Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Long Lunches, Old Friends

Saturday, I took the day off. It wasn't intentional. I had a plan with some friends in the morning, and then another plan to meet a friend for an early dinner. My husband took the kids out for the morning, and when I got back home they were still out. I took a nice long shower, and they were still out. My friend asked me if I could move our plans a bit earlier so I got ready to leave just as my husband and kids pulled into the garage. I said hello and goodbye to my husband and daughter, and kissed my boy's sleeping head as he napped in the car. By the time I got back, it was nearly their bedtime. I highly recommend a day off like this once in a while.

I met with a friend that I haven't seen in quite some time. He lives on the other side of town, and in LA that may as well mean the other side of the country. I moved out here at the same time as he did twenty (gulp!) years ago. I drove out with his college friend, and after a few months, she returned to NY, and he and I stayed. We both were young when we made the move, we didn't know quite who we were yet, even though we thought we did. We have both come a long way since those days, and we have seen each other through a lot. There were also times we were not in each other's lives. We had more than one falling out. No blow-out fights or rage-fueled spewing at each other, but we had our disagreements that resulted in breaks in our communication. Two were differences in opinions, and one was just life taking us in such different directions. The last break was shortly after my son was born. We went over five years without seeing each other. When I ran into him, I had two kids standing next to me, and it was surreal to introduce them to him. We were standing in front of someone who I shared so much of my life with, and here are two of the most important people in my world, and they had no idea about each other.

We spent three hours catching up Saturday. We had long, intellectual, spiritual, and funny conversations. We somewhat jokingly made a list of topics to cover, and we actually succeeded in covering them all. For most people who know me, they know this is nearly impossible for me.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

This Week

There is nothing better than stumbling into some inspiration. This week a friend shared with me a podcast about love, and how fear is the opposite of love. Being the anxious person that I can be, this worries me. Right off the bat, I guess I am screwed, but I kept listening. I couldn't have heard something at a better time for me. I listened as the speaker spoke about inner peace, and we are only our best true selves when we love ourselves. She spoke about finding love in yourself for others, even when they are the most irritating to you -- especially when they are most irritating to you.

She also told a story about when she was a little girl, and she observed her stay-at-home mother, that she hoped one day to be more than her mother. She realized after though how important a role her mother's was. As women, many of us are caretakers and nurturing to our young. Females in the animal kingdom take care of their young. The females protect them and then send them out into the world, then the females continue to make the world a safe place for their young, even after they are not with them. Woman today, even if they don't have children, often find some way to continue to make the earth better, and safer. It is an interesting instinct, although in my opinion we could use some more woman with those strong instincts. The planet could use a bit more TLC.

Yesterday I took my daughter to see a film with a friend and her daughter. The four of us have gone to women's rights marches, and other political events together, in the past. This time we went to see “RBG", the documentary about Ruth Bader Ginsberg. It was so inspiring to watch this sitting next to our friends. The girls are nine and ten, and to have them see how Ruth Bader Ginsberg became who she was today will impact them. My daughter and I snuck a few elbow jabs and smiles through the film. At one point RBG talks about her mother being strict and loving when she grew up. She said her mother stayed on top of her about homework and practicing piano. That was a very helpful support to my parenting right there, worth the price of admission for that alone. She always gave her daughter this advice "She said two things: Be a lady and be independent. Be a lady meant don't give way to emotions that sap your energy, like anger. Take a deep breath and speak clearly." She took that advice and ran with it all the way to the Supreme Court.

Today, she says she ignores the haters, and gives the advice of becoming friends with people who don't agree with you. She and Antonin Scalia were buddies, in court and politically they had nothing in common, but they went to opera's together and made each other laugh. They agreed to disagree. She also advises to find a life partner who believes in you. Her husband was her biggest fan, and you could see it whenever he spoke about his wife. She also advised to care about matters other than work. She attributed her law school success to the fact that she was raising her infant daughter during law school. Once 4pm came and her Nanny went home, she played games with her daughter till she put her baby to bed, then she hit the books again. She allowed each part of her day to be a respite from the other.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Sailboat Parenting

After having lunch with a few friends last week, I ran home to pull my copy of "The Blessing Of A Skinned Knee" I got the book as a hand me down gift years before I even had children. The pages yellowed and stiff from neglect, the cover colors are faded. Now, ten years into parenting, I am finally committed to reading it. The book offers teachings on how to raise self reliant children. I am not usually a fan of parenting books, but I'm am even less of a fan of what I am seeing happening in parenting styles now. Tiger parenting, helicopter parenting, lawn mower parenting, and even curling parenting all terms for parents who are hovering, and over protecting their children. I read an article on raising independent children, and the author mentioned that "parenting" wasn't even coined a term until the last few decades. When we grew up, our parents didn't take classes or attend workshops on how to raise us. They figured it out, and they made some mistakes too. There are many, many "right" ways to raise children. When I sat down to lunch with my friends last week, I got a wake up call on my own parenting. It would be nice if I was sailboating through parenting, and just going with the flow. I too am guilty at times of hovering, curling, and plowing.

We exchanged stories of letting our "saving" our kids. I have thought about the times when my youngest forgets his lunch, and I drop it off at school. Or when my daughter leaves homework, completed and on the table, I fight the urge to prevent her any disappointment, and question bringing it in to school for her. It doesn't take much to see that there is a lot of rescuing of kids going on. All I need to do is stand in our elementary school office, within the first hour after schools starts, and watch frazzled adults bringing, in water bottles, violins, lunches, and homework. We are not helping our children by rescuing them. In fact we are teaching them that they don't have to learn, or remember how to take care of themselves. We are giving them a sense of security that won't help them become independent adults.

I'd like to think I am balanced in my parenting, but I still have a long way to go. I catch myself taking over for my kids when they are trying to learn a new skill. I will grab the can opener out of my daughter's hand at the first sign of struggle. I will tell my son to come down when he is climbing too high on the play structure, I don't let them walk around on their own without trailing too far behind. In a time when free range parenting can result in a call to child protective services, it is hard to raise a kid and give them any freedom. We wonder why more children prefer to sit inside in front of a screen over playing outside. Well, chances are many folks are not letting their kids ride bikes till dusk anymore. Recently, my kids and I passed someone on the street who was smoking a cigarette and my son asked me if I had ever tried smoking. I told the truth, well the partial truth. I said I had, once, and that it was gross and burned my throat. When my daughter asked how old I was, I lied and told her I was in college. The truth is that I was nine when i smoked my first cigarette. In that moment, I realized I was a year younger than her when I started getting into trouble with friends. I am not condoning that she should experimenting tobacco use, but even if she wanted to walk alone to the candy store she couldn't. She is still being driven around in a booster seat.

I'm not sure what the answer is, or where the balance lies, but I do know that trying to prevent my kids having any failure, sadness or anxiety in their lives will never teach them how to actually deal with being afraid. If I don't let them mess up and fail, they will never learn how to pick themselves up. If I provide them with every single thing they need, they will not learn how to fend for themselves. I am learning to trust my own instinct, to know when and where to back off. In the past I would help my kids get out of their bad moods. I will always comfort them with a hug, if they ask, but I don't need to rescue them from their own feelings. That would be the biggest disservice to them. A few skinned knees and bruised egos, is exactly what children need to learn before adulthood. It is indeed a blessing, if I can teach my children that.