Independent People Emerge

Artwork from 14.5’s HS art show

It’s something I’ve known for a while but probably didn’t want to admit to myself until I was forced to – and somewhere during the high school art show this week – that moment came:  my kids are truly independent people.

As a parent you watch with some amazement as your children develop personality.  I’m pretty sure the first time we noted that was in a restaurant setting where our kids expressed choices on what they wanted.  You could see it at that moment. Independent people emerging.

This week at the high school 14.5 had a dozen or so art projects on display – and its while I was walking around with her showing me the projects and listening to her describe the assignments – I realized her independent person had fully emerged.

I think the timing was about the same when I realized my older one was an independent person too – but I am pretty sure I never admitted it to myself.

What I mean though is not that I am no longer needed (although that day is coming).  What I see from the girls is they can make their own choices.  They know what they like, and then can express it.

16.5 is an exceptional writer and story-teller.  She can express her thoughts and feelings with symbols and directly.

14.5’s voice clearly emerges through her art work  You can see her expressing herself and her feelings.

Both of my girls are independent people (and they still order what they want when we’re out to eat).

As a parent I have to be amazed and in awe that I can see this.  I think it’s what parents want when they start out – and to see it manifest is rewarding.  Independent people emerged in my house and in their lives.  My hope as a parent is they can nurture their ability to share their expressions and thrive at it throughout their lives.

One day, perhaps they’ll have the honor of watching independent people emerge within their children too….

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It’s Just a Number

This post is a couple of weeks overdue, but life happens sometimes, right? And more likely than not, given how little I pursue my birthday as an event – it probably has something to do with it.  But I am now 50.  AARP eligible.  But when I think about it, being 50 is just a number.

I know a bunch of people – my peers from high school and other walks of life – who have seen turning 50 this year as a watershed moment.  A time to take stock and do a self assessment.  But when I think about it – 50, it’s just a number still.

I look at life as full of milestone moments – if you’re heads up and looking ahead those moments of assessment and self scoring should be ongoing.

What would happen if I hit 50 and suddenly realized my life lacked meaning?  I suppose that’s where the mid-life crisis is born.  But that’s not me.

Physically, with the exception of a cranky hip I’m feeling better than I have in a long time.

Emotionally, I think I’m in better shape than I’ve been in for a while as well.

My kids are doing well – in school, in life and in general.

My career is going in the right direction

So what do I have to look back at and decide I need to restart? I don’t think anything – but that’s through the lens of looking ahead – and staying at a high level of keeping my eyes on the goals of my kids, my life and my choices.

Not to say I would never want a do-over on something here or there – but there’s no need to wait half a century and try to unring the bells.  A friend of mine posted on Facebook this morning a great link about being wiling to say, “I need to start again,” and it’s exactly right.

So 50, it’s just a number.  Now it’s 50 and a couple of weeks.

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Six Years Later – The Snow Day

Through the magic of Facebook, I was reminded this week about some updates made in years gone by about snow days.  As near as I can tell I’ve written about them for six years.  Now six years later the snow day is a little different.

It’s been a while since I wrote here – not that there’s nothing going on.  Maybe its the opposite and too much is going on and getting to the end of the day and then writing just doesn’t happen.  Today wasn’t too different, except during this snow day – I took time to think about the changes in six years.

Flashback to when the girls were 10 and eight.  Snow days were much different.  The day was very hands on.  There was likely a trip to someone’s house (or having someone over), there was the juggle of trying to do work and keep the girls entertained and there was the sense that the day would never end.

Six years later the snow day is much different.  Today really started last night after 14.5 finished her tennis.  I dropped her at her friend’s house with a vague plan of how and when I would pick her up.  16.5 was home all day doing homework and working on prep for upcoming ACT and SAT tests.

I spent the day quietly working (I think I had eight calls and a constant email flow) and making a big pan of lasagna for the next couple of weeks.  Completely hands off to my kids for the day – other than cutting off some lasagna for dinner.

