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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reading with mamawolfe: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Like many avid readers, my bookshelf overflows with piles of ‘to-read’ or ‘in progress’ titles.  Being one who cannot part with a favorite, volumes of old friends mingle with the new, making for quite a commotion in space.  I peruse, sort, and even dust the titles carefully, always wishing for more time, for those moments when no one needs me and I can cuddle up with someone else’s thoughts for a little while.
It is rare that I finish reading multiple chapters of a book in one sitting, let alone the entire book in the course of a weekend.  Moms and teachers just don’t have that kind of time.
Recently I found a book that wouldn’t let me ignore it.  I’d heard about Wild, by Cheryl Strayed – everyone seemed to be talking about if after Oprah announced it as her first pick for her revised “Oprah Book Club 2.0” last year.  The problem for me, aside from a disconcerting lack of time for myself, was that I always bristle at the mainstream.  When something becomes a big seller, it makes me nervous.  Not because I think I’m somehow more “ivory tower” than anyone else is, but because I’m really, really choosy about how I spend my time.
So when I cracked the cover of Wild, I was ready to be unimpressed.  I was surprisingly disappointed – not in the writing, but that I could not put it down.
After the first few pages, I grabbed my writing notebook and began jotting down quotes.  Like this one on page 51: “Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told.”  Ok, Cheryl, you’re speaking to me now.  To the woman who kissed a Komodo dragon in Indonesia last summer.  To the one who is trying to write and hoping someone is listening.  To the mom of two teenagers.  I’m hooked.
Wild tells the autobiographical story of Cheryl’s early twenties, when her life had absolutely spiraled down into a place where many of us would simply give up.  From an unorthodox, meager childhood, to the early, tragic death of her mother, to a young marriage and eventually hitting rock-bottom abusing heroin, Cheryl’s story was not unbelievable.  I could feel the absolute plausibility of her words, seeing many women who could have easily fallen into the choices she made.
What I could not believe is her courage.  And independence.  And her somewhat reckless decision to hike the Pacific Crest trail, alone, without any experience.
But I admired her courage, her independence, and reckless decisions.  I felt connected to her.  I, myself, have hiked day trips on the Pacific Crest trail, but never would I have considered going all the way from the Mojave Desert to Oregon.  That takes some guts.  I understood how she made her decision, “how few choices (she) had, and how often (she) had to do the thing (she) least wanted to do.”  I’ve been there-as a mom, an educator, and a woman.  Sometimes, it seems like I’m there on a daily basis.
Cheryl’s journey reminded me of the power of the human spirit, the struggle so many of us go through to find ourselves, and the power of mind over body.  While some might mock her for her reckless unpreparedness, none could fault her for her determination.  When Cheryl could have simply escaped into the depths of an anonymous life, blaming everyone and everything for her problems, she instead set out.  “I asked for the shelter of my tent, for the smallest sense that something was shielding me from the entire rest of the world…”
Through her journey, she discovered the shelter of the world, the gifts that the universe has for those of us courageous enough to listen.  If you’re feeling overwhelmed, overworked, or out of time for yourself, please stop and crack open the cover of Wild.  You’ll be glad you did.

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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It’s Good To Be Home…Kind Of

I’m still processing my trip to Indonesia…over 8,000 miles one way is a long distance to travel.  Leaving everything that is known, for everything that is unknown, felt terribly unsettling.  The 14 hour time change, living in a country that exists around a religion I was very unfamiliar with, and having to think and wonder and guess about nearly every move I made left me feeling worn out and ready for home.

I’d like to say that the trip was easy, that everything went smoothly and all my encounters were pleasant, but that wouldn’t be honest.  I’d like to say that every bite I took, every car ride I took, and every breath I took was pleasant, but that wasn’t exactly the way it went.

I wish I could say that I was brave enough to try every food presented to me, that I learned to speak the language, and that I experienced every island and ethnic group in Indonesia, but I didn’t.  I did pet a Komodo dragon, cross Jakarta traffic on foot, eat Durian fruit and board a sailing ship via a precarious gangplank over nasty water.

I can say that the plane ride from L.A. to Hong Kong wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected, and that all the teachers and students I worked with were absolutely welcoming and made me feel like a queen.  I can also say that Indonesian Starbucks is eerily like California’s, and that nasi goreng might just be one of my new favorite foods.

from Obama’s elementary school in Jakarta

But most of all, what carried me through fourteen days of fatigue, over-stimulation, sweat and language barriers was what waited for me at home.  Knowing that what I was doing as a global ambassador, teacher and woman was teaching not only me, but my own children, that the world is a much smaller place than we know, and that when they grow up, my small contribution may make a big difference in their lives.

To read more about my day to day adventures, click over to travels with mamawolfe.

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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The Plunge: Taking A Dive Into Life

I have never dived off a high dive, scuba dived, sky dived or ski raced.  I don’t like heights, and can’t imagine anything worse than freefalling through space.  Aside from never having a career as an astronaut or stunt woman, it hasn’t really impacted me that much.  That is, until I saw my children taking WAY more chances than I ever have or anticipate doing in my lifetime.
My kids like to go fast and get to the top of things.  Since they were independently mobile they have consistently sought the highest point and the quickest route to get there.  My son has no fear.  I would say that it’s a boy-thing, but his sister is usually right in front of him in line for each adventure.  When Lily was very, very small she entertained the parents watching their young swimmers at Community Pool by decisively jumping off the high dive.  I think she was all of three or four years old, and she just jumped.  I nearly fell off the concrete steps, but she just popped right up and the crowd cheered.
My daughter started gymnastics at age 2 and continued for 12 more years, defying gravity and making me hold my breath at every competition.  She only stopped recently to focus on ski racing and proudly texted me in May when she was clocked going 60 mph on a radar gun.  On skis.
This week I watched her brother dutifully complete his swimming lessons each day at Community Pool, knowing that when the whistle blew he would be able to satisfy his yearning to fly.  Eagerly he scurried up the high dive ladder, trotted along the diving board and flung his body towards the lifeguard tower, only at the very last moment dipping his head down and diving into the deep end.  As if time was suspended, I flashed back to years earlier when his sister performed her own defiance of gravity, and held my breath until he surfaced.  Over and over again he jumped, soared and dove, each plunge pushing him further and further towards his goal of reaching the lifeguard tower, each leap delineating the courage that I will never have.
Watching my children dive into life, I have learned that I need to trust that they will be ok.  They might try different moves, from different altitudes, at different speeds, and sometimes they might even surface sputtering and out of breath.  But they keep pushing forward, determined to take it a little bit farther each time, and that makes me shine with pride.  What courage they have-courage that I’m still learning.  That, and how to not pass out from holding my breath until they come up for air.

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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