the nest

the nest

Monday, July 29, 2013

Letting go, bit by bit...

The more I allow my children to be responsible for themselves the more I enjoy being with them.  

I think that one of the more difficult parts of parenting for me has been being patient enough to let my children be responsible for themselves.
How many of us have finished tying shoes, finished making beds, done assorted chores because they didn't get done, stayed up to finish projects?
Sometimes it has just been easier to do it myself.  Not useful to my children I'm afraid.
As I've been focusing more and more at letting them deal with the "consequences," good and bad, of their actions, and being there for them without trying to "make it better", I've realized how many things I have not allowed them to do as they've gotten older.  They are more than capable people and can pretty much do whatever we put in their lap, but too often, I get impatient and do it myself.
In the past when I thought about this, I would worry that they would never learn how to take care of themselves, a home, or others.  What I see now is that they are more than capable of doing those things.  It isn't hard to learn how to do laundry or clean a bathroom or kitchen.
The negative impact comes in where our relationship is concerned.  When I give a child a task, then get frustrated when it doesn't get done (or done well enough), the real loser is me.  I get annoyed, either do the task or not, and then don't enjoy that particular child.
When I give a task, insist it gets done and then stay out of the way, I have a whole different feeling about the same child.
This past weekend, the youngest needed to clean her room.  She also wanted to go shopping.  I said there was no shopping until the room was clean.  The room got clean, shopping got done, and I thoroughly enjoyed time with my child.  The difference?  I didn't set foot in the room being cleaned.  I STAYED OUT OF THE WAY.  Did she get everything she wanted?  No - shopping was much shorter than she had anticipated as it took way too long to clean her room, so time was limited.  Did she get upset?  No.  She knew that was the consequence of taking too long.
Now this is kind of no brainer where chores and other concrete activities are involved.  The advanced level is keeping myself emotionally detached from their feelings.  As kids get older, life happens and life is not always fun.  Problems arise and while I think that it's important to "be there" for them, I have to stop feeling responsible for helping them "feel better."  I am not responsible for their feelings and can only try to keep my own emotions from complicating a situation that is not mine to deal with.  Thoughts for them.
1) Life doesn't always feel good
2) Sometimes we learn the most from the hardest situations
3) Know when to ask for help
4) Pray, meditate, breathe
5) One way or another it works out
6) You don't have to "do it yourself"
7) Stay true to yourself and your core beliefs

Watching children grow up is bittersweet.  They grow up and move on and that is as it should be.  Why waste time being annoyed?  Perhaps if our time together is relaxed and happy they will continue to come back to play.  Perhaps if their "situations" don't turn me into a bundle of drama, they will feel less responsible for my emotional well-being and more comfortable coming home to just be.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


The past week has been a busy and tough one.  Hot and sticky with marginal air-conditioning.  A whole Spring worth of yard work to do before hosting 75+ on Saturday.  Re-entering life after vacation.  Trying not to think about finally saying goodbye to a friend.  Worrying about my children and their ability to say goodbye as well.

Our friend Ellen passed away February 26th after a frighteningly short fight with Pancreatic Cancer.  She was our friend and surrogate aunt.  Like other "family" members, we sometimes took her for granted.  When life is busy you forget to pay attention to the here and now and get wrapped up in the bits and pieces.

While her funeral was in her home state of Ohio shortly after her death, we needed to celebrate her life here in CT and so with her family's help, we held a Celebration of Life service at First Lutheran in Ellington and then had the first "Ellen Kates Memorial Kegger", so named by her nieces nephews.

5 months was a long time to avoid the reality that she was gone.  She traveled a lot and life floated along, so we could go chunks of time without contact.  Points when we painfully remembered she was gone:  Spring Concerts, Plays, and Dance Recitals.  With no extended family close by, Ellen never failed to come if she was in town.  Even when I would say "you really don't need to sit through a 2+ hour dance recital for 3 short dances" she would joyfully come!  We missed her this year and I'm sure we will miss her again.

Preparing for the party gave us an opportunity to "Do".  We kept busy in the oppressive heat, doing jobs that should have been done months ago.  Weeding, mulching, etc...  I learned what a tremendously hard worker my son can be.  While being home wasn't his plan this summer, having him home as we prepared for the weekend was a gift.  The day of the party, he stepped up as a true partner in hosting our guests.  I am so proud of the man he is becoming.

