The Right Turns At The Right Time?

I sent you a screenshot last night. You never responded, which in itself wasn’t that surprising. It’s Friday night, you’re cheering at a soccer game under the lights…I’m sure the boys were around, feeling the weekend and you certainly weren’t thinking about four years ago when you decided to move away – and were you making the right turns at the right time.

right turns
2013, first day at Sugar Bowl Ski Academy

You look so young here, and at the time I felt so sure you were old enough for this. I remember sobbing in the back seat of the Highlander right after we left you – big, heaving, snotty sobs that felt so alone and empty, even though your dad and sister were in the front seats pretending to not hear me. I remember thinking if this was the “safe” track for you, or if I should listen to Gretchen Rubin when she said in her book Happier at Home, “I know many people who started out on a “safe”, parent-approved track, only to leave it – voluntarily or involuntarily-after they’d spent a lot of time, effort, and money to pursue a course that had never attracted them…it’s painful to see your children risk failure or disappointment, or pursue activities that seem like a waste of time, effort and money. But we parents don’t really know what’s safe, or a waste of time.”

Four years later, I’m still thinking about that.

I caught a bit of your conversation the other night, in the kitchen while you were building tacos with your dad. He loves it when you ask questions and talk about times you used to spend together. To say that those are moments he’d like to repeat is just a mild way of us wondering if we’ve made the right choices – if you’ve turned the corners you’re supposed to turn if we’ve gotten in your way enough or stepped aside at the right or wrong times.

right turn
2017 with his dad.

Persistence. When that post popped up today, three years after my questioning why I write, I felt proud that I’ve kept going. My life is good now, truly. You’re on a much different path than the one we imagined for you as you stood outside that ski academy, hair freshly shaved short and your chest proudly pushed out as if you’d won – you made it, you convinced us, you got the scholarship and you were there.

I wonder now how nervous you actually were – how much your fourteen-year-old self wouldn’t actually admit to mom and dad about your decision.

But you were persistent. You never stopped pushing until you got where you wanted to be. Somewhere inside you there has always been a voice telling you what to do, when to pull back and when to turn.

I wonder what that voice is telling you now, in the middle of your final year of childhood –  a year of firsts and lasts and decisions you want to make all by yourself.

As you walked out the door with the boys last night, I reminded you (and your friends) to make good choices. “I’m 18, mom,” you quipped, and almost in unison, they said “17” right behind you.

“My parents always use that one on me – I’m 17, I’m not old enough,” the lanky kid replied. “I know when I’m 18 they’re just going to say that it doesn’t matter, you’re living in my house, blah-blah-blah.”

I closed the door, his words ringing in my ears. Of course! my mind echoed…you’re still learning, you don’t know how one wrong move tonight could change the course of next year. All that you’ve worked for, your whole childhood, gone POOF in one wrong move. Of course, your parents are struggling – watching you walk out the door with just a tendril of childhood left is terrifying in its finality, and bittersweet in its reality.

These boys…do they get this interlude between here and there? That these moments of senior portraits and soccer games, Winter Balls and college applications, semester GPAs and next steps – these moments transition both of us into places we’re sure and unsure of, tight-roping the season of being here and going there?

right turns
2014, right turns.

And just one year after we left you in that dorm, full of focus and your future I was watching you balance in a different way, unsteady on your broken leg yet persistent in your dreams. Then, as now, you were unphased by the new direction, sure and steady in your gaze forward.

You were testing, pushing, dreaming, feeling it – just like now. And just like then, a quiet understanding floods over me, a flicker of letting go and breathing in, out…and smiling as you whirl away.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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adulting

You’re Adulting Now: Thoughts On Love For My 21-Year-Old Daughter

I don’t want to go, but I know I can’t stay either. You see, you’re adulting now. You don’t need me in the way I thought you did, or that you used to.

I made a party for you last night. I felt like my own mother – hovering a little from the sidelines, content to be in the shadows of you and your friends adulting on the patio. How many times has my mom been there, behind the scenes, while I took the adulting spotlight?

I happily chopped veggies and cooked chicken in the crock pot all afternoon while you were at work. I baked a lemon cake and chatted with your roommate as we frosted it with whipped cream and berries, just like I used to when you were little.

You’re adulting now

adulting

I made blueberry and pineapple fruit ice cubes, but this time they were for sangria not lemonade, sliced oranges and got out the real wine glasses.

