't a way, and even if there was, I wouldn't know where to start...

So the problem that I have is this:  Is it wrong for me to pressure her to come home and take responsibility for herself gradually over the next few weeks, making a plan and working towards it to enable her to be able to move out on her own in careful measured way that will help ensure her success independently from us or her boyfriend?  I don't want her to never leave, well my heart wants that in some tiny minuscule way, but really I just want her to soar!  Ten years from now when she looks back on the first time she struck out on her own I want her to be proud of the way she did it.  I want her to move on from us in a way that lets her have confidence in her ability to take care of herself.  What I don't want is for her to come back here in a few months when the financial pressures and emotional pressures of living under a new set of family rules get to her and her bf , feeling crushed and defeated by her inability to create the changes that she wants for herself.  So how much of this do I share with her?  Where is the line between wanting her to see things more clearly and giving her a guilt trip to try to lead her to a better decision?  How much of our relationship am I risking when I tell her the things she doesn't want to hear, no matter how much she needs to hear them?

Needless to say I miss the old problems...the ones I knew how to solve.

The Vigil for Hank

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Surprising Lessons...Unexpected Teachers

I try, usually anyway, to be aware of what I am teaching my kids, especially the lessons they might be learning form my example.  I suspect I often fail--when I get angry over little things or frustrated with all that is beyond my control, the way I worry too much and probably laugh too little.  I have to wonder what they have learned form me when I am not being so careful, when the emotion of the moment is too hard or too high for me to sensor myself in any way.  It's something that I think about from time to time, and I rarely come up with any hard firm answers.  Then, when I least expect it--they knock my socks off with the people they are becoming.  Today was one of those days.

There was a candlelight vigil this evening for my son's friend who died yesterday, organized by his friends and the community.  There was a huge turnout.  Hundreds of rough and tumble teenagers stood side by side with community police officers and parents and spoke eloquently about the friend the still love so dearly.  Tough local teens who usually sport no-care attitudes cried openly for the loss of their friends.  Kids who had in weeks past sworn they hated each other apologized tonight and joined together in their grief and shock at the loss of a kind, sweet young man.  They spoke to the news anchor about a sixteen year old boy who had no enemies and made all of his friends smile.  One said that he felt the best thing they could all do to remember Hank was to always wear helmets while riding and skateboarding.

My son has more poise than I would have ever imagined.  Somehow, someway he has learned to avoid the cliches of grief and to reach out through his own sadness to genuinely comfort others with sincere words and hugs from the heart.  He seems also to have found a wisdom beyond his years that lets him know when no words are necessary and silence is the biggest comfort.  They are skills so many of us adults lack.  They are things that he and his friends have in spades.  It was a day for the parents to learn from the kids.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Fast and Furious

I used to be so organized.  This isn't my first blog.  I used to write daily and post a couple of times a week--writing that felt strong to me and carried my voice to the page.  I am trying my best to find that rhythm again, but with no luck.  Lately it has been as though life is rushing at me going something like 80 miles an hour with no brakes.  Crazy pieces of road debris and madness are slamming into me causing a sadness and confusion that I can't seem to begin to describe even though I am desperate to.

My older kids lost a good friend today.  In some house less than a mile from where I sit typing in the quiet still of the evening there are two parents going through a kind of hell I cannot even imagine.  While I was hugging my boy in the kitchen, and wishing my eighteen year old daughter still lived at home, they are struggling with the fact that they will never get to see their sixteen year old son grow up.  My struggles are nothing compared to theirs.  I cannot even imagine the starkness of a world that was missing one of my children, even less can I imagine losing an only child.

Under the best of circumstances parenting teenagers is hard.  The sharp blast of their music grates against the edges of my raw nerves.  I find myself second guessing every small decisions I make in regard to new freedoms, independence, choices made on their own and consequences tended to.  I am completely uncertain how I am going to handle contrast between meeting the needs of a newborn next spring and at the same time working my way along the process of letting go of my older children as they grown into adults.  This baby isn't even here yet and already I feel their different needs wrenching me in a dozen directions at once.  The strange thing is that even the painful uncertainty feels like a gift to me lately and especially today.  I am well aware of how incredibly lucky I am to be moving towards this sweet final refrain of baby days and childhood.  The experiences of raising my older three children have taught me well the value and flying speed of time.  I am relieved that as my first baby leaves to test her wings, I have the security of knowing that I will likely have at least another eighteen years before my nest is completely empty.  It is as though I have won some small victory over the passing of time, temporary though it may be.

I am undeniably proud of my son today.  He visited his friend in the hospital shortly before he passed this afternoon.  He spent the afternoon with their friends at the park, crying and reminiscing and grieving together.  Then on his way home he stopped at his friend's house and with more courage and maturity than I could have imagined, he visited with and tried to comfort Hank's parents.  At fourteen I have raised a a boy, a young man really, who is kind and open-hearted and understands about reaching out to others even when he has his own pain and sadness.  I have seen those same traits in my daughter as well.  I have no way of knowing if it is something that I taught or modeled, but I am so terribly grateful and proud to see it and I hope with all of my heart that I can replicate those lessons as I raise my younger two children.  I am  lucky in a million different ways tonight and on top of that I am lucky enough to know it.

Tonight I will go to sleep wishing some delicate and lasting peace to Hank's parents, in whatever possible way they can find it.  There are no words for the  depth of my sorrow for their loss.  The best way I can think of to honor their son is simply to hold my own children a little tighter for as long as they will let me.

My Boy--More grown than I want to admit.  

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Bumbling Beginnings...or Endings...Maybe Both.

It was my intention to start this blog off again on some strong, resilient feeling initial post.  But...Surprise--I feel like a dishrag today and the inspiration just isn't coming like I want it too.  I started this week with a lot of really great and highly motivated intentions.  Yet it is Thursday already and all that I really have going on is this feeling like the time has gotten badly away from me and not in a direction I am terribly happy with.  This is not to say that things are looking bad necessarily, but not good in all the ways I had hoped for.  I suppose I had better explain some things about myself if I would like you to understand.
I am currently 13 weeks pregnant with a very unexpected, but terribly wanted baby.  This little one will be number 4 for me (I know, I'm crazy...but just wait because you haven't even touched upon the extent of my crazy yet.)  but only number 1 for my dear sweet husband.  My older kids, who are my heart and have been my life for more than 20 years now are as follows:  My daughter Cait- 18, son Rob-14 and littlest guy Zack-9.  Last but not least I should mention the three years I parented free-lance with my step-son Josh (24) before I had my own little crumb-crunchers.  Did I mention the crazy part yet?  That would have to be the fact that I found out I was expecting this last little wonder the week I planned my daughter's graduation party, (from high school--she was valedictorian of her class!  Yay!!!!!) , that my youngest is NINE years old, that I always swore I would be done having babies by 30 because I started young and didn't want to spend my entire life raising kids--and oh, did I mention I am 37?  and that the fertility specialists we saw after the miscarriage in 2009 felt we weren't likely to have another baby with out serious, expensive fertility treatments?  So, yes, currently I am more than just a little crazy.
I am getting excited about this baby.  I relish the idea that having come along at a time in my life when I KNOW the value of time in ways I had never before been aware, I will be able to slow down and ENJOY this baby.  At the same time I am grieving, but not about this particular baby.  It is about my first baby.  My baby that turned eighteen and graduated this year and then this week, in a fit of righteous teenage indignation about being made to clean up after herself, moved out, to live with her boyfriend and his parents.  I am not ready.  I suspect that she is not ready either, but that I am keeping to myself, because I do understand her need to try.  But that doesn't make me hate it any less.