Six years later, the snow day is really another day – it would be nice if the girls were at school, but we all went about it.

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8765 Times 6

RisaThere are 8765 hours in a year, 52,590 of them have ticked off since Risa passed away.  Probably because of the timing, it becomes a strange time of year for me (and I think for my girls as well).  While the song says, “It’s the most wonderful time of year,” there are probably more than just me who would stop and question that.  8765 times 6 – there’s a lot to think about.

Who’d have thunk there would come a time I have two teen-aged girls in high school – much less thriving in that environment.  16.5 is in honor roll and 15.0 is pulling a low 90 GPA.  Far better than I ever did, clearly taking after their mom.

Along with a second transition to high school, we’ve (and I say we because it’s been the three of us)  conquered an introduction to driving, a change of sport from softball to tennis, a job change for me and just getting through another 8765 hours with the rest of life’s challenges.

Reflecting this time of year is probably normal – give or take this is when people (who make them) will begin to think about New Year’s resolutions.

I was chatting with a friend who is also widowed – and we were talking about how tough this time of year can be as an only parent where you’re dealing with the family and everyone is happy.  And it’s not to say we’re not happy – but there is a part missing.

What would Risa think about her girls excelling in school? I know how proud I am of it and I know she would be proud too – but what would she think?

And would 16.5 be a different (maybe better, maybe worse) driver if there was another voice offering guidance?  I don’t know.  We don’t have that second voice, and I don’t pretend there is a second voice.

In the last 8765 hours 15.0 made a change from softball to varsity tennis.  She walked onto the tennis court just before Labor Day this year and became a tennis player and has taken to the sport with determination.  I know Risa was a very determined person as well, happy to see she’s taken on the best of the traits.

16.5 entered the working world over the summer and excelled as a lifeguard at a water park near our house.  She embraced the challenge of working and becoming responsible – maturing into a woman.  Now we begin thinking about test prep and college search.  I know those are the parts of life Risa would have cherished, and despite the challenges I know it’s a time I will cherish with her and her sister.

15.0 has also become expressive in art – a skill I only wish I had, but again its a skill her mother possessed.  I can’t help but smile when I walk into her room and see her work on display on the walls.

And because managing life with me and two teen-aged girls isn’t quite challenging enough I decided to change jobs this year too.  It was one of those situations where it was time to make a change and the right opportunity came along – but its in those moments where I try to think through important changes, don’t really have that life partner to talk to and know I’m about to make a life changing decision – the clock slows down, and a few of those 8765 hours feel like days at a time.

I wonder, what would Risa think about all of this?  Am I doing the right thing?  Would my father be proud of life I’ve created for my family?

I’d like to think the answer is yes – because that will help get me through the next 8765 hours and changes our lives will face again.

 

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Respecting Change

Solution 1 2 or 3 Choice Showing Strategy Options Decisions Or SolvingOver the years – as the girls have gotten older I’ve tried to enable them to make more decisions.  Sometimes those decisions are minor (what’s for lunch) and sometimes they are bigger (picking out a dress for a party).  As they’ve gotten older I’ve worked hard to support their decisions – even when I disagreed.   In that I hope they’ve learned about respecting change.

When the girls were younger – in a lot of ways life was simpler.  I would pick the meal, pick the clothes or the bed time.  As they’ve gotten older and become young women – those decisions have been ceded and sometimes with some effort I’ve been respecting change.

Heading into Thanksgiving week is always a mixed bag for me.  Thanksgiving is actually one of the holidays I like.  But it runs head long into the week when Risa passed.  From there we jump into the holidays, and then the long days of winter.

The change cycle though seems to keep moving.  And rather than fighting it, I think I’ve realized respecting change is just as important as realizing it’s out there.

So, 14.0 has given up softball after more than eight years to focus on tennis.  Her decision to make.  I respect that.

So, 16.5 declares her independence with authority.  Her prerogative as teen for sure – and I respect that.

Respecting change is probably a healthy approach – but certainly not an easy plan to carry out.  Day-to-day, with my eyes wide open I try to learn something new from my girls and day-to-day they make decisions – and I try to respect them.

