22 November 2016

When Parenting Gives You Whiplash + ...

Last night, I was at a basketball game for my ten year old. 

In between cheers of encouragement and full belly laughs at her team of just-shy-of-tween-age girls who are all limbs and uncontrolled speed with awkward (at best) coordination, I was also busy texting away with my almost 18 year old. That daughter - who moved back to the States last summer - was working on one of her college applications for next fall. She was rapid-firing me screen shots (which I had to enlarge and scroll all around just to be able to read on my phone), asking me what different abbreviations referred to, what certain questions meant, generally seeking advice and counsel as she negotiated her way through the on line application.

Two very-different-but-not-really-because-they-are-all-my-kids worlds colliding: the fun, noise and movement of an elementary school basketball game with the seriousness, potentially future-life-impacting decisions of young adulthood and the completion of college application forms. 

My head was, almost literally, spinning.

This is one of those things that I couldn't fathom way back when - a young mother of several littles. Those all consuming, all absorbing days of diapers, late night feedings, steamy showers to alleviate croup and congestion, car seat battles, potty training, moms & tots groups and mountains of laundry that rarely got folded and put away before being worn again. 

I could have never foreseen such craziness, even when frazzled by the scurrying of school mornings and making then packing lunch for eight or nine bodies leaving the house by 8:00 a.m. - at the latest, the wild switch between drilling second grade spelling words, kindergarten writing practice... both while deciphering physics and striving to remember how to use a scientific calendar... only to be interrupted by a seventh grader learning to use a Chromebook followed by ninth grader trying to write a poem for English class. Oh yeah... dinner was prepared and a prayer letter written while all of that other stuff was taking place.

Now we've entered that parenting season where biggers are far from us and busy with lives they are building independent of their parents... but who, in many ways, still need (and thankfully, still desire) coaching from Dad and Mama as they learn to navigate all of those new-to-them real-life-with-real-life-results-and-consequences types of situations. When overwhelmed and confused, they text Mama, hoping she can somehow figure out what they need to do. When tired and needing encouragement, they call Dad, hoping his voice (and a few words of wisdom) will breathe courage and gumption back into them - and just maybe tell them what to do so they don't have to figure it all out all by themselves.

We currently have three at least knee (or waist... chest... neck... depending on day and/or circumstance) deep in a swamp called Discovery that Adulting is Liberating, New, Fun and Exciting... but Sometimes Scary... and Almost Always Lots of Hard Work and Responsibility! 

Our young adults are on a steep learning curve - but, "Oy!" 

So am I.

For when I get those texts from distant ones who are removed from my right here right now reality of elementary homework (almost all in French), high school homework (again, almost all in French), carpools, basketball games and schedules, malfunctioning saxophones, school Christmas programs as well as all the regular daily - dinner, laundry, picking up around the house, keeping up with mission correspondance,... I'm learning how to multitask in a totally new way. For I try to give my biggers the coaching they need, encouraging, giving factual information, asking questions that get them to think... but I can't just grab a pencil and work out a sample college application the same way I just walked then talked our 4th grade Elsie Mae through adding signed numbers - until she was ready to practice all on her own. I can't write a college essay, apply for a job, talk to the financial office and figure out a payment plan for school bills. I can't just default to telling them what I think they should do because I'm discombobulated by straddling the chasm between these two parenting worlds... These bigs have to make their own plans and decisions and then follow through (or not) and get the results (or consequences) that are a part of their choices.

It IS agonizing as a parent - to want to tell them what I think they should do (after all, experience has taught me a few things here and there) and know that that's exactly what I shouldn't do. Instead, I need to coach and encourage and comfort as they live their own lives and choices, listening and listening and listening - occasionally reflecting back what I hear or asking probing questions - but no longer pushing... no longer leading... 

Instead, I'm coming alongside as they join me in this adulting adventure.

That's all fine and dandy - I get it.

What makes it crazy is that at the same time, we still have the bigs and littlers at home - who have very different parenting needs. And I need to be very present, not distracted by the text of the moment - which can be hard. After all, an elementary basketball game doesn't seem to have as much long term life impact as decisions about which college to attend.

That switch from parenting-by-text to basketball mama? 

It = whiplash + wind knocked out of you + exhaustion 
(bigs text at the most unreasonable hours, by the way) 

Most days, I don't know 
  • whether to cry from loneliness for my hearts that are walking around many miles distant - I miss those awesome young adults, a lot...
  • whether to celebrate all of the great steps I get to hear about (and occasionally see) as they trudge through the adulting swamp...
  • whether to panic that a car is in the ditch or someone is deathly sick because I haven't had a text or Facebook message in the past 36 hours - and send out the Calvary to check, just in case...
  • whether to just bask in the enjoyment of learning to be not just parent but friend...
  • or whether to take a 25 minute power nap and slather Icy Hot on my neck so I'm ready for the next wild texting session in the middle of a basketball game!

On the other hand, every single day, I DO know

that I wouldn't trade this life I've been gifted by God. 

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