"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." Psalm 51:10

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Endings and Beginnings

 Just yesterday my daughter began her freshman year of high school, ditching middle school as easily as parental advice. Navigating three floors of classrooms with 1600 students jamming hallways seemed intimidating yet exciting. It was definitely bigger stuff than the comparatively small middle school comprised of only two grades.

Today she nears the end of her high school days, ready to escape the immaturity of the lowly underclassmen, annoying teachers and stupid rules. Her incarceration ends this week when she’ll be released on good behavior, receiving her slip of paper announcing she’s completed her four year sentence—with honors!

Endings and beginnings—isn’t life full of those? The baby stage ends when walking begins. When children attend school, we say goodbye to toddlerhood. And before we can blink, high school graduation is staring us in the face. Bittersweet emotions fill us, tears of joy and sadness mixing like oil and vinegar. We teach, train and discipline our children as they move from toddler to tween, tween to teen, for the moment they will stroll across a platform wearing cap and gown. Still, that day occurs more suddenly than a lightning bolt flashes across the sky. And, we are caught by surprise. We didn’t know the day would arrive so quickly—and have we done enough? Have we prepared, encouraged and coached enough? Is it ever enough?

Frankly, I just don’t know. How many times have I beaten myself up for not being a better example, a more perfect role model? I’ve committed a multitude of mistakes—nagging and needling my daughter like a whiny toddler.  Like a witness on the stand, I’ve badgered her with questions. I’ve said things I shouldn’t have and wished for more do-over moments than the number of shoes in Imelda Marcos’ closet.

Yet, I’ve also cheered, listened, supported and prayed for that lovely young lady. I’ve worked on expressing love without condition, even when her room looks like a tornado touched down leaving debris everywhere. Above all else, I hope I loved well and forgave often.

Have I done enough? Certainly, I’ve equipped her well in the tangibles. If desperate, Alix can whip up a mean macaroni and cheese or top ramen soup. She can operate a washing machine and most likely holds the record for the number of clothes she’s folded.  Cleaning bathrooms, a breeze. Getting along with people? Easy!

I don’t stew about these issues. For a girl who’s flown more than halfway across the United States by herself every summer navigating an array of different airports, figuring out the layout of campus or traversing a new town are simple problems to solve. No, I fret over the very things I should be offering in prayer to the Creator. Will she make good friends? Will she make good decisions? If she gets in a pickle, will she look up instead of to her friends? Have I shown her how to do that? Have I equipped her enough for the issues she will face all by herself—without mom and dad to freely offer sage advice! Does she know that no matter what, we love her—no matter what?!

Time is slipping by, and there’s so much I want to say in these last couple of months before her new beginning…her new adventure. Over her 18 years, I’ve taught, advised and preached in various venues, at different times, yet it feels like there’s still more to convey and not enough time! I desire her to be fully prepared for every situation. Still, I know that’s not possible. She’s ready to fly, and those wings are flapping so loudly, she can’t hear much of the words flowing from my lips. To her, they must sound an awful lot like the teacher in Charlie Brown—“Wah, wah, wah, wah!”

While I want to slow these summer days down; she desires the clock to tick a little faster. Until that instance when I kiss her goodbye at the dorm room door—if she’ll let me kiss her—I am challenged to make each moment matter. I’m determined to preach a little less, love a little more. Keep the nagging down, the encouragement up. Loosen the reins, tighten the affection.  

If I spend my days loving her and laughing with her, won’t this girl carry positive memories of her last season living at home full time? During the hard days of homework and homesickness, lectures and late nights, classes and cafeteria food, what do I want her to remember? A magnificent ending, of course! Just like Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, I desire this finale to be noteworthy and striking.  

Won’t such a grand ending spark her to a remarkable beginning?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Mommy Lingo

Lingo—mommies everywhere use it. We repeat particular words and phrases to our children like a Gregorian chant. The sayings my mother chanted incessantly are ingrained in my memory, and unwittingly, I’ve reiterated a few of them to my own children. Perhaps these will sound familiar to you as well.

Tee-ee-eemwork—This sing-songy expression Mom gushed during any type of chore to make it seem more fun because we were working together. She coined this original “clean up” tune before Barney created the official “Clean Up” song.  You know the one I’m referring to: “Clean up, clean up; everybody, everywhere. Clean up, clean up: everybody do your share.” Unfortunately, we didn’t buy into her effort to make weeding the flower beds, dusting the bookshelves or raking the shag carpet a joyful event.

We’re making a memory—The first occasion I recall mom using this phrase, we were traveling by train through the desert of California when the air conditioning quit working. Mom hadn’t anticipated entertaining three young, cranky children in a sweltering train car for hundreds of miles.  However, she turned a sizzling situation into an optimistic opportunity. We never forgot the trip and have uttered these words many times when plans go awry.

Go ahead and do what you want; you will anyway (said with a sigh)—Mom voiced this expression specifically during our teen years when one of us wanted to participate in some activity of which she didn’t wholeheartedly approve, but couldn’t think of a good enough reason to tell us no.  Activities such as attending a dance after a football game or driving to the big city with friends weren’t scandalous, but simply made her feel a little uncomfortable. Most of the time, the sigh at the end, designed to invoke guilt, didn’t achieve its desired results. And, even when we felt a slight twinge of guilt, we took part in the endeavor anyway! 

If ________ jumped off a bridge, would you jump off a bridge?—Mom spurted this when we tried to persuade her to allow us to partake in an activity our friends were allowed to do. Spouting “Linda’s mom lets her _________” didn’t fly in our house. I take this a step further with my own kids by asking, “Do I look like __________’s mom? Guess you were just born in the wrong house.” At first glance, this phrase appears similar to the one above; however, the major difference is that this saying was used to clearly define actions that mom felt crossed the line, such as watching questionable movies.

We’ll see—Basically, these two powerful words mean “no” but are said not only to stall the inevitable but also to give moms a reprieve from the whining and pleading that ensues when the word “no” is used. This short expression may be a mom’s most frequent utterance, discharged subconsciously a hundred times a day to a badgering toddler, tween or teen.

Go Ask Your Dad—Most of the time, we asked our dad first anyway! Dad, a big mush, would consent to our desires more often than mom, who vetoed more than President Roosevelt (FDR). However, when the two finally deciphered our game, they plotted together foiling our attempts to get away with any shenanigans. Before long, “go ask your dad” resulted in “what did your mom say?” Ah, shucks—we knew the answer to that! I’ve used these words plenty of times as a stall tactic and to pass the buck.

Mommy mantras abound, don’t they? We’ve heard and verbalized multitudes of phrases. I’ve declared, “Do your best”, “be polite”, “don’t touch”, “brush your teeth”, “and remember to say thank you”, “drive carefully”. The list is endless and is no respecter of age. For some reason, we continue to reiterate long after our children are grown, married and parenting our grandchildren. It’s a habit from years in the trenches of motherhood when we are training and teaching our children to become responsible young men and women.

I know this to be true because of the words my 92 year old grandma said to my age 70-ish aunt who lives with her. Rain pelted the ground in the San Luis Obispo area where they resided. As my aunt was preparing to leave the house to pick up my mother at the airport, my grandma said, “Be careful driving in the rain!”
As sure as the sun rises and sets, moms around the world will drive their children crazy imparting short nuggets whether their children are age 5 or 50—or even older than that!