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Driving Lessons

Driving LessonsThis right of passage – giving driving lessons to a teenaged child – is not one faced by single (only) parents – but it’s been a unique challenge for me as an only parent to conquer, I think largely because it involves facing the fact that I have to give up some control.

Thinking back, I can remember the year from when I turned 16 (when you can get a learner’s permit) to when I turned 17 (when you can get your license) as a long year.  I remember doing the math and realizing although it seemed like it took forever to reach 16 (and 17) eventually I would be driving for more years in my life that I wasn’t.

So, I focused on learning to drive – both with my mom’s help and driving lessons and working for just about anyone who would pay me – so I could get a car the day I got my license.  For me, a car was freedom – the same way my bicycle was freedom when I was 10.

Now teaching 16.0 to drive is a whole new experience.

While I like to think I’m not a control freak, keeping things under control is important to me.  There is a definite sense of loss of control when you turn your 16-year old loose (even when you’re in the passenger’s seat and she’s in a parking lot) with your hard-earned automobile.

While I expect her to take a full driver’s ed course over the winter into the spring ahead of her June birthday – I’m trying to teach her how to be situationally smart while driving.  How to make decisions, and not what decisions to make (the model I’ve used for the last 6 years).

But now it’s hard to try to let her make decisions and sit there quietly while our safety (and my car) is on the line.

Slowly we’re getting there.  We’ve been out of parking lots a little and working on practical driving stuff (I’ll leave the technical teaching to the professionals).  And I’m slowly learning my driving lessons while I teach driving lessons to my daughter.

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My Summer School

summer schoolWhile it’s not quite time to start preparing to go back to school here, with about two weeks of summer vacation left for my girls, I can look back at all that I learned over the last eight weeks.  As they get ready to go back to school, my summer school is coming to a close.

Lesson one was (and as if this writing is) 16.0’s lifeguard career at a semi-local water park.  Forgetting the driving and scheduling that I ended up jumping through – I can honestly say I am proud of the work ethic she has shown this summer.  It’s clear to me work ethic is a learned trait.  I saw my mother work hard to provide a home for her three children – and I’ve tried to emulate that.  From my days at Valley Caterers (perhaps even before that when I was delivering newspapers) through my career.

I’m pretty sure my girls have seen how hard I work to make sure they have a happy home to live in – OK, sometimes I remind them too.  They don’t get everything they ask for – but they know that nothing comes without work, and that is a trait 16.0 has shown this summer.

Lesson two came just this week when 13.5 had her orientation for high school.  I have to admit, having them both on the same school schedule will help me.  But 13.5 got into the orientation and took it seriously.  She even surprised me by jumping into fall athletics at the school (she tried out for and made the tennis team).  For her, this is a whole new approach to school – being active and eager.  We’ll have to go over to the school next week to get her into an art class she really wants to take (another sign of her taking an active interest in her education).

I spent a lot of time with her over the last 12 months talking about taking a new approach – no long lectures, no screaming matches.  Just timed conversations that seemingly worked.

Lesson three was also last week when 16.0 took a week off from lifeguarding to return to Camp Good Grief as a volunteer counselor.  This was something I introduced the girls to about five years ago as a way to be able to talk about the loss of their mother.  Both have said their years there were good – and I’m so thrilled 16.0 feels the need to give back a week to help other kids overcome an obstacle they’ve dealt with.

Two weeks to go until first bell at the high school.  I supposed that’s also two weeks to go until my summer school is out.

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Snap Decisions

Snap DecisionsThis morning I was playing back a conversation I had with 16.0 last night and it finally crystalized for me – the toughest part (so far) about being a parent to teen-aged daughters is the snap decisions that have to be made.  The moments I’m talking about are when you’re in the car or eating dinner and a subject comes up – and you’d like to say give me a few hours, but the verdict needs to be rendered now.  A snap decisions, and then you have to live with the consequence.

