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.

primark

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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At This Moment, She’s Right Where She Needs To Be

It seems like it was just yesterday. It was, in fact, nearly the same time of year. The garden bloomed profusely, and she was just finding the confidence to let her feet take her where she wanted to go. We were never so happy that Fisher Price created a structure sturdy enough to endure the speed with which she would race down the long hallway, wheels screaming on the hardwood floors, the beam of her smile indicating her pride. She was independent; she no longer needed dad’s strong fingers to guide her steps. The tripod shaped vehicle was all the support necessary to take her where she wanted to go. And she always wanted to get there in a hurry.

I remember questioning if she’d ever have the courage to let go of that vehicle; at one year old, I expected her to be walking like some other babies I’d seen. But she was my first, my test-child, and when she grinned from behind her handlebars I knew that she was right where she needed to be. She was taking life on her terms even then; there was no time to waste, and she needed to find the fastest course between two points. Just over a year old, full of courage and determination.

It wasn’t long after that she began vaulting out of her crib, too. Nap times? Non-existent. Life had far too much to offer to waste any moment behind bars. She wanted to explore, to climb, to be surrounded by her people. It no longer mattered how soothing her nursery was, or how cozy I made her nap time ritual. When she swung those long, skinny legs over the side, we knew life was about to change. I think I even spent a night or two on the floor beside her crib, hoping that it was a fluke but knowing that if she vaulted, I would be there to break her fall. At that age, she already knew where she needed to be-and it wasn’t in her crib.

We weren’t quite ready for life with a toddler, but in reality, who ever really is? I’ve written countless times about the absolute inadequacy I felt at becoming a new mother, and how I’ve had to learn to rejoice in every moment. It’s kind of a cruel trick that life plays on some of us, those who get so caught up in the minutia of the moment that we miss the true beauty happening right in front of us.

And today I find myself equally unprepared, fighting nearly identical feelings of inadequacy about letting her go. The more I look back, the more I know that all that we have done, and all that we have experienced, has prepared us both for the moment yet to come – the moment when we wave goodbye, tears trickling down our cheeks, and walk away. The moment when she is right where she needs to be, on the precipice of her new life, ready to take it head on. She’s almost eighteen years old, still full of courage and determination.

This post was inspired by the novel Dad Is Fat by comedian Jim Gaffigan who riffs on his adventures co-parenting 5 kids in a two bedroom Manhattan apartment. Join From Left to Write on April 22 we discuss Dad Is Fat. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

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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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Happier At Home: The “Safe”, Parent Approved Track

“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.” – from Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin

It started about nine months ago, the persistent questioning (sometimes to the point of nagging, in fact) that let us know he wanted a change. At first we hardly listened, brushing him off with a ‘we’ll see’ in hopes that it was just another spur of the moment idea. The persistence continued, growing more intense each day until we gave in to his request to ‘sit down and talk’ and we heard what he was saying: he wanted to move to a ski academy.

Sugar Bowl AcademyI don’t know why this surprised me, really. My kids have never really taken the ‘safe’ track for much in their lives; they push themselves with extreme, risky sports and always try to live life as an adventure. They love risk – so different from my childhood.

As parents, I think many times we make decisions based on what feels right and how the decision will effect our children – which sometimes is the right way to go. We check movie reviews, investigate song lyrics, evaluate safety ratings on our cars and determine our decision based on really concrete facts. But other times, I’ve found, we make decisions based simply on how it will effect us – will we be inconvenienced by getting up early for a practice, will we be bored waiting at the shopping mall, or will we just simply. miss. them. too. much. when. they’re. gone?

Some friends have called me brave for letting my son move away to pursue his dream. I’m sure some friends have called me crazy, irresponsible, or said “I-can’t-believe-she’s-letting-him-go-away-on-his-own.” Funny-I never considered it an act of bravery on my part – he’s the one who deserves the bravery award. My son is doing exactly what I raised him to do. He’s setting goals, believing in himself, evaluating risks, and taking action. He’s walking the talk. He’s just doing it 120 miles from home.