Later, I listened to your girlfriends chat about summer adventures abroad, pushing themselves when they were scared on the ski slopes, and what they dreamed their lives would be like.

They’ve got a bet going on who will get married first and who will become a Mom before everyone else.

They wonder how long it would take to create better male birth control and why couldn’t we elect a female president and how scary it must be to be a mom, all while sipping their sangria and laughing together.

You really are adulting now.

adulting

I made too much food. I really am feeling like my mom right about now, too. That’s a good thing. When I’ve been learning about adulting, my mom has been my greatest teacher. Anything I could or couldn’t do, she could do better. Always.

When I turned 21 my dad threw a big party for me in a restaurant. I ordered my first official cocktail – an old-fashioned – and wore a burgundy and black lace dress that matched my jet black hair. You dad was there, too, but just as my boyfriend. It was big and fun and loud and I remember my own dad smiling a lot. Grandparents, too.

I wasn’t sure how to honor you, though, at 21. It didn’t seem like all the “yo bitches” stuff I found online was quite appropriate. I’m a cool mom, but I have my limits. I couldn’t figure out how to get all the family together out in Salt Lake; one of the drawbacks of you living so far away is we can only visit in small groups.

Grandma has to settle with me texting her photos as we go.

Your grin when you saw the candles on your birthday cake wasn’t any different from when you were two or twelve. You smiled to celebrate you.

adulting

I love that every single one of your friends ate a big slice. #stronggirls.

I did the dishes quietly while you laughed outside and took your final photos, hearing your laughter through the screen door. I wasn’t quite sure how long to hang out with you all. We hugged goodbye to your friends with just a bit of sadness from me; I’ve no idea when I’ll see them again.

When the boys showed up I was already reading and ready for bed. I’m glad you fed them the leftovers and sat around the kitchen table. I could hear you teasing each other as I tried to give you some adult space- honestly, I wasn’t up for anymore adulting today.

And while your voices rose and fall through the closed door, I realized how you don’t need me anymore the way I thought you did. It’s not just the number 21 on a cake or the apartment key on your ring. You’re adulting now, like it or not.

You keep your own hours and earn two paychecks. Your friends leave at a reasonable hour to get rested before their “real” job starts on Monday morning. You do your dishes and put a cork on the wine bottle and make sure the front door is locked and the lights are out.

adulting

You plan to meet for happy hours after mountain biking and know the importance of eight hours of sleep before a work day. You offer me your bed instead of the couch, and your eyes smile when I tell you that for now, at least, the couch is fine.

I’ve only got five hours before I get on the plane and go back home. I want you to sleep but want to cuddle up with you and fresh coffee on the couch and soak in every last minute together. I’m pushing away the nagging thoughts about leaving and trying to dismiss the fact that this time, I don’t know when I’ll see you next.

I hate it when I cry goodbye. I know it makes you sad, too. Adulting can be hard.

Thanksgiving seems like a long time away. I’m not sure I’m ready for that kind of adulting yet- the kind where you hug and say it’s been great to see you and safe travels and walk away without knowing how many more days to count down until I wrap my arms around you again.

I’m not sure I’m ready for that- but I’m sure that you are.

That should take the sting out of leaving just a little- at least for me.

You’re adulting now. You’re going to be just fine.

I’ll have to keep my “how-many-days-til-I-see-Lily” countdown secret this time.

I think I need to hang onto my baby girl just a little bit longer.

adulting

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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is age only a number

Don’t You Think Age Is Only A Number?

I was skimming Facebook today- because I’m on vacation and that’s what you do when you don’t have to wake up to an alarm, right? Sitting in my daughter’s college apartment, I saw a post from a mom who was at the beach with her three young children. It was a shot like many I take when I’m enjoying the moment– legs stretched out, book balanced on her lap, sand and surf and the horizon in the background.  Her caption made me laugh: “I’m reading a book on the beach with my boys. No floaties or crying or buckets or arguing over sunscreen. I’ve dreamed of days like this”.

is age only a number

Funny how time works, isn’t it? I remember feeling that way, too. I remember ticking off the milestone ages in my head, dreaming about this little tiny, often crying, baby girl I was holding, wondering how she would ever grow up and grow away from home – and away from me.

Just below hers was another post from a dear friend, frantically traveling to see her father before he passes.

She didn’t make it in time.

She shared a simple photo of her with him, no caption, just the two of them smiling and hugging. I saw her son in father’s face. I wanted to wrap my arms around her, let her know that on this day that we dream of and dread I’m here for her.