It’s not a new subject to struggle with. I found this from 2011 about snap decisions.  Although this context was much different I think the key is consistency.  The decisions that are a bigger struggle are the ones that fall outside of the flow of the day-to-day.

The most recent use case was 16.0 wanting to go to a party with some of her co-workers.  She got into the car a little after 7 and wanted to know if she could go.  Honestly, I was not thrilled with her going – not because I don’t want her to have friends at work but because this was with some of the older people she works with, who are in this country to work for the summer and living at a hotel a few towns away.  So, knowing all of this I held my breath and told her yes – and she knew she would have to figure out how to get back and forth to the party.  (I dodged the bullet when she couldn’t get a ride).

In thinking about this a little more – I realized a snap decision – positive or negative is actually easier in an only parent household.  There is no good cop/bad cop bit to fall back on, and no worry that the script won’t play forward.

So now I kind of like those moments when I get time to think about something and make a decision.  That’s not to say it’s still not a chance to agonize – just that agony can be dragged out before I’ve made a decision – as opposed to agonizing after another snap decision.

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Judgment and Discernment – Synonyms?

Question-264245_8285So, lately I’ve been struggling with the gap between judgment and discernment – if you were to go on Thesaurus.com judgement and discernment are synonyms.  The origin of judgment dating back to the 13th century:

judgment early 13c., “a pronunciation of an opinion, criticism,” from O.Fr. jugement (11c.), from jugier (see judge). Meaning “any authoritative decision” is from early 14c. (the Doomsday sense, “trial of moral beings by God,” is mid-14c.); meaning “the forming of an opinion” is from late 14c. Sense of “discernment” is first recorded 1530s.

The origin of discernment is a little more circumspect:

discernment 1580s, from discern + -ment.

So perhaps the answer lies in the definition?  I figured I’d check dictionary.com.  For judgment (in context of my current thoughts) the fourth definition is right:

the forming of an opinion, estimate, notion, or conclusion, as from circumstances presented to the mind:

Our judgment as to the cause of his failure must rest on the evidence.
As opposed to discernment:
the faculty of discerning; discrimination; acuteness of judgment and understanding.
So, with all apologies to my third grade teacher where they are using the root of the word in the definition, the reference goes back to judgement  – not quire helping my current conundrum.
So, here’s the issue.  As life rolls along – I am trying to figure out if we pass judgment or simply discern facts and then take action?
I’d like to think we practice discernment over judgement in most things – and once we reach a level of discernment we’re able to apply a judgement.  But is it wrong to pass a judgement before the facts are discerned?  Is it even possible?
I supposed based on the world-wide web (and that’s never wrong, right?) they are synonymous terms – so there is no difference.  Yet I can’t help but think there are.
So before passing judgement on this conundrum – see if you can discern a meaning – and then let me know, because I remain as confused as when I started.

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The College Visit

Campus.Tours_.One of the easiest ways to mark milestones in life is on birthdays.  I realize now at the end of last week I found another (and certainly the exhaustive list is not two) – 16.0 and I did her first college visit.  On a 90 degree day we wandered the West Village visiting New York University.

As we were walking between the buildings around Washington Square Park I could not help but picture 16.0 as a two or three-year old when we first brought her into the city – but now she’s a 16-year old-young lady walking with other perspective NYU undergrads.  Quite a difference – and a milestone I wasn’t quite ready for, yet there it was right in my face.

I started to look at the other parents walking along and wondered if they were having the same moment as me.  It would be surprising if they weren’t.

Almost every seasoned parent tells new parents (I can still hear the commentary loud and clear) as they are holding a new-born, “Enjoy the time, it goes quickly.”  Certainly it does.

I can remember like it was yesterday taking my girls out into the snow for the first time, the first time we got on a plane for a family vacation, the last vacation we took before Risa’s condition worsened.

Now there are new moments for 16.0 to share and embrace.  Some of them I’ll get to share in – some will be for her to experience on her own and share (if she wants) with me.

New chapters will be written, new milestones achieved – all starting with the college visit….

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