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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Kindness Matters

Six months ago, I wrote an essay about my son’s injury at Mt. Hood. I called it “Broken”, and you can read the original piece here. It was hard for me to write; I was going through some emotional times during the summer, and, as with any time a parent sees their child injured, his accident really shook me up. I needed to figure it out.

As with all my writing, I wrote it for me. I wasn’t out to impress anyone with his injury or our story. I didn’t intend to make my life seem harder/more painful/more dramatic or fill-in-the-blank with whatever word you would like. I was simply telling my story, my experience, and sharing how it made me feel. No judgement, no pity party, nothing but sharing my love for my son, and no evaluation or proclamation that our situation was more traumatic than any other.

My story was about healing, change, and adapting to the ‘new normal’ – something I was dealing with on several levels in my life. At the same time this happened, I was reading a blogpost by one of my favorite writer/bloggers, Katrina Kenison, who so eloquently pens the exquisite agony we feel as mothers adapting to different experiences with our children. It felt like the Universe was speaking to me, sending me ways to cope with my situation.

I ended my story with healing, with gratitude, and with thoughts of moving forward.

Today, the Huffington Post published the same story, with the title “The Phone Call No Parent Wants To Get”. Provocative title, I agree – that’s what happens when stories get published online.

Within minutes, there were dozens of comments. Surprised, I clicked over. I didn’t think it was the kind of post that would garner much commentary at all. It was just a retelling of an experience of motherhood.

What I saw was full of hate.

I fully realize that the Universe deals out trauma much more intense than what we were experiencing. No one wants to see their child – or any other child – experience pain, fear, or injury. I know that some have more than their share of heartbreak, suffering, and agony. I would never presume to understand the pain of losing a child, or watching a child suffer through any trauma.

But that’s not what my essay was about.

It’s too bad that those people who clicked on my post were “infuriated”, as one reader expressed. It’s too bad that they felt they just wasted their time reading it, or that they somehow had to insert their ego/story/opinion into mine.

Why they would waste more of their time spewing hate and vitriolic comments to me is amazing.

Kindness Matters

Kindness matters, people. Read closely:

You absolutely have the right to say what you think, just like I do. But please, think about how you say it.

This essay wasn’t a piece about politics or religion. It wasn’t a controversial topic. This was a reflection, a memoir, a snapshot of time. It was my experience, not meant to be evaluated or judged against anyone else’s. What would be the point in that? How could one possibly believe that their pain is any greater than another, that their suffering is any stronger? We never know each other’s back story.

While the internet offers an amazing opportunity for people to communicate and connect, why not do so with kindness and seek to understand and be understood? Why hide behind anonymity, freely condemning people for their ideas? Would you yell at me like that in person? Would you hunt down a book author, and plaster your words all over their home?

I’m not impressed by your hate. I’m not even agitated enough to write back and engage in any sort of debate. It’s pointless. I’m even laughing at much of your poorly written, ignorant assumptions you make about me and my son. You have no idea. You don’t know me, you don’t know my story – and to engage with you would be to proclaim that I know yours. Your assumptions make you look like an ass, and give you no credibility. Who are you to judge me?

Life is hard. We all have different challenges. In no way would I equate my son’s accident as anything even close to what many parents deal with on a daily basis.

THAT’S NOT THE POINT.

We are all on this life journey together. We all have a voice. I use mine to communicate, to understand others, and to make the world a kinder place to live in. By spewing your commentary, it makes me wonder what else you do in life that pushes us all backwards in anger, instead of forwards in compassion.

Remember, kindness matters. Maybe I could learn from you – but not if you try to teach me with your hate.

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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