That’s the thing about motherhood, and growing up, and growing old. The years pass, time trickling by whether we know it or not – whether we document the moments or wish them away. 

I wear a silver cuff around my right wrist- actually several, one for each of the years that my motherhood has shifted. 

They’re instead of a tattoo. My mother is much happier this way.

Engraved with my mantra for the year, Be Here Now, it’s my daily reminder to stop and pay attention. To look up at the sky and down at the shadows. To notice what is right here instead of worrying about what is ahead or what I’ve left behind.

Not to regret or second guess or future trip.

isn't age only a number shadows

Just before I left on vacation, my son reminded me that he’s almost the same age my daughter was when she went off to college. He still has one more year at home.

I reminded him she was actually six months older, and he scoffed. I smiled. Those six months between 17 and 18 can make a huge difference.

Or is age only a number?

I’m not sure how old the woman’s children were as she lay on that beach, coveting her quiet time.

I know my friend is in her thirties- too young to lose a father she adored, so many years ahead to parent without his guidance.

This vacation is all about soaking in my daughter’s life – her friends, her lifestyle, her new home. I breathed deeply as she, for the first time, order a glass of sangria last night.  It was her first ‘official’ drink with me since she turned 21. Sitting at an outdoor cafe, we were enjoying a warm Salt Lake City evening just after she finished her volunteer job.

is age only a number
pc: Matt Chirico

Of course, she got carded- and as the waitress scrutinized her ID I couldn’t help blurting out “It’s legit! I’m her mom. She just turned 21. She was born June 2 1996 at 11:37…”

Wait-where did that come from?

The waitress just laughed as my daughter wryly smiled. Maybe she’s used to my obsession with her growing up; I’m not sure.

She sipped her sangria slowly as we ate. “I’m enjoying it,” she quipped at her boyfriend as he teased her deliberateness. I noticed her carefully spoon out the alcohol-soaked fruit, enjoying every last bit.

She was here. Now. And so was I. 

I wasn’t with her the moment she actually turned 21. She was somewhere in the mountains of South America, surrounded by friends and coffee farms, hiking and laughing and enjoying life. It wasn’t exactly how I imagined this milestone- sort of like most every parenting moment I’ve had, actually.

I’ve dreamed of days like this, I’m sure. I’ve wished they wouldn’t come at strongly as I wished they would. I’ve held onto her hand and let her go more times than I ever thought possible.

I know that age is only a number, that turning 51 and 21 really just mark the moments we have lived, milestones of memories and not anything to fear.

I know that if I can just be here, now, that age is only a number on a day and what matters are the ordinary, extraordinary memories in each one.

Don’t you agree age is only a number?

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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5 Key Times To Go With Your Gut

More and more lately, I’ve experienced moments when my intuition speaks to me. You know that feeling, right? Sometimes it’s telling me that I’ve left something behind as I’m rushing out the door, late for work. Or that I’ve forgotten to turn off the burner (sorry, John, I know you hate it when I do that).

It’s regularly something mundane, uneventful, or routine in my everyday life.

No big deal, right?

5 Times To Go With Your Gut
Listen for Five Key Times To Go With Your Gut

Well, not so fast. I’m beginning to realize that those ordinary reminders are a sort of entry-level intuitive practice – a life pre-test, if you will, priming me for the big time.

Kind of like a warm up before a track meet. Or studying for a final exam.

I’ve had these intuitions my whole life, and I’ve spent a large chunk of time basically ignoring them. I would tell myself to stop worrying, that I really did lock the door or let the dog back inside the house. I’d chastise my anxiety-ridden side and shut down that little voice that was trying to help me out.

But there’s something about growing older and wiser that prompts me to stop and take notice to that tiny message gnawing in my ear, a bit of a call to attention on a Universal level.

And as I pause and consider the whispers, I’m realizing that it dives deep below the surface, offering me more than just a simple hint; I’m learning that the Universe is tipping its hand and showing me a clearer path. After recognizing the penultimate power of my inner voice, I’ve realized there are:

Five Key Times To Go With Your Gut:

1.  When choosing a major

By the time I settled into college and figured out what I was doing, my choice of a major was clear. I went with what I loved to do: read and write. I had no idea what an English major would offer me in terms of employment, but I did know that if I had any hope of completing college in a timely manner, I needed to be studying something that I was passionate about. My boyfriend (now husband) was equally ambiguous and settled on music as his course of study. One takeaway I have from our decision is the multiple conversations we would have with fellow undergrads who would exclaim with awe and a dose of jealousy that they too had wanted to be a music major, but their parents insisted on something more practical.  So while those computer studies students of the late eighties may in all likelihood be tech wizards and multimillionaires, I often wonder if they really satisfied their soul with their bank accounts.

