Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Holding on and Letting go

It can be challenging to strike a balance between meeting children’s needs and giving them space to develop independence. At one extreme we hover. Caution - this behavior may be hazardous to everyone's health and well-being. Children can become “spoiled” by the constant care of others who do it all for them. Still others will fight for independence and push over-protective adults away. These children may have a hard time asking for help when they really need it. They are tired of the constant attention and want to be left alone!

Finding a balance - children need watchful adults who observe from a reasonable distance. They need encouragement to empower them to try new things. They need to know, “I believe you can do this!” Much of our role requires balance and wisdom. When do I offer support and when do I let go with love and encourage independence?

I am writing about this because it continues to be one of my biggest challenges. Letting go is hard. I want to believe I have more influence than I really have. If they'd only do "it" my way, their life would go much more smoothly. This is real arrogance on my part. Everyone must walk their own path, and find their own way. I can really only change myself. I can offer love and support. I can be there to listen. I can do my own self care so I have the energy to sustain my relationships. I can take care of my own business, which is no small task.

Holding on and letting go means being available when others need our support. And when they are ready, we step back, letting them know we believe in their ability to figure this out on their own.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Making Memories

I recently got an email from my 82 year old dad reflecting upon a recent 60th wedding anniversary celebration for some friends of theirs. It got me to thinking about memories. Yes, memories. Some things from the past we remember with fondness and joy and some with sadness. Our memories are tiny windows into the past. They have worked their way to help shape us. We have been influenced by many things, especially relationships that have been important to us over the years. And thankfully, we have opportunities every day to continue to make memories, to shape the future. I try to remember this when I interact with family and friends. Of course, I sometimes forget.

I was raised in a wonderful family. I am one of four siblings who have each followed our paths. We each bring wisdom and creativity to what we do. Yes, we have each made mistakes along the way. Actually, I think we learn most from our mistakes. Life would be pretty boring if everything always went along without any excitement or surprises. So, thankfully, those mistakes we all make and the good times work together to shape us.

My parents have 11 grandchildren. Some are already adults, with lives of their own, and choices that they make every day. These may not be the choices we would have for them, but they, too, are wise, creative, and capable young adults. The younger grandchildren have a way to go. Sometimes it is a long journey down the road to adulthood before we finally become all that we were meant to be. In fact, I feel like I'm still working on that, and continue to grow and change, mellow and soften.

Here I am, waxing philosophical. But, I seem to do that more as I get older. I am very grateful for all of my family. I am very glad that I am close to all of my siblings and connect regularly. We have had many great experiences together. And will continue to as well, on into the hopefully distant future.

Memories are tiny glimpses back in time, to the thoughts and feelings we had at that moment. Some of the details of our experiences are forever lost. Mostly, I want to remember the good times and the good feelings. And I am very grateful for family. I think about what legacy I will leave to my kids. I hope a big part of this will be about love of family and sticking together, no matter what. Offering support. Listening.

What kind of memories are you making for children today?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

In Search of Zen Mama

My car was recently broken into at work. And I didn't collapse. My world didn't fall apart. It was unsettling. I'm sure the hopeful vandal was disappointed when it was discovered that the bags only had some books, but for me, there were some class notes that were very precious. The broken window was a nuisance, but it was easily repaired the next day. This has never happened to me before. Yes, I have experienced some other unfortunate mishaps. Sometimes I have handled them with calm and sometimes they have been "the last straw" which took me over the edge with stress and frustration.

Have you heard the saying - "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." This is a universal truth. We parents have a great deal of influence in the family. Our children are looking to us for guidance. We are setting an example in everything we do. So, it is more helpful for everyone when the opposite is true - "When Mama's happy, everyone is content." Finding peace in the midst of our crazy days can be very difficult. It helps to remember -
The kids aren't out to get me.
I really am in control of my life.
I can set realistic goals for how much can be accomplished in an hour, a day.
Each day really is a blessing.

I know. This is easier said then done. Where is Zen Mama when you need her? You know, she's the mother who seems to be able to move into a meditative state during hard times and breathe her way through it. She lets her trust in the infinite goodness of life guide her responses to her children and other things which call for her attention, “Right now!”

In a conversation with our 20 year old son, I was concerned about a deadline he had and his apparent lack of attention to the seriousness of this. I said, "I would like to be Zen Mama, and breathe my way through this, and let go, and not worry. But, you and I both know that's not bloody likely." He was chuckling by now, knowing full well from his experience with me, the implausible nature of this image. I continued, "I don't want to be in the middle of your life. You and I both know that you're the one who needs to figure this all out. It's your responsibility." Yeah, mom. But, I still couldn't resist putting in a codependent plea. "But, help me out here. Deal with this so I can sleep nights." More chuckles from him.

Well, he did it, took care of business, and just in time, too. So, I could relax - for now. But he and I know, my worrying days aren't over. But I do continue to try to be more mindful. To breathe. To ask myself, “What's really important right now?” To appreciate the moments of peace I find in my busy days.

Where is Zen Mama when I need her? Right here if I am willing to let her in.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

In their own time

I just returned from visiting family. I was especially pleased to have a chance to visit with my nephews. Despite some tough circumstances during their childhoods, they are becoming fine young men, with strong goals and interests. This is a testament to timing for learning being out of our control. We do the best we can, providing love and guidance for children. We meet their basic needs for nutrition, shelter, health, and education. Children are also influenced by many experiences involving family, friends, school, and the wider community. All of these things work with their inborn potential to mold their unique identity.

I continue to wrestle with the notion of powerlessness. We each only have the power to determine our own reactions and responses to situations. When I remember this, it can feel very freeing. This doesn't mean I stop fretting, but my worries can be cut short when I breathe and remember that life is unfolding in spite of me.

This also doesn't mean that we give up, and back off from our responsibilities. Our loved ones still need our support. What we do let go of is the expectation that what we say or do alone will determine the behaviors of others. Maybe - Maybe not.

Growth and learning happens for each person, within their own timeline. I am grateful for many opportunities to remember this.... and to continue to encourage my own development. I plan to keep learning for a long time! I am grateful for those moments when I finally "get it" - whatever I need to learn, right now.