Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sunday Squirrel; Dishing on Raising Kids

Sometimes you don’t know you’re sinking until your feet scrape on the bottom…and sometimes finding the inspiration to keep swimming comes in a way that you least expect it, leaving you wondering why you ever doubted your capability.

Today’s Sunday Squirrel is dedicated to my oldest son, Alex, and a simple act of kindness…an unexpected gift he shared with me today.

I have admittedly been feeling a little drained by the winter blues, a hectic schedule, and juggling work and kids … school and house.  Life has been kicking my ass and my usual tenacity and grit has not risen to the occasion as quickly as I would have liked it to.  I haven’t been feeling like Wonder Woman, Super Girl…or even Minnie Mouse.  Been channeling more of a Droopy or the original Wimpy (as in old school Popeye cartoons).

If you’re following along with #followthedinopath, you know that life has served me up a few changes recently.  And my volleys back have, at times been inconsistent, and at times fell flat and short of my intended goals.  I like to spin the positive and look for silver linings.  But this rainstorm has felt like a torrential downpour and I’ve struggled to find a ray of sunshine on some of the darker days…but my faith is strong and I’m no quitter…and sometimes all I need is a little bit of encouragement to recharge my soul and re-energize my mind to refocus in a more positive direction.

The day started with a call from Alex, having blown a tire and needing a ride back from the tire store.  I hadn’t seen him in a week or more and was glad to have an excuse to spend some time with him.  We all know we are parents for life and at any moment’s notice, we are more than happy to drop everything to help any of our kids out when they are in a jam.

This impromptu visit turned into a stop at Sam’s Club, and I was able to pick up some of the heavier food staples like cases of bottled water and protein shakes with the luxury of having a 6’ 4” tall son, who was more than willing to carry it all in the house.

The afternoon continued, hanging out and catching up while we waited for a call about his car.  We had a meaningful conversation about motivation and life lessons in raising kids.    For once, I was listening and not lecturing…and while I may have felt a little overwhelmed, everything he said had merit and made sense.

My parenting style has always been a combination of Soft Santa, and respectful dialogue with independent and expressive children…with a hint of laziness during my less stellar moments and days when I lack the energy to embrace parenthood in a way that lets me look in the mirror and feel proud.

I am always ready to share learnings and enlighten others; today I remained silent and listened to my grown-up son share feedback on my parenting style.  It started with reminders not to let his little brothers spend too much time on video games or the computer.  And it was a painfully long “shared learnings” from my grown son, who did less judging so much as encouraging to push a little harder on them than I did on him as a kid.  He stressed how hard it was to pull out of a lethargic lifestyle of too much introspection and not enough outward and external exploration.

Part of me wanted to defend myself, part of me wanted him to just shut up, but mostly I just wanted to cry.  Because what he was saying wasn’t wrong, because I was a big part of bringing him up and into adulthood…and because I discovered I could experience pride and disappointment at the same time…pride in the man he has become and disappointment in the mom I am on days when I don’t have the energy to be the best mom I can be.

We parted in silence, with him going to get his car back.  He felt bad for having said so much; I assured him I wasn’t angry and it was just enough.  I drove home in silence, thinking about all the stuff we ought to do right in life…if it would slow down long enough for us to catch our breath and dig back in for the next round.

By the time I got back home, I was feeling a little deflated…instead of going right inside to face the younger boys, I pulled down a few more Christmas decorations from the yard (yeah, I know…apathy has been contagious around this house lately).  Just as I was pulling the last candy cane out of the ground, I heard Alex pull in the driveway…well, I heard the bass to his stereo and knew it was him.  He was rocking retro with Salt n Peppa’s “Push it…push it…push it real good.”  I knew right away he was trying to make me laugh, doing a little impromptu dance in his car.

I figured he’d stopped by to pick up his stuff from Sam’s Club.  What I didn’t expect was to walk into the kitchen and see him rolling up his sleeves and begin tackling my sink full of dishes.  I also didn’t expect this simple act to break a hard ass like me as tears immediately sprung to my eyes, threatening to spill over and down my cheeks. 

Being independent doesn’t mean I want to do everything on my own all the time.  And there are times when I wish I could just dig in my heels and say “not the momma!”  Today, Alex gave me the gift to do just that…for one of the most mundane but tedious of daily rituals.

So if you wonder if your kids will ever do the dishes, grow up and become responsible adults, I’d like to introduce you to my son, Alex…the boy I raised into the man I met today.  It may not be on your timing, but I can guarantee it is worth the wait.  


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