2.  When your friends are making a choice you’re not certain about. 

Oh, to be thirteen again. Or nineteen. Or twenty-three. No thank you, really – watching my middle school students go through the most awkward phase of their lives is painful. Transitioning from childhood to teen is rife with struggle. Daily, my students are bombarded with choices about who to listen to, what to do and who to be. My own children, sixteen and nineteen, grapple with similar but different issues about studying and college and majors and where to live. One thing I’ve learned from listening to my gut is that when I feel uncomfortable with the choices in front of me, I should listen to my intuition. Excusing ourselves from situations, blaming our parents for having to leave a party or ask for a ride home is exactly what we should do when we know our friends are acting questionably. Chances are, they are tussling with the same dilemma and would appreciate you giving them an ‘out’.

3. When you’re choosing a life partner. 

I’ve been with my husband for just over thirty years – we met when we were teens and became instantly attached to each other. At nineteen, I had no idea that I would marry this delightful man – at least not for the first three months. But I remember a moment in September 1985 when my gut whispered in my ear and I announced that he was the one. Two kids later, he still is. “Choosing” isn’t really an accurate term – I believe that “recognizing” a life partner might be more accurate. With so many marriages falling into divorce after only a decade or so, recognizing the person in front of you as the one to have by your side on life’s journey is one crucial time to go with your gut.

4. When life gets hard.

Thirty years ago when J and I started our journey together I couldn’t have fathomed the bumps -ok, the moments-when-I-felt-life-was-hammering-me-with-devastation. At 50, I’ve experienced the blessings of life as well as the challenges and am learning to go with my gut when I don’t know where else to turn. I’m learning not to think so much, not to give in to the paralysis of getting stuck in my head. Instead, I’m trusting to just take a plunge, hold back, or say no. My intuition knows what it is doing.

5. When you think you’ve left the teakettle on. 

Yes, this is a perfect time to go with your gut because it in these ordinary, extraordinary moments that we are our best students. If we ignore the little message the Universe sends us every day, how can we train ourselves to trust the mightier directives that come our way? The next time you wonder if you left your shopping bags in the back seat, or if you forgot to turn the water off in your roses, just take a breath, listen to your gut, and say a little ‘thank you’ to the Universe for showing you the way.

When was the last time you listened to your gut? What did it tell you?

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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What To Do On A Rainy Day When You Miss Your Kids?

I love rainy days. I swear I should live in the Pacific Northwest – when I wake up to clouds and drizzle I feel so peaceful. I never wonder what to do on a rainy day – I open the windows just a crack, enough to let the soothing sound of droplets send me into a state of zen. I throw open the curtains, grab my book (right now I’m reading The Book of Night Women by Marlon James) and a cup of freshly brewed Sumatra with cream, and snuggle up.

What To Do On A Rainy Day

 

I’ll admit, though, that when my kids were little, rainy days weren’t always spent in such peaceful pleasure. Keeping two active athletes busy was a trick – and if we weren’t chasing them down the ski course, I was attempting to wrap them up and snuggle them close with promises of Curious George, Madeline, Harry Potter or Percy Jackson and the Olympians. It didn’t matter if we were at home or in a bookstore, those moments of feeling their small bodies nestled next to me, tiny hands pointing to George as he swallowed the puzzle piece and eyes wide open when the Deatheaters appeared are etched into my heart as placeholders of the love I have for my boy and girl.

One day, not too long ago, I found myself alone on a rainy day in a bookstore, and the memories came flooding so fast I found myself in the children’s section, finding comfort in the familiar book covers. While my kids no longer fit on my lap, these moments of what to do on a rainy day fill my heart like a flash from the past.

What To Do On A Rainy Day

Today, my story of that Rainy Day In A Bookstore is featured on the Good Mother Project – you can click here to read it.

And to all those moms who are wondering if El Nino will ever end, please pause, pull out your favorite book and take a moment for yourself. Cuddle up with your baby if you still can, and remember that someday you’ll be alone on a rainy day, wishing you had taken that moment when you could.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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