My daughter's were poised and articulate at the service.  They got up and spoke about their "Auntie Ellen" while I was unable to open my mouth.  They are becoming lovely, kind young women who can talk with almost anyone of any age.

My children helped me find my way through this goodbye and I suspect they will be there again as goodbyes in life are inevitable.  I'm so glad I have them.

Monday, July 15, 2013

It's not my life.

Lots of time over vacation to think about my children growing up and away.  This was our first vacation with just Helen.  Both big kids had already been in New Hampshire working - Andrew for 2 months, Katy for 3 weeks.  Both had opted to pass on a family reunion to stay and work with "their kids."  I knew I would miss them, but was proud that they made their own decisions and felt committed enough to their work to pass on a week of sun and fun with no responsibility.

July 4th as we were preparing to leave the next morning, we hear from Andrew that he is coming home.  He was in the "wrong place at the wrong time," and the camp policy is clear, so his time at Calumet for this summer ended suddenly.  He was devastated, but handled himself maturely, accepting responsibility, acknowledging that he needed to move forward and make the best of the rest of the summer.  He didn't place blame or cop an attitude.  He accepted how his life would change for the next few months, packed up and came home.

I was so upset!  Angry, disappointed, sad, frustrated and judgemental.  I left him a list of jobs to do while he was home and headed off on vacation.  I figured while I was away I would cool down.  I did until I heard from Katy who was devastated that her brother had left camp.  Two nights in a row I got late night calls from a tearful girl who had "lost her rock" and didn't think she could stay.  Two days I got mad all over again and worried that we would have to trek from Ohio to pick her up in New Hampshire.  Finally one night I said, if he's your rock, call him!  His response to her?  You have lots of "rocks" at camp.  Find them.  You'll be ok.  So far, he's been right.

We got home from vacation to find a house in relatively decent shape, a happy dog, and dinner cooking.  Why was I so pissed??  I couldn't bring myself to look at my handsome boy. I was so angry all over again.

Over the course of the night, I finally opened the conversation and heard the details of what had happened and truth be told, I've done worse in my youth.  It truly was a wrong place wrong time situation.  He's also the wrong age with many friends who are the "right" age which can make socializing sometimes tricky.  He was clear that what was done was done, but was not going to accept my trying to make it worse than it really was.

That night, all I could think was that my feelings about the whole situation were in many ways out of line.  As a parent is it reasonable for me to be angry and disappointed when my child messes up?  I suppose.  But if he was handling it maturely and moving on, what was my problem?  This wasn't about me, so why did it feel so personal?

It's not my life.  As parents we can get sucked into both taking too much credit for the good things our kids do and too much blame and guilt for the stupid things they do.  A friend of mine told me that by the time a child is 5, much of what you can teach them about life and how to handle it is learned.  From then on it's about gradually loosening the boundaries and sending them off to test the waters.  This includes making mistakes.  If we want them to truly learn from mistakes, we can't take responsibility for them.  If we want them to truly feel good about what they do well, we can't take credit for it either.

It's not my life.  I can't decide the path my children take.  I can hope that we have taught them what they need to know about making choices and accepting responsibility.  I can hope that find a path that leads them to a good life that makes the world a better place.  I must love and cherish them no matter what direction they go ~ they are my children, but their lives are their own to live.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Day of Independence