So when I dried my tears (the first time) and watched him walk into his dorm room on that first day, I realized that maybe this wasn’t a ‘safe’ decision for me, but it was safe for him. It’s his path to walk in life, not mine. It’s the ultimate in mother’s love. And while I’d be a lot happier to have him home every night, I know he’s on his own, parent approved track. And it’s fabulous.

This post was inspired by Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon Self-Control, and My Other Experiments in Everyday Life. Join From Left to Write on January 6 we discuss Happier at Home. You can also chat live with Gretchen Rubin on January 7 on Facebook! As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

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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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My Children, My Ordinary Heroes

“There goes my hero
Watch him as he goes
There goes my hero
He’s ordinary”

Foo Fighters

Ten fingers. Ten toes. Arms, legs, torso, beating heart, and a little bit of hair. I could let out a sigh of relief.

Both my babies came into the world perfectly formed, fast and furious-especially the first one. At that point, I thought the worst was over. They were alive, named, and we were ready to start the rest of our lives as parents.  No expectations, right? All we wanted was for them to be born healthy. We knew we had a lot to learn, and as I’ve written before, were fully aware that no parenting handbook would provide all the answers to our questions.

"Parenting"
“Parenting” (Photo credit: vanhookc)

So we set off on parenting in the trial and error method.  Baby screams, we hold her. Feed her. Change her.  And if that doesn’t work…we had no clue. Repeat. We fell into parenting with a natural awkwardness that somehow worked out; both our kids survived infancy, and so did we. Barely.

As our babies became full of personality, we couldn’t help wonder what they would turn out like. Would they be readers and writers like their mom? Share their father’s passion for music and travel? Would they be athletic, funny, scholars, introverts…the ‘what ifs’ of uncertainty certainly provided fodder for our dreams about the future. We cautiously introduced a myriad of activities and experiences to see which they would gravitate towards. We enrolled them in a bilingual school without ever considering that they might not have chosen it for themselves. Our good intentions propel us towards what we consider the right decisions, but sometimes I wonder if we’re creating the path we want our child to walk, rather than watching them choose their own direction. And what if they turn out…ordinary?

Parent’s dreams for their children can create awfully big shoes for them to fill. Our undying love for our kids can teeter precariously on the edge between what we think they should be or do or feel, and what they dream for themselves.  As parents, I think we must strike a balance and show our children that whatever they do, and whoever they become, whether they end up just like us or follow their own path, that they are everything we could possibly wish them to be. Just like when they were born-alive, healthy, with the world before them.

I think the Foo Fighters said it best-my children are my heroes every day.

This post was inspired by Raising Cubby: A Father and Son’s Adventures with Asperger’s, Trains, Tractors, and High Explosives by John Elder Robison. Parenting is a challenging job, but what challenges does a parent with Asperger’s face? Join From Left to Write on March 12 as we discuss Raising Cubby. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

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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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Featured Post: Working With Your Child’s Teacher

Jennifer Wolfe global education classroom

Are you a parent of school age children? Do you wonder how to approach your child’s teacher to work with them?

Are you a teacher, wishing you could give parents some advice on how to create a positive relationship?

Or perhaps your children have finished school, and you have some words of wisdom to share?

I’m both a parent and a teacher, and I really believe in the proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.”  I’ve seen the magic that can happen when schools and families take a team approach to education-it’s transformative!

It Takes a Village

So when Voiceboks, the online community for parents, asked me to write a featured post, I thought this would be a perfect idea – tips for parents who want to work with schools in a productive way.

Please click over to read my original featured article on Voiceboks – “Creating a Productive Working Relationship With Your Child’s Teacher”.  I’d love to hear strategies you use to make school a “win-win-win” situation for everyone – parents, students and teachers.

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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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