Month: August 2016

Why can’t we do just do things my way?

This is a true story.

 There is a farmer who goes into a workshop every day.  In this workshop he makes perfectly wooden spheres.  This is a very complicated task requiring knowledge of hypotenuse’s and cosines and other geometric terms whose meanings escape me.

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This gentleman, while known for his wooden spheres, is also known for what happens on his farm.  People of all walks of life, going through various struggles from homelessness to drug addiction and just failing to thrive as an adult, come to his farm.  They spend time there, they work there, and they get better.

He doesn’t advertise any special service.  He isn’t a rehabilitation center.  His farm is just known as a place where you can go when you’re feeling broken and in need of repair.

The successful rehabilitation of formerly broken individuals attracted the attention of local mental health professionals.  They visited, observed, took notes, tracked progression and came away with their results.

It wasn’t what they did on the farm.  There was no group therapy or special diet.  The secret was in the woodshed with those spheres.

The farmer told them, “Every day, I go into that workshop and I work my will on those wooden spheres.  That wood bends, and is sanded and carved to do what I want it to do.  When I leave there, I don’t try to work my will on any of those people.”

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Apparently, my friend, who works in the mental health field, felt I needed to hear this story.  She had listened to me explain that if only my kids would do what I know what would be good for them, everyone would be happy.

I truly felt I knew what was right for my kids.  Okay, if I’m being honest, I still do–  I’m just more open to believing they too might have some insight into what’s right for them as well.

It’s taken me awhile, but I get it.  Kids aren’t wooden spheres.  I need a separate workshop where I get to “work my will”  Lately, it’s been drawers.  And cabinets.  And closets.  And spinning/barre classes, although in those classes, I might be the wooden sphere.

Meet the Should’s

I had known some of the lesser should’s—I should have slept more last night, shouldn’t have brought that up, I should let him know—the minor leagues.

In 1999 I met the World Champion Should’s when I became a parent.

One day I wasn’t a mother, and the next, I was the mother to two very sick, neglected and very malnourished kids, about to turn two and four years old.

We became parents in Ukraine and had to finalize our adoption in Warsaw, Poland.  Something occurred in Warsaw that I didn’t know then, but understand now, to be foreshadowing for the next sixteen years of our lives.

After staying in a very run down, depressing hotel in Kiev, where our phone was a party line and there were two cots for Dale and I to sleep on, we were over the moon to stay at the opulent Sheraton in Warsaw where, when we checked into our room, we saw a bottle of wine a friend had sent.  

We were brand new parents with our beautiful kids and everything seemed perfect.

Our older son, who was nearly four, but spoke no words, saw the bathtub and became very excited.  I drew a bath for him which he lingered in and loved.

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I watched my son in the bath while my husband watched our younger son in the room.  My husband poured a glass of the wine and called the friend to thank him.  I went out to take a picture of him on the phone, smiling, holding his glass of wine.  We were a happy family.

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Then parenthood happened.

As I returned to the bathroom there was a scream.  Ethan had somehow slipped forward and banged his head so hard on the spout that a huge bruise immediately began to form.   Four years in an orphanage, and not a mark on his body; less than 48 hours with us, and he has a golf ball on his head.

 My husband came running in the bathroom to see what happened.  Upon his arrival to the bathroom, we heard a cry from the room.  Our younger son had gone to the desk where Dale’s glass of wine sat, picked it up and poured it over his head.

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These three events-me taking the picture of my smiling husband, Ethan smashing his forehead into the faucet and Thad pouring wine over his head all happened within ninety seconds.

I shouldn’t have left Ethan to take the picture.  Dale shouldn’t have left Thad to come check on Ethan.

That was the night our should’s and shouldn’t’s began.

It would be years before I met their arch enemy:  compassion and forgiveness.

They’re leaving me

I talked myself down from the ledge at least seventy-five times this week.  The talks come about because of one recurring, torturous thought: “They are leaving me.”

They are my children who are leaving for college in one week.  They are healthy and relatively happy.  Life would seem to be good, and yet I find myself so overcome with a combination of fear, panic and sadness, that I’ll be driving down the road and let out a gasp, a cry, a sound, but no tears, just an aching sound with severe face contortion.  I can’t even cry.

What is so scary about them leaving me, and why have I been feeling it, although to a lesser degree, since I first took them to kindergarten?

I have seen Grey Gardens, I don’t want them to stay home and keep me company.  I want this next step in their lives.  I am happy for them that they will be enjoying four challenging, transformative, memorable and fun years.

So why is their leaving keeping me up at night with a racing heart?

The best I can come up with is this incredibly powerful protective instinct. Before kids, I had never known anything like it.  Being responsible for other human beings who are so vulnerable, is all consuming and completely overwhelming.

I remember hearing an interview with Maya Angelou where she spoke about a mother’s instinct.  She related a story about when her grown son was in Africa, on another continent, and got into a car accident.  He was going to be okay, but she somehow felt responsible.  That’s motherhood.  It makes no sense, but most moms hearing her story completely understand it.

Once you get into the groove of parenting though, you get used to being on high alert for dangerous situations and anticipating problems.  You get so good that eventually you don’t believe anyone, including your children themselves, can take care of them the way you can.

My kids are going to be two hours away, completely gone from my watchful eye, taking risks I would never have allowed, walking streets late at night completely unaware of possible dangers.

They are leaving me, and I won’t be there to protect them, and everything about that feels very wrong to every cell in my body.  How do I deal with this sadness, worry, anxiety emotional combo?

I yell at my children.

I yell because I am “future angry” with them—that is when you are angry over their potential bad behavior.

For example, I saw a car with sorority letters in the back window, zig-zagging, at a high speed, through traffic on Rt. 40.  Now, I need to go yell at my children about driving safely.  That’s future angry.

There are so many reasons to be future angry—walking home alone late at night, not getting proper nutrition, not getting enough sleep, not washing their sheets, drinking too much, no studying enough, not wearing shoes in the shower, etc.

It’s like the first time you hire a babysitter, only worse, because they are the babysitter.

And that thought sends me right back up to the ledge.

 

 

 

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