The 4th of July is about more than picnics and fireworks ~ like other holidays I think the meaning is sometimes lost in the "fun".
Growing up, 4th of July was a big deal.  My parents love their country and we always celebrated in some way, often with a powerful moment of remembrance in addition to the picnics and fireworks that were always a part of it.  In 1976 I remember going to Fort Snelling in MN with my cousins.  I'm not even sure it was actually on the 4th, but in 1976, the 4th of July lasted for several days!
When our first child was a baby, we went to the fireworks in Boston with college friends and aside from the crush of people, had a great time.  The Boston Pops and the Fireworks were amazing - being with so many others to celebrate our country's birthday was amazing!
What saddens me is that these days I don't feel the same way.  
I grew up feeling incredible pride in my country and I still love it and am thankful that this is my home.  After traveling in Eastern Europe in 1988, I will never take my freedom for granted.
 My children have grown up in a different world than I did.  I know that the US wasn't perfect in the 70's and 80's, but there was a different sense of respect for the overall position of our country and those leading it.  Big mistakes like Watergate, were obviously taken on, but we didn't follow every move every legislator made and they didn't "tweet" everything they did. We didn't OBSESS about our leaders being personally FLAWLESS.  Maybe we did, but knew less because our access to their personal lives was limited by lack of technology.  Perhaps that was a good thing.
We miss out today because some of those who could be incredible leaders choose not to put themselves and their families under the intense microscope we now use to make sure everyone is FLAWLESS.  Why are we surprised then when word gets out that some legislator had an affair, or made some other personal MISTAKE.  By expecting perfection, we have created our own governmental nightmare filled with congressman and senators who portray themselves as FLAWLESS and above it all and therefore in a position to tell us how to live our lives.  We know they are NOT perfect, simply better at hiding their indiscretions and mistakes.
Maybe it's social media, maybe it's because those in positions of power can't get their act together, maybe it's because we spend more time making excuses for why we can't do the right thing instead of just doing the right thing.  Whatever it is, it seems like more often I am disappointed and frustrated with the way things are going.  Our tolerance for personal failings has vanished.  If something someone says 30 years ago can practically destroy a career, why would any of us step out into the limelight?  WE ARE HUMAN.  WE MAKE MISTAKES.  No wonder our children are stressed.
When we as a country could do great things, we spend time trying to take away safety nets from those who need them most because "BIG GOVERNMENT IS BAD."  At the same time ridiculous amounts of time and money are being spent trying to dictate who can love who and what women can and cannot do with their bodies, there is something wrong.  We protect the rights of those who feel they should be able to have as many weapons designed to kill PEOPLE as they want because it's their RIGHT, while we fail to protect the RIGHTS of our smallest citizens as they go to school.  The rest of the time is spent making sure that the "other guy" can't get anything done.  THIS MEANS NOTHING GETS DONE.

I want to be proud of my country and over the last several weeks, there have been more and more reasons to feel like the tide is turning ~ I want that tide to continue.  I want a flood of common sense and good will towards others.  I want tolerance and forgiveness.  I want my children to love their country.  I want good people to lead us even if they have "mistakes" in their past.  Maybe I want them there because they've made mistakes.  I want them to roll up their sleeves and get to work even if it means compromising with the "other guy." I want freedom, but I want us to accept the responsibility that comes with freedom.  Maybe I want perfection???  Nah, that would be boring.

Monday, July 1, 2013


I've been avoiding my blog for a few weeks.  I wasn't sure why before, but I think I know now.  Here are the "top of my head" excuses:  I've been busy, I haven't really had anything on my mind, I've had other priorities, blah, blah, blah...
Here's the real reason:  I've been afraid to dive into my thoughts and feelings about the last month.

So many changes and glimpses of life to come.  Katy has been gone for almost 2 weeks and while I noticed she was gone, I didn't really miss her, until yesterday when I sent her and her brother good wishes for their first day with campers.
Until that point, it seemed like she was just away for a little bit and she'd be back soon.  With campers arriving, her work begins and it's no longer a little trip away from home; she is gone for the summer, doing important, powerful work!
With that realization, I got so weepy!!  Not because I miss her and her brother though.  I do miss them, but over the years they have steadily spent more time away from home and that is how it should be.  It's prepping them to fly from the nest.  I got weepy because I was overwhelmed with feelings of love and pride.

When my children are at home, they are much like everyone else's teenagers, albeit a little louder and more animated than some:-)  They make us crazy by talking back, not doing chores, leaving messes, needing rides, cars, money etc...  They are also interesting, funny, smart people who I enjoy spending time with.  BUT, they are still children.
When they go to camp in the summer they are transformed!  I'm sure their supervisors would say they are still teenagers, and I know they are, but they also become responsible, respectful, compassionate, self-motivated, confident people.  They become their better selves.  They nurture and care for children - other people's precious children!  What a important job!

The expectations of the staff are high ~ those who make poor choices are sent home.  There is no room for messing up in a big way when you are caring for other people's children.  There is forgiveness and second chances, but the rules are clear and the consequences are immediate.  Because they are teenagers I know that at any point one of my children could make one bad choice and be home for the rest of the summer.  I'm confident they won't - they love where they are and what they get to do there too much!  I think they also love being away from home.  I know they love me, but sometimes I "mother" too much.  At camp they are responsible for their own selves, I can't rescue them and they know that and appreciate it.  I think.

I miss them a lot.  I wish they could come with us when we travel to see other family, but am so proud that they made their own decisions to stay and do their very important work.  As hard as I can be on myself, it is times like this when I know I've been a pretty good mom and my husband and I have done a pretty good job raising some amazing people.